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Court Proceedings of the Moscow Trials

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Trotskyism in the Service of Franco

Franco

By GEORGES SORIA

FACTS AND DOCUMENTS

“To the Generalissimo: – I communicate personally the following: In executing the order you gave me, amongst other things, I went to Barcelona to interview the leaders of the P.O.U.M. I gave them all your information and suggestions. …”

(Document found at the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid where there was a spying organisation.)

“The Witness: All the espionage material discovered by the other group, which is made up of the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., was transmitted to Perpignan by me….”

“The Witness: The outrage against Prieto and the heads of the Modesto and Walter divisions had been prepared by the group of secret agents of the P.O.U.M. which is directed by General Franco’s espionage centre at Perpignan….”

(The above is an extract from the cross-examination of Joaquin Roca Amich.)

This pamphlet pleads its own case. It is written after spending a year and three months in Republican Spain. It is based on first-hand observation and on the study and analysis of official documents and papers.

Experience of the political situation in Republican Spain throughout the war, and the daily study of the problems which arise, have convinced me that the P.O.U.M. is one of the most important instruments which the Spanish rebels use in their struggle against the legitimate Spanish Government. I believe it to be my duty to make public the facts on which this conviction is based. And it will be instructive to find out if there are people who are still eager to defend the P.O.U.M. in the face of the evidence which I bring forward.

Trotskyism, typical of the parasitic growths which attach them-selves to all great popular movements, has become today the refuge in Spain of all the enemies of the Spanish Republic. The lesson to be drawn from this is of vital importance.

Police papers, documents, official reports of cross- examinations which speak for themselves, and accuse the P.O.U.M. and its leaders of having held, and of holding, relations with the rebels, have been sub-mitted to me. They prove the liaison of the P.O.U.M. with the secret spying organisations which the rebels maintain in Government Spain.

The P.O.U.M. was the result of the fusion of the workers’ and peasants’ block, founded in 1930 by the Catalan, Joaquin Maurin, and a group of those who had been expelled from the Spanish Communist Party, amongst whom were Nin, Gorkin and Andrade. Until their arrest in 1937 they led the P.O.U.M. and were engaged in sabotaging the Republican institutions and in espionage. My aim in writing this pam-phlet has been to advance no accusations which cannot immediately be supported by documents.

This will appear before the trial of Trotskyist leaders has taken place. The search, which was begun after the disturbances caused by the P.O.U.M. in Barcelona in May 1937, led to the discovery of documents which indisputably established the spying activities in which the prin-cipal leaders of the P.O.U.M. were engaged. This search is still going on. The public prosecutor of the Republic and his chief assistant have lately been working intensively on the files of the case. In a few weeks justice will be meted out. This news is comforting to all friends of the Spanish Popular Front, for then all the Fascist Press campaign, fed by the ar-guments of the Trotskyists and their allies, will be clearly revealed as a plot against the Spanish Republic.

The attempt on the part of the P.O.U.M. to break up the anti-Fascist organisations goes back to the formation of the Spanish Popular Front. Since its formation in Madrid, on June 2nd, 1935, the P.O.U.M., through its leaders, Maurin, Nin and Gorkin, fought and intrigued against the Popular Front which was destined to be successful at the general elections some months later and to throw clerical and agrarian reaction out of power. After the two years of terror which Spain had just experienced, the desire of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie of the oppressed national minorities was to unite together against the forces of reaction. At that time the P.O.U.M. had only some 2,000 members and did not dare to come out openly against the growing forces of the Popular Front. But the reactionary bourgeoisie and aristocracy had already discovered that the P.O.U.M. and its liaisons with foreign powers could be turned into a most useful counter-revolutionary in-strument. Owing to the conditions of the political struggles in Spain at this period the dividing line separating the Popular forces of the Centre from the Right was so distinct that the ruling classes could not them-selves undertake the work of disorganising the Popular Front. They needed a reliable group, which would be bound to them by special considerations such as the concessions which they could give it once they had gained power, to lead a struggle against the Popular Front, a struggle which would have an air of revolution about it. Only an or-ganisation which could penetrate right into the ranks of the Popular Front, adopting a revolutionary phraseology, could play this role without being exposed. The document which is reproduced below, found during a search made in Fascist quarters in Barcelona, is proof of the first contacts of the Trotskyist organisation with reaction. This is a letter from a Catalan lawyer to Gil Robles, who as Minister of War during the Lerroux Government was the personification of oppression against the working class.

“MY DEAR GIL ROBLES,

“A friend from Barcelona, the lawyer Jose Maria Palles, who on account of his position and interests frequently travels abroad, where he has important connections with the international world, has brought to my notice the fact that he intends to arrange for an agreement between the White Russian organisations and the Trotskyists, who would be able to put them in touch with the activities of the Communists against Spain….”

The following are some of the questions to which the White Russians and the Trotskyists propose to give exact replies:

“(1) Information about the Spanish section of the Third International, about the leaders of this section, their advisers and their movements.

“(2) Information about the illegal activity of the C.P. in Spain.

“(3) Information about the formation of the Popular Front and the parties of the Left in Spain.”

In the months which followed, the Trotskyists gradually showed their hand. Having entered into the struggle against the Governments which followed one another until July 19th, 1936, they were bound, once the insurrection of the generals had been suppressed in two-thirds of Spain by the Popular forces, to take up again after a short delay the struggle against the Caballero Cabinet. They were committed to a policy of sabotaging the Popular Front, and this policy was to lead them to insurrection and treason. They went, with absolute impunity, from provocation to provocation and finally to the Barcelona putsch, while at Madrid the most important members of their organisation, working hand in glove with the Fascist spy centres, daily gave the enemy military information about the position of troops, the situation of the fortifications, and helped to direct the artillery bombardment of Madrid.

SPIES IN THE PAY OF THE REBELS

On June 16th, 1937, the Republican police, by order of the Minister of the Interior, arrested the P.O.U.M. leaders, Nin, Gorkin and Andrade, and accused them of treason. The evidence against Nin in particular was of such a nature that the relations of the organisation with the rebels were no longer in any doubt. In the course of a search which was made at the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid a mass of the most sensational and incriminating documents was discovered. The Phalangists and the Fascists had not been able to destroy their papers before they were arrested, for the police had worked cautiously and cleverly. They had been on the trail for over a month gathering evidence and following developments before they made their pounce. When they did act they arrested over 200 people and amongst them some who had been manoeuvred into high positions in the general staff of some brigades, and in the Army supply service.

It was also discovered that the leaders of the P.O.U.M., in co-operation with Franco’s Fifth Column, had installed a receiving and transmitting station in Madrid and were using it to keep in touch with the Fascist zone. This organisation, whose workings were strictly secret, had found cover for some of its most important members in some of the foreign embassies in Madrid and had succeeded until then in keeping them screened from the police. Amongst the documents found at the Peruvian Embassy were plans showing the exact positions of the anti-aircraft batteries defending Madrid and of the Republican batteries in the Casa del Campo; plans of the distribution of the army of the centre, staff maps, and many other plans of so strictly military a character that there could be no doubt that they had been taken from general headquarters. There was also a detailed large-scale map of Madrid, carefully annotated with instructions for the Fascist artillery. From now on, the complicity of the Trotskyist leaders in the great spying organisation, which, as we shall see they had never ceased to assist, was proved in the main.

On the back of one of the maps of Madrid was written, in invisible ink and in code, the following:

”To the Generalissimo communicate personally the following: We are telling you all the information we can collect about the dispositions and movements of the Red troops; the latest information given out by our transmitting station testifies to an enormous improvement in our information services.”

The message continues:

”We have 400 men at our disposal. These men are well armed and favourably situated on the Madrid fronts so that they can form the driving force of a rebellious movement. Your order about getting our men to penetrate into the extremist ranks has been successfully carried out. We must have a good man in charge of propaganda. In executing the order you gave me, amongst other things, I went to Barcelona to interview the leaders of the P.O.U.M. I gave them all your information and suggestions. The lapse of communication between them and you is explained by the breakdown of the transmitting station, which began to work again while I was there. You should already have had an answer about the most important question. N. asks that you should arrange that I should be the only person to communicate with them apart from their ‘foreign friends They have promised me to send people to Madrid to ginger up the work of the P.O.U.M. If it is reinforced, the P.O.U.M. here will become, as it is at Barcelona, a firm and effective support for our movement. We shall soon be sending you some fresh information. The organisation of the action groups will be speeded up.”

Here is the text of a letter found at the headquarters of the P.O.U.M. in Barcelona, addressed to the leader of the P.O.U.M., Andres Nin.

”Bayonne, July 12th, 1937, to the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M. I confirm my former instructions. At last the split has become accentuated amongst the groups in the lower Pyrenees which we have already mentioned. If we can take advantage of this dissension we might be able to form a new group of our own party. The best of the lot, amongst them Walter and Bobinof, whose influence is particularly strong, are disagreeing with those from St. Jean de Luz because they refuse to send people out on a precarious mission before they have had full instructions. We must get proper authorisation, although the Bayonne people will only take action if they are quite confident of results. One thing is particularly interesting: they send us material from Barcelona, and several and all sorts of indications from which we can gather the distribution of the party; we will go ahead trying to form a group which will be absolutely firm and decided on all questions. . . .

”Franco’s wife is now in France. You may remember that in a previous communication it was suggested that she should go to Barcelona. What opportunities would this give us in the matter which Bonet discussed with Quim? I insist, however, that it is vitally necessary to support both materially and ideologically this group which can be of such enormous use to us; but for this you must make certain that Walter goes to Barcelona. C. has already established contact with Perpignan. Where I am today, it is difficult to get any news for certain. You must acknowledge the receipt of all this by telegraph and let me know whether you intend to act on it. Salut and P.O.U.M.

Signed: ”IMA.”

The above document is only one of the many proofs of the com-plicity of the leaders of the P.O.U.M with Franco s agents. The fol-lowing, for instance, is one of the statements published by the Barcelona Prefect of Police on August 20th, 1937, after the discovery of a secret centre of the P.O.U.M. at 158 Bailen Street in Barcelona.

“The owner of the house, Carmen Llorenis, and her daughter Maria Antonia Salines and the German Walter Schwarz were arrested. Secret publications of the P.O.U.M. were discovered on the premises as well as Fascist propaganda.”

The statement adds that it has been proved that the arrested persons, who had several times crossed the French frontier, were in contact with Franco’s agents.

And here is the latest case, which dates from October 23rd, 1937, the echoes of which have not yet died down.

On October 23rd, 1937, the Chief of the Barcelona Police, Lieut. Colonel Burillo, a Regular Army officer who had distinguished himself at the defence of Madrid by his remarkable energy and the struggle he had carried on against the spirit of defeatism, called a conference of the international Press representatives and gave them the following communiqué, the contents of which follow below, and which also establishes the complicity of the P.O.U.M. with the Spanish rebels:

“The police have discovered an organisation of spies, of a military character, which, directed by the rebels’ general staff, has extended its activities throughout the entire territory of the Republic, and especially Catalonia.

“This organisation has introduced its agents into the vital centres of the Army – infantry, artillery, tanks – Air Force and Navy. It has sent secret information to the enemy about the preparation and plans of our military operations, about aero-dromes and the positions of troops, about supplies of ammu-nition, and various military activities, both in the front line and in the rear.

“In order to direct movements of these spies working in Republican territory, and to make better and more rapid use of the information they collect, ex-General Franco had organised a branch of the secret service section of his general staff at Perpignan. This secret service section at Perpignan had estab-lished contact with the spying organisations by means of liai-son agents who maintained regular communications between Perpignan and the different towns of the Republic. As a result of the search which we have made, we are now in possession of a series of papers, bearing the signatures of those under arrest, containing secret information of a military character which was to be transmitted to the enemy.

“The statements of the prisoners, as well as the documents found, show that the organisation was also engaged in sabotage and that it intended to destroy important military buildings, bridges, arsenals, etc., and that it was planning the assassination of some of the leading members of the Government and the leaders of the Army.

“The search, which was carried out at the house of Roca, one of the leading members of the organisation, revealed, between two mattresses, some extremely important documents which, together with Roca’s own statements, show that one of the most important centres of this espionage organisation was composed of a large and well organised group many of whom were members of the P.O.U.M. This group had as its distinc-tive sign the letter C and each one of its agents in the network of spies was designated by the letter C and a corresponding number.

“In a letter found in the bookshop belonging to Roca’s fa-ther, in the course of a search carried out on September 18th, was found the following information which had been sent to Franco’s general staff:

‘(1) The group led by agent C.16 succeeded on the 5th of last August in putting out of action three artillery pieces in Divisions K and M, in a decisive moment during operations.

‘(2) The organisation is preparing to blow up the bridges across the Ebro.

‘(3) The organisation informed General Franco’s staff that a military train carrying arms had arrived and a specification of the arms was given.

‘(4) Information about the artillery on the Aragon front.

‘(5) On the question of food, the organisation has provoked protest demonstrations amongst the population.

‘(6) Suggestions were made for the assassination of Walter and Modesto, leading figures in the People’s Army.

‘(7) Suggestions were made for an attempt on the life of one of the Ministers of the Republic, the idea being to make the attempt when he was driving in his car…. Two cars with men armed with hand-grenades should follow the Minister’s car. The carrying out of this attempt against the Minister’s life had been entrusted to two members of the P.O.U.M. registered as C.18 and C.23.’

“A plan of the P.O.U.M. workshop in which the hand-grenades were made was found in the letter.

“The leaders of the P.O.U.M.’s espionage organisation were complaining in this letter of not being able to make use of all their network of agents as the full list of secret P.O.U.M. agents was only known by two leading members of the P.O.U.M., and both of these were under arrest in Valencia awaiting trial.”

This official document communicated to the Press of the world by the Spanish police raised the veil covering this gigantic case of spying, and once more made plain the complicity of the P.O.U.M.

Such great variety of documents were found that the Barcelona police had to condense into the above report only the essentials. After the discovery, the first consideration of the authorities had been to get their agents to make out a list of the objects and documents found which one of the accused signed with his own hand (facsimile of this published in the Appendix). Here is a verbatim text of the police document:

”In the town of Gerona at two o’clock on the morning of September 10th, 1937, the agents Isidro Nogues, Luis Fabrigat, Fernando Quadrado, Eduardo Montero, Miguel Parraga, Antonio Rupat, Stanislav Ferres and Antonio Gonzales, attached to the State department of information (the last-named in the position of secretary), put into execution the search-warrant issued by the Chief of Police, in the domicile of José Roca Falgueras, aged 58, widower, native of Gerona, son of Andres and Anna, living on the third floor of 6 Carreras Peralta Street. They went into a book-shop situated in Number 2 of the same street belonging to him, and in the presence of himself and his son, Joaquin Roca, they proceeded to a thorough search of all the offices and furniture of the shop in question. A chestnut-coloured fibre suitcase 48 cms. long, 30 cms. wide, and 14 cms. high was found at the back of the shop in the left-hand corner of a room. Also an iron box 24 cms. long, 18 cms. wide, and 9 cms. high. Inside the suitcase the following documents were found:

”Twenty-five plans describing the manufacture of different kinds of bombs and hand-grenades. Ten other plans giving details on the construction of different kinds of war materials. Two diagrams describing the composition of the bomb in question as well as a detailed plan of the mechanism of several engines.

”At the bottom of the documents in question there is a stamp as follows: ‘War Department, P.O.U.M., Central Military Committee.’

”A letter addressed to Mme. Barolet for M. Ferrer, 40 Rue des Augustins, Perpignan, and inside three sheets of paper and a mass of printed notes in the text of which several words had been written in by hand in capital letters, referring to questions of espionage and the organisation of acts of terrorism against members of the Republican Government.

”The suitcase also contained fifty newspapers of different dates. The iron box already mentioned contained Bank of Spain notes amounting to 11,825 pesetas in notes of 100, 50, and 25 pesetas, and the remainder in coins.

”In the safe of the shop were notes to the value of 135 pesetas, 2 pesetas in silver. In the desk was a letter and a postcard and a revolver.

”In a coat belonging to Joaquin Roca, a letter and unused envelope were found, the envelope bearing the number 8 and containing three 1,000-peseta notes.”

This document was signed by each of the agents that took part in the search and also by the principal accused, Joaquin Roca.

Now follows the entire text of the letter referred to in paragraph four of the police report. This letter was to be sent from Barcelona to Perpignan and thence to Franco’s headquarters:

”We take notice of your instructions that the liaison agents should not know all the secret groups of informers. Provisionally, we have put the agent of group C.4 in touch with group C.12 as the agent C.19 has not shown up for a fortnight – we learned later that he has been ill. In accordance with your wireless message we will send you all the secret information which we get from P.O.U.M. agents who have not yet been arrested; we will send this only by means of ‘Litus’. Information from other secret agents will be sent to you as before. The job of speeding up the work of our secret P.O.U.M. agents goes very slowly. We don’t even know all our agents, as a complete list was only known to ‘Autor’ and ‘Clavel’ who, as you know, are in prison in Valencia awaiting trial. As I said above, I send you herewith by `Litus’ the following information gathered by agents C.5 and C.8.

”(1) Our people succeeded in putting out of action on the 25th August three of the guns of the 25th Division at a most critical moment. As you know, they had already put out of action four guns of the 45th Division. This job was done by group C.16 whose leader seems to be distinctly promising.

”(2) In answer to your question C.16 has noted that there are not ninety 75-mm. guns on the Aragon front but nine. It seems that a typing error had got into our first report. There are only seven 76-mm. guns. We should like to draw your attention to the fact that even if there is enough ammunition for the other guns there is not enough for the 76-mm. guns. We are concentrating our attention on putting artillery out of action.

”(3) Our people are getting ready to blow up the bridges over the Ebro. We have enough explosives and some of our men are experienced dynamiters. We are studying the control of the bridges and trying to find out how they are guarded.

”(4) We have not yet had reports from our agents on the subject of aviation. ‘Imperial’ comes back from Cancasnos next week and will also touch at Caspe.

”(5) I have been promised that they will get ready for the assassination of Walter and Modesto as soon as the fighting begins again.

”(6) You wanted to know how much material arrived on 4th September in the ship which unloaded at Rosas. Approximately there were 140 cases of light machine-guns and over 1,000 cases of Mauser rifles.

”(7) You ask me who C.29 and C.41 are. I told you in one of my previous letters that they are active leaders of groups of secret agents – Rosalio Negrete (Blackwell) and Gisella Winter Gerster. Walter Schwarz in whom you are interested is now out of prison; he hasn’t come to see me yet but that is caution on his part.

”(8) I myself gave C.18 and C.23 your instructions about Prieto. I sent them to Valencia to stimulate the work of the P.O.U.M. group. Enclosed is the letter from C.18 and C.23. As you can see, your instructions are being carried out successfully.

”I am enclosing the designs for the manufacture of bombs which you sent me.

”(9) I am waiting for the spare valves for the radio – I must have them or the first time anything goes wrong we shall be cut off.

”PS. (1) I have just been told that the commander of the 45th Division, Kleber, has been dismissed and Hans has been put in his place. (2) I have just seen Flor. Vigorous preparations are being made for an insurrection in which the majority of the active members of the P.O.U.M. will take part. We have taken good advantage of the food shortage to organise a demonstration amongst the women. This should take place within two days.”

It will be seen that the above document (facsimile of which is given in the Appendix) has been counter-signed by its author and certified as authentic. We now proceed to the following note, which was also found amongst this batch of documents, and which reveals what were the ”instructions ” given to agents C.18 and C.23 – to assassinate Prieto, the Minister of National Defence, with handgrenades.

(The attempted murder of General Walter, one of the most popular commanders of the Spanish People’s Army was not carried out according to plan and failed; when Walter was in Madrid an attempt on his life was made one night but luckily it was unsuccessful.)

Here is the text of the document concerning the attempted assassination of Prieto:

Letter Number 4

”With regard to P., after keeping a careful watch we have come to the following conclusion: we must give up the idea of arranging for an interview with P. in his office, as he is too well guarded. We have also to reckon with the fact that there are always a great many people walking about in this region. We have kept a very careful watch on the cars and we think that the road to Betera will be the best; traffic on this road is very irregular. We have already got two cars for the job. We have decided that hand-grenades will be best for him. I am now busy teaching our people the proper way of throwing them. Signed.

Lastly, here is a further long but intensely interesting piece of evidence. This is the official report of the cross- examination of Joaquin Roca, one of the principal accused:

”In the town of Barcelona, at 12.55 on September 20th, 1937, before Antonio Gonzales Cruz, examining agent, and José Maria Balart Ramon, in the capacity of secretary, I, Joaquin Roca Amich, aged 23, native and inhabitant of Gerona, son of Joaquin Roca Falgueras and of Carmen Amich Escuero, living at Flat 2 on the third floor of No. 6 Dr. Carreras Peralta Street, state freely and spontaneously:

”(1) Question to Accused: Do you confess that you have formed part of a spying organisation and that you have taken reports of military secrets to send them to representatives of the general staff of Franco?

Accused: Yes. It is true that I was part of an espionage organisation and that I have taken reports of military secrets in order to send them to a representative of the general staff of General Franco.

”(2) Question to Accused: Who, until now, has directed the work of espionage for General Franco and where is this person directing the organisation or his chief?

Accused: I don’t know who was directing the spying in Spain, but I do know that the man in charge of espionage work at Perpignan is my chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, who lives in the town of Perpignan.

”(3) Question to Accused: Where are the headquarters of General Franco’s intelligence service and who are the most prominent people at this headquarters?

Accused: I don’t know where Franco’s espionage headquarters are. All I know is that there is a centre which directs espionage for General Franco at Perpignan and the chief of this centre is Ramon Xifra Riera.

”(4) Question: What sort of instructions have you had from your chief on Franco’s staff about military espionage?

Accused: My chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, has asked me to give him information about the nature and quantity of war-materials entering Spain, about the defence works on the Catalonian coast, about the morale and feelings of the population behind the lines. He has also asked me for reports on the situation on the Aragon front and for various other information of a general character.

”(5) Question: In what way was communication organised between you and the agent of Franco’s staff?

Accused: My chief, Ramon Xifra Riera, wrote to me that I should write my information in invisible ink and send it to him by post. He advised me to use postcards as these would be less likely to arouse suspicion of the authorities. Riera also told me that later he would arrange to have my information carried by a man who would present himself at Cosme Dalmau Mora’s house under the name of Dax. This man never turned up. I told my chief Riera that I did not want to send him any more reports by post and in future I would always send them by one of the people whom Cosme Dalmau Mora employed to help Fascists and deserters cross the border into France. Cosme Dalmau Mora had other agents working with him and with Franco’s representative at Perpignan. Cosme Dalmau Mora also organised the fight of Fascist refugees abroad. This same Cosme Dalmau Mora was a most important person in Catalonia and the chief of a group of spies working for Franco. On Monday 13th of this month (I am not quite sure if it was 13th or 14th) Mora told me that the next Sunday he was going to smuggle fifteen people into France through the mountains.

”Owing to the exhaustion of the accused this statement finished at three o’clock on the day already mentioned. It will be continued at a convenient time. The examining agent, the accused, and myself, signed the document, which I certified in my capacity of secretary.

The accused Signed:
JOAQUIN ROCA.

In the capacity of secretary the examining agent Signed:
ANTONIO GONZALEZ.”

Second Statement

”In the town of Barcelona at 1.15 on September 22nd, 1937, before Isidro Nogues Porta and José Maria Balart Ramon, secretary, I, Joaquin Roca Amich, declare freely and spontaneously

”(1) Question to the Accused: Are you the only spying link between Catalonia and Franco’s headquarters at Perpignan?

Accused: No. There are other lines of spying as the following facts show. I got letters by means of Cosme Dalmau Mora and lately I have had another letter sent to me by means of a man who came to me under the name of Ferrer. There is another fact. Mora once showed me a paragraph in a letter from Ramon Xifra Riera which said: It would be useful if you could put us in touch with Roca (Litus).’ This was the first invitation I had to join the espionage group in the service of General Franco.

”(2) Question: Is the espionage group of which you were a member the only group working in Catalonia under the direction of Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: No. There are other groups directed by Franco’s staff in Perpignan which work in Catalonia, but I don’t know them because they are secret.

”(3) Question: What is the character of the reports which you have sent to Franco’s espionage service in Perpignan and what are the most important pieces of information that you have communicated to them?

Accused: Reports which I have sent to Franco’s spy group at Perpignan are of a secret military nature, as you can see from the letter written in my handwriting and found between the mattresses of my bed.

I was preparing to send this letter to the agent of Franco’s staff at Perpignan. Actually, my reports dealt with the batteries on the Catalonian coast, the calibre and number of the guns, anti-aircraft defences, aerodromes, petrol supplies. In my report on the Aragon front I sent information about tanks, information a bout the Army, and especially about the existence of important groups of Fascist officers whom we thought we might be able to use against the Republican Government. I also sent reports on the number of gunners who were attached to the Fascist cause.

”(4) Question: Have you only practised espionage, or have you also taken part in acts of sabotage and in the destruction of material which is indispensable to the National Defence of the Republic?

Accused: No, I have not been engaged in any work of sabotage or destruction.

Question: That’s not true. We know that your organisation was engaged in sabotage.

Accused: I only suggested to my chief Riera, Franco’s representative at Perpignan, that one of the three bridges over the rivers Ter, Fluvia and La Muga, on the railway line from the front to Barcelona, should be destroyed by bombing from the air, as a great deal of war-material, for the defence of the Republic is carried along this line. In my letter to Riera I said that there would be no danger in carrying out the air raid as there was no anti-aircraft defence, only an old half-useless machine-gun. I also wrote to Riera and told him that it was necessary to destroy three petrol depôts near the railway station at Celra which are camouflaged and covered with branches.

”(5) Question: Who destroyed the three guns of the 25th Division and the four guns of the 45th Division mentioned in the letter that the police found at your house?

Accused: I don’t know who destroyed them because that job wasn’t done by our group but by another group which was also working under the orders of Franco’s agents at Perpignan, one of whom sent me the letter to which you have referred.

”(6) Question: The organisation of which you were a member has committed acts of terrorism against members of the Republican Government or against some of its representatives, hasn’t it?

Accused: I have not personally been concerned in any acts of terrorism, I have only carried on espionage.

Question: That is not true because the letter which was found in your place mentions an attempt against Prieto on the Betera road as well as one against the Republican Army Commanders, Modesto and Walter.

Accused: The attempted assassinations of Prieto and the Army Commanders, Modesto and Walter, was prepared by the secret group of agents of the P.O.U.M., which is directed by Franco’s spying centre at Perpignan. The letter, which was given me together with other documents by one of the agents of the group in question who works illegally in Spain, testifies to this. The agent in question told me that he would come back to collect the documents on the 19th of this month.

”(7) Question: Who is Litus?

Accused: I am Litus.

”(8) Question: If you are Litus how do you describe your relations with the other espionage groups directed by Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: All the information collected by the other group, which is composed of the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., was sent to Perpignan through me, but I am not a member of this group and therefore am not responsible for what it does.

”(9) Question: Who is the person who sent you the letter containing reports on military espionage and in which the attempted assassinations are referred to?

Accused: I don’t know who sent me the letter with the military reports and the mention of the assassinations of Prieto, Modesto and Walter. As I told you before, this person called himself Ferrer. Physically he is short with a delicate skin, thin nose, black wavy hair and ordinary-looking mouth. I should think he was about twenty-five. He wore a brown suit with coloured stripes, a showy tie with a large knot. Altogether he was a very well dressed young man smelling of scent and with a slightly feminine appearance.

”(10) Question: Do you know if Cosme Dalmau Mora knew the group formed by the secret agents of the P.O.U.M., or whether he knew any one of these agents?

Accused: I don’t know.

”(11) Question: Tell me the names of the people who have given you reports which you have communicated to Franco’s staff at Perpignan?

Accused: Reports on the petrol depôts at Celra were given me in all good faith by a schoolmaster in the village called Ciurana. I should like to state that this man is entirely loyal to the Republican régime. The reports on the Aragon front were given me verbally by Cosme Dalmau Mora, who added that in the event of an advance by Franco’s forces the Republican Army would blow up the railway bridges. The information in my letter about Lerida (where there is no garrison) I got from a schoolmaster at Aíguaviva who is an officer.”

The accused Signed:                                   Examining agent Signed:

JOAQUIN ROCA.                           J. NOGUES.”

These are the facts and in view of them any lengthy discussion is unnecessary. The documents speak for themselves and constitute a full condemnation of the criminal actions of the Trotskyist organisation in Spain. And these are only a selection from dozens of similar documents now in the posession of the Minister of the Interior establishing beyond all doubt the rôle of the P.O.U.M. as a spying organisation on Government territory. For months, since the search at the Peruvian Embassy, after which the leaders of the P.O.U.M.were arrested and imprisoned in Valencia, not a week has passed without the Minister of the Interior accumulating further evidence to show that the Trotskyist leaders were spies in the pay of the rebels and worked in close co-operation with the underground organisations of Phalangists and Monarchists.

One of the leaders however, Andres Nin, has escaped from the prison where he was shut up and we will now see to what fabulous legends and rumours this escape, which has been deliberately surrounded with mystery, has given rise.

NIN’S ESCAPE

After his arrest on June 16th, 1937, Nin was transferred to the civil prison at Valencia and thence to Madrid where he was immediately sent to the town of Alcala de Henares, about twelve miles from the capital, where he was locked up under a close watch by the police.

One night several men dressed as officers of the Regular Army, wearing badges of their rank, overpowered the guards of the prison, gagged and bound them, and went in and carried off the prisoner. From that moment, in spite of the most intensive search by the police, no trace of Nin has been found and no one has any idea where he is, whether he is a refugee in one of the foreign embassies which provide such generous hospitality to the Fascists of Franco’s Fifth Column; or whether he managed to get through to the rebel territory and preserves his anonymity in order not to compromise his friends who are in Republican gaols.

Around the facts of Nin’s escape the Trotskyists abroad built up, and continue to carry on, a tremendous Press campaign. The Fascist Press of the whole world gloats, intensifies its attacks against Repub-lican Spain, and makes the escape the subject of all sorts of monstrous rumours about the Spanish Communist Party and the Soviet Union. The lying rumours which were circulated in Paris at the time of the Koutiepov affair were revived. Queipo de Llano, in one of his daily mouthings from Seville over the air, declares that Nin has been mur-dered by order of the Negrin Government. The Fascist Press at San Sebastian claims that Nin has been assassinated by order from Moscow. The secret groups of the P.O.U.M. are circulating leaflets in which they hold Comorera (Catalan United Socialist leader), Prieto and Negrin responsible for Nin’s “death” and demand their heads in expiation. All sorts of different versions have been published in the Press: some say that Nin has been murdered and some that he is being kept in secret confinement.

There is nothing really astonishing about all this nonsense, which is just what history teaches us to expect. If we read the evidence of one of the prison warders who was gagged and bound by the men dressed as officers, the ”mystery” of Nin’s disappearance itself disappears. The warder’s statement is explicit. He said: ”Nin went quietly out of the prison with the officers.” The warder repeated that he went quietly without any sign of protest and added that at no moment did he try to call for help.

If Nin had been taken away against his will he would surely have made some attempt to attract the attention of the people outside and around the prison. The official statement mentions that there were some soldiers standing about outside the prison not far from the wall. They said that Nin got into the car with the officers in the most natural manner possible, and when they were questioned afterwards they all said that they had noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

All the evidence points to the fact that Nin was taken away by his friends, disguised as officers in uniforms which they could easily have procured in Madrid or Valencia. They had every reason for wanting to get him away before his examination, which would inevitably have revealed a mass of further incriminating evidence. Moreover, had he been found guilty by the people’s court, he would certainly have been condemned to death for high treason and espionage.

The Republican Government and the Communist Party could have had no possible reason for wanting Nin to disappear and not stand at his trial. He was the most important of the accused, one of the principal leaders of the P.O.U.M., and the evidence against him was of an overwhelmingly grave nature. His cross-examination would have elicited most important information about the underground activity of his organisation and its relations with the Fascist rebels. In reality, Nin’s escape was nothing but one more act in a long series of provocations against the Republican Government.

THE MAY PUTSCH IN BARCELONA

By the beginning of May 1937, some days before the criminal rising in Barcelona began, the military situation of the Spanish Government was more favourable than at any time since July 1936 when Franco’s rebellion broke out. The Italian troops were still recovering with difficulty after the tremendous defeat which had been inflicted on them at Guadalajara. The People’s Army, formed after months of bitter defensive fighting and heavy losses, had at last shown its offensive potentialities. The relations between the various trade union and political organisations had improved. The great mass of the people was enthusiastic over the success of the Republican forces and was expressing its desire for the formation of a powerful, organised and disciplined army.

To any detached observer who was well informed about the situation at the front and behind the lines on both sides, it was obvious that the best way of discounting the advantages which the Republic had won would be to strike a blow at Catalonia. The rebels had just started their campaign against Bilbao and had good reason to fear that Catalonia would harass them by taking the offensive on the Aragon front.

Nothing could have been more acceptable to the Fascists than a diversion in Catalonia. The P.O.U.M., which for months had been trying to sabotage the Popular Front, was daily clamouring for its disruption and intriguing for the insurrection which would bring this about. The internal situation in Catalonia was such that the Government had to concentrate all its attention on it when dealing with it and was unable to assist the Basques. Caballero, and his Minister of the Interior, Angel Galarza, refused to see the danger and when pressed by the United Socialist Party of Catalonia as well as by the Spanish Communist Party gave evasive and dilatory replies.

Meanwhile, the P.O.U.M. was carefully planning the details of the insurrection. On May 3rd it was suggested that the Catalonian military authorities should take control of the telephone service. It was intolerable, for instance, when the Minister of the Interior was talking to one of the provincial governors, telling him what action to take against those responsible for various provocative activities, that the P.O.U.M.’s agents should be listening in and able to warn their people to clear out.

At the same time, the Catalonian authorities had decided to dissolve once and for all the so-called ”control patrols”, which had been formed immediately after Franco’s rebellion began and which had become inundated with all kinds of disruptive elements and adventurers. It was also taking in hand the organisation of the army on the Aragon front.

The P.O.U.M., finding that its situation was daily growing more unfavourable and that the masses were disapproving of its policy, chose this moment for its putsch.

Inevitably, the question arises: What were the real aims of the P.O.U.M. in fomenting this putsch? With only some thousands of supporters at its disposal it could not hope to seize power for itself. But it could hope to disrupt and split the two great trade union organisations just when their relations were improving. This is shown by the fact that as soon as the putsch began the leaders of the P.O.U.M. tried to win over to their own side some of the wilder elements of the C.N.T. (National Confederacion of Labour, the Anarcho-Syndicalist organisation) and tried to get them to take part in street fighting against both the forces of the U.G.T. (Socialist Trade Union) and those of the Catalonian authorities and of the Central Government. Thanks to the calmness and energy of the leaders of these two organisations, this disaster was avoided and the Trotskyists found themselves on the barricades alone with the Fascists of the Fifth Column and a handful of disorderly elements.

The P,O.U.M., whose official organ, La Batalla, had been able to write without being suppressed that ”the rebellion of July 19th broke out because the Popular Front was formed”, had declared several days before the putsch that it was in favour of the constitution of a revolutionary junta which would take power by force. In a series of articles that appeared in La Batalla during the days before the putsch the Trotskyist leaders openly agitated for a coup d’état.

In the manifesto published by the P.O.U.M. on May 1st, we read:

“Conscious of its direct responsibility, the P.O.U.M., the Party of the Revolution, calls on all workers, on this 1st May, to form a workers’ revolutionary front to fight against the common enemy, which is capitalism, to advance the Socialist revolution, to destroy bourgeois institutions and create a workers’ and peasants’ government.”

The following paragraph is taken from a manifesto signed by the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M.:

”Rifles in hand, the workers are aroused because the working class has lost patience. The workers are tired of this wavering policy, of the sabotage on the Aragon fronts, with military disasters. That is why we are coming out into the streets.”

The miserable demagogy of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. with their Leftist phrase-mongering did not stop there. Having accumulated behind the lines arms, munitions and tanks that had been intended for the front, they announced:

”There are tanks, planes, and arms enough, but they won’t give them to Catalonia; they won’t let the revolutionary proletariat have them.”

It should be noted that after the Barcelona putsch thousands of rifles were discovered, which the Trotskyist leaders had diverted from the front. The arms and war-materials which the P.O.U.M. had managed to collect by May 3rd included thousands of rifles, several hundred machine-guns and dozens of tanks.

On May 3rd, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the Catalan Com-missioner of Public Order, Rodriguez Salas, went to the central telephonic exchange which the evening before had been taken over by fifty armed members of the P.O.U.M. Shock troops entered the building, turned out the fifty men, and the telephone exchange was in the hands of the Government.

So far there had been not the slightest trouble, but the Minister of Public Order made the mistake of thinking matters would end there and failed to take further precautionary measures. The fifty men were let go, and they roamed the streets of Barcelona and got together a mob. During the night several shots were heard.

The comment of La Batalla on this incident was as follows

“As soon as the news went round the workers set up barricades.”

The members of the P.O.U.M. were called together by a notice printed in La Batalla which read as follows:

”All militant members of the P.O.U.M., including those belonging to the Popular school of War, must come at once to the premises of the Military Executive Committee at No. 10 Ramblas de Estudios. This is urgent.”

Barcelona then experienced the disorder which the leaders of the P.O.U.M. had so carefully planned. On the Plaza de España the Trotskyists brought into action the batteries of 75’s which they had stolen from the Aragon front, and the blood of the workers flowed. Thanks however to the cool headedness of the leaders of the U.G.T. and the C.N.T. the fighting was localised. The Trotskyists resisted for some time, but were obliged to retreat before the overwhelming forces of the Catalan working class. In the course of this outrageous insurrection 900 were killed and 2,500 wounded.

A great wave of popular indignation swept through Barcelona and the entire people demanded justice. The first obvious measure seemed to be the dissolution of the P.O.U.M. and the suspension of its paper, La Batalla. But the Minister of the Interior of the Caballero Government, after hesitating for several days, refused to take any action against the P.O.U.M. Encouraged by this extraordinary attitude, the Trotskyists renewed their agitation. And while work was beginning again in the city and the forces of public order were disarming scattered uncontrolled groups, the members of the P.O.U.M. were found on the barricades side by side with members of Franco’s Fifth Column.

The Fascists needed prolonged disturbances so that it would be impossible for Catalonia to send any help to the Basques, and so that a further Press and propaganda campaign could be carried on against Government Spain abroad. This indeed was exactly what happened. In the days that followed the reactionary and Fascist Press of the world raved about the chaos in Catalonia and the ”rebellion of the people against the Soviet dictatorship”. Meanwhile, the rebel radio stations of Salamanca and Saragossa repeated incessantly day and night the same advice as the P.O.U.M.:

”Hold on to your weapons – don’t give up the struggle at any price – unite with your brothers at the front and hurl the Russian dictators out of your country.”

On May 7th La Batalla appealed as follows to the soldiers:

”Leave the front and go and fight against the Government in Catalonia.”

During this period the enemy suspended all activities on the Aragon front. It has since been discovered that Fascist planes were going to be sent to the assistance of the putschists. It is a strange coincidence that the aims followed by the P.O.U.M. should be identical with those of the Fascist general staff.

By the time that P.O.U.M. had been declared an illegal organisation by the Negrin Government, so many revelations had been made about its criminal activities that these were uppermost in the public mind and there has been a tendency to forget the long struggle which it had carried on against the Popular Front. Actually the later and brazenly treacherous activities of P.O.U.M., such as the Barcelona putsch and its contacts with Franco’s espionage organisations, have their roots in its political history ever since the formation of the Popular Front.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE POPULAR FRONT

We have already referred to the formation of the P.O.U.M. in 1935, as the result of a coalition between the workers and peasant bloc founded by Joaquin Maurin and a tiny group of Leftists led by Nin, Gorkin and Andrade, and related how, from the day of its formation, the P.O.U.M. set out to wreck working-class unity in Spain. After the victory of the Popular Front at the elections, the P.O.U.M. redoubled its efforts. Its Press and its platforms poured out attacks against the leading figures of the Popular Front. At this time one of the P.O.U.M.’s leaders was a member of the Catalonian Government. After his expulsion the attacks became even more violent.

On December 15th, 1936, at a meeting of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M. it was decided that the struggle against the Popular Front must be intensified. At this crucial time in the history of the Spanish people, when it was clear that their only hope of victory against the forces of Fascist intervention lay in Unity, the P.O.U.M. embarked on a policy the essential aim of which was to split the ranks of the People’s Forces.

In the eyes of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. the alliance between the proletariat and the middle classes, which enabled vigorous resistance to be made against the Fascist rebellion and the formation of a Government in which working-class representatives collaborated with the forces of the Republican petty bourgeoisie, was infamous. A resolution adopted by this same Plenum of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M., regarding the fundamental institutions of the Republic, demands:

”The dissolution of the bourgeois Parliament and in its place an Assembly composed of delegates from factory committees, representatives and delegates from the peasants and from the Fronts; a workers’ and peasants’ government, a workers’ democracy.”

These demands were made at the very moment when the mass of the workers had achieved active participation in the Popular Front Government, and when the workers and peasants had seen their conditions of life entirely transformed. The land had just been given to the poor peasants; the wages basis had been entirely revised; and Spanish democracy was organising the framework of social justice.

From the moment of its formation, and especially &ler July 19th, the Popular Front was the instrument of the liberation of the Spanish people. It was the means by which the United working class was able to shake off the yoke of feudalism, and when Germany and Fascist Italy intervened in Spain it was plain that the fight which the Popular Front led against foreign invasion was the fight for Spanish independence. While straining every nerve to overcome Fascism, both native and foreign, the Popular Front was struggling to transform Spanish society, which until then had been more or less feudal, into a parliamentary republic of a new type. The future of this new type of republic, which has already changed the conditions of life of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, was and still is indissolubly linked with the struggle for Spain as an independent nation.

What was the attitude of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. on this question? Gorkin categorically stated at a meeting:

”It is impossible for a Marxist, a revolutionary, to say that he is fighting in a war of independence. Marx and Engels said that a revolutionary has no country, this war is a class war.”

Following their usual practice of taking phrases from Marx and citing them out of their context, the Trotskyists tried to sow the seeds of doubt and dissension everywhere. It is easy enough to correct their distortions. In the sense in which Marx used it, the word ”country” has nothing in common with a Spain set free from feudalism by the Popular Front. Marx was applying his analysis to ”countries” in which the situation was radically different. It will be remembered how vigorously Lenin fought against the method of applying classical texts to historic situations whose individual peculiarities were clearly defined, and of trying to draw practical conclusions from the application. To-day the Spanish workers are defending the country which they themselves have conquered, while the Trotskyists, claiming to be the only true disciples of the founder of scientific Socialism, merely try to weaken the defence of the Republic.

Let us now consider the method which the P.O.U.M. employed against the political and trade union unity of the workers and anti-Fascist organisations.

The working-class organisation which was the object of the P.O.U.M.’s most vigorous attacks was the Spanish Communist Party. It will be reckoned the outstanding historic achievement of the Spanish Communist Party that, from the first weeks of the Fascist generals’ rebellion against the legitimate Government, it clearly defined the war as the struggle of the entire Spanish people against its oppressors at home and their allies from abroad. By describing the war of Spanish independence the Communist Party entirely identified the Popular Front with the Spanish nation and thereby enlarged the basis of resistance against the invader. At the same time, it pointed out the needs which were essential to the conduct of the war: creation of a powerful war-industry, the re-establishment of order and discipline so that all the resources and energies of the country could be effectually mobilised.

What was the attitude of the P.O.U.M. in its opposition to the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C. (United Socialist Party of Catalonia)? The leaders of the P.O.U.M. suddenly started describing the Spanish Communist Party as the party of counter-revolution. The P.O.U.M. opposed all the main points of Communist-Party policy by putting forward a mass of demagogic demands. For instance, when the Communist Party sanctioned giving to the poor peasants the land which they had cultivated, but which they had not possessed, the P.O.U.M. clamoured tempestuously for the immediate and forcible socialisation of all land.

In order to try and delude the masses about the aims which it was really pursuing, the P.O.U.M. branded the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C. as reformists. Declaring themselves the “Guardians of the revolution” the leaders of the P.O.U.M. started a Press campaign, couched in seductively “theoretical” phrases, about the “degeneration of the Communist Party and the P.S.U.C.”, hoping to attract the few workers and peasants who had not understood the Communist and Socialist political line. In La Batalla, April 4th, there was an article about the “theoretical degeneration” of the Communist Party which actually claimed that the Communist Party had “put too much emphasis on German and Italian intervention”. Another line of attack took the form of declaring that the Communist Party was “to the right of all parties in the Popular Front, even to the right of the Republicans.”

Against the P.S.U.C. (United Socialist Party of Catalonia) the P.O.U.M. brought forward the usual accusation about the inactivity on the Aragon front:

”Listen, you workers who are kept in a state of paralysis at the front and paralysed behind the lines through lack of arms. The P.S.U.C. would like to make the revolutionary movement responsible for the inactivity on the Aragon front.”

And all this time, while it was spreading these infamous lies, the P.O.U.M. itself was busy storing enormous stacks of munitions stolen from the fronts and waiting for the moment to tum these arms against the workers.

In its attempts to disrupt working-class unity, the P.O.U.M. also got to work amongst the Youth organisations. The Socialist and Communist Youth organisations had been united since June 1936 and from the beginning of the war onwards they have constituted one of the most powerful anti-Fascist organisations in the country, numbering 315,000. They provided a mass of troops and important cadres for the People’s Army. The J.S.U. (United Socialist Youth) had been working hard for over a year to achieve the unity of Spanish youth and to form a National Alliance of Youth into which they have succeeded in incorporating the Anarchist youth. The P.O.U.M., with a great display of Leftist phrasemongering, began to form a skeleton Youth organisation of its own, which it called the Iberian Communist Youth and the aim of which was to prevent the young from taking part in the National Youth Alliance. The leader of the Young Iberian “Communists” described the National Youth Alliance as “a monstrous crime.” Fortunately, however, the leaders of the young Anarchists did not allow themselves to be deceived by the P.O.U.M. and joined the National Youth Alliance.

La Batalla launched the most venomous attacks against the J.S.U., whose members were fighting on all fronts, and described it as counter-revolutionary and tried to discredit it in the eyes of the leaders of the young Anarchists. The P.O.U.M. followed the same tactics in trying to split trade union unity. Here is an example. On March 25th, 1937, Pedro Bonet, one of the Syndicalist leaders of the P.O.U.M., who had already made several venomous attacks against the U.G.T. (General Workers’ Union – Socialist), declared:

”The S.E.P.I. [an organisation of small shopkeepers] must be the first to leave the U.G.T. This organisation of small employers and shopkeepers can survive if it likes, but only outside the organisation of the U.G.T. The workers of the U.G.T. cannot breathe in an organisation in which there are non-proletarian elements.”

At the same time La Batalla ran a campaign which aimed to oppose the two great unions, the U.G.T. and the C.N.T. The C.N.T.’s answer to this piece of provocation was embodied in the call for unity of the masses of both trade unions which its leaders sounded on the day after the P.O.U.M.’s insurrection in Barcelona. Once again the disruptive plans of the Trotskyist leaders had failed.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT

All the attempts of the P.O.U.M. to wreck the unity of work-ing-class and anti-Fascist organisations were part of a determined campaign against the Popular Front as such. Numerous quotations from Trotskyist literature can be cited to support this contention. According to the Trotskyist leaders the Popular Front is “a paper Government, an anti-workers’ Government”. Sometimes the P.O.U.M. was carried away by its provocative fury and forgot all political tact and attacked all the organisations which supported the Government. These attacks were met by an indignant reply from the C.N.T. organ in Madrid, which wrote:

”We cannot agree with the tone which La Batalla and the Red Fighter [another Trotskyist paper] adopt towards the Government Press in their grossly mistaken campaign against the Popular Front.”

At the same time the P.O.U.M. was carrying on a shameful campaign, the aim of which was to popularise rumours that were circulating abroad about an approaching armistice. It did this at the moment when Madrid had won the admiration of the entire world for its glorious resistance and when the Republican Army, having checked the German and Moroccan troops on the Jaramma front, had won a great victory over the Italians at Guadalajara. The weakness which the Caballero Government showed in allowing the P.O.U.M. to carry on their intrigues and agitation against the Republic was almost incredible, especially as the P.O.U.M. was quite as active against Caballero’s Cabinet as against the Catalonian authorities and, later, against the Negrin Government. Caballero’s Minister of the Interior, in particular, displayed an extraordinary tolerance towards the P.O.U.M.

Sometimes the Trotskyists tried to play off the Central Government against the Catalan Government, but the general line of attack against both Governments was equally violent.

We have already explained that whilst the Trotskyists were storing arms which were intended for the front they attacked the Government and blamed it for the delay. For instance, on January 17th at Castellon Gironella, one of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. said in a speech:

”You wonder why there is no advance on the Aragon front. No offensive has been launched on the Aragon front because the Government does not wish to take the offensive, and the reason why it does not wish to take the offensive is because it does not wish to arm the revolutionaries who are on that front.”

The P.O.U.M., however, were not content with storing arms, but they also negotiated to buy them from abroad as the following letter shows. This was sent from Prague, by the Alarm Group, to Gorkin:

”Prague.

February 22nd, 1937.

”DEAR COMRADES,

”We have the opportunity of getting fifty machineguns (Masch inengewehre, Model 6) from the Czechoslovakian Government at a very reduced price in a perfectly legal manner. We are writing to you because we think you will have a better chance than ourselves of being able to arrange this sale for the P.O.U.M. If you can be the intermediary in this sale please let us know at once. The price of the guns will be 15,000 Kc. in all.

”In awaiting your reply to this confidential letter we beg you, dear comrades, to accept our most cordial greetings.

”For the Alarm Group,

(Signature illegible.)

”P.S. We cannot give any credit and you will have to pay for the arms immediately.”

Another form of Trotskyist provocative slander was to declare that the Central Government had given autonomy to the Basques, to Catalonia and to Aragon because, as Arquer said in a speech: ”they haven’t the strength to govern them themselves.” This idiotic rumour was spread in spite of the fact that the political forces of the working class and especially the Communist Party have always been the champions of National minorities. Meanwhile, the P.O.U.M. did everything they could to discredit the Catalonian Government, which they described in La Batalla (December 20th, 1936) as

“the cause of the troubles behind the lines and of the dis-turbances and confusion at the front. The new Cabinet is in itself an advantage to the Fascist forces.”

This attitude coincided exactly with the propaganda which was being poured out by the Fascist radio-stations at Salamanca and Seville. Indeed, it coincided with it on a great many other points, especially the question of the relations of the Spanish Government with the democ-racies of Europe. These relations the P.O.U.M. did their best to make as difficult as possible.

The P.O.U.M. incessantly attacked the Soviet Government, which by its generous attitude to the Republic had won the sympathy and friendship of the people of Spain. The effective solidarity of U.S.S.R. and Spain exasperated the Trotskyist leaders. They let loose a violent campaign against ”Soviet aid” and used every one of the arguments which were being printed in the Fascist Press of the world, claiming that Russia was intervening in Spanish affairs and clamouring:

”We want the working class of Catalonia to be absolute master of its own fate.”

On December 18th, 1936, a resolution of the Central Committee of the P.O.U.M. concerning the question of Soviet aid declared:

”We want to stop this system by which, in exchange for material help, they are able to intervene in the leadership of the Spanish workers.”

Thus the Executive Committee of the P.O.U.M. embraced the standpoint of international Fascism. It repeated stories which had appeared in Fascist newspapers and stories which had been spread by Gestapo agents abroad.

On December 9th it was announced that Victor Serge, who had been expelled from the Soviet Union, had joined the staff of La Batalla. Hitherto, the P.O.U.M. had denied having any relations with the Trotskyists. They persisted in this denial and on January 24th, 1937, La Batalla announced:

”We are not Trotskyists but we consider that this tendency in the working-class movement is quite as legitimate as any other.”

This farce was not kept up very long, however, as the leaders of the P.O.U.M., who had all formerly been expelled from the Communist Party and who had adopted Trotskyist ideology, soon showed themselves in their true light. A delegation from the P.O.U.M. went to visit Trotsky in Mexico; Trotsky’s son, Sedov, made more and more secret trips and his relations with the leaders of the P.O.U.M. became closer. The phantom section of the so-called Bolshevik Leninist Fourth International worked in full accord with the leaders of the P.O.U.M. A mass of documents found when a search was made at Gorssin’s flat in Barcelona is evidence of this.

THE P.O.U.M. AGAINST THE PEOPLE’S ARMY

The formation of the Spanish People’s Republic’s Regular Army, organised on the same basis as the most up-to-date armies of Europe, was an achievement made possible by extraordinary determination and patience. It is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable feats which the Spanish Popular Front has performed since the rebellion of Franco and his generals. To transform the gallant but disorganised groups of workers’ militia, hurriedly gathered together on July 19th and armed with relics from the museums and anything that lay to hand, into a centralised united force properly commanded and trained in modern military technique, this was the urgent task which the Spanish people demanded of the Popular Front. It was a heavy and difficult task and it entailed months of patient effort in the course of which many disappointments and defeats had to be endured. But the loyalty and enthusiasm of the Spanish workers overcame all difficulties, as it will overcome all difficulties in the future. And with the valuable co-operation of several hundred officers of the Regular Army who had remained loyal to their oath to the Republic, the militiamen were organised into a force which was capable of holding Franco’s mercenary troops in check.

To this task, on which the very future of the country depended, and which constituted the only possible safeguard against the invasion by foreign Fascism, each of the parties of the Popular Front devoted their energies in proportion to their ability to size up the situation. For Spain it was a matter of life and death.

The P.O.U.M., true to its habitual line, devoted all its efforts to hindering the creation and organisation of the Regular Army. In Catalonia, where, at first, local traditions tended to oppose the introduction of military discipline, the P.O.U.M. used the demagogic slogan: ”The workers’ militia overcame the rebellion, they will win the war,” and resisted all the efforts of the United Socialist and Communist Parties to organise a regular army. The P.O.U.M. argued as follows:

“We don’t want a regular army because that means the recognition of militarism, it means using the same methods and forms as those which existed in the old army, we want only revolutionary militias.”

But in spite of this obstruction the People’s Army took shape; and when it proved itself at Madrid by checking the Fascist troops at the gates of the capital the Trotskyists changed their tactics, for, although they had been masquerading as revolutionaries, their open opposition to the Regular Army had revealed them in their true colours.

The P.O.U.M. then adopted its traditional splitting tactics. In the newly organised army, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Catholics and Republicans were fighting side by side. The P.O.U.M. opposed this with the conception of ”a purely working-class army ”, and one of its leaders, Solano, declared in a meeting at Castellon

”We cannot tolerate the formation of an army which included a crowd of young Liberals, petty bourgeoisie and Catholics.”

La Batalla added: ”an army without proletarian control is no guarantee for the revolution.” This insinuation was a direct lie because the Spanish working class had just provided the new Regular Army with the majority of its officers and a host of thoroughly tried leaders.

Alongside this criminal campaign, which aimed at undermining the very foundations of the Army, the P.O.U.M. conducted a venomous attack against the officers of the old Army who had remained loyal to the Republic and used every means in its power to try and provoke their hostility to the new régime. It based this attack on the suggestion that the sole control of the Army was in the hands of professional soldiers ”who could not be trusted”. And it spread this idea at the moment when numbers of military leaders were springing up from the ranks of the people in a way which was reminiscent of the French Revolution, providing the Spanish Army with such commanders as Modesto, Lister, Campesino, Mera, etc., and while professional soldiers like General Miaja, the life and soul of the defence of Madrid, and General Bosas were making glorious history for the Republic and giving the best possible proofs of their loyalty to the Spanish people.

Every step which represented a real advance in the task of organising the People’s Army was selected for attacks by the P.O.U.M. The General Military Commission, an institution which had been responsible for giving the Republican soldiers the high degree of political understanding which they have today, was also the object of Trotskyist provocation. The P.O.U.M.’s fundamental tactic was to cause disunity on all questions, and its leaders therefore urged that another military commissariat should be set up. This was the demand of Andres Nin when, on December 16th, 1936, he broadcast from Radio Barcelona, without the slightest compunction, all sorts of infamous abuse of this Republican organisation.

The practical result of this calculated piece of provocation was that the Trotskyists formed a division out of such dubious elements as expelled Phalangists and named it after Lenin. They opened a military school at Lerida and went on training officers there right up till May. The leaders of the P.O.U.M. hoped that they would have enough men on whom they could rely to influence any recruits whom Caballero, who was so tolerant towards them, would be foolish enough to provide.

Meanwhile the anti-Fascist organisations were sending thousands of their members to defend the capital. The P.O.U.M. then announced, with a great flourish, that its first contingent was about to leave for Madrid. The contingent actually did leave, but when it arrived at the capital its fighting strength amounted to the grand total of eighty men (this figure is corroborated on all sides).

As for the behaviour of the P.O.U.M. militiamen and the ”famous Lenin division” at the front, their constant fraternisation with the Fascists during their long stay on the Aragon front was notorious. In some districts, notably at Huesca, they even played football several times a week with the Fascists. Evidence of this fraternisation is provided by a young English volunteer, a former member of the I.L.P. He reports:

”Since, throughout my life, I have been devoted to justice, I became a Socialist, and when Fascism launched its attack against the Spanish people, I came to Spain in order to take part in the fight together with three worker comrades.

”I arrived in Spain with a group of I.L.P. volunteers on January 11 th with the intention of going to Madrid. But for reasons I have never been able to learn, I was kept in the ‘Lenin Barracks ‘ in Barcelona, which was controlled by the P.O.U.M. The only thing we did there was to take part in the daily march through the streets. This irritated our English group. Then we were incorporated in the P.O.U.M. militia on the Alcubierra sector of the Aragon front and placed under the command of Commandant Kopp.

”Here was a number of things we began to notice. Food in general was very scarce and we noticed that when the mules that brought the food to the front lines arrived the better kinds were always missing.

”Every night at 11 p.m. the sentries heard the rattle of a cart and we could tell from its light that it was crossing the space between the position on our left and the Fascist lines. We were ordered never to shoot at this light and when we grew inquisitive about it we were forbidden to try to find anything out. Our superiors gave us no satisfactory explanation and we each behaved as though none of us knew anything about any mysterious cart which crossed regularly to the enemy lines without being fired on. One day in the course of a skirmish we found, on the route that the cart must have taken each night, a small hut which must have been occupied by the Fascists. We succeeded in slipping past the sentries and trying to follow the cart on the next occasion, but the plan failed because the very same night there was a general recall and we were moved to another sector.

”Near Huesca there were the same difficulties about food. Our clothing was poor. And during a forward movement one night we saw Commandant Kopp returning from the Fascist lines.

”In their political work, also, the P.O.U.M. was similarly working for Fascism. The political reports given by representatives of the P.O.U.M. always painted defeat as inevitable, and was directed to make us believe that the workers were oppressed behind the front and about to be faced with a reign of terror. From time to time we were told of bloody clashes against the workers in the hinterland.

”When I got back to the front it was obvious that there was open fraternisation between the P.O.U.M. troops and the Fascists. Newspapers, tobacco and drinks were exchanged. Our positions were about 150 yards from the Fascist offensive, and despite the fact that the Fascists kept appealing to us to desert we had orders never to answer their fire. I realised more and more the pro-Fascist line of the P.O.U.M. and, with a friend named Arthur, asked permission to go home. I need not repeat all the excuses that were given for refusing permission. An American Trotskyist, on the other hand, was allowed back to Valencia, as soon as he asked.

”Arthur and I declared our refusal in advance to act for the P.O.U.M. against the Spanish Government, but offered to take part in building fortifications much needed in our sector. The P.O,U.M. then threatened to imprison us. We escaped to Barcelona and stayed there several days until we heard from a friend that the idea of resistance was abandoned. We then returned to the front and three weeks’ later incorporation into the People’s Army took place without incident. These experiences for a long time shook my faith in the Socialist movement. Today, however, I realise that, despite the baseness of certain leaders whom I once trusted, we workers must carry on the fight. And now I hope that more experienced than before, I may be able to give useful service in the struggle against Fascism and for Socialism. Long live the Republican Spanish people ! Long live the victory of all the workers of the world!”

Barcelona, August 21st, 1937.
Signed: ”J. A. FRANKFORT.”

The Trotskyists also issued, in the form of anonymous leaflets, a flo od of atrocious propaganda about the heroic International Brigade composed of volunteers from all countries who have come of their own free will to help the Spanish people. The following quotation, for instance, is worthy of Franco’s most faithful supporters:

”Anarchist comrades! Do not trust the International Brigade. It will provide the core of the army which the Communists of Catalonia and Spain will hurl against you. In the same way that the Communists during the Russian revolution destroyed the Anarchists.”

THE P.O.U.M.’S ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE DISCIPLINE BEHIND THE LINES

It is an established fact of military experience that in a war between two forces which have more or less identical offensive opportunities the morale behind the lines plays a decisive part. In spite of its disadvantage in the face of German and Italian intervention, Republican Spain could count on the overwhelming superiority of its reserves, made up of enormous numbers of workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie, who were fundamentally hostile to Fascism not only on ideological grounds but also because of their own economic interests. From the early days of the civil war when Franco had to rely on his Moorish troops to begin his offensive in the Tagus Valley, it was plain that he could only carry on his struggle against the Spanish people with the help of mercenaries and foreign allies. The overwhelming majority of the people of Spain were against Fascism and had lined up on the side of their legitimate Government. The result was that the superiority of the Government’s reserves helped to compensate for lack of arms and military technique. And it was clear that the rebels would try and counteract this superiority by every possible means.

Owing to the incredible weakness of the first two Governments the P.O.U.M. was allowed to become the open instrument of the rebels behind the Republican lines, and to disturb order and discipline and sow the seeds of discord everywhere.

The first obvious task of any Government after a rebellion has been crushed is to restore order. And the Republican Government could no longer tolerate the insistence of undisciplined bands which had rendered good service during the first days of the rebellion, but most of whose original members had left for the front and which had now become nothing but rallying centres for disorderly elements and Fascists of the Fifth Column. These patrols, which the Central Government replaced by forces recruited from the workers and set on a legal footing, continued to disturb the economic life of Catalonia and the coastal provinces. As fast as the original members left for the front to join the People’s Army, disorderly elements joined the patrols and turned them into a real menace to public order. They occupied cross-roads, arbitrarily took over the control of villages and looted them. The P.O.U.M. became the most ardent champion of these patrols and although the President of the General Council of Catalonia announced to the Press that he could not allow this disorderly state of affairs to continue, the Catalonian Government, in which the Trotskyists had influence, were not able to effect a clean-up until after the Barcelona putsch in May.

Another instance of the P.O.U.M.’s criminally disruptive tactics is shown by its attitude towards the refugees who poured into Catalonia. In November 1936 when the situation in Madrid suddenly became critical and the civilian population was exposed to the terrible bombing raids of the German and Italian planes, the Government speeded up the evacuation of civilians from Madrid to the coastal provinces, which was already being organised. Hundreds of thousands of women and children were welcomed with open arms by the people of Catalonia, but the P.O.U.M. at once took the opportunity of trying to stir up bad feeling between the refugees and the local inhabitants. Andrade, one of the leaders of the P.O.U.M. who is now under arrest, made the following outrageous statement in La Batalla on December 8th, 1936:

”The refugees must remember that we are living in a time of civil war and not keep on making complaints, the only object of which is to try and get more comfortable lives for themselves than they had in Madrid.”

The P.O.U.M. blamed the refugees for the food shortage and the overcrowding in houses, trams and public places.

CONCLUSION

In a pamphlet of this length it has not been possible to give a detailed history in chronological order of the various activities of the P.O.U.M. But it is plain that all these activities are part of a general policy, the aim of which is to wreck the Spanish People’s Front. It is no accident that the men who attacked the Popular Front from the moment of its foundation later worked in open association with the Fascist rebels.

All active members of the Popular Front have been convinced for a long time that the struggle against Trotskyism is a vitally necessary measure of defence against the common enemy. The Republican parties have openly denounced the P.O.U.M. as the direct instrument of Fascism in Spain. Led by the Negrin and Prieto group the Spanish Socialist Party has come out strongly against the Trotskyists and put all its energies into establishing and strengthening the Popular Front. The militants of the Left Wing, such as Del Vayo, the Spanish representative on the League of Nations Committee, are pledged to anti-Fascist unity and have taken a firm stand against Trotskyism. They stressed the necessity of the fight against it at the time when the Caballero group was wavering and hesitating.

For a time, indeed, the situation was curiously contradictory, for while the Caballero Government, which remained in power until May, was refusing to take any measures against the Trotskyists and treating them with extraordinary tolerance, the Madrid Junta, which had been entrusted with the defence of the capital, insisted on firm action. It suppressed their Press which had been slandering the Government and the People’s Army, and took control of their radio-station from which they had been communicating with the rebels.

The People’s Front took a firm line while the Caballero Cabinet wavered and hesitated irresponsibly. Whether this was due to weakness on the part of the Caballerists or mere political shortsightedness, the fact remains that even on the day following the May putsch in Barcelona, the Caballerists refused to take the measures which the people and the majority of the Government demanded – namely, the prosecution of the criminal instigators of the putsch. This brought the Ministerial crisis to a head. Fortunately the Negrin Government which took over power adopted an uncompromisingly strong attitude towards the P.O.U.M. and arrested its leaders after the discovery of the documents at the Peruvian Embassy. This was the reason for the intensified hatred of the P.O.U.M. against the Negrin Government and the attempted assassinations which have been described. These attempted assassinations mark the beginning of a new phase of terrorism on which the P.O.U.M. embarked. But the true face of the P.O.U.M. is now unmasked. The ”Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista” is revealed as an instrument which foreign and Spanish Fascists are using against the people of Spain. The disguise of its Leftism and revolutionary phraseology is torn away by the discovery of documents which establish its connection with the Fascists and their friends abroad.

The trial of the spies of the P.O.U.M. will soon take place. Its approach is causing considerable apprehension amongst all the friends of the P.O.U.M. Meanwhile, the Fascist Press is doing its best to work up a campaign and this campaign is being echoed in certain ”Left” quarters. Articles have appeared in both English and French publications, notably Le Populaire, which are harmful to the Spanish Republic and which make use of statements which they allege to have been made by certain members of the Spanish Government.

I should like to stress once again the indignation which the whole affair of the Trotskyists and the P.O.U.M. has aroused in Spain. At the moment of writing this I have just returned from Spain where I had interviews with several leading members of the Government. All the statements made by the various members of the Government whom I saw agreed in every particular. There is not a word of truth in the article which appeared in Le Populaire of September 7th quoting a long statement supposed to have been made by members of the Government. There was absolutely no foundation whatever for the allegations which were made in this article. The Minister of the Interior, Zugazagoitia, has already replied to this article as follows:

”Some of the gentlemen of the Left adopt a very strange method of helping Spain. Whatever the authors of the article published in the Populaire have done to help our cause in the past has been entirely undone by their recent actions. They have delighted the Spanish rebel newspapers who have filled their columns with the unfounded statements which were made in this article. The authors of this article represent us, the Spanish Government, to the people of France as the tools of a foreign power which is exactly how we are described by the Fascist radio-stations. This description is grossly untrue. Our police are not an independent power working on their own apart from the Government, their only concern is to work for victory.”

In the second part of his statement the Minister of Interior indignantly denies the suggestions which Maxton, Marcel Pivert and Daniel Guerin have made about the part played by the ”foreign police of the G.P.U.” He adds:

”We have good reason for being suspicious about the activities of certain embassies, but we have no doubts about ‘this Embassy’ [Soviet Embassy] which is the only one that does not conceal foreign individuals among the members of its staff. We only wish all the other embassies were like it, for then it would take our police much less time to clear the matters they are investigating. A long series of disillusionments gives us the right to ask many of the men of the Left whether they are really trying to help us or to strike us in the back.”

I can still remember the expression of disgust on the face of Prieto’s private secretary when he told me the impression which the Populaire article had made on his chief. ”The Minister will never descend to arguing with these kind of people,” he said, ”and he has no intention of doing so.”

The Under-Secretary of State, Garcia Pratt, was also thoroughly disgusted and told me:

“This article is an appalling mixture of incomplete sen-tences distorted and rearranged out of their context for a defi-nite political purpose. All I said to the members of the inter-national delegation who came to see me was that definite, concrete accusations of espionage been made against certain leaders of the P.O.U.M. They represented me as saying that I did not believe that there arrested leaders were spies. It is really absolutely incredible. Is this the way these people whom we thought were friends of Spain propose to help us?”

The part of the article in Le Populaire which attempts to show that the Trotskyists who were arrested after the discovery of the documents at the Peruvian Embassy were innocent, attributed the following statement to both the Minister of Justice and, in another form, to the Public Prosecutor:

“There is no longer any question of accusing any leader of the P.O.U.M. of espionage.”

I had a long conversation with the Public Prosecutor himself at Valencia and he entirely refuted this statement. In effect he said:

“You understand, of course, that there is no foundation whatever for this suggestion. A legal enquiry has been opened against the leaders of the P.O.U.M. on the charge of espionage because we possess certain definite facts and documents. The case is now being proceeded with and until it is ready to be put before the courts the investigation is being carried out secretly. There is no question whatever under the circumstances of saying that the charge of espionage has been dismissed, very much to the contrary….”

There will be no unnecessary delay in the administration of justice, but it is instructive to consider the foreign pressure which has been brought to bear and the manoeuvres which have been made in certain quarters, all forming part of an attempt to try and make out that the May putsch in Barcelona and the espionage are separate matters, whereas in fact they are both really part of the same case. Now that Nin has escaped the rumour is being spread in Trotskyist and Fascist circles that the Barcelona putsch will be investigated first and that the charges of espionage will not be dealt with until Nin has been found.

Public opinion in Spain is absolutely convinced of the guilt of the P.O.U.M. The discovery of the espionage at Barcelona and the at-tempted assassinations have convinced the Government that weakness or hesitancy would be fatal. The Valencia Socialist paper, which voices official opinion, sums up the matter in its issue of October 24th:

”Spies and traitors ! When will we have done away with them or when will they have done away with us? Are they spies in the service of a party, or is it a party in the service of spies?”

Commenting on the affair at Barcelona it adds:

“The P.O.U.M., the refuge of spies… the most dangerous acts of sabotage have been entrusted to two spies who are members of the P.O.U.M. The most dangerous of those who have been arrested belong to this party.”

I think that in the course of this pamphlet I have provided enough material for people to form their own judgments. I hope that it will be of some service to the Spanish Republic which, in the course of the affair, has been made the subject of such slanderous attacks.

Thoughts on Georges Soria’s Denunciation of “Trotskyism in the Service of Franco”

soria_trotskyismby Espresso Stalinist

Recently I was reading a PDF of the 1938 pamphlet Trotskyism in the Service of Franco: Facts and Documents on the Activities of the P.O.U.M. in Spain by Georges Soria. Soria was a representative in Spain of the French communist paper L’Humanité and also wrote for the International Press Correspondence of the Comintern. The material for the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles reporting on the situation of the Spanish Civil War.

Forty years after its original publication, Soria is said to have denounced the work and its contents as a forgery.

The work has subsequently been dismissed as a fabrication for a number of years. It is now cited by Trotskyists as evidence of a “Stalinist” campaign to smear the P.O.U.M. as fascist agents. Jeffrey Meyers, a biographer of George Orwell, called it “a vicious book” and Orwell himself dedicated lengthy passages in his novel “Homage to Catalonia” to blaming the Communists for similar accusations, and for the loss in Spain as a whole. The pamphlet has become a tool to denounce the heroic role of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) in the Spanish Civil War as counterrevolutionary.

The copy of the full pamphlet in its 1938 form on the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) comes with an editor’s note that cites the original author apparently claiming the work and its contents are a complete forgery:

“Forty years later, in a work about the Spanish civil war (Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939, III, 78-79), Soria himself stated – without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation  – that ‘the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence’ and the whole story was ‘an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism’” (Marxists Internet Archive).

It’s worth noting MIA are not the first ones to use these quotes to “disprove” the Soria pamphlet. Many scholarly and non-scholarly books have used them as well.

As the MIA editor’s note shows, the original source for these quotes from Soria is the book “Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939.” This source is not available to me. However, I did find another source that details the full unedited quotes by Soria which are being cited as proof his work is a forgery: the book “Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution” by Burnett Bolloten.

Within this source there is enough information to argue that the way the quotes from Soria are often presented is quite deceptive. Here I will present only what are actual quoted words from Soria, and omit the words and phrases MIA inserted between them. The first quote that is commonly used is that Soria said that:

“[…] the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence.”

The second quote, which MIA and others present as being about “the whole story,” (more on this later) meaning about the entire contents of Soria’s pamphlet, says:

“[…] an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

These passages in quotes are the only portions of the editor’s note that were actually said by Soria. Now I will present the full and unedited Soria quotes in their original context as cited in Bolloten’s book. All portions in brackets [ ] without the annotation “E.S.” appeared in brackets in the original Bolloten text. The first full quote reads as follows:

“Forty years later however, in an attempt to exculpate the Spanish Communists from responsibility for the death of Nin, he [Soria – E.S.] stated that ‘the accusations leveled against Nin in Spain in the form of the couplet: ‘Where is Nin? In Salamanca or Berlin?’ were ‘purely and simply…an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.’”

So Soria was not, in fact, talking about his pamphlet, but rather the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents. Soria then blames the NKVD for the death of Nin, which is what he dismissed as “an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

Bolloten even goes on to condemn Soria for his “attempt…to exonerate the PCE by shifting responsibility for the crusade against the P.O.U.M. and for the disappearance of Nin to the phenomenon of ‘Stalinism’” (507). So the Soria quote specifically speaks of the charges against Nin and one story of his disappearance.

The MIA editor’s note however, frames this quote as being about “the whole story,” implying that it’s about his original work and all charges of the P.O.U.M. acting as agents (either de-facto agents or actual spies) of Franco or Hitler:

“the whole story was ‘an extension…[Soria quote continues as above].”

As we can clearly see however, in this first quote Soria was not talking about his pamphlet or the “whole story,” but specifically about the alleged liberation of Andrés Nin from prison by fascist agents, which Soria recounts in the pamphlet, though he does not mention the involvement of the Gestapo but rather implies that fascist agents may have been involved.

Bolloten then cites the second Soria quote used by MIA in the same paragraph, which contains even greater pronounced differences with the MIA citation. The original says:

“On the one hand, the charge that the leaders of the POUM, among them Andrés Nin, were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence. On the other hand, although the leaders of the POUM were neither agents of Franco nor agents of the Gestapo, it is true that their relentless struggle against the Popular Front played the game nolens volens of the Caudillo [General Franco]” (Bolloten 507).

So despite Soria claiming that the charges of the P.O.U.M. leadership, including Nin, being fascist spies was without evidence, he still blamed the P.O.U.M. for taking an ultra-left position and undermining the popular front in Spain, which still rendered de-facto service to the fascists. In other words, even if the Trotskyists and ultra-lefts in the P.O.U.M. were completely innocent of all charges and were not agents of the Gestapo or Franco, they “only” offered de-facto, and not de-jure, service to Franco.

The phrasing here says that even though he claims there is no evidence of the P.O.U.M. leadership being fascist agents and spies, Soria does not deny the fact that they rendered service to Franco, using the phrase, “nolens volens,” meaning “whether willing or unwilling.”

The editor’s note on MIA omits this second phrase for obvious reasons. There are a number of other interesting points regarding these full, unedited quotes that are worth pointing out.

In these quotes Soria does not denounce his original work – merely the specific charge that the P.O.U.M. leadership were spies of the Gestapo and Franco. He does say it was “impossible to adduce the slightest evidence,” which can be said to imply that the documents and sources he cites in the pamphlet are, at least in part, forgeries. However, this is not stated specifically. In fact, Soria does not mention his work at all! This is implicitly stated by the editor’s note on the MIA page, which states that Soria spoke “without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation.” His “role,” of course, was the pamphlet!

To some extent MIA makes a valid point about Soria never mentioning his own “role” in the charges that he claims was a “fabrication…[without] the slightest evidence.” Assuming the work is a complete fabrication, Soria never claimed to have been coerced to write the pamphlet, and never mentions an outside party forcing him to do so. Therefore, even in the case that it is a complete forgery, until there is proof that Soria authored it under the influence of an outside force, the blame must be placed not on the Soviet Union, “Stalinism” or the PCE, but on Soria the author for allegedly forging the evidence in his articles in the first place, and allowing those articles to be published as a pamphlet.

It’s also worth repeating that though Soria expresses his belief that the charges against the “P.O.U.M. leadership” being fascist spies was false and without evidence, this does not mean everyone in the P.O.U.M. was innocent of such activities, and Soria says explicitly that the P.O.U.M.’s actions still helped Hitler and Franco, even if unwillingly. One must ask then: how does this in any way exonerate the P.O.U.M.?

Furthermore, why Soria should choose forty years after the publication of the original document, long after such a “confession” of forgery could have had any effect whatsoever on the anti-fascist war in Spain or its outcome is unclear, thought it must be pointed out that these words were said after Soria became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF, and during the era of “de-Stalinization,” where the virtues of making slanderous statements and denunciations regarding the Stalin era were looked upon with favor both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The pace for this was set by the many utter falsehoods uttered by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress, and the decades of revisionism that followed.

CONCLUSION: Until there is more direct evidence that Georges Soria denounced his articles and the documents he cited in them as forgeries, there is no reason to “dismiss” them from consideration as evidence, and though he later claimed the charges against the P.O.U.M. leadership were baseless and there was no evidence for them, implying that at least part of the original work was false and/or mistaken, the conclusion that Soria admitted his work and all of its contents were complete forgeries cannot be supported by the existing facts.

https://www.marxists.org/history/spain/writers/soria/trotskyism_in_service_of_franco.htm

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

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.

William Blum on the Development of the Soviet Union

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“History does not tell us what a Soviet Union, allowed to develop in a ‘normal’ way of its own choosing, would look like today. We do know, however, the nature of a Soviet Union attacked in its cradle, raised alone in an extremely hostile world, and when it managed to survive to adulthood, overrun by the Nazi war machine with the blessings of the Western powers. The resulting insecurities and fears have inevitably led to deformities of character not unlike that found in an individual raised in a similar life-threatening manner”

 – William Blum, “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II”

The Spanish Gold and Financing Soviet Military Aid

USA-1914-Coin-5

The following text is from Daniel Kowalsky’s book Stalin and the Spanish Civil War. The selected excerpt is from chapter 11 of the book, “The Spanish Gold and Financing Soviet Military Aid.”

 – E.S.

The gold transfer is the best-documented aspect of Soviet-Spanish relations during the civil war, and thus need only be rapidly summarized here. According to the meticulous research of Angel Viñas, 3 and confirmed in further investigations by Francisco Olaya Morales, 4 the initial decision to use the Bank of Spain’s gold reserves as a means of financing the Republic’s war effort came just days after the initial Nationalist uprising. On 24 July 1936, Prime Minister Giral authorized the first dispatch of gold to Paris, where the Blum government accepted it in exchange for weapons. Through much of August, the Bank of Spain continued to lend its bullion to the Republic’s government for the purchase of armaments. By 8 August, France’s adherence to the nascent policy of non-intervention prevented Blum from making further direct weapons sales to Spain, though not from accepting gold in exchange for hard currency, which could then be theoretically used to purchase weapons on the world market, provided the Spaniards could find willing parties—not an easy task once all European states save Switzerland (and the Spanish Republic) signed on to the Non-Intervention Agreement. Sales of gold to France continued until March 1937, by which time 26.5 percent of all Spanish gold reserves had been transferred to the Bank of France. 5

On 13 September 1936, the new prime minister, Largo Caballero, authorized finance minister Juan Negrín to move the gold and silver held in the Bank of Spain to a safer location. The decision was made at a moment of considerable unease: Franco’s troops were advancing on the capital, and rumors circulated of an anarchist plot to raid the bank itself. Two days later, on 15 September, the entire contents (or, depending on the version, almost entire) 6 of the bank’s vaults were evacuated to Cartagena, the seat of the Republic’s navy and the most secure city in Loyalist territory. 7 In all, 10,000 cases of gold and silver were sent to the port. From Cartagena, approximately one-fifth of these reserves were immediately shipped to Marseilles, to be converted in France to hard currency. 8 On 25 October, the remaining four-fifths, some 7,800 crates, were shipped to Odessa and then moved by rail to Moscow. The gold was received in the Russian capital by representatives of the Spanish government, the Bank of Spain, and senior Soviet officials. The amount sent to Moscow was just over 510 tons, with a value in 1936 prices of $518,000,000. 9 This monetary figure, however, ignores the numismatic value of a large number of the gold coins shipped. For example, over 318 kilograms of the trove consisted of rare Portuguese coins, worth far more as collector’s items or museum pieces than as melted fine gold.10 Had this value been factored into the assessed amount, the Republic no doubt would have established a larger credit line with the Soviets.

The transfer of the world’s fourth-largest gold stock to the world’s most demonized state certainly demands a full investigation. Stalin did not, of course, steal the gold, even if during the Cold War renegade Soviet exiles, embittered ex-Republicans, victorious Nationalists, and even the United States Congress made frequent charges to that effect. 11 On the contrary, shipping the gold to Moscow may have been the Republic’s only hope of survival. First, the gold would be required to pay for the Soviet weaponry that, by late-September, Spanish officials were assured of receiving. Second, as noted above, the gold could be converted into hard currency through Moscow’s financial front organization in Paris, the Banque Commerciale pour l’Europe du Nord (Eurobank). The Republic’s account at Eurobank would permit the Loyalists to finance the war effort, including not only the purchase of arms but also foodstuffs and raw materials. 12 That the gold was sent to Moscow simply for safe-keeping—a claim maintained for years by some Republican leaders—makes little sense. The besieged Republic had no need for a large, safeguarded gold deposit; it required the rapid mobilization and conversion of all possible resources. The gold was sent to Moscow because, given the international climate, only from Russia could it be best deployed to the Republic’s advantage. 13

Once in Moscow, the gold’s conversion to hard currency proceeded apace. The first Spanish orders to sell erased the large debt ($51,160,168) 14 that the Republic had incurred for Soviet arms already delivered. In the course of 1937, Largo Caballero and Negrín issued fourteen more orders to liquidate gold in exchange for cash. These decrees generated $256 million for transfer to the Paris account, and an additional $131,500,000 to pay the Soviets for military supplies. 15 Through additional conversions, the Spaniards exhausted their resources by early 1938. Even before the gold was used up, Negrín had instructed Pascua to prepare for this eventuality by establishing a credit line with the Soviets. According to documents in Pascua’s personal archive at the Archivo Histórico Nacional, the ambassador met with Molotov on 14 February 1938 to discuss the credit problem. 16 Viñas’ research reveals that in March 1938 the Soviets agreed to grant the Republic a credit line of $70 million. Documents in RGVA confirm this amount, 17 as do Pascua’s own papers. 18 The ultimate sum of $70 million was a considerable coup for the Loyalists, who only several months before were contemplating a maximum Soviet offer of $20 million. Loyalist officials snubbed that figure in hopes of holding out for more. 19 The later offer, entirely the result of negotiations overseen by Pascua (then ambassador to France), justified the earlier gamble. Pascua’s last telegram on the matter was jubilant: “You [Negrín] have achieved a formidable victory.” 20

The Republicans sought a second credit in December of the same year when Hidalgo de Cisneros traveled to Moscow to plead the Republic’s case for more arms. Cisneros’s claim that he was able to single-handedly wrest from the Soviets a credit of over $100 million has long been doubted. 21 Indeed, the leading Western historian of the topic questions both that a new credit was issued and that arms were dispatched at all. 22 Yet it has been established above that weapons valued at $55,359,660 were indeed sent. Documents in Moscow’s Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation also confirm that in December 1938 the Spaniards received a credit of $85 million. 23 It should further be pointed out that there is no documentary evidence of a credit being issued in July 1938, as Pascua has claimed. 24

The subject of Soviet credit extended at an earlier stage of the war still requires some clarification. Like many of the foggier aspects of Soviet-Spanish relations during the civil war, this issue has attracted a great deal of attention. Anti-communist writers have frequently drawn unfavorable contrasts between the credit extended by Hitler and Mussolini to Franco and that which Stalin offered the Republic. According to this line of reasoning, the fascist dictators are often portrayed as extremely generous when compared to Stalin, who allegedly would not sell weapons to the Republic on credit, and as a result succeeded in obtaining most of the Spanish gold stocks. It is now possible to dismiss some, though not all, of these allegations as exaggerations. A comparison of weapons transfers with the timeline of the dispatch and reception of the gold leaves no question that a large cache of Soviet weapons were sold to Spain on credit, though it appears clear that Stalin’s principal motivation for issuing the credit was the promise of an eventual transfer of the Republic’s gold. 25

To quickly review, Stalin decided to aid Spain in early September 1936. The blueprint for Operation X was presented by the NKVD on 14 September, and approved by the Politburo on 29 September. The first ship carrying Soviet arms arrived in Cartagena on 4 October, the second, the Komsomol, eight days later, on 12 October. The gold, meanwhile, was first mobilized on 15 September, one day after the plans for Operation X were presented to Stalin, and a week to two weeks after the Soviet leader (in all likelihood) decided to aid the Republic. Furthermore, 15 September marks only the date the gold left Madrid’s Atocha station for Cartagena, where it arrived in the early hours of 17 September. For the next five and a half weeks, the gold remained in a bunker in a hillside above the port. It was not until 25 October that the gold left Cartagena. Even then, the gold was not safely in Russian hands until 6 November, and all 7800 cases were not locked in the vault at Gosbank until 9 November. Let us recall from Table IV-4 in Chapter Eleven that, by 5 November—one day before the first shipment of Spanish gold arrived in Moscow—Section X had already overseen a massive mobilization of Soviet weaponry for sale to the Republic. This material included 187 aircraft, 147 tanks and armored vehicles, 114 artillery guns, 3,703 machine-guns, 60,183 rifles, 95,528,860 rounds of ammunition, and 150 tons of gunpowder—most of which was either en route or already in action near Madrid. It was not until 16 February 1937 that Largo Caballero issued the first order to convert over $51 million worth of gold to pay off the Spanish debt to the Soviets for military supplies. Thus the USSR did indeed extend credit to the Republic, more than once and in massive quantities, and not only at the very end, but in the first months of the Spanish Civil War.

Nevertheless, given that the gold was mobilized on 15 September—the day following Stalin’s approval of Operation X—it is difficult not to conclude that the two events were linked. Stalin’s decision to aid the Republic seems almost certainly to have depended on the promise of Republican officials to immediately begin transporting the gold out of Madrid. Once the matter was resolved and made official in Moscow on the 15th, the way was cleared for the gold to be shipped out. That Stalin did not demand the gold in hand prior to initiating military assistance may do little to augment his reputation in the broad scope of Soviet involvement in Spain. Still, a judicious assessment of Soviet-Republican relations requires that this not inconsequential fact be truthfully presented.

The total cost of the arms sold by the Soviets to the Republic, much like the question of the total amount of weapons sold, remains somewhat elusive. Determining the value of the weapons is made difficult by the various indirect expenses related to the complicated transfer of arms, costs which included loading and unloading at port, shipping, rail passage, and pay for the officers and crew of each participating vessel.26 The Soviets added such costs to the initial price of the weapons. Due to the near impossibility of exchanging Soviet currency in Western Europe, Russian personnel headed for Spain received their advance in both rubles and dollars. According to Ribalkin, the captain of each ship bound for Spain was allotted 100,000 rubles and $5,000. 27 Defense Commissariat records show that the support expenses for eachigrek were approved and allocated by the Politburo. At its session of 15 November 1936, the Politburo approved the release of 2,300,000 rubles and $190,000 to fund the dispatch of 455 men and nine ships to Spain. Just a week later, on 22 November, the Politburo authorized an additional 3,468,500 rubles and $48,500 to finance another 270 men and five ships. 28 These expenses, ultimately added to the Spaniards’ bill, were clearly not insignificant. Multiplied by dozens of voyages, they constituted a sizable drain on the Republic’s limited resources.

Another expense added to the Republic’s bill was the cost of training Spanish pilots in the Soviet Union. Here again, a comprehensive tally of total expenses incurred would be difficult to estimate. Pascua’s papers indicate, however, that in the first year of the war alone, the Republic paid Moscow the sum of $1,156,356 for the pilot training program. 29 Charges included hours of instruction, use of equipment, the cost of room and board in the Soviet Union, and transportation within the USSR.

SovietAidTable

In light of these added expenses to material costs, it is not surprising that no satisfactory total cost sheet exists. An attempt to calculate the total value of Soviet weapons sent in Operation X appears in Istoriia vtoroi mirovoi voiny [see Chapter Eleven, Table IV-6]. The statistics are most suspect in their reckoning of the value of the final shipments sent from December 1938-January 1939 ($1.5 million). According to this total, it would appear that they have completely omitted the last seven igreks.Moreover, this amount—$202,400,000—is significantly less than that which one arrives at by simply adding the known values of arms quoted above. It was observed that the first Spanish debt incurred for Soviet arms, settled in February 1937, was on the order of $51 million, while later payments for arms in 1937 totaled over $131 million. Assuming there were no other payments made towards weapons until the March 1938 credit of $70 million, and adding the final seven shipments valued at $55 million, we arrive at a figure of approximately $307 million. Of course, this amount would be considerably less if either: 1) most of the contents of the last seven deliveries were returned to Russia, and/or; 2) the $70 million credit issued in March 1938 was exhausted on expenses other than arms. Certain Defense Commissariat documents complicate the matter, though only slightly. For the period from September 1936 to June 1938, the value of the material portion of Soviet military assistance alone was $166,835,023, while other documents state that, from October 1936 to August 1938, the value of this assistance was was $171,236,088.It may be reasonable to assume that the Istoriia vtoroi mirovoi voiny numbers, like those from the Defense Commissariat, do not reflect the indirect expenses, while the separate calculation of $307 million does. In any case, a total weapons bill cautiously estimated at $250-300 million is not unreasonable.

The total weapons bill is quite important in assessing whether or not the Spaniards received fair exchange for their gold. The value of the gold sent to Moscow was approximately $518 million. As we have seen, the gold was converted into hard currency and applied toward the purchase of weapons in Russia and other wartime financing in Paris. In 1937 alone, $256 million was transferred from Moscow to the Republic’s Eurobank account. 31 Per our estimate above, at least an additional $250 million or more was spent on Soviet arms over the course of the war. If to that $506 million we add at least $70 million and possibly as much as $155 million in loans which were never repaid, it would appear that Moscow could not have turned a monetary profit on the Spanish Civil War. 32

Relevant Sources

Note 3: Angel Viñas, “Gold, the Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War,” in Spain in Conflict, ed. Martin Blinkhorn (London: Sage, 1986), 224-43.

Note 4: Francisco Olaya Morales, El Oro de Negrín, 2nd ed. (Madrid: Nossa y Jara, 1998).

Note 5: Angel Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 226.

Note 6: Del Vayo, for example, maintains that even at the end of the war, in March 1939, some gold remained in the Madrid vaults. See Julio Alvarez del Vayo, The Last Optimist (New York: Viking, 1950), 280.

Note 7: Unpublished evidence of the activity of Republican officials in transferring the gold to Cartagena is available in the Pascua archive at the AHN-Madrid. Hotel receipts from the week of 10 Sept.-17 Sept. and other documents may be found in: AHN-Madrid. Diversos. M. Pascua, leg. 8, exp. 9.

Note 8: Angel Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 228. It appears that the cases sent to Marseilles contained only the Spanish silver. A primary and at this date unpublished document concerning this exchange may be found in Pascua’s archive at AHN-Madrid. A receipt dated 16 September 1936, issued in Marseilles by the Bank of France to the Bank of Spain declares that: “Reçu de MM. Abelardo-Padin et José Gonzalez, representent la Banque d’Espagne: Deux cent-cinquante caisses declarées contenant chacune Huit Mille Livres Sterling.” AHN-Madrid. Diversos. M. Pascua, leg. 8, exp. 3, 1. Thus on this occasion alone, the French acquired 2,000,000 pounds sterling, or $10,000,000.

Note 9: Angel Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 233. A copy of the receipt for the gold, signed by Soviet and Republican officials, is available in the papers of Marcelino Pascua: AHN-Madrid. Diversos. M. Pascua, leg. 8, exp. 5.

Note 10: The dispute over the gold’s real value is too lengthy to address fully here. Bolloten has taken up the issue in some detail; see Burnett Bolloten, The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution in Spain, 1936-1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 149-52.

Note 11: The leading proponents of the theft thesis are Walter Krivitsky, In Stalin’s Secret Service, (New York: Harper, 1939), 113-14, and Aleksandr Orlov, “How Stalin Relieved Spain of $600,000,000,” Reader’s Digest, Nov. 1966. The more recent John Costello and Oleg Tsarev, Deadly Illusions (New York: Crown, 1993), discussed in Chapter One above, uncritically incorporates both of these accounts. The fabulous conclusions of the unsubstantiated Reader’s Digest piece, for which the periodical paid Orlov handsomely, found their way into countless Cold War histories of the civil war. It may be the lone example of that publication’s role in filling critical gaps in historical debate. The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, concluded in 1973 that the shipment of gold to Moscow was illegal—in effect, a theft. See the published testimony entitled The Legacy of Alexander Orlov, issued by the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1973), 7 and 42.

Note 12: The conversion process through Paris is clearly described in most of the sources consulted for this study. Succinct summaries may be found in del Vayo, The Last Optimist, 284-87, or Louis Fischer, Men and Politics (London: Cape, 1941), 364-65.

Note 13: In Viñas’ view, if the Republic wished to send the gold abroad for conversion, its options were few. The paramount concern was that Nationalist juridical and political pressure could freeze any transfer of funds converted abroad. Indeed, this is precisely what happened to a large stock of Republican gold which been on deposit since 1931 at Mont-de-Marsan (France). The list for potential recipients of the gold was thus short. Non-intervention ruled out England, and the same policy, in addition to an unstable political climate, made France ill-suited to receive more gold than it already had. The Swiss, ever neutral, would not have performed the conversion. The United States government was sufficiently anti-Republican to make a transfer there extremely risky. The only options were Mexico and the USSR; as Mexico was not equipped to provide large-scale military assistance, the USSR was chosen.

Note 14: Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 235.

Note 15: Ibid.

Note 16: Details of this meeting are reviewed in Pascua’s letter to Molotov of 4 March 1938. AHN. Diversos. M. Pascua, Leg. 2. Exp. 8.

Note 17: RGVA, f. 33987, op. 3, del. 1149, l. 68. The document is cited by both Iurii E. Ribalkin, “Voennaia pomoshch’ Sovetskogo Soiuza ispanskomu narodu v natsional’no-revoliutsionnoi voine 1936-1939,” Ph.D. diss. (Institute of Military History, Moscow, 1992), 94, and M. V. Novikov, SSSR, Komintern i grazhdanskaia voia v Ispanii 1936-1939,2 vols. (Iaroslav: Iaroslavskii gos. pedagogicheskii universitet, 1995), vol. II: 46.

Note 18: Pascua to Molotov, March 4, 1938. AHN. Diversos. M. Pascua, Leg. 2. Exp. 8.

Note 19: Pascua to Negrín, October 31, 1937. AHN. Diversos. M. Pascua, Leg. 2. Exp. 2. 25.

Note 20: Pascua to Negrín, March 6, 1938. AHN. Diversos. M. Pascua, Leg. 2. Exp. 2. 56.

Note 21: Bolloten conclusively rejects Cisneros’ claim of extracting so large a credit, in part because he found no Soviet record of this, in part because hitherto in Spanish-Soviet relations there was no precedent for the extension of so large a credit (Spanish Civil War, 990-92). It need hardly be noted that any evidence of a large credit being offered at so late a date would poke a major hole in the abandonment thesis that Bolloten indefatigably promotes. Other contemporary observers, however, found no reason to doubt that credit had been extended. See, for example, Louis Fischer, Men and Politics, 365: “When the war came to a close in 1939, the Loyalists owed the Soviet government $120,000,000, which was never paid. Of this debt, $20,000,000, approximately, represented Loyalist imports of food and raw materials from Russia, and $100,000,000 imports of arms.”

Note 22: Bolloten, Spanish Civil War, 993.

Note 23: Arkhiv Vneshnei Politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii (AVP RF), f. 097, 103, del. 37, l. 38. This document is cited by both Ribalkin, “Voennaia Pomoshch’,” 94, and Novikov,SSSR, Komintern i grazhdanskaia, vol. II, 46.

Note 24: Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 238.

Note 25: This chronology uses dates established in RGVA documents cited above and those presented in Angel Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union.”

Note 26: TsAMO, f. 16, op. 3148, del. 5, l. 26. Cited in Novikov, SSSR, Komintern i grazhdanskaia, vol. II, 45; and Iurii E. Ribalkin, Operatsiia “X” Sovetskaia voennaia pomoshch’ respublikanskoi Ispanii (1936-1939) (Moscow: “AIRO-XX”, 2000), 83.

Note 27: TsAMO, f. 132, op. 2642, del. 77, l. 39. Cited in Ribalkin, “Voennaia pomoshch’,” 95-96.

Note 28: TsAMO, f. 132, op. 2642, del. 77, l. 38. Cited in Ribalkin, “Voennaia pomoshch’,” 96.

Note 29: Itemized bill dated 2 Nov. 1937. AHN-Madrid. Diversos. M. Pascua, Leg. 12, exp. 2-9.

Note 30: Istoriia vtoroi mirovoi voiny (Moscow: Voennoe izdat. Ministerstva Oborony SSSR, 1974), vol. II, 137.

Note 31: Viñas, “The Gold, the Soviet Union,” 235.

Note 32: Largo Caballero, no loyal friend of the Soviets, insisted that the Republic had received fair compensation for its gold. It should be recalled, however, that he himself had made the decision to transfer the stocks. Thus the former prime minister always had a personal stake in maintaining that his side had not been bilked. See Mis Recuerdos: Cartas a un amigo (Mexico City: Alianza, 1954), 203-4. Louis Fischer concurred, estimating that the Republic received $720 million worth of arms, foodstuffs, and raw material from the Soviet Union: (Men and Politics, 364-65).

Source

American Party of Labor: Insights into Socialist Albania from “Pickaxe and Rifle”

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William Ash’s Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People is a comprehensive, diversified, in-depth study and explanation of the experiences and the social system of the tiny, formerly Marxist-Leninist Balkan country. Ash was invited to travel to the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania in 1969. He visited again in 1971. He was given the opportunity of visiting the country during the Albanian Party of Labor’s Sixth Party Congress and of checking the draft typescript of his work with historians and state and party leaders, and most important of all, with workers in the factories and on the collective farms.

The 270-page book is divided up into twenty-one chapters, covering just about every aspect of Albanian life, from health, education and the status of women, to the party, state, and mass organizations to the state of the country’s economic development. An entire chapter is also dedicated to expressing the leisure time of the workers and the activities and resorts that are available to them. While examining the situation and lifestyle of socialist Albania’s workers, farmers, and intelligentsia, Ash dedicates the first eight chapters to the history of tiny Albania and the historical struggles for freedom and independence that have been characteristic of the country ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

First and foremost, William Ash is a Marxist-Leninist, and as an advocate of scientific socialism and proletarian revolution, Ash never skips a beat in providing a fluid and correct Marxist analysis based. For one example in chapter fifteen, he exposes the Khruschevite coup and the bureaucratic stagnation of the Soviet Union:

“One of the first indications that an entirely different line was being adopted by the Soviet leadership came in May, 1955, when Khrushchev unilaterally rejected the decisions of the Information Bureau and other communist and workers’ parties in respect to Tito’s betrayal of socialism and heading a delegation to Belgrade for the purpose of rehabilitating, without consultation, the Yugoslav leader. Two days before the delegation left Moscow the Albanian Party of Labour was informed of the visit and asked to approve a statement which Khrushchev had drawn up in the name of the Information Bureau without bothering to convene it. This the Albanian Party refused to do on the grounds that there had been no change in the line of the Yugoslav leadership since it has been condemned by the 1948 resolution of communist and workers’ parties represented on the Bureau” (Ash 182).

“The conference of the four great powers, the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain and France, at Geneva in July, 1955, was acclaimed by Khrushchev as ‘a new stage in the relations between nations’ and he described the leaders of the imperialist powers as ‘reasonable people who were trying to ensure peace’ – this on the eve of the Angle-French-Israeli attack on Suez!” (183).

“Instead of challenging the policy of nuclear blackmail which the United States government had used ever since the war to keep the world safe for the operations of monopoly capitalism, Khrushchev was going to use the Soviet Union’s nuclear capacity to get in on the act. This was the case as demonstrated later on when Albania’s opposition to the Khrushchev line prompted the threat from Kozlov, a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Party, that ‘either the Albanians will accept peaceful co-existence or an atom bomb from the imperialists will turn Albania into a head of ashes and leave no Albanian alive’” (184).

“Class struggle does not cease even after the liquidation of the exploiting classes. It simply takes different forms as the battle between the ideas, customs and habits of the old exploitative society and the ideals and aspirations of the new socialist man is fought out in every sphere of social activity” (101).

These are but a few passages that Ash provides on the topic of the split in the world communist movement. The author pulls no punches in calling out revisionism and injustice, defending the contributions of Joseph Stalin and the resolute fighting spirit of the Albanian Party of Labor. Ash wastes no time getting down to business in the examination of the socialist state structure that existed within Albania. He provides a short history of the first constitution drafted under the surveillance of the people’s democratic government. By providing a comprehensive list of sources from both inside and outside the small Balkan republic, the author describes:

“The whole document of fewer than a hundred articles takes up only 40 pages of a very small book. This conciseness and simplicity stem from the fact that, unlike most constitutions, there are no ruling class interests to be concealed in elaborate verbiage, no complicated divisions of power to the state’s interference in business and finance, no pseudo-democratic formulations designed to give people the illusion of governing themselves” (98).

“All the major democratic organizations which enable the Albanian working masses to exercise state power originated and developed in the heat of national struggle. As they came into being in answer to the national need they were tested in the fires of the liberation war involving the whole people. Out of the National Liberation General Council grew the People’s Assembly; and the National Liberation Committee appointed by the Council became the Government, Prime Minister and Cabinet, elected by the Assembly. The National Liberation Councils at village, district, and city levels developed in the People’s Councils which are the local organs of state power” (99).

“Every citizens having completed eighteen years of age, regardless of sex, economic status, social position, religious belief or any other consideration, enjoys the right to elect and be elected to any elective body in the state. Electors vote directly for their representatives whether as members of a village council, as people’s judges or as deputies of the People’s Assembly itself. Polling is done secretly by sealed ballot in special booths and is under the supervision of electoral committees appointed by the mass organizations of the Democratic Front – trade unions, youth and women’s associations and the working collectives of industrial enterprises, agricultural co-operatives, government ministries, army units and so on. These same mass organizations of workers have the right to present any of their members as candidates” (103).

Throughout the section entitled “Albania’s Socialist Society,” it becomes clear that Ash went to great lengths to study and expound on the social organization of Albania. The author describes the socialist and democratic nature of the whole society, from the mass organizations such as the Democratic Front, the trade unions, the Labor Youth Union, the Albanian Women’s Union and the Union of Artists and Writers to the organization of the Albanian Party of Labor and the structure of the state as a whole. There is vast description of all parts of Albanian life.

In the last section of the book, William Ash describes the quality of life in socialist Albania. Although a relatively poor and tiny country, the sheer amount of progress made since the book was written in 1976 is astounding to say the least. The author provides an objective analysis combined with facts and statistics to show the outside world just how powerful a nation can become once it adopts a Marxist-Leninist political and economic line. In terms of describing the educational system and the consciousness of the youth and women of socialist Albania, Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People offers insight into how the youth took the reigns of their own future and denounced the feudal practices that were once widespread throughout the country. To offer an example:

“Organizations of youth and women and the trade unions were mobilized in this campaign under the slogan: ‘In order to build we must acquire knowledge and in order to acquire knowledge we must be able to study and learn.’ Tens of thousands of those previously illiterate were enrolled in night schools without giving up production work, graduating first from elementary classes, then from seven grade schools and even completing secondary and higher school courses. By 1955 illiteracy among all those under 40 had been wiped out and not long afterward it was abolished among older people too. The night schools were maintained to consolidate this achievement and to keep people, particularly in the rural areas, from slipping back again” (223).

Compare this type of system, this amount of democracy and freedom of action, this style of liberation to modern-day capitalist Albania or any Western capitalist country. The incredible amount of self-initiative in terms of building relationships and developing the mind is unheard of in any country today, where women are still subjected to the domination of the man and where the youth are constantly being subordinated to the institutionalized curriculum, whether it is productive and popular with those actually doing the learning or not.

“In his great speech to the Fifth Party Congress on November 1, 1966, he stressed the need of linking teaching and education much more closely to life and labour. Speaking not only as a Marxist-Leninist but as one who had been a teacher himself, at the Korca academy before his dismissal on political grounds, he explained the political necessity of an ‘unceasing development of education to meet the demands of socialist society;’ and pointed out that ‘Our schools, for all the improvement in teaching and education, have not yet rid themselves of bourgeois pedagogy and revisionist influences…It is indispensable to revolutionize further the educational system…It is particularly necessary to take radical measures for the improvement of ideological and political education and for educating youth through labour…There is still too much formalism and verbalism, passivity on the part of pupils and stifling the personality of the young on the part of the teachers, too much officialdom in the relations between teachers and pupils resulting in conservative and patriarchal methods of education…There can be no talk of revolutionizing our schools without revolutionizing the great army of teachers who must set the example of a communist attitude toward labour and life’” (225).

The above passage, quoting Enver Hoxha himself, sheds light on what education would look like under a socialist system: the youth and the teachers acting coming together as respectable equals to build and revolutionize a truly democratic and progressive school system. Offering constructive criticism on the subject of socialist education, Comrade Hoxha does not exhibit narrow-mindedness and pessimism on the role of the youth in building and shaping the society that will belong to them. Instead, he encourages them to open their minds and explore their creative will and natural compassion to rebel against reactionary, subordinating teaching methods. How many other heads of state would have said such things in the open?

“In the schools and in the University teachers and professors had to adopt new methods and learn to accept the criticism of students as part of their own socialist rehabilitation. A few found the extension of democratic centralism to the educational system, with students taking an active role in organizing school life, too much of a break with the old academic traditions they had hoped to see re-established. They were released to go into production work, perhaps, to return to teaching when they have learned from workers the socialist ideology of the working class. And students, too, had to learn more thoroughly that socialist education has nothing to do with getting a degree in order to become ‘a man of authority’ or to ‘secure a comfortable post with a fat salary’” (227).

“A student is judged not on the marks he gets in competition with his fellows but on the help he gives others in mastering subjects. So successful has the approach proved that in such places as the Tirana Secondary school of Culture students through mutual aid in lessons have realized a hundred percent promotion rate and earned commendation for the exemplary tidiness and protection of socialist property” (227).

“Courses in Marxism-Leninism were made a living part of the curriculum and not just a routine subject to be got through in a mechanical way. Texts and lectures on dialectical and historical materialism were related to Albania’s own revolutionary history and students and teachers learned to apply the principles of scientific socialism to their own problems and those of their society. And since practice is the essence of Marxism-Leninism, students and teachers began to participate more actively in the political and economic life of the country, leaving their books and laboratories to study the application of theory on the production and social front” (227).

A strong initiative towards learning, acquiring knowledge and conscious discipline on behalf of the students themselves, combined with the life experiences and teaching expertise of the educators must be the bedrock of socialist education.

The social status of women has always been an important topic for those studying Albania’s application of Marxism-Leninism. Before liberation, women were required to be completely subordinate to the demands and wishes of the male. The Code of Lek was the set of rules and guidelines that governed the family in feudal times. Passages such as “the husband is entitled to beat his wife and to tie her up in chains when she defies his word and orders”, and “The father is entitled to beat, tie in chains, imprison or kill his son or daughter…The wife is obliged to kneel in obeisance to her husband” indicate the shear hostility and oppression towards women. Fortunately, these enslaving principles began to be sharply criticized during the liberation war, as men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder to free themselves of the fascist invaders. As such, Pickaxe and Rifle dedicates a chapter to the role of women in the socialist family by comparing the gains and progress of the national liberation war to the binding feudal culture beforehand.

“In 1938 there were 668 women workers in all Albania, mostly girls of 14 or 16 working a ten hour day for appallingly low wages. By 1967 over 248,000 women, which is 42% of rural and urban workers, were engaged in production work on exactly the same terms as men” (235).

“’Women workers,’ Stalin has said, ‘urban and rural workers are the greatest reserve of the working class. This reserve represents half the population. On whether this reserve of women is with or against the working class depends the destiny of the proletarian movement, the triumph or defeat of the proletarian revolution and the triumph or defeat of proletarian state power’” (235).

In addition to the major gains made towards women’s rights during the years immediately following liberation, the author also carefully documents the continuous progression and enhancement of the status of females in socialist society. Approved in June 1965 and put into action in 1966, a new family code was adopted, which reaffirmed certain rights guaranteed in the Constitution of socialist Albania. This new family code is as follows:

“• Marriage is contracted with the free will of husband and wife and rests on solid feelings of love, equality and mutual respect. Only monogamous marriages are recognized.

• Partners in marriage can choose as their surname that of husband or wife or each may keep his or her original name or add them together.

• A wife can choose her work or profession without her husband’s permission and the handling of the family income is managed by mutual agreement.

• Personal property held by either before marriage remains his or hers and anything acquired afterwards is joint property. All children regardless of sex are entitled to equal shares in the inheritance of joint personal property and the wife is the heir of first rank.

• Divorce is allowed when a marriage has lost all meaning and cohabitation has become intolerable. Causes for divorce are continuous quarrels, maltreatment, breach of conjugal faith, permanent mental illness or punishment for serious crimes. There is no distinction between husband or wife in the right to sue for divorce and the rearing of children is confided to that parent who in the court’s opinion is better qualified to bring them up.

• All parental rights belong to both parents equally and disagreements are settled by tutelage committees or by the courts.

• Single mothers enjoy all due respect and the state guarantees their economic security and protection. Children born outside marriage are equal in every way to those born within.

• Abortions are allowed after consultation with a committee of doctors. Birth control is a matter of personal choice. There is no family planning in the sense of national campaigns to limit births because Albania is an underpopulated country in which all births are welcomed” (238-239).

These progressive family guidelines, set in law, are a happy example of solving family issues the right way in the right social context. It could be claimed that law does not necessarily solve every issue and serve as the final and complete solution, but the fact that such great strides forward have been made in terms of equality of the sexes is definitely a solid indication of the Party and the state’s attitudes towards the role of women in everyday life.

Lastly, Ash focuses a section on what there is to do in Albanian workers’ leisure time. As a generally warm country with multiple beaches and resorts, the author uses the example of the Durres bathing resort to show that workers do in fact have time to relax or take a vacation. Durres stands out in this sense, however, in that it is Albania’s top beach resort and that it is only open to trade union workers, which was comprised of 99% of Albania’s workers. As confirmed not only in Pickaxe and Rifle but in Albania Defiant (1976) by Jan Myrdal and Gun Kessle and translated by Paul Britten, Durres is not open for bureaucrats or tourists. It is exclusive in the sense that the best beach in the entire country belongs to the workers and the workers alone.

Aside from bathing resorts and vacations, there are a number of activities or festivities going on in the streets after the work day is over. Cultural centers, cafes, gymnasiums, and folk centers are open for all Albanians.

“At the end of the day’s work the whole population comes out into the broad boulevards, to stroll about greeting friends, to have coffee or something to eat in one of the many open-air cafes or restaurants in this warm country – whole families to three generations taking the fragrant summer air together or young couples walking hand in hand or, perhaps, happy bands of children weaving in and out of the crowds in some extemporized game” (217-218).

“There is something strange to the visitor from the West in seeing children running about through the streets in such abandon without any surveillance. In his towns they would soon be decimated by traffic. In Albania, after the end of the working day, there are no lorries nor motor cars to be seen and the streets and avenues belong entirely to the people for their communal perambulation which gives each wide thoroughfare the appearance of a fair ground” (218).

“In the sight of so many family groups of grandparents, parents, children and even children’s children walking, talking and taking refreshment together raises the question of why family relationships are so strong and satisfactory, the answer every one gives is that there is no economic restraint whatsoever compelling families to stay together. The only bond is that of mutual love and respect” (219).

“Or the evening crowds may seek various forms of entertainment in the local palace of culture where there are recitals, concerts, pageants or plays. They may go to cinemas where a growing number of the films shown are Albanian. They may enjoy the presentation in some large auditorium of that ever popular form, Estrada, which is the Albanian equivalent of the music hall – with acts by singers, musicians and acrobats, with dramatic sketches and comic turns. And in all these amusements and cultural activities the audiences are not merely passive in their enjoyment. Not only do they participate in the sense that every performance of any kind has developed collectively under the guidance of constructive criticism which everyone feels free to give but also because a large proportion of any gathering will belong themselves to some cultural group which no factory, school, office, co-operative farm or institution of any kind is without” (219).

Constructive criticism is a large part of socialist society, constantly reviewing and keeping what is progressive in the eyes of the people and renewing or doing away with what is not. What makes it especially notable is the fact that this is carried over to cultural and artistic life.

“National holidays celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic, historical anniversaries, victories, in the liberation war or in socialist construction raise to a higher degree the festive feeling to be encountered in the streets of the major towns. The broad tree-lined avenue leading from the statue of Scanderbeg in the centre of Tirana to the University on the outskirts of the city will be filled with representatives of the Democratic Front organizations, of factories and farms, of the armed services and young pioneers, marching past the reviewing stand near the Dajti Hotel under billowing red banners, shouting revolutionary slogans and paying their respects to Party and state leaders and guests from abroad” (219).

“All around the grove are bulletin boards with pictures of the activities of the co-operatives in the area and the achievements of the rural electrification programme. Strung overhead are banners inscribed with such slogans as Rroftë Partie e Punës e Shqipërisë – Long live the Albanian Party of Labor, Shqipëri, ‘land of the eagles’, is the Albanians’ name for their country; and among the dances performed by the men in the course of the merrymaking will be the famous eagle dance. Other banners wish a long life to Enver Hoxha or set out the main themes to be taken up in a brief political meeting by a representative of the Central Committee, perhaps the veteran partisan Birro Kondi whose brother also a great partisan fighter died in an accident after the war – ‘Without unmasking revisionism one cannot defeat imperialism’ and ‘the people of Albania and China’s millions are more than a match for any enemy’” (220).

“Then the vast crowed, more than 20,000, move to the long tables under the trees which are piled high with roast chickens and slabs of lamb, homemade bread, cream cheese, boiled eggs, tomatoes and corn on the cob. Vast quantities of very good cold beer are drunk during and after the feast to the sound of the constantly repeated toast Gezuer! – Good health! There is much moving about and groups at the tables are broken up and reform as old comrades are discovered and greeted affectionately. One of the good survivals of feudal customs, along with the open-handed hospitality one encounters all over Albania, deepened and given a new fraternal significance by socialism, is the close demonstrative friendship between men. Partisans seeing each other after an interval embrace and kiss warmly. Moving about as freely and greeted as affectionately are the Party and State leaders who have come from Tirana to join in the celebrations – the Foreign Minister who is also a deputy from this region, an ambassador, several members of the Political Bureau and Enver Hoxha’s younger sister” (220).

It’s very interesting to take note of the amount of simple pleasures there are to indulge in, and one of the most common joys in Albania involves the simple enjoyment of each other’s company. The workers are disciplined and hardworking, but they are neither puritanical nor austere. The embracing of the dialectical method can have far-reaching progressive consequences when applied to social practice, whether the practice pertains to culture, economics or the political system, or if it is used in simple social interaction.

In conclusion, Pickaxe and Rifle is an excellent, comprehensive account of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania through the eyes of an eyewitness who has visited the country on more than one occasion. William Ash provides in his work a very well-put-together and very sincere study of the socialist system in Albania by covering nearly every aspect of Albanian life and the amount of freedom and organization the working class gains under proper Marxism-Leninism. Ash’s book, from examining the political and economic system of Albania to the social, artistic and cultural life, Pickaxe and Rifle is a breath of fresh air in a society plagued by lies and misinformation about communist theory and practice.

Reference

Ash, William. Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People. London: H. Baker, 1974.

Source

Bruce Franklin’s Introduction to “The Essential Stalin”

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Please note the posting of this introduction to the book “The Essential Stalin” does not necessarily imply support of Franklin’s political line.

 — E.S.

I used to think of Joseph Stalin as a tyrant and butcher who jailed and killed millions, betrayed the Russian revolution, sold out liberation struggles around the world, and ended up a solitary madman, hated and feared by the people of the Soviet Union and the world. Even today I have trouble saying the name “Stalin” without feeling a bit sinister.

But, to about a billion people today, Stalin is the opposite of what we in the capitalist world have been programmed to believe. The people of China, Vietnam, Korea, and Albania consider Stalin one of the great heroes of modern history, a man who personally helped win their liberation.

This belief could be dismissed as the product of an equally effective brainwashing from the other side, except that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union, who knew Stalin best, share this view. For almost two decades the Soviet rulers have systematically attempted to make the Soviet people accept the capitalist world’s view of Stalin, or at least to forget him. They expunged him from the history books, wiped out his memorials, and even removed his body from his tomb.

Yet, according to all accounts, the great majority of the Soviet people still revere the memory of Stalin, and bit by bit they have forced concessions. First it was granted that Stalin had been a great military leader and the main antifascist strategist of World War II. Then it was conceded that he had made important contributions to the material progress of the Soviet people. Now a recent Soviet film shows Stalin, several years before his death, as a calm, rational, wise leader.

But the rulers of the Soviet Union still try to keep the people actually from reading Stalin. When they took over, one of their first acts was to ban his writings. They stopped the publication of his collected works, of which thirteen volumes had already appeared, covering the period only through 1934. This has made it difficult throughout the world to obtain Stalin’s writings in the last two decades of his life. Recently the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, whose purpose, as stated by its founder, Herbert Hoover, is to demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Marx” completed the final volumes in Russian so that they would be available to Stanford’s team of émigré anti-Communists (In. preparing. this volume, I was able to use the Hoover collection of writings by and about Stalin only by risking jail, directly violating my banishment by court injunction from this Citadel of the Free World.)

The situation in the U.S. is not much different from that in the U.S.S.R. In fact the present volume represents the first time since 1955 that a major publishing house in either country has authorized the publication of Stalin’s works. U.S. capitalist publishers have printed only Stalin’s wartime diplomatic correspondence and occasional essays, usually much abridged, in anthologies. Meanwhile his enemies and critics are widely published. Since the early 1920s there have been basically two opposing lines claiming to represent Marxism-Leninism, one being Stalin’s and the other Trotsky’s. The works of Trotsky are readily available in many inexpensive editions. And hostile memoirs, such as those of Khrushchev and Svetlana Stalin, are actually serialized in popular magazines.

The suppression of Stalin’s writings spreads the notion that he did not write anything worth reading. Yet Stalin is clearly one of the three most important historical figures of our century, his thought and deeds still affecting our daily lives, considered by hundreds of millions today as one of the leading political theorists of any time, his very name a strongly emotional household word throughout the world. Anyone familiar with the development of Marxist-Leninist theory in the past half century knows that Stalin was not merely a man of action. Mao names him “the greatest genius of our time,” calls himself Stalin’s disciple, and argues that Stalin’ s theoretical works are still the core of world Communist revolutionary strategy.

Gaining access to Stalin’s works is not the hardest part of coming to terms with him. First we must recognize that there can be no “objective” or “neutral” appraisal of Stalin, any more than there can be of any major historical figure during the epochs of class struggle. From the point of view of some classes, George Washington was an arrogant scoundrel and traitor to his country, king, and God, a renegade who brought slaughter and chaos to a continent; Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the deaths of millions and the destruction of a civilized, cultured, harmonious society based on the biblically sanctioned relationship with the black descendants of Ham; Sitting Bull was a murderous savage who stood in the way of the progress of a superior civilization; Eldridge Cleaver, George and Jonathan Jackson, Ruchell Magee and Angela Davis are vicious murderers, while Harry Truman, Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Daley, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon are rational and patriotic men who use force only when necessary to protect the treasured values of the Free World.

Any historical figure must be evaluated from the interests of one class or another. Take J. Edgar Hoover, for example. Anti-Communists may disagree about his performance, but they start from the assumption that the better he did his job of preserving “law and order” as defined by our present rulers the better he was. We Communists, on the other hand, certainly would not think Hoover “better” if he had been more efficient in running the secret police and protecting capitalism. And so the opposite with Stalin, whose job was not to preserve capitalism but to destroy it, not to suppress communism but to advance it. The better he did his job, the worse he is likely to seem to all those who profit from this economic system and the more he will be appreciated by the victims of that system. The Stalin question is quite different for those who share his goals and for those, who oppose them. For the revolutionary people of the world it is literally a life and-death matter to have a scientific estimate of Stalin, because he was, after all, the principal leader of the world revolution for thirty crucial years.

I myself have seen Stalin from both sides. Deeply embedded in my consciousness and feelings was that Vision of Stalin as tyrant and butcher. This was part of my over-all view of communism as a slave system, an idea that I was taught in capitalist society. Communist society was not red but a dull-gray world. It was ruled by a secret clique of powerful men. Everybody else worked for these few and kept their mouths shut. Propaganda poured from all the media. The secret police were everywhere, tapping phones, following people on the street, making midnight raids. Anyone who spoke out would lose his job, get thrown in jail, or even get shot by the police. One of the main aims of the government was international aggression, starting wars to conquer other counties. When I began to discover that this entire vision point by point described my own society a number of questions arose in my mind.

For me, as for millions of others in the United States it was the Vietnamese who forced a change in perception. How could we fail to admire the Vietnamese people and to see Ho Chi Minh as one of the great heroes of our times? What stood out not about Ho was his vast love for the people and his dedication to serving them. (In 1965, before I became a Communist, I spoke at a rally soliciting blood for the Vietnamese victims of U.S. bombing. When I naively said that Ho was a nationalist above being a Communist and a human being above being a nationalist, I was pelted with garbage and, much to my surprise, called a “dirty Commie. But we were supposed to believe that Ho was a “tyrant and butcher.” Later, it dawned on me that Fidel Castro was also supposed to be a “tyrant and butcher” although earlier we had been portrayed as a freedom fighter against the Batista dictatorship. Still later, I began to study the Chinese revolution, and found in Mao’s theory and preaches the guide for my own thinking and action. But, again, we were Supposed to see Mao as a “tyrant and butcher” and also a “madman” the more I looked into it, the more I found that these “tyrants and butchers” – Ho, Fidel, and Mao – were all depicted servants of the people, inspired by a deep and self-sacrificing love for them. At some point, I began to wonder if perhaps even Stalin was not a “tyrant and butcher.”

With this thought came intense feelings that must resemble – what someone in a tribe experiences when violating a taboo. But if we want to understand the world we live in, we must face Stalin.

Joseph Stalin personifies a major aspect of three decades of twentieth-century history. If we seek answers to any of the crucial questions about the course of our century, at some point we find Stalin standing directly in our path. Is it possible for poor and working people to make a revolution and then wield political power? Can an undeveloped, backward nation whose people are illiterate, impoverished, diseased, starving, and lacking in all the skills and tools needed to develop their productive forces possibly achieve both material and cultural well-being? Can this be done under a condition of encirclement by hostile powers, greedy for conquest, far more advanced industrially and, militantly: and fanatical in their opposition to any people s revolutionary government? What price must be paid for the success of revolutionary development? Can national unity be achieved in a vast land inhabited by many peoples of diverse races, religions, culture, language, and levels of economic development?

Is it possible to attain international unity among the exploited and oppressed peoples of many different nations whose governments depend upon intense nationalism and the constant threat of war? Then, later, can the people of any modern highly industrialized society also have a high degree of freedom, or must the state be their enemy? Can any society flourish without some form of ruling elite?

These questions are all peculiarly modern, arising in the epoch of capitalism as it reaches its highest form, modern imperialism, and becoming critical in our own time, the era of global revolution. Each of these questions leads us inevitably to Stalin. In my opinion, it is not going too far to say that Stalin is the key figure of our era.

All the achievements and all the failures, all the strengths and all the weaknesses, of the Soviet revolution and indeed of the world revolution in the period 1922-53 are summed up in Stalin. This is not to say that he is personally responsible for all that was and was not accomplished, or that nobody else could have done what he did. We are not dealing with a “great man” theory of history. In fact, quite the opposite. If we are to understand Stalin at all, and evaluate him from the point of view of either of two major opposing classes, we must see him, like all historical figures, as a being created by his times and containing the contradictions of those times. .

Every idea of Stalin’s, as he would be the first to admit, came to him from his historical existence, which also fixed limits to the ideas available to him. He could study history in order to learn from the experience of the Paris Commune but he could not look into a crystal ball to benefit from the lessons of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And the decisions he made also had fixed and determined limits on either side, as we shall see.

To appraise Stalin, the best way to begin is to compare the condition of the Soviet Union and the rest of the world at two times: when he came into leadership and when he died. Without such a comparison, it is impossible to measure what he may have contributed or taken away from human progress. If the condition of the Soviet people was much better when he died than when he took power, he cannot have made their lives worse. The worst that can be said is that they would have progressed more without him. The same is true for the world revolution. Was it set back during the decades of his leadership, or did it advance? Once we put the questions this way, the burden of proof falls on those who deny Stalin’s positive role as a revolutionary leader.

As World War I began, the Russian Empire consisted primarily of vast undeveloped lands inhabited by many different peoples speaking a variety of languages with a very low level of literacy, productivity, technology, and health. Feudal Social relations still prevailed throughout many of these lands. Czarist secret police, officially organized bands of military terrorists, and a vast bureaucracy were deployed to keep the hungry masses of workers and peasants in line.

The war brought these problems to a crisis. Millions went to their deaths wearing rags, with empty stomachs, often waiting for those in front of them to fall so they could have a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition. When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, the entire vast empire, including the great cities of Russia itself, was in chaos.

Before the new government could begin to govern, it was Immediately set upon by the landlords, capitalists, and generals of the old regime, with all the forces they could buy and muster, together with combined military forces of Britain, France, Japan, and Poland, and additional military contingents from the U.S. and other capitalist countries. A vicious civil war raged for three years, from Siberia through European Russia, from the White Sea to the Ukraine. At the end of the Civil War, in 1920, agricultural output was less than half that of the prewar poverty-stricken countryside. Even worse was the situation in industry.

Many mines and factories had been destroyed. Transport had been torn up. Stocks of raw materials and semi finished products had been exhausted. The output of large-scale industry was about one seventh of what it had been before the war. And the fighting against foreign military intervention had to go on for two more years. Japanese and U.S. troops still held a portion of Siberia, including the key port city of Vladivostok, which was not recaptured until 1922.

Lenin suffered his first stroke in 1922. From this point on, Stalin, who was the General Secretary of the Central Committee, began to emerge as the principal leader of the Party. Stalin’s policies were being implemented at least as early as 1924, the year of Lenin’s death, and by 1927 the various opposing factions had been defeated and expelled from the Party. It is the period of the early and mid-1920s that we must compare to 1953.

The Soviet Union of the early 1920s was a land of deprivation. Hunger was everywhere, and actual mass famines swept across much of the countryside. Industrial production was extremely low, and the technological Level of industry was so backward that there seemed little possibility of mechanizing agriculture. Serious rebellions in the armed forces were breaking out, most notably at the Kronstadt garrison in 1921.

By 1924 large-scale peasant revolts were erupting, particularly in Georgia. There was virtually no electricity outside the large cities. Agriculture was based on the peasant holdings and medium-sized farms seized by rural capitalists (the kulaks) who forced the peasants back into wage Labor and tenant fanning. Health care was almost non-existent in much of the country. The technical knowledge and skills needed to develop modern industry, agriculture, health, and education were concentrated in the hands of a few, mostly opposed to socialism while the vast majority of the population were illiterate and could hardly think about education while barely managing to subsist. The Soviet Union was isolated in a world controlled by powerful capitalist countries physically surrounding it, setting up economic blockades, and officially refusing to recognize its existence while outdoing each other in their pledges to wipe out this Red menace.

The counterrevolution was riding high throughout Europe Great Britain, and even in the U.S.A., where the Red threat was used as an excuse to smash labor unions. Fascism was emerging in several parts of the capitalist world, particularly in Japan and in Italy, where Mussolini took dictatorial power in 1924. Most of the world consisted of colonies and neo-colonies of the European powers.

When Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was the second greatest industrial, scientific, and military power in the world and showed clear signs of moving to overtake the U.S. in all these areas. This was despite the devastating losses it suffered while defeating the fascist powers of Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The various peoples of the U.S.S.R. were unified. Starvation and illiteracy were unknown throughout the country. Agriculture was completely collectivized and extremely productive. Preventive health care was the finest in the world, and medical treatment of exceptionally high quality was available free to all citizens. Education at all levels was free. More books were published in the U.S.S.R. than in any other country. There was no unemployment.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, not only had the main fascist powers of 1922-45 been defeated, but the forces of revolution were on the rise everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party had just led one-fourth of the world’s population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism. Half of Korea was socialist, and the U.S.-British imperialist army, having rushed to intervene in the civil war under the banner of the United Nations  was on the defensive and hopelessly demoralized. In Vietnam, strong socialist power, which had already defeated Japanese Imperialism, was administering the final blows to the beaten army of the French empire. The monarchies and fascist military dictatorships of Eastern Europe had been destroyed by a combination of partisan forces, led by local Communists, and the Soviet Army; everywhere except for Greece there were now governments that supported the world revolution and at least claimed to be governments of the workers and peasants. The largest political party in both France and Italy was the Communist Party. The national liberation movement among the European colonies and neo-colonies was surging forward. Between 1946 and 1949 alone, at least nominal national independence was achieved by Burma, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Laos, Libya, Ceylon, Jordan, and the Philippines, countries comprising about one-third of the world’s population. The entire continent of Africa was stirring.

Everybody but the Trotskyites, and even some of them would have to admit that the situation for the Communist world revolution was incomparably advanced in 1953 over what it had been in the early or mid 1920s. Of course, that does not settle the Stalin question. We still have to ask whether Stalin contributed to this tremendous advance, or slowed it down or had negligible influence on it. And we must not duck the question as to whether Stalin’s theory and practice built such serious faults into revolutionary communism that its later failures, particularly in the Soviet Union, can be pinned on him.

So let us look through Stalin’s career focusing particularly on its most controversial aspects.

“Stalin” which means “steel-man,” was the code name for a Young Georgian revolutionary born as Joseph Visvarionovich Djugashvili in 1879 in the town of Gori. His class origins combine the main forces of the Russian revolution.

His father formerly a village cobbler of peasant background, became a’ worker in a shoe factory. His mother was the daughter of peasant serfs. So Stalin was no stranger to either workers or peasants, and being from Georgia, he had firsthand knowledge of how Czarist Russia oppressed the non-Russian peoples of its empire. .

While studying at the seminary for a career as a priest, he made his first contact with the Marxist underground at the age of fifteen, and at eighteen he formally joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, which was to evolve into the Communist Party. Shortly after joining the party in 1898, he became convinced that Lenin was the main theoretical leader of the revolution, particularly when Lenin’s newspaper Iskra began to appear in 1900. After being thrown out of his seminary, Stalin concentrated on organizing workers in the area of Tiflis, capital of Georgia, and the Georgian industrial City of Batumi. After one of his many arrests by the Czarist secret police, he began to correspond with Lenin from exile.

Escaping from Siberian exile in 1904, Stalin returned to organizing workers in the cities of Georgia, where mass strikes were beginning to assume a decidedly political and revolutionary character. Here he began to become one of the main spokesmen for Lenin’s theory, as we see in the first two selections in this volume. In December 1904 he led a huge strike of the Baku workers, which helped precipitate the abortive Russian revolution of 1905. During the revolution and after it was suppressed, Stalin was one of the main Bolshevik underground and military organizers, and was frequently arrested by the secret police. At the Prague Conference of 1912, in which the Bolsheviks completed the split with the Mensheviks and established themselves as a separate party, Stalin was elected in absentia to the Central Committee, a position he was to maintain for over four decades. Then, on the eve of World War I, he published what may properly be considered his first major contribution to Marxist-Leninist theory, Marxism and the National Question.

Prior to World War I, the various social-democratic parties of Europe were loosely united in the Second International.

All pledged themselves to international proletarian solidarity. But when the war broke out, the theory Stalin had developed in Marxism and the National Question proved to be crucial and correct. As Stalin had foreseen, every party that had compromised with bourgeois nationalism ended up leading the workers of its nation to support their “own” bourgeois rulers by going out to kill and be killed by the workers of the other nations. Lenin, Stalin, and the other Bolsheviks took a quite different position. They put forward the slogan “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war.” Alone of all the parties of the Second International, they came out for actual armed revolution.

In February 1917 the workers, peasants and soldiers of Russia, in alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, overthrew the czarist autocracy, which had bled the country dry and brought it to ruin in a war fought to extend the empire. The liberal bourgeoisie established a new government. The next few months led to a key moment in history. Most of the parties that claimed to be revolutionary now took the position that the Russian proletariat was too weak and backward to assume political power. They advocated that the proletariat should support the new bourgeois government and enter a long period of capitalist development until someday in the future when they could begin to think about socialism. This view even penetrated the Bolsheviks. So when Stalin was released from his prison exile in March and the Central Committee brought him back to help lead the work in St. Petersburg, he found a heavy internal struggle. He took Lenin’s position, and, being placed in charge of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, was able to put it forward vigorously to the masses. When the Central Committee finally decided, in October, to lead the workers and soldiers of St. Petersburg to seize the Winter Palace and establish a proletarian government, it was over the violent objections of many of the aristocratic intellectuals who, much to their own surprise and discomfort had found themselves in an actual revolutionary situation. Two of them, Zinoviev and Kamenev, even went so far as to inform the bourgeois newspapers that the Bolsheviks had a secret plan to seize power. After the virtually bloodless seizure by the workers and soldiers took place, a third member of the Central Committee, Rykov, joined Zinoviev and Kamenev in a secret deal made with the bourgeois parties whereby the Bolsheviks would resign from power, the press would be returned to the bourgeoisie, and Lenin would be permanently barred from holding public office. (All this is described in John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, which was first published in 1919. I mention this because Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Rykov were three of the central figures of the purge trials of the 1930s, and it is they who have been portrayed as stanch Bolsheviks in such works as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.)

During the Civil War, which followed the seizure of power, Stalin began to emerge as an important military leader.

Trotsky was nominally the head of the Red Army. Behaving, as he always did, in the primacy of technique, Trotsky took as one of his main tasks winning over the high officers of the former czarist army and turning them into the general command of the revolutionary army. The result was defeat after defeat for the Red forces, either through outright betrayal by their aristocratic officers or because these officers tried to apply military theories appropriate to a conscript or mercenary army to the leadership of a people’s army made up of workers and peasants. Stalin, on the other hand, understood the military situation from the point of view of the workers and peasants, and with a knowledge of their capabilities and limitations.

In 1919 Stalin was sent as a special plenipotentiary to the key Volga city of Tsaritsyn. His mission was simply to assure the delivery of food supplies from this entire region. What he found was a disastrous military situation, with the city not only surrounded by the White Army but heavily infiltrated by counterrevolutionary forces. He saw that the food supply could not be safeguarded unless the military and political situations were dealt with. He instituted an uncompromising purge of counterrevolutionary elements within both the officer corps and the political infrastructure, took personal command of the military forces over the heads of both the local authorities and Trotsky, and then proceeded to save the city, the region, and the food supply. Trotsky, furious, demanded his recall. As for the citizens of Tsaritsyn, their opinion became known six years later, when they renamed their city Stalingrad.

After this episode, rather than being recalled, Stalin was dispatched far and wide to every major front in the Civil War. In each and every place, he was able to win the immediate respect of the revolutionary people and to lead the way to military victory, even in the most desperate circumstances.

Certain qualities emerged more and more clearly, acknowledged by both friends and enemies. These were his enormous practicality and efficiency, his worker peasant outlook, and the unswerving way he proceeded to the heart of every problem. By the end of the war, Stalin was widely recognized as a man who knew how to run things, a quality sorely lacking among most of the aristocratic intellectuals who then saw themselves as great proletarian leaders. In April 1922 he was made General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It was in this position that Stalin was quickly to become the de facto leader of the Party and the nation.

Stalin’s career up to this point is relatively uncontroversial in comparison with everything that follows. But nothing at all about Stalin is beyond controversy. Most of his biographers in the capitalist world minimize his revolutionary activities prior to 1922. At least two influential biographies, Boris Souvarine’s Stalin (1939) and Edward Ellis Smith’s The Young Stalin (1967), even argue that during most of this period Stalin was actually an agent for the czarist secret police. Trotsky’s mammoth biography Stalin (1940) not only belittles Stalin’s revolutionary activities but actually sees his life and “moral stature” predetermined by his racially defined genetic composition; after discussing whether or not Stalin had “an admixture of Mongolian blood,” Trotsky decides that in any case he was one perfect type of the national character of southern countries such as Georgia, where, “in addition to the so-called Southern type, which is characterized by a combination of lazy shiftlessness and explosive irascibility, one meets cold natures, in whom phlegm is combined with stubbornness and slyness.” The most influential biographer of all, Trotsky’s disciple Isaac Deutscher, is a bit more subtle, blaming Stalin’s crude and vicious character not on his race but on his low social class:

The revolutionaries from the upper classes (such as Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rakovsky, Radek, Lunacharsky, and Chicherin) came into the Socialist movement with inherited cultural traditions. They brought into the milieu of the revolution some of the values and qualities of their own milieu-not only knowledge, but also refinement of thought, speech, and manners. Indeed, their Socialist rebellion was itself the product of moral sensitiveness and intellectual refinement. These were precisely the qualities that life had not been kind enough to cultivate in Djugashvili [Stalin]. On the contrary, it had heaped enough physical and moral squalor in his path to blunt his sensitiveness and his taste. (Stalin, Political Biography, p. 26)

Although there are vastly different views of Stalin’s career up to this point, his activities are relatively less controversial, because they are relatively less important. Whatever Stalin’s contribution, there is still a good chance that even without him Lenin could have led the revolution and the Red forces would have won the Civil War. But, from this point on, there are at least two widely divergent, in fact wildly contradictory, versions of Stalin’s activities and their significance. Most readers of this book have heard only one side of this debate, the side of Trotsky and the capitalist world. I shall not pretend to make a “balanced presentation,” but instead give a summary of the unfamiliar other side of the argument.

Everyone, friend and foe alike, would agree that at the heart of the question of Stalin lies the theory and practice of “socialism in one country.” All of Stalin’s major ideological opponents in one way or another took issue with this theory.

Actually, the theory did not originate with Stalin but with Lenin. In 1915, in his article “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe,” Lenin argued that “the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone.” He foresaw “a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle” internationally that could begin like this in one country: “After expropriating the capitalists and organizing their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world-the capitalist world-attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”

Of course, at the end of World War I most Bolsheviks (and many capitalists) expected revolution to break out in many of the European capitalist countries. In fact, many of the returning soldiers did turn their guns around. A revolutionary government was established in Hungary and Slovakia.

Germany and Bulgaria for a while were covered by soviets of workers, peasants, and soldiers. But counterrevolution swept all these away.

Trotsky and his supporters continued to believe that the proletariat of Europe was ready to make socialist revolution.

They also believed that unless this happened, the proletariat would be unable to maintain power in the Soviet Union.

They belittled the role of the peasantry as an ally of the Russian proletariat and saw very little potential in the national liberation movements of the predominantly peasant countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their so-called “Left opposition” put forward the theory, of “permanent revolution,” which pinned its hopes on an imminent uprising of the industrial proletariat of Europe. They saw the world revolution then spreading outward from these “civilized” countries to the “backward” regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Meanwhile there also developed what was later to be called the “Right opposition,” spearheaded by Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. They were realistic enough to recognize that the revolutionary tide was definitely ebbing in Europe, but they concluded from this that the Soviet Union would have to be content to remain for a long time a basically agricultural country without pretending to be a proletarian socialist state.

Stalin was not about to give up on socialism in the Soviet Union simply because history was not turning out exactly the way theorists had wanted, with revolution winning out quickly in the most advanced capitalist countries. He saw that the Soviet revolution had indeed been able to maintain itself against very powerful enemies at home and abroad. Besides, the Soviet Union was a vast country whose rich natural resources gave it an enormous potential for industrial and social development. He stood for building socialism in this one country and turning it into an inspiration and base area for the oppressed classes and nations throughout the world. He believed that, helped by both the example and material support of a socialist Soviet Union, the tide of revolution would eventually begin rising again, and that, in turn, proletarian revolution in Europe and national liberation struggles in the rest of the world would eventually break the Soviet isolation.

There are two parts to the concept of socialism in one country. Emphasis is usually placed only on the part that says “one country.” Equally important is the idea that only socialism, and not communism, can be achieved prior to the time when the victory of the world revolution has been won. A communist society would have no classes, no money, no scarcity, and no state that is, no army, police force, prisons, and courts. There is no such society in the world, and no society claims to be Communist. A socialist society, according to Marxism-Leninism, is the transitional form on the road to communism. Classes and class struggle still exist, all the material needs of the people have not as yet been met, and there is indeed a state, a government of the working class known as the dictatorship of the proletariat (as opposed to the government of capitalist nations, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie).

Neither Lenin nor Stalin ever had any illusion that any single country, even one as vast and potentially rich as the Soviet Union, would ever be able to establish a stateless, classless society while capitalism still had power in the rest of the world. But Stalin, like Lenin, did believe that the Soviet Union could eliminate capitalism, industrialize, extend the power of the working class, and wipe out real material privation all during the period of capitalist encirclement.

To do this, Stalin held, the proletariat would have to rely on the peasantry. He rejected Trotsky’s scorn for the Russian peasants and saw them, rather than the European proletariat, as the only ally that could come to the immediate aid of the Russian workers.

When the Civil War ended, in 1921, with most of the Soviet Union in chaotic ruin, Lenin won a struggle against Trotsky within the Party to institute what was called the New Economic Policy (NEP), under which a limited amount of private enterprise based on trade was allowed to develop in both the cities and the countryside. NEP was successful in averting an immediate total catastrophe, but by 1925 it was becoming clear that this policy was also creating problems for the development of socialism. This brings us to the first great crux of the Stalin question.

We have been led to believe that in order to industrialize at any price; Stalin pursued a ruthless policy of forced collectivization, deliberately murdering several million peasants known as kulaks during the process. The truth is quite different.

When the Bolsheviks seized power, one of their first acts was to allow the poor peasants to seize the huge landed estates. The slogan was “Land to the tiller.” This, however, left most land in the form of tiny holdings, unsuited for large-scale agriculture, particularly the production of the vital grain crops. Under NEP, capitalism and a new form of landlordism began to flourish in the countryside. The class known as kulaks (literally “tight-fists”), consisting of usurers and other small capitalists including village merchants and rich peasants, were cornering the market in the available grain, grabbing more and more small holdings of land, and, through their debt holdings, forcing peasants back into tenant farming and wage labor. Somehow, the small peasant holdings had to be consolidated so that modern agriculture could begin. There were basically two ways this could take place: either through capitalist accumulation, as the kulaks were then doing, or through the development of large-scale socialist farms. If the latter, there was then a further choice: a rapid forced collectivization, or a more gradual process in which co-operative farms would emerge first, followed by collectives, and both would be on a voluntary basis, winning out by example and persuasion. What did Stalin choose?

Here, in his own words, is the policy he advocated and that was adopted at the Fifteenth Party Congress, in 1927:

What is the way out? The way out is to turn the small and scattered peasant farms into large united farms based on cultivation of the land in common, to go over to collective cultivation of the land on the basis of a new and higher technique.

The way out is to unite the small and dwarf peasant farms gradually but surely, not by pressure, but by example and persuasion, into large farms based on common, cooperative, collective cultivation of the land with the use of agricultural machines and tractors and scientific methods of intensive agriculture.

There is no other way out.

To implement this policy, the capitalist privileges allowed under NEP were revoked. This was known as the restriction of the kulaks. The kulaks, whose very existence as a class was thus menaced, struck back. They organized terrorist bands who attacked the co-operatives and collectives, burning down barns when they were filled with grain, devastating the fields, and even murdering Communist peasant leaders.

Even more serious than these raids, the kulaks held back their own large supplies of grain from the market in an effort to create hunger and chaos in the cities. The poor and middle peasants struck back. Virtual open civil war began to rage throughout the countryside. As the collective farm movement spread rapidly, pressure mounted among the poor and middle peasants to put an end to landlordism and usury in the countryside for good. In 1929 Stalin agreed that the time had come to eliminate the kulaks as a class. He led the fight to repeal the laws that allowed the renting of land and the hiring of labor, thus depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired workers. The ban on expropriation of the large private holdings was lifted, and the peasants promptly expropriated the kulak class. The expropriation of the rural capitalists in the late 1920s was just as decisive as the expropriation of the urban capitalists a decade earlier. Landlords and village usurers were eliminated as completely as private factory owners. It is undoubtedly true that in many areas there was needless violence and suffering. But this did not originate with Stalin. It was the hour of Russia’s peasant masses, who had been degraded and brutalized for centuries and who had countless blood debts to settle with their oppressors. Stalin may have unleashed their fury, but he was not the one who had caused it to build up for centuries. In fact it was Stalin who checked the excesses generated by the enthusiasm of the collective movement. In early 1930 he published in Pravda “Dizzy with Success,” reiterating that “the voluntary principle” of the collective farm movement must under no circumstances be violated and that anybody who engages in forced collectivization objectively aids the enemies of socialism. Furthermore, he argues, the correct form for the present time is the co-operative (known as the artel) , in which “the household plots (small vegetable gardens, small orchards), the dwelling houses, a part of the dairy cattle, small livestock, poultry, etc., are not socialized.”

Again, overzealous attempts to push beyond this objectively aid the enemy. The movement must be based on the needs and desires of the masses of peasants.

Stalin’s decision about the kulaks perfectly exemplifies the limits under which he operated. He could decide, as he did, to end the kulaks as a class by allowing the poor and middle peasants’ to expropriate their land. Or he could decide to let the kulaks continue withholding their grain from the starving peasants and workers, with whatever result. He might have continued bribing the kulaks. But it is highly doubtful, to say the least, that he had the option of persuading the kulaks into becoming good socialists.

There can be no question that, whatever may be said about its cost, Stalin’s policy in the countryside resulted in a vast, modern agricultural system, capable, for the first time in history, of feeding all the peoples of the Soviet lands. Gone were the famines that seemed as inevitable and were as vicious as those of China before the revolution or of India today.

Meanwhile, Stalin’s policy of massive industrialization was going full speed ahead. His great plan for a modern, highly industrialized Soviet Union has been so overwhelmingly successful that we forget that it was adopted only over the bitter opposition of most of the Party leaders, who thought it a utopian and therefore suicidal dream. Having overcome this opposition on both the right and “left,” Stalin in 1929 instituted the first five-year plan in the history of the world.

It was quickly over fulfilled. By the early 1930s the Soviet Union had clearly become both the inspiration and the main material base area for the world revolution. And it was soon will prove much more than a match for the next military onslaught from the capitalist powers, which Stalin had predicted and armed against.

This brings us to the second great crux of the Stalin question, the “left” criticism, originating with Trotsky and then widely disseminated by the theorists of what used to be called “the New Left.” This criticism holds that Stalin was just a nationalist who sold out revolution throughout the rest of the world. The debate ranges over all the key events of twentieth-century history and can be only touched on in an essay.

Stalin’s difference with Trotsky on the peasantry was not confined to the role of the peasantry within the Soviet Union.

Trotsky saw very little potential in the national liberation movements in those parts of the world that were still basically peasant societies. He argued that revolution would come first to the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America and would then spread to the “uncivilized” areas of the world. Stalin, on the other hand saw that the national liberation movements of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were key to the development of the world revolution because objectively they were leading the fight against imperialism.

We see this argument developed clearly as early as 1924, In “The Foundations of Leninism,” where he argues that “the struggle that the Egyptian merchants and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence of Egypt is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders of the Egyptian national movement, despite the fact that they are opposed to socialism; whereas the struggle that the British ‘Labor’ movement is waging to preserve Egypt’s dependent position is for the same reasons a reactionary struggle, despite the proletarian origins and the proletarian title of the members of hat government, despite the fact that they are ‘for’ socialism. To most European Marxists, this was some kind of barbarian heresy. But Ho Chi Minh expressed the view of many Communists from the colonies in that same year, 1924, when he recognized that Stalin was the leader of the only Party that stood with the national liberation struggles and when he agreed with Stalin that the viewpoint of most other so-called Marxists on the national question was nothing short of “counterrevolutionary” (Ho Chi Minh Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International).

The difference between Stalin’s line and Trotsky’s line and the falsification of what Stalin’s line was, can be seen most clearly on the question of the Chinese revolution. The typical “left” view prevalent today is represented in David Horowitz’s The Free World Colossus (1965), which asserts “Stalin’s continued blindness to the character and potential of the Chinese Revolution.” Using as his main source a Yugoslav biography of Tito, Horowitz blandly declares: “Even after the war, when it was clear to most observers that Chiang was finished, Stalin did not think much of the prospects of Chinese Communism” (p. Ill).

Mao’s opinion of Stalin is a little different:

Rallied around him, we constantly received advice from him, constantly drew ideological strength from his works…. It is common knowledge that Comrade Stalin ardently loved the Chinese people and considered that the forces of the Chinese revolution were immeasurable.

He displayed the greatest wisdom in matters pertaining to the Chinese revolution. . . . Sacredly preserving the memory of our great teacher Stalin, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people . . . will even more perseveringly study Stalin’s teaching …. (“A Great Friendship,” 1953)

It is possible that this statement can be viewed as a formal tribute made shortly after Stalin’s death and before it was safe to criticize Stalin within the international Communist movement. But years later, after the Russian attack on Stalin and after it was unsafe not to spit on Stalin’s memory, the Chinese still consistently maintained their position. In 1961, after listening to Khrushchev’s rabid denunciations of Stalin at the Twenty-second Party Congress, Chou En-lai ostentatiously laid a wreath on Stalin’s tomb. Khrushchev and his supporters then disinterred Stalin’s body, but the Chinese responded to this in 1963 by saying that Khrushchev “can never succeed in removing the great image of Stalin from the minds of the Soviet people and of the people throughout the world.” (“On the Question of Stalin”)

In fact, as his 1927 essay on China included in this collection shows, Stalin very early outlined the basic theory of the Chinese revolution. Trotsky attacks this theory, which he sneers at as “guerrilla adventure,” because it is not based on the cities as the revolutionary centers, because it relies on class allies of the proletariat, particularly the peasantry, and because it is primarily anti-feudal and anti-imperialist rather than focused primarily against Chinese capitalism.

After 1927, when the first liberated base areas were established in the countryside, Trotsky claimed that this revolution could no longer be seen as proletarian but as a mere peasant rebellion, and soon he began to refer to its guiding theory as the Stalin-Mao line. To this day, Trotskyites around the world deride the Chinese revolution as a mere “Stalinist bureaucracy.” The Chinese themselves do acknowledge that at certain points Stalin gave some incorrect tactical advice, but they are quick to add that he always recognized and corrected these errors and was self-critical about them. They are very firm in their belief that they could not have made their revolution without his general theory, his over-all leadership of the world revolutionary movement, and the firm rear area and base of material support he provided. Thus the only really valid major criticism comes from anti-Communists, because without Stalin, at least according to the Chinese, the Communists would not have won.

Stalin’s role in the Spanish Civil War likewise comes under fire from the “left.” Again taking their cue from Trotsky and such professional anti-Communist ideologues as George Orwell, many “socialists” claim that Stalin sold out the Loyalists. A similar criticism is made about Stalin’s policies in relation to the Greek partisans in the late 1940s, which we will discuss later. According to these “left” criticisms, Stalin didn’t “care” about either of these struggles, because of his preoccupation with internal development and “Great Russian power.” The simple fact of the matter is that in both cases Stalin was the only national leader anyplace in the world to support the popular forces, and he did this in the face of stubborn opposition within his own camp and the dangers of military attack from the leading aggressive powers in the world (Germany and Italy in the late 1930s, the U.S. ten years later).

Because the U.S.S.R., following Stalin’s policies, had become a modem industrial nation by the mid-1930s, it was able to ship to the Spanish Loyalists Soviet tanks and planes that were every bit as advanced as the Nazi models. Because the U.S.S.R. was the leader of the world revolutionary forces, Communists from many nations were able to organize the International Brigades, which went to resist Mussolini’s fascist divisions and the crack Nazi forces, such as the Condor Legion, that were invading the Spanish Republic. The capitalist powers, alarmed by this international support for the Loyalists, planned joint action to stop it. In March 1937, warships of Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain began jointly policing the Spanish coast. Acting on a British initiative, these same countries formed a bloc in late 1937 to isolate the Soviet Union by implementing a policy they called “non-intervention,” which Lloyd George, as leader of the British Opposition, labeled a clear policy of support for the fascists. Mussolini supported the British plan and called for a’ campaign “to drive Bolshevism from Europe.” Stalin’s own foreign ministry, which was still dominated by aristocrats masquerading as proletarian revolutionaries, sided with the capitalist powers. The New York Times of October 29, 1937, describes how the “unyielding” Stalin, representing “Russian stubbornness,” refused to go along: “A struggle has been going on all this week between Joseph Stalin and Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinoff,” who wished to accept the British plan. Stalin stuck to his guns, and the Soviet Union refused to grant Franco international status as a combatant, insisting that it had every right in the world to continue aiding the duly elected government of Spain, which it did until the bitter end.

The Spanish Civil War was just one part of the world-wide imperialist aims of the Axis powers. Japan was pushing ahead in its conquest of Asia. Japanese forces overran Manchuria in 1931; only nine years after the Red Army had driven them out of Siberia, and then invaded China on a full-scale.

Ethiopia fell to Italy in 1936. A few months later, Germany and Japan signed an anti-Comintern pact, which was joined by Italy in 1937. In 1938, Germany invaded Austria. Hitler, who had come to power on a promise to rid Germany and the world of the Red menace, was now almost prepared to launch his decisive strike against the Soviet Union.

The other major capitalist powers surveyed the scene with mixed feelings. On one hand, they would have liked nothing better than to see the Communist threat ended once and for all, particularly with the dirty work being done by the fascist nations. On the other hand, they had to recognize that fascism was then the ideology of the have-not imperialists, upstarts whose global aims included a challenge to the hegemony of France, Britain, and the United States. Should they move now to check these expansionists’ aims or should they let them develop unchecked, hoping that they would move against the Soviet Union rather than Western Europe and the European colonies in Asia and Africa?

In 1938 they found the answer, a better course than either of these two alternatives. They would appease Hitler by giving him the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. This would not only dissuade the Nazis from attacking their fellow capitalists to the west, but it would also remove the last physical barriers to the east, the mountains of the Czech Sudetenland. All logic indicated to them that they had thus gently but firmly turned the Nazis eastward, and even given them a little shove in that direction. Now all they had to do was to wait, and, after the fascist powers and the Soviet Union had devastated each other, they might even be able to pick up the pieces. So they hailed the Munich agreement of September 30, 1938, as the guarantee of “Peace in our time”-for them.

Stalin had offered to defend Czechoslovakia militarily against the Nazis if anyone of the European capitalist countries would unite with the Soviet Union in this effort. The British and the French had evaded what they considered this trap, refusing to allow the Soviet Union even to participate at Munich. They now stepped back and waited, self-satisfied, to watch the Reds destroyed. It seemed they didn’t have long to wait. Within a few months, Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia, giving some pieces of the fallen republic to its allies Poland and Hungary.

By mid-March 1939 the Nazis had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, the Hungarians had seized Carpatho-Ukraine, and Germany had formally annexed Memel. At the end of that month, Madrid fell and all of Spain surrendered to the fascists. On May 7, Germany and Italy announced a formal military and political alliance. The stage was set for the destruction of the Soviet Union.

Four days later, on May 11, 1939, the first attack came.

The crack Japanese army that had invaded Manchuria struck Into the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Japanese war of 1939 is conveniently omitted from our history books, but this war, together with the Anglo-French collaboration with the Nazis and fascists in the west, form the context for another of Stalin’s great “crimes,” the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of August 1939. Stalin recognized that the main aim of the Axis was to destroy the Soviet Union, and that the other capitalist nations were conniving with this scheme. He also knew that sooner or later the main Axis attack would come on the U.S.S.R.’s western front. Meanwhile, Soviet forces were being diverted to the east, to fend off the Japanese invaders. The non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, which horrified and disillusioned Communist sympathizers, particularly intellectuals, in the capitalist nations, was actually one of the most brilliant strategic moves of Stalin’s life, and perhaps of diplomatic  history. From the Soviet point of view it accomplished five things:

(1) it brought needed time to prepare for the Nazi attack, which was thus delayed two years;


(2) it allowed the Red Army to concentrate on smashing the Japanese invasion, without having to fight on two fronts; they decisively defeated the Japanese within three months;


(3) it allowed the Soviet Union to retake the sections of White Russia and the Ukraine that had been invaded by Poland during the Russian Civil War and were presently occupied by the Polish military dictatorship; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi invasion would have to pass through a much larger area defended by the Red Army;


(4) it also allowed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which also had been part of Russia before the Civil War, to become part of the U.S.S.R. as Soviet Republics; this meant that the forthcoming Nazi attack could not immediately outflank Leningrad;


(5) most important of all, it destroyed the Anglo-French strategy of encouraging a war between the Axis powers and the Soviet Union while they enjoyed neutrality; World War II was to begin as a war between the Axis powers and the other capitalist nations, and the Soviet Union, if forced into it, was not going to have to fight alone against the combined fascist powers. The worldwide defeat of the fascist Axis was in part a product of Stalin’s diplomatic strategy, as well as his later military strategy.

But before we get to that, we have to go back in time to the events for which Stalin has been most damned-the purge, trials. Most readers of this book have been taught that the major defendants in these trials were innocent, and that here we see most clearly Stalin’s vicious cruelty and paranoia.

This is certainly not the place to sift through all the evidence and retry the major defendants, but we must recognize that there is a directly contradictory view of the trials and that there is plenty of evidence to support that view.

It is almost undeniable that many of the best-known defendants had indeed organized clandestine groups whose aim was to overthrow the existing government. It is also a fact that Kirov, one of the leaders of that government, was murdered by a secret group on December 1, 1934. And it is almost beyond dispute that there were systematic, very widespread, and partly successful attempts, involving party officials, to sabotage the development of Soviet industry. Anyone who doubts this should read an article entitled “Red Wreckers in Russia” in the Saturday Evening Post, January 1, 1938, in which John Littlepage, an anti-Communist American engineer, describes in detail what he saw of this sabotage while he was working in the Soviet Union. In fact, Littlepage gives this judgment:

For ten years I have worked alongside some of the many recently shot, imprisoned or exiled in Russia as wreckers. Some of my friends have asked me whether or not I believe these men and women are guilty as charged. I have not hesitated a moment in replying that I believe most of them are guilty.

To those who hold the orthodox U.S. view of the purge trials, perhaps the most startling account is the book Mission to Moscow, by Joseph E. Davies, U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938. Davies is a vigorous defender of capitalism and a former head of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. An experienced trial lawyer, he points out that, “I had myself prosecuted and defended men charged with crime in many cases.” He personally attended the purge trials on a regular basis. Most of his accounts and judgments are contained in official secret correspondence to the State Department; the sole purpose of these dispatches was to provide realistic an assessment as possible of what was actually going on. His summary judgment in his confidential report to the Secretary of State on March 17, 1938, is:

….. it is my opinion so far as the political defendants are concerned sufficient crimes under Soviet law, among those charged in the indictment, were established by the proof and beyond a reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of guilty of treason and the adjudication of the punishment provided by Soviet criminal statutes. The opinion of those diplomats who attended the trial most regularly was general that the case had established the fact that there was a formidable political opposition and an exceedingly serious plot, which explained to the diplomats man! of the hitherto unexplained developments of the last six months in the Soviet Union. The only difference of opinion that seemed to exist was the degree to which the plot had been implemented by different defendants and the degree to which the conspiracy had become centralized. (po 272 )

Davies himself admits to being puzzled and confused at the time because of the vast scope of the conspiracy and its concentration high into the Soviet government. It is only later, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in the summer of 1941, that Davies feels he understands what he actually occurred.

Thinking over these things, there came a flash in my mind of a possible new significance to some of the things that happened in Russia when I was there.

None of us in Russia in 1937 and 1938 were thinking in terms of “Fifth Column” activities. The phrase was not current. It is comparatively recent that we have found in our language phrases descriptive of Nazi technique such as “Fifth Column” and “internal aggression.”…

As I ruminated over this situation, I suddenly saw the picture as I should have seen it at the time. The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I had attended and listened to. In reexamining the record of these cases and also what I had written at the time from this new angle, I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed “Quislings” in Russia.

It was clear that the Soviet government believed that these activities existed, was thoroughly alarmed, and had proceeded to crush them vigorously. By 1941, when the German invasion came, they had wiped out any Fifth Column which had been organized.

All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself from not only revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favor of the government. (p. 280)

In 1956, at the Twentieth Party Congress, when Khrushchev launched his famous attack on Stalin, he dredged up all the denunciations of the purge trials circulated for two decades by the Trotskyite and capitalist press. He called Stalin a “murderer,” a “criminal,” a “bandit,” a “despot,” etc.

He asserted the innocence of many who had been imprisoned, exiled, or shot during the purge trials. But in doing so, he conveniently forgot two things: what he had said at the time about those trials, and what Stalin had said. On June 6, 1937, to the Fifth Party Conference of Moscow Province, Khrushchev had declared:

Our Party will mercilessly crush the band of traitors and betrayers, and wipe out all the Trotskyist-Right dregs. . . .We shall totally annihilate the enemies-to the last man and scatter their ashes to the winds.

On June 8, 1938, at the Fourth Party Conference of Kiev province, Khrushchev avowed:

We have annihilated a considerable number of enemies, but still not all. Therefore, it is necessary to keep our eyes open. We should bear firmly in mind the words of Comrade Stalin, that as long as capitalist encirclement exists, spies and saboteurs will be smuggled into our country.

Earlier, at a mass rally in Moscow, in January 1937, Khrushchev had condemned all those who had attacked Stalin in these words: “In lifting their hand against Comrade Stalin, They lifted it against all of us, against the working class and the working people”

As for Stalin himself, on the other hand, he had publicly admitted, not in 1956, but at least as early as 1939, that innocent people had been convicted and punished in the purge:

It cannot be said that the purge was not accompanied by grave mistakes. There were unfortunately more mistakes than might have been expected.” (Report to the Eighteenth Congress.)

That is one reason why many of those tried and convicted in the last trials were high officials from the secret police, the very people guilty of forcing false confessions.

There are certainly good grounds for criticizing both the conduct and the extent of the purge. But that criticism must begin by facing the facts that an anti-Soviet conspiracy did exist within the Party, that it had some ties with the Nazis, who were indeed preparing to invade the country, and that one result of the purge was that the ‘Soviet Union was the only country in all of Europe that, when invaded by the Nazis, did not have an active Fifth Column. It must also recognize that capitalism has since been restored in the Soviet Union, on the initiative of leading members of the Party bureaucracy, and so it is hardly fantastical or merely paranoid to think that such a thing was possible. The key question about the purges is whether there was a better way to prevent either a Nazi victory or the restoration of capitalism. And the answer to that question probably lies in the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-67. Instead of relying on courts and police exiles and executions, the Chinese mobilized hundreds of ‘millions of people to exposé and defeat the emerging Party bureaucracy that was quietly restoring capitalism and actively collaborating with the great imperialist power to the north. But while doing this, they carefully studied Stalin, both for his achievements and for what he was unable to do. For Stalin himself had seen as early as 1928 the need to mobilize mass criticism from below to overcome the rapidly developing Soviet bureaucracy. It is also possible that the two goals the purges tuned to meet were mutually exclusive. That is, the emergency measures necessary to secure the country against foreign invasion may actually have helped the bureaucracy to consolidate its power.

In any event, when the Nazis and their allies did invade they met the most united and fierce resistance encountered by the fascist forces anyplace in the world. Everywhere the people were dedicated to socialism. Even in the Ukraine where the Nazis tried to foment old grievances and anti-Russian nationalism, they never dared meddle with the collective farms. In fact, Stalin’s military strategy in World War II like his strategy during the Russian Civil War was based firmly on the loyalty of the masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers.

Everybody, except for Khrushchev and his friends, who in 1956 tried to paint Stalin as a military incompetent and meddler, recognizes him as a great strategist. ‘

Nazi military strategy was based on the blitzkrieg (lightning war). Spearheaded by highly mobile armor, their way paved by massive air assaults, the Nazi army would break through any static line at a single point, and then spread out rapidly behind that line, cutting off its supplies and then encircling the troops at the front. On April 9, 1940, the Nazis, vastly outnumbered, opened their assault on the combined forces of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain. By June 4, virtually the last of these fighting forces had been evacuated in panic from Dunkirk and each of the continental countries lay under a fascist power, the victim of blitzkrieg combined with internal betrayal. Having secured his entire western front, and then with air power alone having put the great maritime power Britain into a purely defensive position, Hitler could now move his crack armies and his entire air force into position to annihilate the Soviet Union.

The first step was to consolidate Axis control in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania were already fascist allies. Italy had overrun Albania. By early April 1941 Greece and Yugoslavia were occupied. Crete was seized in May. On June 22, the greatest invasion of all time was hurled at the Soviet heartland.

One hundred seventy-nine German divisions, twenty-two Romanian divisions, fourteen Finnish divisions, thirteen Hungarian divisions, ten Italian divisions, one Slovak division, and one Spanish division, a total of well over three million troops, the best armed and most experienced in the world, attacked along a 2,000-mile front, aiming their spearheads directly at Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. Instead of holding a line, the Red Army beat an orderly retreat, giving up space for time. Behind them they left nothing but scorched earth and bands of guerrilla fighters, constantly harassing the lengthening fascist supply lines. Before the invaders reached industrial centers such as Kharkov and Smolensk, the workers of these cities disassembled their machines and carried them beyond the Ural Mountains, where production of advanced Soviet tanks, planes, and artillery was to continue throughout the war.

The main blow was aimed directly at the capital, Moscow, whose outskirts were reached by late fall. Almost all the government offices had been evacuated to the east. But Stalin remained in the capital, where he assumed personal command of the war. On December 2, 1941, the Nazis were stopped in the suburbs of Moscow. On December 6, Stalin ordered the first major counterattack to occur in World War II. The following day, Japan, which had wisely decided against renewing their invasion of the Soviet Union, attacked Pearl Harbor.

From December until May the Red Army moved forward, using a strategy devised by Stalin. Instead of confronting the elite Nazi corps head on, the Red forces would divide into smaller units and then move to cut off the fascist supply lines, thus encircling and capturing the spearheads of the blitzkrieg.

This was the ideal counterstrategy, but it depended on a high level of political loyalty, consciousness, and independence on the part of these small units. No capitalist army could implement this strategy. By the end of May 1942 Moscow was safe and the fascist forces had given ground in the Ukraine.

In the early summer, the Nazi forces, heavily reinforced, moved to seize Stalingrad and the Caucasus, thus cutting the Soviet Union in two. The greatest and perhaps the most decisive battle in history was now to take place. The siege of Stalingrad lasted from August 1942 until February 1943. As early as September, the Nazi forces, which were almost as large as the entire U.S. force at its peak in Vietnam, penetrated the city and were stopped only by house-to-house fighting.

But unknown to the Germans, because Soviet security was perfect, they were actually in a vast trap, personally designed by Stalin: A gigantic pincers movement had begun as soon as the fascist forces reached the city. In late November the two Soviet forces met and the trap snapped shut. From this trap 330,000 elite Nazi troops were never to emerge. In February 1943 the remnants, about 100,000 troops, surrendered.

The back of Nazi military power had been broken. The Red Army now moved onto a vast offensive which was not to stop before it had liberated all of Eastern and Central Europe and seized Berlin, the capital of the Nazi empire, in the spring of 1945.

It was the Soviet Union that had beaten the fascist army. The second front, which Great Britain and the U.S. had promised as early as 1942, was not to materialize until June 14, after it was clear that the Nazis had already been decisively defeated. In fact, the Anglo-American invasion was aimed more at stopping communism than defeating fascism. (This invasion took place during the same period that the British Army “liberated” Greece, which had already been liberated by the Communist-led Resistance.) For under Communist leadership, underground resistance movements, based primarily on the working class, had developed throughout Europe. Because the Communists, both from the Soviet Union and within the other European nations, were the leaders of the entire anti-fascist struggle, by the end of the war they had by far the largest parties in all the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as Italy and France, where the fascists’ power had been broken more by internal resistance than by the much-heralded Allied invasion. In fact, it is likely that if the Anglo-American forces had not invaded and occupied Italy and France, within a relatively short time the Communists would have been in power in both countries.

As soon as victory in Germany was assured, in May 1945, much of the Soviet Army began to make the 5,000-mile journey to face the Japanese Army. At Potsdam, July 17 to August 2, Stalin formally agreed to begin combat operations against Japan by August 8. On August 6, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, in what is now widely considered the opening shot of the so-called “Cold War” against the U.S.S.R. On August 8, the Red Army engaged the main Japanese force, which was occupying Manchuria. The Soviet Army swept forward, capturing Manchuria, the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Kuriles, and liberating, by agreement, the northern half of Korea. Except for the Chinese Communist battles with the Japanese, these Soviet victories were probably the largest land engagements in the entire war against Japan.

The Soviet Union had also suffered tremendously while taking the brunt of the fascist onslaught. Between twenty and twenty-five million Soviet citizens gave their lives in defense of their country and socialism. The industrial heartland lay in ruins. The richest agricultural regions had been devastated.

In addition to the seizure of many cities and the destruction of much of Moscow and Stalingrad, there was the desperate condition of Leningrad, which had withstood a massive, two-year Nazi siege.

Once again, the Soviet Union was to perform economic miracles. Between 1945 and 1950 they were to rebuild not only everything destroyed in the war, but vast new industries and agricultural resources. And all this was conducted under the threat of a new attack by the capitalist powers, led by the nuclear blackmail of the U.S., which opened up a worldwide “Cold War” against communism.

Spearheaded by British and rearmed Japanese troops, the French restored their empire in Indochina. U.S. troops occupied the southern half of Korea and established military bases throughout the Pacific. Europe itself became a vast base area for the rapidly expanding U.S. empire, which, despite its very minimal role in the war (or perhaps because of it), was to gain the greatest profit from it. One European showdown against the popular forces occurred in Greece.

Here we meet another “left” criticism of Stalin, similar to that made about his role in Spain but even further removed from the facts of the matter. As in the rest of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Communists had led and armed the heroic Greek underground and partisan fighters. In 1944 the British sent an expeditionary force commanded by General Scobie to land in Greece, ostensibly to aid in the disarming of the defeated Nazi and Italian troops. As unsuspecting as the comrades in Vietnam and Korea who were to be likewise ‘assisted’, the Greek partisans were slaughtered by their British allies who used tanks and planes in an all-out offensive, which ended in February 1945 with the establishment of a right-wing dictatorship under a restored monarchy. The British even rearmed and used the defeated Nazi “Security Battalions.” After partially recovering from this treachery, the partisan forces rebuilt then guerrilla apparatus and prepared to resist the combined forces of Greek fascism and Anglo-American imperialism. By late 1948 full-scale civil war raged, with the right-wing forces backed up by the intervention of U.S. planes, artillery, and troops. The Greek resistance had its back broken by another betrayal not at all by Stalin but by Tito, who closed the Yugoslav borders to the Soviet military supplies that were already hard put to reach the landlocked popular forces. This was one of the two main reasons why Stalin, together with the Chinese, led the successful fight to have the Yugoslav “Communist” Party officially thrown out of the international Communist movement.

Stalin understood very early the danger to the world revolution posed by Tito’s ideology, which served as a Trojan horse for U.S. Imperialism. He also saw that Tito’s revisionist ideas, including the development of a new bureaucratic ruling elite, were making serious headway inside the Soviet Union. In 1950, the miraculous postwar reconstruction was virtually complete, and the victorious Chinese revolution had decisively broken through the global anti-Communist encirclement and suppression campaign. At this point Stalin began to turn his attention to the most serious threat to the world revolution, the bureaucratic-technocratic class that had not only emerged inside the Soviet Union but had begun to pose a serious challenge to the leadership of the working class. In the last few years of his life, Joseph Stalin, whom the present rulers of the U.S.S.R. would like to paint as a mad recluse, began to open up a vigorous cultural offensive against the power of this new elite. “Marxism and Linguistics” and “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.” are milestones in this offensive, major theoretical works aimed at the new bourgeois authorities beginning to dominate various areas of Soviet thought.

In “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.,” published a few months before his death and intended to serve as a basis for discussion in the Nineteenth Party Congress of 1952, Stalin seeks to measure scientifically how far the Soviet Union had come in the development of socialism and how far it had to go to achieve communism. He criticizes two extreme tendencies in Soviet political economy: mechanical determinism and voluntarism. He sets this criticism within an international context where, he explains, the sharpening of contradictions among the capitalist nations is inevitable.

Stalin points out that those who think that objective laws, whether of socialist or capitalist political economy, can be abolished by will are dreamers. But he reserves his real scorn for those who make the opposite error, the technocrats who assert that socialism is merely a mechanical achievement of a certain level of technology and productivity, forgetting both the needs and the power of the people. He shows that when these technocrats cause “the disappearance of man as the aim of socialist production,” they arrive at the triumph of bourgeois ideology. These proved to be prophetic words.

In his final public speech, made to that Nineteenth Party Congress in 1952, Stalin explains a correct revolutionary line for the parties that have not yet led their revolutions. The victories of the world revolution have constricted the capitalist world, causing the decay of the imperialist powers. Therefore the bourgeoisie of the Western democracies inherit the banners of the defeated fascist powers, with whom they establish a world-wide alliance while turning to fascism at home and the would-be bourgeoisie of the neocolonial nations become merely their puppets. Communists then become the main defenders of the freedoms and progressive principles established by the bourgeoisie when they were a revolutionary class and defended by them until the era of their decay. Communists will lead the majority of people in their respective nations only when they raise and defend the very banners thrown overboard by the bourgeoisie-national independence and democratic freedoms. It is no Surprise that these final words of Stalin have been known only to the Cold War “experts” and have been expunged throughout the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe.

A few months after this speech, Stalin died. Very abruptly, the tide of revolution was temporarily reversed. Stalin’s death came in early March 1953. By that July, the new leaders of the Soviet Union forced the Korean people to accept a division of their nation and a permanent occupation of the southern half by US forces. A year later, they forced the victorious Viet Minh liberation army, which had thoroughly defeated the French despite massive U.S. aid, to withdraw from the entire southern half of that country, while the U.S. proclaimed that its faithful puppet, Ngo Dinh Diem, was now president of the fictitious nation of South Vietnam. When the Chinese resisted their global sellouts of the revolution, these new Soviet leaders first tried to destroy the Chinese economy, then tried to overthrow the government from within and when that failed, actually began aimed incursions by Russian troops under a policy of nuclear blackmail copied from the U.S. In Indonesia, the Soviet Union poured ammunition and spare parts into the right-wing military forces while they were massacring half a million Communists, workers, and peasants.

And so on, around the world. Meanwhile, internally, they restored capitalism as rapidly as they could. By the mid-1960s, unemployment had appeared in the Soviet Union for the first time since the first Five Year Plan. By the end of the 1960s, deals had been made with German, Italian, and Japanese capitalism for the exploitation of Soviet labor and vast Soviet resources.

From an anti-Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the great villains of history. While he lived, the Red forces consolidated their power in one country and then led what seemed to be an irresistible world-wide revolutionary upsurge. By the time he died, near hysteria reigned in the citadels of capitalism. In Washington, frenzied witch hunts tried to ferret out the Red menace that was supposedly about to seize control of the last great bastion of capitalism. All this changed, for the time being, after Stalin’s death, when the counterrevolutionary forces were able to seize control even within the Soviet Union.

From a Communist point of view, Stalin was certainly one of the greatest of revolutionary leaders. But still we must ask why it was that the Soviet Union could fall so quickly to a new capitalist class. For Communists, it is as vital to understand Stalin’s weaknesses and errors as it is to understand his historic achievements.

Stalin’s main theoretical and practical error lay in underestimating the bourgeois forces within the superstructure of Soviet society. It is ridiculous to pose the problem the way we customarily hear it posed: that the seeds of capitalist restoration were sown under Stalin. This assumes that the Soviet garden was a Communist paradise, totally free of weeds, which then somehow dropped in from the skies. Socialism, as Stalin saw more keenly than anybody before, is merely a transitional stage on the way to communism. It begins with the conquest of political power by the working class, but that is only a bare beginning. Next comes the much more difficult task of establishing socialist economic forms, including a high level of productivity based on collective labor. Most difficult of all is the cultural revolution, in which socialist ideas and attitudes, based on collective labor and the political power of the working people, overthrow the bourgeois world view, based on competition, ambition, and the quest for personal profit and power and portraying “human nature” as corrupt, vicious, and selfish, that is, as the mirror image of bourgeois man.

Stalin succeeded brilliantly in carrying through the political and economic revolutions. That he failed in consolidating the Cultural Revolution under the existing internal and external conditions can hardly be blamed entirely on him. He certainly saw the need for it, particularly when the time seemed most ripe to make it a primary goal, in the 1950s. But it must be admitted that he underestimated the threat posed by the new intelligentsia, as we see most strikingly in the “Report to the Eighteenth Party Congress,” where he unstintingly praises them and denies that they could constitute a new social class.

This error in theory led to an error in practice in which, despite his earlier calls for organizing mass criticism from below, he tended to rely on one section of the bureaucracy to check or defeat another. He was unwilling to unleash a real mass movement like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, as a result, the masses were made increasingly less capable of carrying out such a gigantic task. All this is easy to say in hindsight, now that we have the advantage of having witnessed the Chinese success, which may prove to be the most important single event in human history. But who would have had the audacity to recommend such a course in the face of the Nazi threat of the late 1930s or the U.S. threat after World War II, when the Soviet Union lay in ruins? In 1967, when the Chinese Cultural Revolution was at its height and the country was apparently in chaos, many revolutionaries around the world were dismayed. Certainly, they acknowledged, China had to have a cultural revolution. But not at that moment, when the Vietnamese absolutely needed that firm rear base area and when U.S. imperialism was apparently looking for any opening to smash China. And so it must have looked to Stalin, who postponed the Soviet Cultural Revolution until it was too late.

It is true that socialism in the Soviet Union has been reversed. But Stalin must be held primarily responsible not for its failure to achieve communism but rather for its getting as far along the road as it did. It went much further than the “left” and the right Opposition, the capitalists, and almost everybody in the world thought possible. It went far enough to pass the baton to a fresher runner, the workers and peasants of China, who, studying and emulating Stalin, have already gone even further, as we are beginning to see.

Why Yugoslavia was Expelled from the Cominform

mapa-de-yugoslavia

“After prolonged discussion the Information Bureau adopted a resolution Concerning the Situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia which was made public by press and radio. The resolution contained a series of profound criticisms of the policy of the Yugoslav Communist leadership, and above all of the four figures who in a literal sense dominated the Party—Tito, Kardelj, Djilas and Rankovic.

The Main Criticisms

The Resolution state that in the recent period preceding the meeting of the Communist Information Bureau the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party had: “pursued an incorrect line on the main questions of home and foreign policy, a line which represents a departure from Marxism-Leninism.”

It approved the action of the C.P.S.U.(B) which had taken the initiative in expoising the incorrect policy.

It pointed out that in a whole number of ways the Yugoslav Communist leaders had been pursuing an unfriendly policy towards the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It revealed that, for instance, slanders were being spread about the Soviet military experts who were visiting Yugoslavia on the invitation of the Yugoslav authorities, that a “special regime” had been instituted for Soviet civilian experts in Yugoslavia, who were being watched and followed by Yugoslav security police, that representatives of the Information Bureau in Yugoslavia, like Yudin, the Editor of its journal For a Lasting Peace, for a People’s Democracy, were being shadowed by secret police, and that similer treatment was being dealt out to official Soviet representatives in Yugoslavia. Yugoslav Party and Government statements on the U.S.S.R. And the C.P.S.U.(B) remained friendly on the surface and were expressed in terms of gratitutde and admiration. But at the same time anti-Soviet propaganda was being spread inside the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party: there was talk of the “degeneration” of the Soviet Union and of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, these slanders being couched in the old language of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism.

The resolution outlined three ways in which Tito, Kardelj, Djilas, Rankovic and other Yugoslav leaders were rejecting the experience of the international labour movement, and above all the experience of building socialism in the U.S.S.R., and were turning from both the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism.

(1) They were putting forward a theory of a smooth and peaceful transition to socialism, in the style and tradition of the Mensheviks and of Ramsay Macdonald.

“They deny that there is a growth of capitalist elements in their country and consequently a sharpening of the class struggle in the countryside.”

(2) They were refusing to recognise any class differentiation among the peasantry. Yet if their aim of building socialism was a sincere one, they would have had to differentiate, both in theory and practice, in their attitude towards different categories of peasants.

“The Yugoslav leaders are pursuing an incorrect policy in the countryside by ignoring the class differtientation in the countryside and by regarding the individual peasants as a single entity, contrary to the well-known Leninist thesis that small, individual farming gives birth to capitalism and the bourgeoisie, continually, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale.”

(3) They were rejecting, both in theory and practice, what had been taught consistently by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, and confirmed by the whole history of the working-class movement, that the working class is the only consistently revolutionary class, and that only under its leadership can the transition to socialism be realised.

“Concerning the leading role of the working class, the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party, by affirming that the peasantry is the ‘most stable foundation of the Yugoslav State,’ are departing from the Marxist-Leninist path and are taking the path of a populist, kulak Party.”

The resolution then proceeded to criticise in the severest terms the conception of the role and organisation of the Communist Party itself, revealed in the theory and practice of the Yugoslav Communist Party.

It showed how the Party was being dissolved into the wide Popular Front organisation:

“In Yugoslavia…the People’s Front, and not the Communist Party, is considered to be the main leading force in the country. The Yugoslav leaders belittle the role of the Communist Party and actually dissolve the Party into the non-Party People’s Front.”

Inside the Party what the resolution called a “Turkish regime,” a system of military despotism exercised by a small power-group from above, had replaced the Marxist-Leninist principles of democratic centralism. A system of issuing commands from above, which had to be obeyed without questioning or discussion, had replaced criticism and self-criticism within the Party:

“There is no inner Party democracy, no elections and no criticism and self-criticism in the Party.”

Far from heeding the criticisms of the C.P.S.U.(B) and of the other fraternal Communist Parties, the Yugoslav leaders witheld this criticism from their own members, took it as an insult and rudely rejected it without discussion:

“Instead of honestly accepting this criticism and taking the Bolshevik path of correcting these mistakes, the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, suffering from boundless ambition, arrogance and conceit, met this criticism with belligerance and hostility.”

The resolution made it quite clear that the Yugoslav Communist Party was not expelled from the Communist Information Bureau because of its mistakes and incorrect policy. Any individual, Communist Party branch or even Central Committee can make mistakes. It was not even expelled because it would not accept the criticisms made. It often takes time, a prolonged period of deep discussion, for a Party organisation or member to come to understand and correct a mistaken policy.

But to refuse to discuss criticisms made by some of the most leading and experienced Communists in the world, above all the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to withold those criticisms from the membership, to refuse to come and meet with the representatives of the other eight Communist Parties, was a course of action which could not but place the Yugoslav Communist leadership outside the family of Communist Parties:

“…the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia have places themselves in opposition to the Communist Parties affiliated to the Information Bureau, have taken the path of seceding from the united socialist front against imperialism, have taken the path of betraying the cause of international solidarity of the working people, and have taken up a position of nationalism…the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia has placed itself and the Yugoslav Party outside the family of the fraternal Communist Parties, outside the united Communist front, and consequently outside the ranks of the Information Bureau.”

The resolution closed with a stern warning. Nationalist elements, previously disguised, has in the course of the first half of 1948 reached controlling positions in the leadership of the Yugoslav Party. The Party had broken with its international traditions and taken the road of bourgeois nationalism. Tito, Kardelj, Djilas, Rankovic and their group were hoping to curry favour with the Western imperialists by making concessions to them. They were putting forward the bourgeois nationalist thesis that “capitalist states are a lesser danger to the independence of Yugoslavia than the Soviet Union.” They were turning from friendship with the U.S.S.R. And looking westwards. Such conduct could only have one end:

“…such a nationalist line can only lead to Yugoslavia’s degeneration into an ordinary bourgeois republic, to the loss of its independence and to its transformation into a colony of the imperialist countries.”

This warning seemed harsh to some people at the time. But in the three years that have elapsed since the first publication, it has been confirmed in every detail. The logic of history is inescapable. Between the camp of peace and the camp of war there is no third path. And the nationalist policy of Tito’s gang led straight to the camp of reaction.

 – James Klugmann, “From Trotsky to Tito,” page 8-11.

Words of Wisdom from Niccolò Machiavelli

Portrait_of_Niccolò_Machiavelli_by_Santi_di_Tito

“It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate their enterprise, have they to use prayers or can they use force? In the first instance they always succeed badly, and never compass anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then they are rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed.”

“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.”

 — Niccolò Machiavelli, “The Prince”

Anna Louise Strong: “Stalin”

Anna Louise Strong 1913_UWDigital

by Anna Louise Strong

The Soviets Expected It, The Dial Press, New York, 1941, pp. 46-64

YEARS AGO, when I first lunched with President Roosevelt just after he had seen H. G. Wells, I found that of all the subjects in the Soviet Union the one that interested him the most was the personality of Stalin and especially the technique of “Stalin’s rule.” It is a natural interest; I think it interests most Americans. The unbroken rise of Stalin’s prestige for twenty years both within the Soviet Union and beyond its borders is really worth attention by students of politics.

Yet most of the American press brags of its ignorance of Stalin by frequently alluding to the “enigmatic ruler in the Kremlin.” Cartoons and innuendo have been used to create the legend of a crafty, bloodthirsty dictator who even strives to involve the world in war and chaos so that something called “Bolshevism” may gain. This preposterous legend will shortly die. It was based on the fact that most American editors couldn’t really afford to understand the Soviet Union, and that Stalin himself was usually inaccessible to foreign journalists. Men who had hit the high spots around the world and chatted cozily with Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Chiang Kai-shek were irritated when Josef Stalin wouldn’t give them time. The fact of the matter was that Stalin was busy with a job to which foreign contacts and publicity did not contribute. His job, like that of a Democratic National Chairman, was organizing the ruling party and through it the country.

Since the German-Soviet war began, Stalin has become chief of the army and government. He will see more foreigners now. He made a good beginning with Harry Hopkins and W. Averell Harriman. They seem to have been impressed! I know how they were impressed for I also met Stalin. In the light of the impressions that leading Americans and Britons are now going to have of him, the legend of the inscrutable dictator will die. We may even come to hear Stalin spoken of, as a Soviet writer once described him, as “the world’s great democrat”!

When I met Stalin, I did not find him enigmatic. I found him the easiest person to talk to I ever met. He is far and away the best committee chairman of my experience. He can bring everybody’s views out and combine them in the minimum of time. His method of running committees reminded me somewhat of Jane Addams of Hull House or Lillian D. Wald of Henry Street Settlement. They had the same kind of democratically efficient technique, but they used more high pressure than Stalin did.

If Stalin has been inaccessible to foreigners—there were exceptions even to this—that does not mean that he lived in isolation, in a sort of Kremlin ivory tower. There were close to 200,000,000 people keeping him busy. He was seeing a lot of them. Not always necessarily the party leaders. A milkmaid who had broken the milking record, a scientist who had broken the atom, an aviator who flew to America, a coal miner who invented a new labor process, a workman with a housing difficulty, an engineer balked by new conditions—any person representing either a signal achievement or a typical problem might be invited by Stalin to talk it over. That was the way he got his data and kept in touch with the movement of the country.

That, I realized afterwards, was why Stalin saw me. For nearly ten years I had liked his country and tried to succeed there, for nearly two I had organized and tried to edit a little weekly newspaper for other Americans who had come to work for the Five Year Plan. And what with censorship, red tape, and what seemed the wanton emergence of another competing weekly, I wanted to give up. My editor-in-chief was practically blackmailing me that, if I resigned, he would ruin my reputation. Exhausted and angry, I was feeling trapped. A Russian friend suggested that I complain to Stalin. I did. Three days later his office called me up and suggested that I come down and talk it over with “some responsible comrades.” It was done so casually that I almost refused, for the editor-in-chief had finally agreed to my resignation and I was “through with it all.” But I felt that after sending that letter it was only polite to go.

I expected to see some fairly high official at the party headquarters, and was rather stunned when the auto drove straight to the Kremlin and especially when I entered a large conference room and saw not only Stalin rising to greet me, but Kaganovich and Voroshilov too! It seemed overwhelmingly disproportionate. Later I realized that it was not my little problem that chiefly concerned them. I was one of several thousand Americans who had begun to worry them. We had come to the Soviet Union to work in its industries. We were reasonably honest and efficient, but we couldn’t make good. Stalin wanted to know what was the matter with us in our adjustment to Soviet industry. By investigating my troubles he would learn what made us Americans click, or more often not click, in the Soviet land. But if he learned about Americans from me, I learned from him something equally important—how the Soviet Union is put together and how Stalin works.

My first impression of him was vaguely disappointing. A stocky figure in a simple suit of khaki color, direct, unassuming, whose first concern was to know whether I understood Russian sufficiently to take part in discussion. Not very imposing for so great a man, I thought. Then we sat down rather casually, and Stalin was not even at the head of the table; Voroshilov was. Stalin took a place where he could see all our faces and started the talk by a pointed question to the man against whom I had complained. After that Stalin seemed to become a sort of background, against which other people’s comments went on. The brilliant wit of Kaganovich, the cheerful chuckle of Voroshilov, the characteristics of the lesser people called to consult, all suddenly stood out. I began to understand them all and like them; I even began to understand the editor against whom I had complained. Suddenly I myself was talking and getting my facts out faster and more clearly than I ever did in my life. People seemed to agree with me. Everything got to the point very fast and smoothly, with Stalin saying less than anyone.

Afterward in thinking it over I realized how Stalin’s genius for listening helped each of us express ourselves and understand the others. I recalled his trick of repeating a word of mine either with questioning intonation or a slight emphasis, which suddenly made me feel I had either not quite seen the point or perhaps had overstated it, and so drove me to make it plainer. I recalled how he had done this to others also. Then I understood that his listening has been a dynamic force.

This listening habit dates back to the early days of his revolutionary career. “I remember him very well from the early days of our Party,” said a veteran Bolshevik to me. “A quiet youth who sat at the edge of the committee, saying almost nothing, but listening very much. Toward the end he would make a few comments, sometimes merely as questions. Gradually we came to see that he always summed up best our joint thinking.” The description will be recognized by anyone who ever met Stalin. In any group he is usually last to express his opinion. He does not want to block the full expression of others, as he might easily do by speaking first. Besides this, he is always learning by listening.

“He listens even to the way the grass grows,” said a Soviet citizen to me.

On the data thus gathered, Stalin forms conclusions, not “alone in the night,” which Emil Ludwig said was Mussolini’s way, but in conference and discussion. Even in interviews, he seldom receives the interviewer alone; Molotov, Voroshilov, or Kaganovich are likely to be about. Probably he does not even grant an interview without discussing it first with his closest comrades. This is a habit he formed very early. In the days of the underground revolutionary movement, he grew accustomed to close teamwork with comrades who held each other’s lives in their hands. In order to survive, they must learn to agree quickly and unanimously, to feel each other’s instincts, to guess even at a distance each other’s brains. It was in such a group that he gained his Party name—it is not the one that he was born with—“the Steel One, Stalin.”

If I should explain Stalin to politicians, I should call him a superlatively good committeeman. Is this too prosaic a term for the leader of 200,000,000 people? I might call him instead a farseeing statesman; this also is true. Put more important than Stalin’s genius is the fact that it is expressed through good committee work. His talent for co-operative action is more significant for the world than the fact that he is great.

Soviet people have a way of putting it which sounds rather odd to Americans. “Stalin does not think individually,” they say. It is the exact opposite of the “rugged individualist” ideal. But they mean it as the very highest compliment. They mean that Stalin thinks not only with his own brain but in consultation with the brains of the Academy of Science, the chiefs of industry, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Party leaders. Scientists use this way of thinking; so do good trade unionists. They do not “think individually”; they do not rely on the conclusions of a single brain. It is a highly useful characteristic, for no single human brain today is big enough to decide the world’s complex problems. Only the combination of many brains thinking together, not in conflict but in co-operation, can safely handle the problems of today.

Stalin himself has said this a score of times to various interviewers. When Emil Ludwig and, later, Roy Howard sought to learn “how the great dictator made up his mind,” Stalin told them: “Single persons cannot decide. Experience has shown us that individual decisions, uncorrected by others, contain a large percentage of error.”

Soviet people never speak of “Stalin’s will” or “Stalin’s orders”; they speak of “government orders” and “the Party line,” which are decisions produced collectively. But they speak very much of “Stalin’s method” as a method that everyone should learn. It is the method of getting swift decisions out of the brains of many people, the method of good committee work. It is studied carefully in the Soviet Union by bright young men who go in for politics.

For me, the method was emphasized again in the days that immediately followed that first conference. It had seemed to me that Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, and everybody else had agreed on a certain action. Then the days went by and frothing happened, till the conference seemed almost a dream. I confided my worry to a Russian acquaintance. He laughed.

“That is our ‘terrible democracy,’” he told me. “Of course, your affair is really settled, but technically it must be approved by all the members of the Political Bureau, some of whom are in the Caucasus and some in Leningrad. It will go as routine with a lot of other decisions and none of them will bother about your question because they know nothing about it. But this is our usual safeguard for anyone of the members may wish to add or change something in some decision. That decision will then go back to committee till all are satisfied.”

Stalin brings certain important qualities to these joint decisions. People who meet him are first of all impressed by his directness and simplicity, his swift approach. Next they notice his clearness and objectivity in handling questions. He completely lacks Hitler’s emotional hysteria and Mussolini’s cocky self-assertion; he does not thrust himself into the picture. Gradually one becomes aware of his keen analysis, his colossal knowledge, his grip of world politics, his willingness to face facts, and especially his long view, which fits the problem into history, judging not only its immediate factors, but its past and future too.

Stalin’s rise to power came rather slowly. The rise of his type is slow and sure. It began far back with his study of human history and especially the history of revolutions. President Roosevelt commented to me with surprise on Stalin’s knowledge of the Cromwellian Revolution in Britain as shown in his talk with H. G. Wells. But Stalin quite naturally studied both the British and the American historical revolutions far more intimately than British and American politicians do. Tsarist Russia was due for a revolution. Stalin intended to be in it and help give it form. He made himself a thorough scientist on the process of history from the Marxian viewpoint: how the masses of people live, how their industrial technique and social forms develop, how social classes arise and struggle, how they succeed. Stalin analyzed and compared all past revolutions. He wrote many books about them. But he is not only a scientist; he also acts.

In the early days of the Revolution, Stalin’s name was hardly known outside the Party. In 1923, during Lenin’s last illness, I was told by men whose judgment I trusted that Stalin was “our coming man.” They based this on his keen knowledge of political forces and his close attention to political organization as secretary of the Communist Party. They also based it on his accurate timing of swift action and said that thus far in the Revolution he hid not once guessed wrong. They said that he was the man to whom “responsible Party men” turned for the clearest statement of what they all thought., In those days Trotsky sneered at Stalin as the “most average man” in the Party. In a sense it was true. Stalin keeps close to the “average man”; the “average man” is the material of politics. But Stalin does it with a genius that is very far from average.

“The art of leadership,” said Stalin once, “is a serious matter. One must not lag behind the movement, because to do so is to become isolated from the masses. But one must not rush ahead, for this is to lose contact with the masses.” He was telling his comrades how to become leaders; he was also expressing his own ideal, which he has very effectively practiced.

Twenty years ago in the Russian civil war, Stalin’s instinct for the feeling of the common people more than once helped the Soviet armies to victory. The best known of these moments was the dispute between Stalin and Trotsky about an advance through the North Caucasus. Trotsky wanted to take the shortest military route. Stalin pointed out that this shortcut lay across the unfriendly lands of the Cossacks and would in the end prove longer and bloodier. He chose a somewhat roundabout way through working-class cities and friendly farming regions, where the common people rose to help the Red Armies instead of opposing them. The contrast was typical; it has been illustrated since then by twenty years of history. Stalin is completely at home in the handling of social forces, as is shown by his call today for a “people’s war” in the rear of the German Armies. He knows how to arouse the terrible force of an angry people, how to organize it and release it to gain the people’s desires.

The outside world began to hear of Stalin in the discussions that preceded the first Five Year Plan. (I wrote an article some five years earlier, predicting his rise as Lenin’s successor, but the article went unnoticed; it was several years too soon.) Russian workers outside the Communist Party began to think of Stalin as their leader during the first spectacular expansion of Soviet industry. He first became a leader among the peasants in March, 1930, through his famous article,“Dizziness from Success,” in which he checked the abuses that were taking place in farm collectivization. I have described its effect on the rural districts in the preceding chapter. I remember Walter Duranty waving that article at me and saying, “At last there is a leader in this land!”

Stalin’s great moment when he first appeared as leader of the whole Soviet people was when, as Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, he presented the new Constitution of the Socialist State. A commission of thirty-one of the country’s ablest historians, economists, and political scientists had been instructed to create “the world’s most democratic constitution” with the most accurate machinery yet devised for obtaining “the will of the people.” They spent a year and a half in detailed study of every past constitution in the world, not only of governments but of trade unions and voluntary societies. The draft that they prepared was then discussed by the Soviet people for several months in more than half a million meetings attended by 36,500,000 people. The number of suggested amendments that reached the Constitutional Commission from the popular discussions was 154,000. Stalin himself is known to have read tens of thousands of the people’s letters.

Two thousand people sat in the great white hall of the Kremlin Palace when Stalin made his report to the Congress of Soviets. Below me, where I sat in the journalists’ box, was the main floor filled with the Congress deputies; around me in the loges sat the foreign diplomatic corps; behind me, in a deep gallery, were citizen-visitors. Outside the hall tens of millions of people listened over the radio, from the southern cotton fields of Central Asia to the scientific stations on the Arctic coast. It was a high point of Soviet history. But Stalin’s words were direct and simple and as informal as if he sat at a fireside talking with a few friends. He explained the significance of the Constitution, took up the suggested amendments, referred a large number of them to various lawmaking bodies and himself discussed the most important. He made it plain that everyone of those 154,000 suggestions had been classified somewhere and would influence something.

Among the dozen or more amendments which Stalin personally discussed, he approved of those that facilitated democratic expression and disapproved of those that limited democracy. Some people felt, for instance, that the different constituent republics should not be granted the right to secede from the Soviet Union; Stalin said that, while they probably would not want to secede, their right to do so should be constitutionally guaranteed as an assertion of democracy. A fairly large number of people wanted to refuse political rights to the priests lest they influence politics unduly. “The time has come to introduce universal suffrage without limitations,” said Stalin, arguing that the Soviet people were now mature enough to know their own minds.

More important for us today than constitutional forms, or even the question of how they work, was one very significant note in Stalin’s speech. He ended by a direct challenge to the growing Nazi threat in Europe. Speaking on November 25, 1936, before Hitlerism was seriously opposed by any European government, Stalin called the new Soviet Constitution “an indictment against Fascism, an indictment which says that Socialism and Democracy are invincible.”

In the years since the Constitutional Congress, Stalin’s own personality began to be more widely known. His picture and slogans became so prominent in the Soviet Union that foreigners found this “idolatry” forced and insincere. Most Soviet folk of my acquaintance really do feel tremendous devotion to Stalin as the man who has built their country and led it to success. I have even known people to make a temporary change of residence just before election day in order to have the chance to vote for Stalin directly in the district where he was running, instead of for the less exciting candidate from their own district.

No information about Stalin’s home life is ever printed in Soviet newspapers. By Russian tradition, everybody, even a political leader, is entitled to the privacy of his personal life. A very delicate line divides private life from public work. When Stalin’s wife died, the black-bordered death notices in the paper mentioned her by her own name, which was not Stalin’s, listed her work and connection with various public organizations, and the fact that she was “the friend and comrade of Stalin.” They did not mention that she was his wife. The fact that she worked with him and might influence his decisions as a comrade was a public matter; the fact that she was married to him was their own affair. Some time later, he was known to have married again, but the press never mentioned it.

Glimpses of Stalin’s personal relations come chiefly through his contacts with picturesque figures who have helped make Soviet history. Valery Chkalov, the brilliant aviator who made the first flight across the North Pole from Moscow to America, told of an afternoon that he spent at Stalin’s summer home from four o’clock till after midnight. Stalin sang many Volga songs, put on gramophone records for the younger people to dance, and generally behaved like a normal human being relaxing in the heart of his family. He said he had learned the songs in his Siberian exile when there wasn’t much to do but sing.

The three women aviators who broke all world records for women by their spectacular flight from Moscow to the Far East were later entertained at an evening party at the Kremlin in their honor. One of them, Raskova, related afterwards how Stalin had joked with them about the prehistoric days of the matriarchate when women ruled human society. He said that in the early days of human development women had created agriculture as a basis for society and progress, while men “only hunted and went to war.” After a reference to the long subsequent centuries of woman’s slavery, Stalin added, “Now these three women come to avenge the heavy centuries of woman’s suppression.”

The best tale, I think, is that about Marie Demchenko, because it shows Stalin’s idea of leaders and of how they are produced. Marie was a peasant woman who came to a farm congress in Moscow and made a personal pledge to Stalin, then sitting on the platform, that her brigade of women would produce twenty tons of beets per acre that year. It was a spectacular promise, since the average yield in the Ukraine was about five tons. Marie’s challenge started a competition among the Ukrainian sugar beet growers; it was featured by the Soviet press. The whole country followed with considerable excitement Marie’s fight against a pest of moths. The nation watched the local fire department bring twenty thousand pails of water to the field to beat the drought. They saw that gang of women weed the fields nine times and clear them eight times of insects. Marie finally got twenty-one tons per acre, while the best of her competitors got twenty-three.

That harvest was a national event. So Marie’s whole gang went to Moscow to visit Stalin at the autumn celebration. The newspapers treated them like movie stars and featured their conversation. Stalin asked Marie what she most wanted as a reward for her own good record and for stirring up all the other sugar beet growers. Marie replied that she had wanted most of all to come to Moscow and see “the leaders.”

“But now you yourselves are leaders,” said Stalin to Marie.

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but we wanted to see you anyway.” Her final request, which was granted, was to study in an agricultural university.

When the German war was launched against the Soviet Union, many foreigners were surprised that Stalin did not make a speech to arouse the people at once. Some of our more sensational papers assumed that Stalin had fled! Soviet people knew that Stalin trusted them to do their jobs and that he would sum the situation up for them as soon as it crystallized. He did it at dawn on July 3 in a radio talk. The words with which he began were very significant.

“Comrades! Citizens!” he said, as he has said often. Then he added, “Brothers and Sisters!” It was the first time Stalin ever used in public those close family words. To everyone who heard them, those words meant that the situation was very serious, that they must now face the ultimate test together and that they must all be closer and dearer to each other than they had ever been before. It meant that Stalin wanted to put a supporting arm across their shoulders, giving them strength for the task they had to do. This task was nothing less than to accept in their own bodies the shock of the most hellish assault of history, to withstand it, to break it, and by breaking it save the world. They knew they had to do it, and Stalin knew they would.

Stalin made perfectly plain that the danger was grave, that the German armies had taken most of the Baltic states, that the struggle would be very costly, and that the issues were between “freedom or slavery, life or death to the Soviet State.” He told them: “The enemy is cruel and implacable. He is out to seize our lands, watered with our sweat . . . to convert our peoples into the slaves of German princes and barons.” He called upon the “daring initiative and intelligence that are inherent in our people,” which he himself for more than twenty years had helped to create. He outlined in some detail the bitter path they should follow, each in his own region, and said that they would find allies among the freedom-loving peoples of the world. Then he summoned them “forward—to victory.”

Erskine Caldwell, reporting that dawn from Moscow, said that tremendous crowds stood in the city squares listening to the loud speakers, “holding their breath in such profound silence that one could hear every inflection of Stalin’s voice.” Twice during the speech, even the sound of water being poured into a glass could be heard as Stalin stopped to drink. For several minutes after Stalin had finished the silence continued. Then a motherly-looking woman said, “He works so hard, I wonder when he finds time to sleep. I am worried about his health.”

That was the way that Stalin took the Soviet people into the test of war.

Source

Book Review: Bruce Cumings’ North Korea: Another Country

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BY SOPHIA SOLIVIO

Bruce Cumings is the Chairperson of the History Department and Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College at the University of Chicago. In 1975, he received his PhD from Columbia University. Cumings’ professional and academic credentials make his compilation of complaints primarily in regard to the United States’ foreign and domestic policies and his fundamental admiration for North Korea in North Korea: Another Country (2004) especially grating to read because presumably he has the professional experience and academic training to produce a more informative, engaging book about North Korea for the general reader.

Cumings has written well-received scholarly books on Korean history, especially the Korean War. With North Korea: Another Country, however, he does not intend to write for other academics. Instead, he focuses on a readership with little or no familiarity with the history of North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Korean peninsula, and United States–Korea relations. By the end of Cumings’ 256-page book, that readership may have learned more about the aforementioned topics, but only tangentially and selectively. Unfortunately, Cumings has written a book sidetracked by his supercilious attitude.

In North Korea: Another Country, Cumings seeks to educate “the reader who wishes to learn about our eternal enemy” and wonders “if Americans can ever transcend their own experience and join a world of profound difference.” To help curious readers, even Americans, willingly enter his “world of profound difference,” the author divides the book into six chapters beginning with the brutality, particularly of the United States, during the Korean War and its continuous influence on North Korea; the history of North Korea’s nuclear program and the apparent intransigence of North Korea–United States negotiations over the former’s denuclearization; Kim Il Sung’s life, his fight for an independent Korea, and the appeal of anti-imperialism to North Koreans and Koreans overall; the history of daily life in the northern half of the Korean peninsula and the DPRK; Kim Jong Il’s life and dynamism as a leader; and the crises in North Korea, including floods, droughts, famine, and the collapse of its energy system, following the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994.

Throughout the six chapters, Cumings basically covers the modern history of north Korea and its relations with the United States to show that, contrary to Western narratives about the DPRK, the country is dynamic rather than static and more rational than not. Cumings’ objective, to increase public awareness of North Korea as a somewhat knowable country and to combat perceptions of North Korea as a hopelessly backward, mysterious country, is very worthwhile and admirable. His execution of that objective maybe well-intentioned, but it is also meandering and overbearing. Often, Cumings seems more interested in using North Korea as a lens through which to contemptuously mention and criticize the United States and whatever or whoever else annoys him; this habit frequently detracts from his attempts to educate others as completely as possible, about North Korea.

For example, early on Cumings notes a 1999 CIA study that according to him, “almost grudgingly acknowledged various achievements of this regime: compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing; free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” Rather than clarify whether the CIA study “grudgingly acknowledged various achievements” of the North Korean government in a vacuum, in comparison to other Communist states, or even South Korea, Cumings appears to reference the study mainly to underscore the hypocrisy of the United States, where the government and the press relentlessly pigeonholes North Korea as “our” evil Oriental enemy as, at one point, the CIA documents positive socioeconomic developments in North Korea.

Cumings does not bother to examine, point by point, the trajectory of North Korea’s early achievements in social welfare and gender equality. North Korea’s “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular” led to the creation of Mangyondae Revolutionary School, initially chiefly for the education of the next generation’s political elite, the children whose parents died in the Korean War. In addition, in contrast to South Korea’s post-Korean War policy of “exporting” orphans, resulting in approximately 150,000 adopted ethnic Koreans in more than 20 Western countries, Kim Il Sung encouraged domestic adoption of the country’s war orphans although from 1951–52 at least, an estimated 2,500 North Korean war orphans were adopted in several Eastern European Communist countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia, as well as Hungary and Mongolia. However, the recent famine also contributed to the creation of 200,000 orphans, many becoming ‘kotchebis’ or “ wandering swallows,” street urchins living off black markets in North Korea and/or relying on crossing into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in order to scavenge for food.

Also, while North Korea for instance, on July 30, 1946 announced the enactment of the “Status on Gender Equality” with Clause I stating, “In all areas of the country’s economic, cultural and social political life, women have the same rights as men,” in terms of political power, as of 2001, women represented about 20% of the Supreme People’s Assembly, all in symbolic posts. In 1990, there were only 14 women members of 328 members in the policy-making Central Committee and the Alternative Members of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. In addition, in the mid-1980s, North Korean defectors claimed about 60–70% of women quit their jobs after marriage.

Yet at the same time, North Korean women may have earned or earn more than 70% of the male income level. Notably, in 2010, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported South Korean women earned 38% less than the male income level and South Korea had the largest income gender gap in the developed world. Similarly, a Beijing Broadcast Agency report on March 6, 1988 announced a gradual increase in the number of highly educated women professionals in North Korea from the 1970s-80s. In 1963, 43,000 of about 294,000 specialists in North Korea were women. In the 1970s, there were 1,310,000 specialists in North Korea and 463,000 were women with about 220 having doctorate or semi-doctorate degrees. Most recently, in 1989, approximately 37% of the 1,350,000 specialists in North Korea are women. Women in North Korea then, are not brainwashed and incapable zombies for non-North Koreans, particularly Americans, to pity or scorn.

Cumings wants to humanize not only North Korean women, but North Koreans in general. Presumably, as a Westerner fortunate enough to have already entered the previously mentioned “world of profound difference,” he thinks and behaves just as, if not more, empathetically and respectfully toward North Koreans as anyone else. His characterization of his experience at the North Korean Museum of the Revolution, however, perfectly encapsulates the contrast between Cumings’ non-stop moralizing and his condescending tone throughout North Korea: Another Country. Commenting on one exhibit of gifts given to Kim Il Sung by foreign dignitaries, Cumings writes,

“My guide, a young woman whose English was less than fluent, paused in front of a glass-encased chimpanzee, and began to instruct me in a sing-song voice that ‘the Gleat Reader’ had received this taxidermic specimen from one Canaan Banana, vice president of Zimbabwe. I dissolved into hysterics and could not stop laughing as she continued to intone her mantra without dropping a single (mangled) syllable.”

Cumings is considered a “progressive” academic. His ostensible liberalism and unique ability to “transcend” his own experience does not make him a less dogmatic, petty person as demonstrated by his paragraph-long mockery of a North Korean woman’s English accent—obviously not up to his standards. Finally, Cumings presents himself as a person and a historian of Korean history (unable or unwilling to speak Korean fluently) who considers Korea and the United States equals culturally and socially, and in an ideal world, politically as well. Following the “cultural exchange” Cumings describes at the Museum of the Revolution, though, who had the privilege of publicly ridiculing and contributing to negative public perceptions of the “Other?” The young, female North Korean tour guide? Or Cumings, an older white guy with a comfortable job at a prestigious American university? …

Source

JFK secretly freed rapists, drug dealers and Mafia hitmen to kill Castro and curb threat of Communism, claims explosive new book

  • Revelations made by journalist Bill Deane in new book ‘Smooth Criminal’
  • It tells story of alleged CIA spy and ‘one-man crime wave’ Dave Riley
  • Claims criminals allowed on ‘crime sprees’ in US when not working for CIA
  • Deane: ‘Riley was typical recruit: Intelligent, ambitious and without morals’
  • While JFK did not order the programme, Deane says he was ‘aware’ of it

By MATT BLAKE

President John F. Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, a new book has claimed.

At the height of tensions between America and neighbouring Communist Cuba in the early 1960s, JFK was implicit in the freeing of rapists, drug dealers, and Mafia hitmen through CIA in a bid to recruit ‘untraceable’ spies willing to risk their lives on dangerous missions rather than go back to jail, a new book sensationally claims.

Desperate to remove Castro from power, the president resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’ as they couldn’t be linked back to his administration, it is claimed.

In one failed plot, an ex con was smuggled into Cuba in 1962 to pose as a waiter in Castro’s favourite restaurant where he would drop poison tablets into the revolutionary leader’s soup.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy appearing on television talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, experts have claimed.

Height of the Cold War: Desperate to remove Fidel Castro, right, from power, President John F. Kennedy, left, resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’

The explosive claims come in a new book by veteran American Journalist and author William Deane, who claims specially-recruited criminals became ‘untouchable’ and were allowed to embark on ‘crime sprees’ in the US without fear of prosecution.

Deane, former assignment editor at American news networks ABC and CBS, says he uncovered the programme – which he believes is still in operation today – after following the ‘trail of destruction’ left by one such operative.

Though JFK did not order the setting up of the top secret programme, Deane says that as president Kennedy would have ‘been aware’ of it.

‘For over 50 years, the CIA and American government has been systematically releasing dangerous criminals back into society to work for them on secret missions overseas,’ said Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley.

‘The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro, and was given the seal of approval by JFK – who was still smarting following the political embarrassment of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Journalist and author William Deane
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminal to assassinate Cubas President Castro and curb the Communist threat

‘One man American crime wave’: The details of the plot were revealed by veteran journalist and author William Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal, right, details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley

‘Criminals were ideal operatives as they were ruthless and willing to risk their lives during missions rather than be sent back to prison. They also couldn’t be officially connected with the CIA so it didn’t matter if they were captured – there was no risk of America’s shady policies being exposed.

‘Riley was a typical recruit. Highly intelligent, ambitious and with no morals. The CIA sent him on many missions abroad, including to Cuba to assassinate Castro,’ added Deane.

‘Between missions he was allowed to do what he liked – which generally consisted of embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning and drug dealing – without fear of being arrested or prosecuted.’

Warning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to 'do America's dirty work' with impunityWarning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to ‘do America’s dirty work’ with impunity

Deane claims to have first encountered Riley back in 1961 while working as a DJ at a radio station in Miami, Florida.

Riley, then in his early 20s and with ambitions of being the ‘next Frank Sinatra’, had connections with the Mafia and used his connections to ‘persuade’ the radio station to play his records.

Though they lost touch, Deane next heard of Riley in April 1962 when working as a cub reporter for a Miami TV station – after hearing he had hijacked a plane to Cuba.

According to news reports, on Friday, April 13, 1962, Riley and an accomplice had forced pilot Reginald Doan at gunpoint to fly them to the communist island, where they planned to defect, only for the Cuban authorities to imprison them before sending them back to Miami.

Deane says he was contacted by Riley prior to the Black Friday Skyjacking trial and during that meeting revealed that he was working for the CIA and had been sent to infiltrate Cuba as a spy.

‘The skyjacking was just a smokescreen conjured up by the CIA after the mission went wrong.

‘Riley confessed that he’d been recruited by the intelligence agency while in prison for extortion of a public official back in 1960, and had been sent to Cuba to carry out a number of assignments – including one to assassinate Castro.

‘He had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there.’

Deane admits that at first he thought that Riley was a ‘fantasist’ and, after the criminal was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the skyjacking by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1964, largely forgot about him.

Kennedy with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro.JFK with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro. but Deane claims the practice is still in use today

It was only after his retirement from CBS in 2005, when he started writing Smooth Criminal, that Deane discovered that Riley might have been telling the truth about the criminal operatives programme all along.

Deane traced Riley’s whereabouts from the time of the skyjacking trial onwards and found that far from serving his time in jail, he had apparently been back on the streets committing crimes within a matter of months.

The journalist uncovered over 40 newspaper reports of Riley’s various crimes in archives and gained further corroboration of his seeming invulnerability to prosecution after tracking down several of his victims.

He added: ‘Riley was a one-man crime wave who was allowed by the CIA, and indirectly the president, to consistently get away with his crimes in return for his occasional assistance.

‘In the late 1960s and early ’70s he went on undercover missions to Vietnam, Cambodia and other troubled South Asian countries, and back at home got away with embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning, drug dealing and sexual assault among other crimes.

Smoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro's (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tabletsSmoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there

‘He has left a string of victims across the USA over the last 40 years, but the police and FBI have been powerless to act because he is protected by the CIA. The agency maintains a policy of complete secrecy and doesn’t want to risk compromising operations by having one of their operatives involved in a public trial.

‘One unfortunate woman who came across Riley was swindled out of $20,000 – her life savings – and the deeds to several properties, but the police and Feds weren’t allowed to warn her, and weren’t allowed to stop him.’

Deane says that he has evidence of Riley living in New York in 2005, but after that the scene goes cold.

He claims requests for information from the FBI, CIA, Treasury and other government agencies were ignored and suspects Riley, now in his 70s, is either dead or has been placed into a Federal Witness Protection scheme to put him out of reach.

Deane says he doesn’t disapprove of America’s criminal operatives programme per se, but has written Smooth Criminal to warn the American public about the programme in case they become victims of ‘untouchables’ such as Riley.

He added: ‘America has lots of enemies and security has to be maintained if we are to prevent another 9/11 so I am not against a programme that helps protect the nation.

‘What I do object to is the CIA’s insistence on complete secrecy. The rationale that a few Americans have to suffer for the sake of 315 million is not acceptable.

‘It’s sad and pathetic that totally innocent Americans have lost virtually everything, including their homes and businesses, while the Feds stood by and did nothing but protect their released criminals.

‘The CIA should be capable of controlling freed criminals without exposing their clandestine operations, and if they can’t, should discretely warn potential victims to keep away from these people.’

Source

Leave it to the Market?

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For more than twenty years now, the “free market” has been the rallying cry of American politics. Conservatives sing its praises while occasionally betraying it when it suits their constituency, liberals won’t criticize it but claim that it needs to be fixed, and then you have the libertarians, for which the market is, for all intents and purposes, a stand-in for God. Like many other words often heard in politics such as “liberty” or “democracy,” the “free market” has been used so frequently that it is rarely ever questioned. This concept of a “free market” is accepted as something real; the only disagreements arise when people discuss what constitutes a violation of free market principles, or in other words, what actions fetter the market to the point where it can no longer be called “free?” All the loudest voices in American politics tell us that one way or another the market will solve our problems, either with prudent regulation by the state or by leaving it completely unfettered by government interference. What you will not hear, at least in the mainstream discourse, is that the market itself, or more correctly its dominance of our society and our entire way of life, is the real root of the problem facing human society.

Before tackling the market and its influence over human society, one point should be clarified. This article will deal primarily with the arguments of neo-liberals and libertarians as opposed to modern liberals. Since liberals do not openly preach the virtues and supremacy of the free market, choosing instead to insist that market excesses can be limited, fixed, or altogether prevented by wise government regulation, their arguments fall outside the scope of this article. There are plenty of arguments to explain why the regulation proposed by liberals will either not succeed or will not have a lasting, much less permanent impact, the strongest being the fact that liberals themselves often point to the regulation and government intervention of past decades to support their own arguments. It stands to reason that if past regulations could be repealed over time thanks to successful lobbying on the part of wealthy corporations and businesses, the same thing could happen again five, ten, or maybe twenty years after the passing of new regulatory laws in some hypothetical future. And of course, this also assumes that these regulations would even pass through the political system at all. In any case, the liberal solution of correcting the market via limited government intervention is a topic for another article. This article shall deal specifically with the arguments of those who exalt the market the most, namely, the libertarians.

Libertarianism has a long history in the United States and a few other privileged countries, all of which, incidentally, achieved their economic greatness by doing more or less the exact opposite of what libertarians believe in. While the Libertarian Party has existed since 1971, the ideology seems to have gained widespread mainstream attention with the presidential campaigns of Representative Ron Paul and his “Ron Paul Revolution,” which has effectively utilized the internet to bring his message to a wider audience. It is amusing to note that the internet, which has its roots in government-sponsored research, serves as the basis for the success of Ron Paul’s movement. Ironic though that may be, no objective observer can deny that Paul’s populist message has gained considerable success among many segments of the population who should otherwise be politically opposed to one another. This fact speaks to two fundamental truths about American politics. The first is that populist messages, which are specifically designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of political belief systems, are highly potent. The second is that widespread dissatisfaction with the mainstream political system and the usual politics of our two-party system has left many people wide open to such populist messages, and it would do well for many of them to dig a little deeper into the ideology espoused by Ron Paul and his ilk. While Paul sets himself up as a hero of the so-called “middle class” against the powerful elite represented by the mainstream candidates of both parties, he is in fact nothing more than an agent of the wealthiest segment of the American ruling class. While Ron Paul and his supporters claim that they oppose corporate power over the United States, the ultimate result of his libertarian rhetoric is the preservation of that very same power.

Of course stating this inevitably causes outrage among Paul’s cultist-like supporters. Many Ron Paul supporters, and in particular the disturbingly large amount of confused “leftists,” insist that they oppose large corporations. In fact they insist that our system is not “real capitalism” and hasn’t been for some time; they say it is “crony capitalism” or “corporatism.” In the past the Red Phoenix has dealt with this question of “real capitalism” vs. “crony capitalism,” and suffice to say that asking people who make this claim to clarify just when the American system was “real capitalism” can provoke some really ridiculous answers, if any answer at all. Here, however, we shall look at one aspect of libertarian ideology, namely the claim that libertarianism opposes corporate power. We shall see that the solution to this problem, like the libertarian solution to every problem, is to leave everything to the market to decide. Lastly, we will see why this non-solution, assuming it actually could be implemented, would only lead to literal corporate tyranny with no democratic accountability.

Many of Ron Paul’s supporters, particularly those lured from the left, are unaware of his ideological background. As it turns out, in the political realm what you don’t know can in fact hurt you. Paul’s economic and social theories are inspired primarily by the so-called Austrian School of economics, so named for the nationality of its original founders and adherents such as Karl Menger, Eugene Bohm-Bauwerk, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. This article is no place to delve into the myriad of problems with Austrian economic theory, so we shall focus rather on the modern arguments advanced by populists such as Ron Paul when it comes to the market and our current system.

The Austrians were not the first to propose that the market reconciles the self-interest of individuals for the better of society; this idea can be traced to Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” which would promote the general welfare even though individuals in the market would be acting out of self-interest. There are a few key differences between this classical view and that of Austrian Schoolers, however. The first is that adherents to Austrian School economics, and indeed virtually all libertarians in general, express no concern over whether market activity promotes a better society; society does not matter, only individuals. Secondly, Austrian school supporters see the market as the only reliable source of information which can be used by individuals to allocate scarce resources in the most efficient way. In other words, without the market, which labels commodities with prices, it would be impossible for investors to know the best avenues for investing their capital. Hence it is necessary to leave the market alone so as not to cause any distortions which might lead bad investments. It is obvious that this theory contradicts those in favor of a planned economy, and indeed Austrian School theorists such as Bohm-Bauwerk, Hayek, and von Mises all received great praise for their attempts to “refute” Marxist theory. In fact, while the Austrian School is generally rejected even by mainstream neo-liberal economists, they just happen to more or less agree on the idea that socialist planning will always be inherently flawed. Even the most ridiculous ideas will find their proponents if they serve the status quo, and that is the main reason why people like Ron Paul still have a job.

According to libertarians like Ron Paul and his supporters, government regulation and intervention are to blame for “too-big-to-fail” banks and the consolidation of power into the hands of a small group of multi-national companies. The market, left to its own devices, would supposedly prevent the rise of such mega-corporations, which we are told received their power via government aid on their behalf, including stifling regulations which supposedly bar potential competitors from entering the market. In fact, whatever the issue, you can rest assured that to the libertarian, the culprit is always “government,” and the answer is always the free market. If one wants to try to get a handle on what libertarian society would actually look like, it is necessary to dig into these concepts a little deeper.

First, there is no disputing the claim corporations and private companies have benefitted from government largesse, and this certainly does benefit the largest multinational corporations. Businesses lobby the government, back electoral campaigns, and in return they receive deregulation legislation, subsidies, favorable trade deals and other perks. Libertarians tell us they are against this unholy marriage of the private and state sector, but there are a number of flaws with their understanding of this relationship.

According to libertarians, large corporations use their lobbying power to support stifling regulations which will bar potential competitors from entering the market. In other words, if it weren’t for mean old Monsanto and their lobbying efforts, you’d have all kinds of mom and pop chemical producers popping up all over the country to engage in healthy capitalist competition and prevent the rise of monopolies. Now some people might suggest, for example, that one reason it’s difficult to start your own airline is because airplanes are expensive to buy and operate. This would be wrong however; the market decides the price of airplanes, spare parts, and so on, ergo it is fair and just. Government regulation is the problem!

The problems with this claim are so manifold it’s difficult to decide where to begin. Perhaps the most glaring flaw is the idea that corporate lobbyists support regulatory legislation. In almost all cases the opposite is true; corporations lobby to eliminate, not implement, government regulation in their various spheres. The second most obvious error is the implication that if we could somehow roll back our current system to that non-existent form which libertarians insist is “true capitalism,” successful capitalists wouldn’t use their wealth to influence the remnants of the state to their favor. We’re supposed to believe that the new generation of capitalists, without any restriction whatsoever, will all play fair and not try to gain any unfair advantage by lobbying the government for benefits such as tax breaks or subsidies. The very idea is laughable, but it is by no means the most serious logical flaw this ideology has to offer.

We must at some point in the debate ask, “What is the market?” The market, in abstract, is an institution where exchange and distribution take place. In concrete terms, however, the market consists of people, that is to say individual buyers and sellers. This condition, where individuals confront each other in the market for the purpose of exchange, and more importantly the dominance of this institution in the case of capitalist society, forms the basis for the liberal cult of the “individual,” but this is a matter for another article. Here it is enough to say that in theory, buyers and sellers enjoy formal equality. This is where the problem lies, for while buyers and sellers are formally equal, they are unequal according to their possessions, that is to say they differ according to how much and what kind of property they own, what they have to sell, and how much money they have. Since distribution is determined by market transactions, agents must enter and participate in market exchange to get their necessities of life. To engage in exchange, agents need money, and in order to get money they must have a commodity they can sell. The worker’s commodity is labor power, the capacity to perform productive labor. Again, in theory, the worker and capitalist are allegedly on an equal footing when they confront each other in the market. Outside of the realm of economic theory, we can easily see this isn’t the case. Capitalists own capital, that is both money capital and means of production, hence in the market they hold all the cards. Since workers don’t possess necessary property, that is means of production, to produce everything they need to survive, they do not have the choice of withholding their labor power from the capitalists; starvation would be the result.

Once we step out of the realm of ruling-class economic theory and into the real world, we understand that “leaving it to the market” doesn’t mean leaving our fate to some abstract institution but rather putting it in the hands of a few real, live people, and hoping they will somehow arrive at the best, most beneficial results for all of society out of their own self-interest. In other words, it’s not that far removed from the libertarians’ inaccurate description of socialism, only replace government with private capitalists.

Worse still, libertarians exalt the individual and openly declare that they do not care about society, nor the “greater good,” indeed some have routinely and openly insisted that society doesn’t exist. That should give one pause any time a libertarian evangelist insists that their way of thinking would be best for “our nation.” Try as they might, however, libertarians cannot bend material reality. While their worldview divides human civilization into the “state” and “private sector” and holds as sacred the concept of “private property,” in the real world there can be no private property without the state and its organs of violence with which it enforces the existing property relations. If we look back into history we see that the rise of the very first state coincides with the emerging necessity to establish and enforce property rights, and as these rights and relations changed over time, so too has the state.

Ron Paul and his populist goons are selling a chimerical Utopian vision which runs contrary to the historical record. While his supporters will claim that our contemporary system isn’t “real capitalism,” they aren’t so forthcoming when asked to say when this “real capitalism” allegedly existed. When they attempt to do so, it is only a matter of pointing out the atrocious living conditions of the majority of people, crushing restrictions on civil rights, poor quality products, and of course the ever-present government intervention in the economy, if not in the form of regulation but rather protectionism, subsidies, and other handouts. Whenever they insist that we had a truly “free market” at some time in the past, ask for specifics, do a little research, and you’ll find that the market had restrictions on it then. In fact as Ha Joon Chang so eloquently pointed out in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, there is no such thing as a free market, and never has been. More importantly, there has never been a single country in world history which has followed Austrian School economic theories to economic prosperity, if at all; anyone who tells you otherwise is either blatantly lying or simply ignorant. Support for Ron Paul is ultimately support for the ruling class, only by another route. Do not be fooled by populist hucksters who promise to explain the world in bite-sized nuggets of bumper-sticker “common sense.” If Ron Paul truly believed in his principles he wouldn’t work for the federal government, and that goes doubly if he were truly a threat to the working class. Paul may seem a world apart from Obama or Romney, but he exists to lead us to the very same destination.

The Austrian School of economics is a complicated subject. Though it is generally rejected by all mainstream schools of economic thought, the latter more or less agree with the former on some key concepts, such as the concept of marginal utility. With this in mind, the reader is invited to look into the matter further with a number of critiques of Austrian theory from several different perspectives, including Marxist and mainstream.

Further Reading

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Austrian_School

http://world.std.com/~mhuben/austrian.html

https://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/responses-to-readers-austrian-economics-versus-marxism/

http://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/law-of-value-8-subjectobject/

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1927/leisure-economics/index.htm

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