Category Archives: Grover Furr

Grover Furr: The Ukrainian Famine: Only Evidence Can Disclose the Truth


No detective can solve a crime without carefully and objectively studying the evidence. Likewise, no one can know what actually occurred in history without studying, in an objective manner, the relevant primary sources – the evidence. I have spent decades in studying the primary sources concerning many specific events of the Stalin period. Mark Tauger has studied the primary sources on Soviet agriculture for more than 25 years.

Louis Proyect has not done this. Consequently he has no chance of discovering the truth, or of recognizing it when he sees it. He is inevitably doomed to “believe” whatever fits his preconceived ideological bias, and to reject everything else. This is fatal to any attempt to learn what really happened.

Louis Proyect’s attack on me and on Mark Tauger (“What Caused the Holodomor?” Cp March 24, 1971) is ideology masquerading as history. It is replete with falsehoods. I’ll concentrate on the lies Proyect tells about me and my research. I hope that Mark Tauger will respond to Proyect’s ignorant accusations against his research.

Proyect begins his article by stating: “Furr’s political life revolves around celebrating Stalin’s greatest achievements—such as they were.” This is false. My goal is not to “celebrate” Stalin, or anyone or anything. In my research I aim to discover the truth about Soviet history of the 1930s, using the best primary-source evidence and maintaining scrupulous objectivity.

I agree with historian Geoffrey Roberts when he says:

In the last 15 years or so an enormous amount of new material on Stalin … has become available from Russian archives. I should make clear that as a historian I have a strong orientation to telling the truth about the past, no matter how uncomfortable or unpalatable the conclusions may be. … I don’t think there is a dilemma: you just tell the truth as you see it.

(“Stalin’s Wars”, February 12, 2007. At )

The common or “mainstream” view of Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant is a product of two sources: Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s and Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress in February, 1956. This canonical history of the Stalin period – the version we have all learned — is completely false. We can see this now thanks mainly to two sets of archival discoveries: the gradual publication of thousands of archival documents from formerly secret Soviet archives since the end of the USSR in 1991; and the opening of the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard in 1980 and, secondarily, of the Trotsky Archive at the Hoover Institution (from where I have just returned).

Khrushchev Lied

In its impact on world history Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” is the most influential speech of the 20th century. In it Khrushchev painted Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant guilty of a reign of terror lasting more than two decades.

After the 22nd Party Congress of 1961, where Khrushchev and his men attacked Stalin with even more venom, many Soviet historians elaborated Khrushchev’s lies. These falsehoods were repeated by Cold War anticommunists like Robert Conquest. They also entered “left” discourse through the works of Trotskyists and anarchists and of “pro-Moscow” communists.

Khrushchev’s lies were amplified during Mikhail Gorbachev’s and Boris Eltsin’s time by professional Soviet, then Russian, historians. Gorbachev orchestrated an avalanche of anticommunist falsehoods that provided the ideological smokescreen for the return to exploitative practices within the USSR and ultimately for the abandonment of socialist reforms and a return to predatory capitalism.

During 2005-2006 I researched and wrote the book Khrushchev Lied. In my book I identify 61 accusations that Khrushchev made against either Stalin or, in a few cases, Beria. I then studied each one of them in the light of evidence available from former Soviet archives. To my own surprise I found that 60 of the 61 accusations are provably, demonstrably false.

The fact that Khrushchev could falsify everything and get away with it for over 50 years suggests that we should look carefully at other supposed “crimes” of Stalin and of the USSR during his time.

Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’

From 1980 till the early 1990s Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his day, and Arch Getty, a prominent American expert in Soviet history, discovered that Trotsky had lied, repeatedly and about many issues, in his public statements and writings in the 1930s. In my book Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ (2015) I discussed the implications of these lies by Trotsky and of some additional lies of his that I discovered myself. They completely invalidate the “Dewey Commission,” to whom Trotsky lied shamelessly and repeatedly, as well as Trotsky’s denials in the Red Book and elsewhere of the charges leveled against him in the First and Second Moscow Trials.

Challenging the “Anti-Stalin Paradigm”

I have not reached these conclusions out of any desire to “apologize” for – let alone “celebrate” — the policies of Stalin or the Soviet government. I believe these to be the only objective conclusions possible based on the available evidence.

The conclusions I have reached about the history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin period are unacceptable to people who, like Proyect, are motivated by prior ideological commitments rather than by a determination to discover the truth “and let the chips fall where they will.”

The “anti-Stalin paradigm” is hegemonic in the field of Soviet history, where it is literally “taboo” to question, let alone disprove as I do, the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Cold War falsehoods about Stalin and the Stalin period. Those in this field who do not cut their research to fit the Procrustean bed of the “anti-Stalin paradigm” will find it hard if not impossible to publish in “mainstream” journals and by academic publishers. I am fortunate:  I teach English literature and do not need to publish in these “authoritative” but ideologically compromised vehicles.

Those who, like Proyect, are motivated not to discover the truth but to shore up their ideological prejudices think that everybody must be doing likewise. Therefore Proyect argues not from evidence, but by guilt by association, name-dropping, insult, and lies.

A few examples:

Guilt by association: Proyect claims that I am “like” Roland Boer, Roger Annis, and Sigizmund Mironin.

Name-dropping: Davies and Wheatcroft are well-known and disagree with Tauger, so – somehow – they are “the most authoritative,”  “right” while Tauger is “wrong.”

Insult: Tauger is complicit in “turning a victim into a criminal.”

Proyect: “…it seems reasonable that Stalin was forced to unleash a brutal repression in the early 30s to prevent Hitler from invading Russia—or something like that.” In reality neither I nor Tauger say anything of the kind.

Lies: Proyect quotes a passage from Tauger’s research about the Irish potato famine and then accuses Tauger of wanting to exculpate the British:

“The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that.”

But the very next sentence in Tauger’s article reads:

“Without denying that the British government mishandled the crisis…”

Proyect is a prisoner of the historical paradigm that controls his view of Soviet history. A few examples:

* Proyect persists in using the term “Holodomor.” He does not inform Cp readers that Davies and Wheatcroft, whose work he recommends, reject both the term “Holodomor” and the concept in the very book Proyect recommends!

* Proyect: “…no matter that Lenin called for his [Stalin’s] removal from party leadership from his death-bed.”

But, thanks to careful research by Valentin Sakharov of Moscow State University, even “mainstream” researchers know that this note, like “Lenin’s Testament,” is probably a forgery:

There is no stenographic original of the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary.” In the journal of Lenin’s activities kept by the secretarial staff there is no mention of any such “Ilich letter.” … not a single source corroborates the content of the January 4 dictation. Also curious is the fact that Zinoviev had not been made privy to the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary” in late May, along with the evaluations of six regime personnel. The new typescript emerged only in June. (Stephen Kotkin, Stalin 505)

* Proyect: “Largely because of his bureaucratic control and the rapid influx of self-seeking elements into the party, Stalin could crush the opposition…”

However, in his 1973 work Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution Stephen Cohen wrote:

But machine politics alone did not account for Stalin’s triumph. … within this select oligarchy, Stalin’s bureaucratic power was considerably less imposing…. By April 1929, these influentials had chosen Stalin and formed his essential majority in the high leadership. They did so, it seems clear, less because of his bureaucratic power than because they preferred his leadership and politics. (327)

* Proyect: “Stalin’s forced march did not discriminate between rich and poor peasants.”

But in 1983 James Mace, a champion of the Ukrainian Nationalist fascist collaborators, wrote about the role of “committees of poor peasants,” komitety nezamozhnykh selian, in supporting collectivization. There is much other evidence of peasant support for collectivization.


Correctly understood, history is the attempt to use well-known methods of primary-source research in an objective manner, in order to arrive at accurate – truthful — statements about the past. Very often the result is disillusioning to those who cling to false ideological constructs, even when those constructs constitute the “mainstream” of politicized historiography.

No one who does not try to discover the truth and then tell it without fear or favor, is worthy to be called a historian, regardless of how famous, honored, or “authoritative” he or she may appear to be.

Distortions and lies about Soviet history of the Stalin period predominate everywhere, including Ukraine, Russia, and in the West. These lies mainly consist in repeating Trotskyist and Khrushchevite lies, in defiance or in willful ignorance of the primary-source evidence now available.

The newly-available evidence from archival sources necessitates a complete rewriting of Soviet history of the Stalin period and a complete revision of Stalin’s own role. This exciting yet demanding prospect is of great importance to all who wish to learn from the errors, as well as from the successes, of the Bolsheviks, the pioneers of the communist movement of the 20th century.


Information about my published books, in all languages, is on my Home Page. There too you can find links to all of my published articles, some in Russian only, on Soviet history.

Grover Furr: Trotsky’s Lies – What They Are, and What They Mean

The personality and the writings of Leon Trotsky have long been a rallying point for anticommunists throughout the world. But during the 1930s Trotsky deliberately lied in his writings about Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. My new book, Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’, discusses some of Trotsky’s lies that have fooled people, and demoralized honest communists, for decades. 


In January 1980 the Trotsky Archive at Harvard University was opened to researchers. Within a few days Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his time, discovered that Trotsky had lied. Trotsky had always denied that any clandestine “bloc of oppositionists” including Trotskyists, existed in the Soviet Union. Trotsky called this an “amalgam,” meaning a fabrication by Stalin. This “bloc” was the main focus of the second and third Moscow Trials of January 1937 and March 1938. Broué showed, from letters in the Trotsky Archive by Trotsky and by his son Leon Sedov, that the bloc did exist.


In 1985 American historian Arch Getty discovered that the Harvard Trotsky Archive had been purged of incriminating materials, but purged imperfectly. Getty also found evidence that Trotsky had indeed remained in contact with some of his former supporters inside the Soviet Union. Trotsky always strenuously denied this, claiming that he cut off all ties to those who “capitulated” to Stalin and publicly renounced their Trotskyist views. Again, Trotsky was lying. In 2010 Swedish researcher Sven-Eric Holmström published an article on the “Hotel Bristol” question in the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. In it Holmström proves that Trotsky was lying here too. 


In 2005 I began to systematically study all the accusations against Stalin and Beria that Nikita Khrushchev made in his infamous “Secret Speech.” I discovered that not a single one of Khrushchev’s so-called “revelations” can be supported from the evidence. But during the 1930s Trotsky had made the same kind of accusations against Stalin that Khrushchev later did. The fact that Khrushchev did nothing but lie suggested that Trotsky might have lied as well. Thanks to Broué and Getty I already knew that Trotsky had lied about some very important matters. Any detective, in any mystery story, knows that if a suspect has lied about some important matters, he should ask himself: What else is this person lying about?


I set about studying his writings in order to determine which of Trotsky’s statements could be tested. Wherever I had independent evidence to check the veracity of any accusation that Trotsky levelled against Stalin, I found that Trotsky was lying — again. Today I have so much evidence that even a whole book does not come close to holding it all. So there will be two more volumes concerning Trotsky’s lies. The second volume will be published in early 2017.

Between September 2010 and January 2013 I researched and wrote a book on the assassination on December 1, 1934 of Sergei Mironovich Kirov, First Secretary of the Leningrad Party. That book, The Murder of Sergei Kirov, was published in June 2013. The Kirov murder is the key to the Soviet high politics of the rest of the 1930s: the three public Moscow Trials of August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938, often called “Show Trials;” the Military Purge or “Tukhachevsky Affair” of May and June 1937; and the Ezhovshchina of July 1937 to October 1938, which anticommunist scholars call the “Great Terror,” after a dishonest book by Robert Conquest. 


Trotsky too wrote about the Kirov murder investigation. He identified the articles in the French communist and Soviet press that he read. I discovered that Trotsky lied about what these articles on the Kirov murder investigation said. Trotsky fabricated a story that Stalin and his men were responsible for Kirov’s death. Once again, Trotsky lied about what the articles he read in the French communist newspaper Humanité and in Russian-language Soviet papers, to which Trotsky had access within only a couple of days of their publication in Moscow. 


Trotsky’s lies would have been immediately apparent to anybody who set Trotsky’s articles side by side with the French and Russian newspaper articles that he had read and which he claimed he was closely studying and analyzing. It appears that no one ever did that – until now. The result was that Trotsky’s falsified version of the Kirov assassination – that Stalin and the NKVD had killed Kirov – was taken up not only by Trotsky’s followers, but by Nikita Khrushchev. 


In his completely fraudulent “Secret Speech” Khrushchev gave additional credibility to the “Stalin killed Kirov” story. Khrushchev and his speechwriters probably took this directly from Trotsky. Trotsky’s tale that “Stalin had Kirov killed” passed from Khrushchev to the professional anticommunist scholar-propagandists like Robert Conquest and many others. In the late 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev’s men tried and failed to find evidence in the Soviet archives to support this story. 


Aleksandr Iakovlev, Gorbachev’s chief man for ideology, sent them back to the archives to try again. Once again, the Politburo research team filed to find any evidence to even suggest that Stalin had had Kirov killed. The history of the “Stalin had Kirov killed” fabrication is a good example of how a number of Trotsky’s deliberate lies were taken up by Soviet anticommunists like Khrushchev and Gorbachev, and by pro-capitalist anticommunists in the West. In my new book Trotsky’s “Amalgams” I uncover and discuss a number of other deliberate lies by Trotsky about Stalin and the USSR. All of them have been adopted by anticommunists and by Trotskyists. In the second and third volumes of this work I will discuss Trotsky’s conspiracies with saboteurs and fascists inside the USSR, and with the Nazis and the Japanese militarists. 


In early 1937 Trotsky succeeded in persuading John Dewey, the famous educator, and a number of others, to hold hearings, supposedly to determine whether the charges leveled against Trotsky in the August 1936 and January 1937 Moscow Show Trials were true. The Commission duly concluded that Trotsky was innocent and the Moscow Trials were all a frame-up. I carefully studied the 1,000 pages of the Dewey Commission materials. I discovered that the Commission was dishonest and shockingly incompetent. It made error after error in logical reasoning. Of most interest is the fact that Trotsky lied to the Dewey Commission many times. The Dewey Commission could not possibly have declared Trotsky “Not Guilty” if the Commission members had known that Trotsky was lying to them. I wish to briefly mention two more sections of my book. They are: my project to verify – that is, to check — the Moscow Trials testimony; and my examination of the errors that most readers of Soviet history make, errors which make them unable to understand the significance of the evidence we now have. 


The testimony of the defendants in the three public Moscow Trials is universally declared to be false, forced from innocent men by the prosecution, the NKVD, “Stalin.” There has never been a shred of evidence to support this notion. Nevertheless, it is staunchly affirmed by ALL specialists in Soviet history, as well as by all Trotskyists. Thanks to years of identifying, searching for, locating, obtaining, and studying primary sources, I realized that there now exists enough evidence to test many of the statements made by the Moscow Trials defendants. I devote the first twelve chapters of Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ to a careful verification of many of the statements by the Moscow Trials defendants. I found that, whenever we can double-check a fact-claim made by a Moscow Trials defendant against independent evidence now available, it turns out that the Moscow Trials defendant was telling the truth. Trotsky, Khrushchev and his men, Cold-War Soviet “experts,” 


Gorbachev and his men, and today’s academic scholars in Soviet studies, all claimed or claim that the Trials are frame-ups. I prove from the evidence that they are wrong. The Moscow Trials testimony is what it claims to be: statements that the defendants chose to make. I verify this with a great deal of evidence from outside the Trials themselves and even outside the Soviet Union. This is an important conclusion. This result in itself disproves the “anti-Stalin paradigm” of Soviet history. It also contributes to disproving Trotsky’s version of Soviet history, a version that the Trotskyist movement worldwide continues to believe and to propagate today. Those of us — researchers, activists, and others — who wish to find the truth about Soviet history of the Stalin period, and not merely attempt to confirm our preconceived ideas about it – we are in possession of a number of results that completely overturn the convention anti-Stalin paradigm of Soviet history. These include the following: 


* the fact that Nikita Khrushchev lied about every accusation he made against Stalin (and Lavrentii Beria) in his world-shaking “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress of the CPSU in February 1956. This clearly means that Khrushchev’s researchers could not find any true “crimes” that Stalin – or Beria – had committed, and so were reduced to fabrication. 


* the fact that, despite a very thorough and time-consuming search of the archives in 1962-1964, Khrushchev’s “Shvernik Commission” could find no evidence at all to suggest that either the Moscow Trials defendants or the “Tukhachevsky Affair” defendants were victims of a “frame-up” or had lied in their confessions in any way. 


* the fact that neither Gorbachev’s and Eltsin’s researchers, nor the anticommunist researchers since that time, who have had wide access to the former Soviet archives, have been able to find any evidence at all to challenge the conclusions in the Kirov Assassination, the Moscow Trials, or the Military Purges. 


* the fact that the testimony at the Moscow Trials was, in the main, truthful. 


* the fact that Ezhov and Ezhov alone, not Stalin and his supporters in the Soviet leadership, were responsible for the mass murders of July 1938 to November 1939 known to scholars as the “Ezhovshchina” and to anticommunist propagandists as “the Great Terror.” 


* the fact that, in his writings about the USSR during the period after the Kirov murder, Trotsky lied repeatedly in order to cover up his conspiracies. 


* the fact that most of today’s scholars of the Stalin period in the USSR lie in order to deceive their readers. But they do so in a way that can only be discovered by a very close, detailed study of their sources. 


Trotskyist scholarship is consistently parasitical on mainstream anticommunist scholarship. Here is one example. In a recent review on the Trotskyist, and ferociously anti-Stalin World Socialist Web Site ( of Princeton University historian Stephen Kotkin’s book Stalin, a Trotskyist reviewer refers approvingly to the anti-Stalin statements of Oleg Khlevniuk, who is called the respected Russian historian Oleg Khlevniuk. – 


Khlevniuk is a fanatical anticommunist and also a very blatant liar, in all his writings. Khlevniuk is anti-Stalin; WSWS.ORG, the Trotskyist publication, is anti-Stalin; therefore the Trotskyists “trust” the foremost anticommunist liar in the world today! Meanwhile, mainstream anticommunist scholarship has been drawing upon the writings of Trotsky himself for decades. Trotsky, of course, knew that he was lying: 


* about the “bloc of Rights, Trotskyists, Zinovievites, and other Oppositionists;” 


* about his own involvement in the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934; 


* about his conspiring with the “Tukhachevsky Affair” military conspirators for a coup d’état against the Stalin government and to stab the Red Army in the back during an invasion by Germany or Japan; 


* about his conspiring with the Nazis and the Japanese militarists; 


* about conspiring with fascists and his own followers within the USSR to sabotage industry, transportation, and mines. 


* about the charges against, and the confessions by, the defendants in the Moscow trials, which Trotsky knew were true. 


Trotsky knew that he lied, repeatedly, over and over again, in his Bulletin of the Opposition. Trotsky knew that he repeated these lies to the Dewey Commission. 


The Spanish Civil War 


And Trotsky knew that he lied to his own followers, including his closest followers like Andres Nin, Erwin Wolf, and Kurt Landau. Nin had been one of Trotsky’s closest political assistants. Nin is supposed to have broken with Trotsky in 1931. But in 1930 Nin wrote, in a Trotskyist journal, that Trotsky’s Soviet-based followers who had retracted their Trotskyist views and pledged loyalty to the Communist Party’s line, had done so dishonestly. They had done so in order to remain within the Party so they could continue to recruit others to their secret conspiracies. Therefore, though Nin openly broke with the Trotskyist movement in an organizational sense, his actions in Spain suggest that this was a cover for maintaining a secret connection with Trotsky. 


The Spanish communists and the Soviet NKVD in Spain suspected this too. Nin became one of the leaders of the POUM, an anti-Soviet and antiStalin party that was very friendly to Trotsky. Erwin Wolf went to Spain as Trotsky’s political representative. He did so in order to lead a “revolution” against the Spanish Republic – right in the middle of a war with the Spanish fascists, who were aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Nin and Wolf ran these risks because they believed that Trotsky was innocent of the charges that were made against him in the Moscow Trials. They thought that Trotsky, not Stalin, was the true communist and true revolutionary. Consequently, they thought that they were going to Spain to do what Lenin would have wanted done. 


In May 1937 a revolt against the Spanish Republican government broke out in Barcelona. POUM and the Spanish Trotskyists enthusiastically participated in this revolt. It appears that Nin, Wolf, and Landau thought this might be the beginning of a Bolshevik-style revolution, with themselves as Lenin, the POUM as the Bolsheviks, the Republican government as the capitalists, and the Spanish and Soviet communists as the phony socialists like Alexander Kerensky! The “Barcelona May Days Revolt,” was a vicious stab in the back against the Republic during wartime. It was suppressed in less than a week. After that, the Spanish police and Soviet NKVD hunted down the Trotskyists and the POUM leadership. Andres Nin was certainly kidnapped, interrogated, and then murdered by the Soviets and Spanish police. The same thing probably happened to Landau and Wolf. 


The Soviets knew then what we know today: that Trotsky was conspiring with the Germans, the Japanese, and the “Tukhachevsky Affair’ military men. But Nin and Wolf certainly did not know this. They believed Trotsky’s professions of innocence. If Andres Nin, Erwin Wolf, and Kurt Landau had known what Trotsky knew, and what we now know, would they have gone to Spain to try to carry out Trotsky’s instructions? Impossible! Therefore, Trotsky sent these men into an extremely dangerous situation by means of lying to them about his own activities and aims, and about what Stalin was doing. And it cost them their lives. The same is true for all the Trotskyists who were executed in the Soviet Union itself. Evidently, there were hundreds of them. They all supported Trotsky because they believed his version of Soviet history, and had been convinced by Trotsky’s writings that Stalin was lying, that the Moscow Trials were a frame-up, and that the Stalin regime had abandoned the goal of worldwide socialist revolution. These men and women would not have followed Trotsky if he had not lied to them. 


In the first chapter of Trotsky’s “Amalgams” I examine the errors that most students of Soviet history, including academic professionals, make when faced with primary source evidence. The truth is that very few people, including professional historians, know how to examine historical evidence. Very few Marxists know what a materialist examination of evidence looks like, or are capable of recognizing or critiquing an idealist argument when they are confronted with one. These errors are not only errors of “denial” by persons who do not wish to have their proTrotsky or anti-Stalin preconceptions disproven. Most or all of these same errors are made by pro-Stalin, anti-revisionist people. Anticommunist arguments have been so overwhelming, not only in Cold War pro-capitalist form but especially in supposedly procommunist but in reality anticommunist Khrushchev- and Gorbachev-era writings, that it has degraded the thinking of all of us. 


The lies of Trotsky’s that Pierre Broué and Arch Getty discovered 30 years ago have been ignored. This fact itself deserves explanation. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Broué continued to find, and write about, more lies by Trotsky. But all the while he continued to deny that these lies were of any importance. Broué also ignored Getty’s two discoveries. First, that the Trotsky Archive had been “purged” of incriminating materials. Second, that Trotsky had indeed remained in contact with oppositionists like Radek with whom he swore he had broken all ties. Vadim Rogovin, the leading Trotskyist historian of the Stalin-era Soviet Union, went along with Broué’s cover-up and also introduced some lies of his own. Trotskyists and Cold Warriors continue either to ignore Broué’s discoveries altogether or to echo Broué’s claim that these lies were of little significance. We can understand why they do this. 


The fact that Trotsky lied dismantles what I call the “anti-Stalin paradigm”: the Trotskyist and the Cold War anticommunist versions of Soviet history. Trotsky, of course, had to lie. He was running a serious conspiracy to get rid of Stalin, in conjunction with many supporters inside the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik Party and in collusion with Nazi Germany, militarist Japan, England and France. A conspiracy requires secrecy and lying. But who, above all, was Trotsky fooling? Not Stalin and the Soviet government. They knew he was lying. The conclusion is inescapable: Trotsky was lying in order to fool his own supporters! They were the only people who believed whatever Trotsky wrote. 


They believed Trotsky was the true, principled Leninist that he claimed to be, and that Stalin was the liar. This cost the lives of most of his supporters inside the Soviet Union, when Trotskyism was outlawed as treason to the Soviet state because of Trotsky’s conspiracy with Germany and Japan. It has led Trotsky’s followers outside the Soviet Union to spend their lives in cult-like devotion to a man who was, in fact, doing just what the Soviet prosecutor and the Moscow Trials defendants claimed he was doing. 


The figure of Leon Trotsky casts a giant shadow over the history of the Soviet Union, and therefore over the history of the world in the 20th century. Trotsky was the most significant – in fact, the only outstanding – Opposition figure in the factional disputes that shook the Bolshevik Party during the 1920s. It was during the 20s that Trotsky attracted to himself the group of persons who formed the United Opposition and whose conspiracies did so much irreparable harm to the Party, the Comintern, and the world communist movement. 




What does the fact that Trotsky lied, that Khrushchev lied, and that these facts were ignored for so long, mean? 


What does it mean for the main question that faces us, and billions of working people in the world, today? I mean the question of why the wonderful international communist movement of the 20th century collapsed, the movement that 70 years ago, triumphant in World War 2, in the Chinese communist revolution, in the anti-colonial movements around the world, seemed to be poised to bring about an end to capitalism and the victory of world socialism? 


How do we convince workers, students, and others that we know why the old communist movement failed and that we have learned what we have to do differently to avoid repeating those failures in the future? We must study this question. We also need to discuss it – to entertain and debate different, informed viewpoints. 


Therefore we have to defend the legacy of the international communist movement during Lenin’s and, especially, during Stalin’s time. At the same time we must be fearlessly critical of it, so we discover what errors they made and so not make the same errors again. In my judgment – and I hope that it is yours as well – discovering the reasons for the collapse of the magnificent international communist movement of the 20th century is the most important historical and theoretical question for all exploited people today, the vast majority of humankind. To have any hope of solving it, we must think boldly, “go where no one has gone before.” If we pretend that “Marx and Engels had all the answers,” or “Lenin had all the answers” (many Trotskyists, of course, believe that “Trotsky had all the answers”) — if we believe that, then we are guaranteed, AT BEST, to fall far short of what they achieved. Marx said that great historical events occur twice “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” 


The tragedy of the international communist movement of the 20th century was that, ultimately, it failed. Unless we figure out where they went wrong then we are doomed to be the “farce.” And that would be a political crime — OUR crime. So we have to look with a critical eye at ALL of our legacy. Marx’s favorite saying was: “De omnibus dubitandum” — “Question everything.” Marx would be the last person in the world to exclude himself from this questioning. 


History can’t teach lessons directly. And history isn’t political theory. But if we ask the right questions, history can help us answer them. Meanwhile, we should all publicize everywhere and in every way we can that, like Khrushchev and Gorbachev, Trotsky lied – provably, demonstrably lied – and, what’s more, that all the anti-Stalin, anticommunist “experts” anointed by capitalist universities and research institutes are lying too. 


We need to point out that the only way forward is to build a new communist movement to get rid of capitalism. And that to do that, we need to learn from the heroic successes, as well as from the tragic errors, of the Bolsheviks during the period when the Soviet Union was led by Joseph Stalin. My hope and my goal is to contribute, through my research, to this project which is so vital for the future of working people everywhere. Thank you.


* Professor, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ 07043 USA. The above is a Presentation at the 7th World Socialism Forum, World Socialism Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), October 22, 2016.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites


“Shortly after the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library was opened in January 1980, Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué discovered letters between Leon Sedov and his father Trotsky that proved the existence of a bloc between Trotskyites and other opposition groups within the USSR. Sometime in the middle of 1932 Sedov informed his father as follows:

“[The bloc] is organized. In it have entered the Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and the Trotskyites (former ‘[capitulators]’). The group of Safar. Tarkhkan has not formally entered yet – they stand on too extreme a position; they will enter in a very short time. – The declaration of Z. and K. concerning their enormous mistake in ’27 was made during negotiations with our people concerning the bloc, immediately before the exile of Z and K.” [70]

About the same time American historian Arch Getty was discovering that Trotsky had secretly sent letters to at least Radek, Sokol’nikov, Preobrazhenskii, Kollontai, and Litvinov. The first three had been Trotskyites before publicly recanting their views. Getty did not find the letters – only the certified mail receipts for them. Getty realized this meant that the Trotsky Archive has been ‘purged.’ These letters had been removed. Other materials had undoubtedly been purged as well. [71]

The only reason to “purge” the archives would have been to remove materials that would have seemed incriminating – that would have negatively impacted Trotsky’s reputation.As an examination of the question of the letter to Radek shows, the letters that we know were removed proved, at the very least, that Trotsky lied during the 1930s by claiming he never maintained contact with oppositionists inside the USSR when, in reality, he was doing so, and by claiming that he would never agree to a secret bloc between his supporters and other oppositionist groups in act he had done precisely that.

Evidently Broué found the implications of this fact very disturbing. He never mentioned Getty’s discoveries of Trotsky’s letters to his supporters and others inside the USSR or the purging of the Trotsky archive, even though Broué cites the same Getty publications (an article and a book) in a very positive manner. [72]

Therefore it has been well established by scholars by the mid-1980s that a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc did in fact exist and that it was formed in 1932 and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were personally involved. Sedov also foresaw the entry into the group of Safarov, who in any case had a group of his own.

In an interview with the Dutch social-democratic newspaper Het Volk during the second half of January 1937, at the time of the Second Moscow Trial, Sedov stated, in a slip of the tongue, that “the Trotskyists” had been in contact with the defendents at the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. [73] Sedov specifically named Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. Concerning Radek and Piatakov Sedov went on to say that “[t]he Trotskyists have had much less contact with them than with the others. To be exact: no contact at all.” That is, Sedov tried to withdraw his “slip” about Radek and Piatakov.

But Sedov did not even try and retract the information that preceded it: that “the Trotskyists” had indeed been in contact with “the other”: Smirnov, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. This interview, “slip of the tongue” included, was published in a provincial edition of Het Volk on January 28, 1937. It was noticed by the Communist press, which called attention to Sedov’s “slip of the tongue.” (Arbeideren, Oslo, February 5, 1937; Abejderbladet, Copenhagen, February 12, 1937.) Thanks to Getty we now know that the Communist press was correct. Sedov’s remark really was a “slip of the tongue.” We know that Sedov was lying because Getty had found evidence of Trotsky’s letter to Radek. Trotsky has indeed been in touch with Radek. Sedov’s first remark, about “much less contact,” was accurate.

Therefore we have good, non-Soviet evidence, confirmed by the Trotsky Archive, of the following:

  • A “bloc” of Zinovievites, Trotskyites, and others including at least the Sten-Lominadze and, perhaps, the Safarov-Tarkhanov group (with whom they were in any case in touch) and involving Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, was indeed formed in 1932.
  • Trotsky had indeed been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as others, probably through his son and chief representative Sedov.
  • Trotsky was indeed in touch with at least Radek and Piatakov.
  • Trotsky really did send a letter to Radek, who was in Geneva at the time, in the Spring of 1932, just as Radek testified in the January 1932 Moscow Trial.
  • There is no reason to accept Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué’s conclusion that thus bloc was “ephemeral” and died out shortly after it was formed, because we know the Trotsky Archive was purged at some time, while Broué had no evidence to support that statement.


The Harvard Trotsky archive yielded to Broué and Getty unmistakable evidence that the “bloc” did exist; that Trotsky was in contact with the bloc’s members and his own supporters inside the USSR, and that Trotsky lied consistently about all these matters both in the Bulletin of the Opposition and to the Dewey Commission. No scholar today denies this. Kirilina, Lenoe, and Egge simply ignore the whole matter.

The NKVD of the 1930s termed the complexly-interlocking set of oppositional conspiracies the “klubok,” or “tangle.” If any of these conspiracies were acknowledged to have existed, it would be hard to deny the existence of the rest, since all the defendants implicated others in a chant that, directly or indirectly, connected them all. Admitting that the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites did in fact exist would present the danger of a “slippery slope” to any historian who wanted to deny the validity of the other conspiracies. For once it is conceded that the first alleged underground opposition conspiracy really did exist, and therefore that both the Khrushchev and Gorbachev official reports, rehabilitations, and official historians were lying, it logically follows that other conspiracies, which these same sources also denied, might have existed too.

 – Grover Furr, “The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm,” pages 131-133, 136.


[70] Harvard, Trotsky Archive 4782 p. 1; see Broué in Cahiers Leon Trotsky 1980 p. 36; Broué, “Party Opposition to Stalin…” p. 100.

[71] Other materials were certainly removed – “purged” – with traces of their removal remaining. For example, excerpts from a discussion between Trotsky and Sedov concerning the slogan “remove Stalin” (‘ubrat Stalina’) remain in the archive, but the full letters from which the excerpts were made are not there.

[72] We will examine this whole question in detail in a forthcoming work.

[73] “Het process te Moskou. Wie niet wil bekennen al doodgeschoten?” Het Volk 28 Jan. 1937 pp. 1 and 5. My sincere thanks to Sven-Eric Holmstrom for tracking down this article and generously providing me with a copy.

Why Does the Pseudo-Left Hate Grover Furr?


by Espresso Stalinist

Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.

This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.

We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.

Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.

For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.

The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.

The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.

“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.

Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.

It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.

When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.

When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.

With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.

It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?

Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.

The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.

The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.

Grover Furr: The “Official” Version of the Katyn Massacre Disproven? Discoveries at a German Mass Murder Site in Ukraine


Nazi propaganda poster blaming the NKVD for the Katyn Massacre.

Author’s Note: The officially accepted version of the Katyn Massacre can be read on its Wikipedia page – This page is relentlessly anticommunist and anti-Stalinist. It makes no attempt to be objective or neutral, in that it has no serious discussion of the scholarly controversy about this question. It’s useful only as a short and accurate summary of the “official” version. I would like to acknowledge that I was guided to the new sources by an excellent article by Sergei Strygin on the Russian “Pravda o Katyni” (Truth About Katyn) Internet page. [1] I strongly recommend it to all those who read Russian.

In 2011 and 2012 a joint Polish-Ukrainian archeological team partially excavated a mass execution site at the town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, Ukraine. Shell cases found in the burial pit prove that the executions there took place no earlier than 1941. In the burial pit were found the badges of two Polish policemen previously thought to have been murdered hundreds of miles away by the Soviets in April-May 1940. These discoveries cast serious doubt on the canonical, or “official,” version of the events known to history as the Katyn Massacre.

In April 1943 Nazi German authorities claimed that they had discovered thousands of bodies of Polish officers shot by Soviet officials in 1940. These bodies were said to have been discovered near the Katyn forest near Smolensk (in Western Russia), which is why the whole affair — including executions and alleged executions of Polish POWs elsewhere in the USSR – came to be called “the Katyn Massacre.”

The Nazi propaganda machine, headed by Josef Goebbels, organized a huge campaign around this alleged discovery. After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943, it was obvious to everyone that, unless something happened to split the Allies, Germany would inevitably lose the war. The Nazis’ obvious aim was to drive a wedge between the western Allies and the USSR.

The Soviet government, headed by Joseph Stalin, vigorously denied the German charge. When the Polish government-in-exile, always ferociously anticommunist and anti-Russian, collaborated with the Nazi propaganda effort, the Soviet government broke diplomatic relations with it, eventually setting up a pro-Soviet Polish authority and Polish army. In September 1943 the Red Army drove the Germans from the area. In 1944 the Soviet Burdenko Commission carried out a study and issued a report that blamed the Germans for the mass shootings.

During the Cold War the Western capitalist countries supported the Nazi version which had become the version promoted by the anticommunist Polish government-in-exile. The Soviet Union and its allies continued to blame the Germans for the murders. In 1990 and 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and, after 1988, President of the USSR, stated that the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin had indeed shot the Poles. According to this “official” version the Polish prisoners had been confined in three camps: at Kozel’sk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov and from there transferred to Smolensk, Kharkiv, and Kalinin (now Tver’), where they were shot and buried at Katyn, Piatykhatky, and Mednoe respectively. [2]

In 1990, 1991, and 1992 three aged former NKVD men were identified and interviewed. They discussed what they knew of executions of Poles in April and May of 1940. None of these executions had taken place at the Katyn Forest, site of the German exhumations. In 1992 the Russian government under Boris Yeltsin handed over to the Polish government documents supposedly signed by Stalin and other Politburo members which, if genuine, would put Soviet guilt beyond reasonable doubt. These documents are said to have been found in “Closed Packet No. 1,” where “closed” meant the highest level of classification — secrecy. I call these the “smoking gun documents,” since they are conventionally assumed to be “proof positive” of Soviet guilt. However, no evidence is ever univocal and definitive; all evidence, whether documentary or material, can be interpreted in multiple ways.

By 1992 the Soviet, and then the Russian, governments had officially declared the Stalin-era Soviet leadership guilty of shooting somewhere between 14,800 and 22,000 Polish prisoners to death in April and May 1940. This was agreeable to anticommunists and a bone in the throat for some pro-Soviet people. For a few years it did appear that the matter was basically settled. The evidence seemed clear: the Soviets had shot the Poles.

I too thought the matter was settled. I admit that I continued to harbor some lingering doubts, mainly because accepting Soviet guilt also meant asserting that the Nazi propaganda campaign and official report of 1943 was 100% honest. Goebbels and Hitler were famous for their concept of “the Big Lie” which states, in part, that one should never tell the truth. [3] But this was, at most, in the back of my mind in 1997 when I went to the Slavic Room of the New York Public Library, a place I had visited a great many times over the years, to make photocopies of the “smoking gun documents” as published in the leading Russian historical journal Voprosy Istorii in January 1993 [4] so I could put them on my new web page. I did not post them, because I soon discovered that somebody else had already done it and I could just link to those images, which were of higher quality than my own.

In 1995 Iurii Mukhin, at the time an unknown metallurgical engineer, published a short book titled “The Katyn Murder Mystery” (Katynskii Detektiv). In it he claimed to prove that the “smoking gun documents” were forgeries and the story of the Katyn Massacre a fabrication intended to facilitate the destruction of the Soviet Union. During the following years this position has attracted much support among what we might call Left Russian nationalists, people supportive of the USSR during the Stalin period for its achievements at industrialization and defeating the Nazis. Since that time Mukhin and others have published more books of research in which they continue their campaign to disprove the “official” version that asserts Soviet guilt.

Since the mid-1990s, therefore, the Katyn Massacre has once again been the subject of fierce partisan dispute. In anticommunist circles it is unacceptable to express any doubt as to the guilt of the Soviet Union and of Stalin and his chief assistants in particular. This is the case in Western academia as well, where debate on the subject or any questioning at all of Soviet guilt is simply “beyond the Pale,” not tolerated.

Meanwhile Russian defenders of the USSR and of Stalin continue their assault on the “official” account by marshaling evidence to show that the Nazis, not the Soviets, shot the Polish officers. Some of these researchers have concluded that the Soviets did shoot some Polish prisoners (officers and others), and then the Nazis invaded the USSR, captured the remaining Polish prisoners, and shot them. I myself think that some such scenario is the most likely one and I will briefly explain why at the end of this essay.

During the past several years there have been some dramatic developments in the investigation of the Katyn question. I have attempted to summarize them and the academic dispute generally on a special web page that I call “The Katyn Forest Whodunnit.” [5] I believe it is the only source in English where one can find this dispute outlined in what I intend to be an objective manner. [6]

In October 2010 a credible case was made that the “smoking gun” documents are forgeries. This had been the position of many Russian communists and Left Russian nationalists since the publication of Mukhin’s 1995 book. The materials adduced by Duma member Victor Iliukhin in October 2010 constitute the strongest evidence so far that these documents may well be forgeries. (For more information about these documents see my “Katyn Forest Whodunnit” page.)

Therefore, let’s set aside the “smoking gun documents” from “Closed Packet No. 1.” What other evidence is there that the Soviets shot the 14,800-22,000 Poles as alleged in the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre?

Basically, there are two types of further evidence:

1. Confession-interviews of three aged and long-retired NKVD men: Petr K. Soprunenko, Dmitri S. Tokarev, and Mitrofan V. Syromiatnikov. These confessions are very contradictory in ways that do not always reinforce the “official” version. None of these men was at the Katyn Forest, the place where 4000+ bodies of Polish POWs were unearthed by the Germans in 1943, and none of them has anything to say about this, the most famous of the execution/burial sites subsumed under the rubric “the Katyn Massacre.” Perhaps this is the reason that these confession-interviews are so hard to find. What’s more, though they were all conducted in Russian they are available only in Polish translation. The Russian originals have never been made public. So, we do not have the former NKVD men’s exact words.

All three men were threatened with criminal prosecution if they failed to “tell the truth” and were told that Soviet guilt had already been established. It is therefore possible that out of fear of prosecution they gave answers they felt their interrogators wanted. Many of the interrogators’ questions were “leading” questions. Of course this is common in criminal investigations. But it does appear that the confessions of these three old men were not entirely voluntary.

I have obtained the texts of these confession-interrogations in the published Polish-language versions, scanned them, and made them available on the Internet. [7] It is interesting that no one else has ever bothered to do this. I will not examine these very interesting and problematic confession-interrogations here, however.

The Transit Documents

2. The remaining category of evidence are the many “transit” or “shipment” documents concerning the emptying out of the three POW camps at Kozel’sk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov in April 1940 and the transfer of the prisoners to the NKVD in other areas. These transit records are the subject of this article.


Figure 1. 1939 map showing places mentioned in the “official” Katyn narrative. Arrows from the POW camps (Ostashkov, Starobelsk, Kozelsk) to cities (Kalinin/Tver’, Kharkiv, Smolensk) show destinations on NKVD transit documents. Burial sites in the nearby countryside (Mednoe, Piatykhatky, Katyn) are also shown, as is VolodymyrVolyns’kiy (Włodzimierz), which is about 800 miles from Kalinin/Tver’ – Mednoe. [map drawn by Victor Wallis based on information supplied by the author]

These shipments of prisoners are routinely stated to be “death transports.” The bookKatyn: A Crime Without Punishment by Anna M. Cienciala, Natalia S. Lebedeva, and Wojciech Materski (Yale University Press 2007) is the definitive academic account in the English language of the “official” version. It refers to the shipments of prisoners this way (I have added the emphasis):

The final death transport left Kozielsk….

The last death transport left Ostashkov for Kalinin (Tver) on 19 May…

…lists of those to be sent out of the camps to be shot (doc. 62)…

…and reporting on the number sent to their death (doc. 65).

Cienciala, who did the writing in this volume, added all the language about execution. Likewise in her discussion of the documents, none of which mentions executions, shootings, killing, death, etc., at all, Cienciala continuously adds language to remind the readers that, in her interpretation, these prisoners were being transported to places where they would be executed. Here are a few examples (again, I have added the emphasis):

They were transferred to NKVD prisons… to be shot there. (154)

… the same as the order in the death transports. (156)

The first lists of victims to be dispatched to their death… (157)

The delivery of lists for dispatching prisoners to their deaths… (159)

Beria’s directive of 4 April 1940 indicates the goal of exterminating not only the officers and police… (160)

This is the first of many reports by the UNKVD head of Kalinin Oblast, Dmitry Tokarev, on the “implementation,” that is, the murder… (162)

Soprunenko’s instruction to Korolev of 6 April 1940 was, in fact, a death list,… (163)

The dispatch of the prisoners of war to their deaths…(175)

This 11 April 1940 report from Kozelsk shows that 1,643 officers were murdered in nine days. (175)

… the moods of the prisoners as they were being dispatched unwittingly to their deaths. (176-177)

Most prisoners sent to Yukhnov camp… were exempted from the death lists for various reasons… (183)

By 3 May, the UPV together with the 1st Special Department NKVD and with the personal help of Merkulov, had processed the cases of 14,908 prisoners and sent out dispatch lists – death sentences – for 13,682. (187)

…it is likely that they simply signed or stamped the “Kobulov Forms” (doc. 51) with the death warrant already filled in. (187)

This report gives the number of lists of names received in the camp and the number of prisoners sent out from Kozelsk camp to their deaths for each date between 3 April and 11 May…(190)

A report to Soprunenko shows the number of people destined for execution according to the lists received… (193)

One of the last executions of POWs from the Ostashkov camp took place on 22 May 1940. (200)

Ostashkov prisoners were still being executed that day… (200)

It is important to note that not a single one of the documents themselves refers in any way to executions. In fact Document 53 cited by Cienciala explicitly states that the prisoners were being sent to labor camps.

6) USSR Deputy People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Divisional Commander Com. Chernyshov, shall within ten days’ time remove from their NKVD places of imprisonment in the Ukrainian SSR and send to USSR NKVD correctional labor camps 8,000 convicted prisoners, including 3,000 from the Kiev, Kharkov, and Kherson prisons. (Doc. 53, page 155; emphasis added)

All of the documents referred to or reproduced in Part II of the Cienciala volume concern the transportation of prisoners from one camp to somewhere else. Not a single one of them refers to “executions,” “shooting,” “killing,” etc. All this language is added by Cienciala. In this she has followed the practice of the Polish and Russian scholars who promote the “official” version.

It is true, of course, that the absence of a reference to the killings does not in itself prove anything about the fates of the people who were transported. What is important in terms of the Katyn controversy, however, is the dates of the transports and their destinations.

Cienciala assumes that, except for a few shipments that she specifically mentions, all the prisoners who were moved in April and May 1940 out of the three camps in which the Polish prisoners were being kept were in fact being shipped to their executions. Those executions are assumed to have taken place in April and May 1940. The “official” version of the Katyn Massacre simply assumes that all these documents about clearing the Polish prisoners out of the camps in April 1940 in reality meant sending them away for execution. It is this assumption that has been challenged by a recent discovery.

Jósef Kuligowski

In May 2011 Polish news media reported that a numbered metal badge had been unearthed which had been identified by the Ukrainian archaeological team as that of a Polish policeman, Jósef Kuligowski, heretofore assumed to have been executed by the Soviet NKVD at Kalinin (now Tver’), Russia, and buried with other such victims at Mednoe, outside of the town. [8]

Czy osoby z Listy Katyńskiej mordowano również na Grodzisku we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?! Odnaleziona przez ukraińskich archeologów odznaka Policji Państwowej o numerze 1441 / II na to wskazuje. Jak nas poinformował pan Piotr Zawilski, dyrektor Archiwum Państwowego w Łodzi odznaka o tym numerze należała do posterunkowego Józefa Kuligowskiego z IV komisariatu w Łodzi. Informacja o przydziale i numerze służbowym pochodzi z maja 1939 roku. Nazwisko posterunkowego figuruje na jednej z list dyspozycyjnych dla obozu w Ostaszkowie. Dotychczas uważano, że został zamordowany w Kalininie i spoczywa w Miednoje. Jak wytłumaczyć fakt, że odznaka Józefa Kuligowskiego znaleziona we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim? Czy zginął w Kalininie, czy we Włodzimierzu? [9]

My translation: [10]

Were persons from the Katyn List also murdered at Grodzisk in Włodzimierz Wołyński?! This is indicated by the National Police badge number 1441 / II found by Ukrainian archaeologists. As Mr Piotr Zawilski, director of the National Archive in Łodz has informed us, the badge with this number belonged to constable Jósef Kuligowski of the IV commissariat in Łodz. Information concerning the issuance and service number is from May 1939. The surname of the constable figures on one of the dispositional lists for the camp at Ostashkov. Up to now it was believed that he had been murdered in Kalinin and lies in Mednoe. How to explain the fact that Jósef Kuligowski’s badge has been found at Włodzimierz Wołyński? Was he killed at Kalinin or at Włodzimierz?

This account continues by identifying Kuligowski as one of the men previously believed killed as a part of the Katyn Massacres. The discovery occasioned considerable discussion in the Polish press about the relationship between the Katyn Massacre and this site near the Ukrainian town of Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy (Polish Włodzimierz Wołyński; Russian: Vladimir-Volynskii). [11] At this time no one doubted that this was a site of Soviet NKVD killings. [12] The Ukrainian media also reported the excavations under the assumption that the Soviet NKVD was responsible for the killings, as in the following account in the Ukraine-wide online newspaper Tyzhden‘.ua of October 4 2011. [13]

Іхочаофіційноїверсіїщодотого, хтоцілюдийчомубулирозстріляні, щенемає, науковцісхиляютьсядодумки, щозамордовані – жертвиНКВС 1941 року. Польськіпіддані, військовійцивільні, заможнийклас. Процесвідчатьзнайденінамісцістратиартефакти.

Ось два жетони офіцерів польської поліції, і оскільки на них є номери, то ми вже знаємо, кому вони належали: Йозефу Куліговському та Людвігу Маловєйському. Обидва з Лодзя. За документами НКВС, одного з них розстріляно в Калініні (Твер), другого – в Осташкові біля Харкова.

And although there is as yet no official version of who these people were and why they were shot, scientists are inclined to think that the murdered people were victims of the NKVD in 1941. Polish citizens, military and civilians, the wealthy class. This is what the artifacts found at the execution site suggest.

Here are two badges of officers of the Polish police, and since there are numbers on them we already know to whom they belonged: to Josef Kuligovs’kiy and Liudvig Maloveis’kiy. Both were from Lodz. According to NKVD documents one of them was shot at Kalinin (Tver’), the other at Ostashkov near Kharkiv.

The official being interviewed, Oleksei Zlatohorskyy, director of the government enterprise ―Volhynian antiquities, goes on to theorize that the Soviets shot all these people, whole families included, when they could not evacuate them in time as the German armies advanced in 1941. He said that many of the artifacts found in the pit are Polish:

Більшість речей мають чітке польське або інше західноєвропейське ідентифікування: фотографія маршала Едварда Ридз-Смігли, жіночі гребінці, пляшечка з-під ліків із написом «Warszawa» на денці, консервна бляшанка з польським текстом, флакон від парфумів, срібні виделки, ложки… А ще відзначаємо дуже якісну стоматологію, яку могли собі дозволити тільки багаті люди. Гадаю, що то була еліта польської держави».

Most of the objects have purely Polish or other Western European identifying marks: a photograph of Marshall Edvard Rydz-Smigly, women‘s combs, a medicine bottle with the inscription ―Warszawa‖ on the bottom, a tin can with a Polish inscription, a perfume bottle, silver forks and spoons … And we note very expensive dental work, that only a few rich people could afford. I think this was the elite of the Polish state.

The story quotes Andrzhei (Jędrzej) Kola, professor of archaeology at Nicolai Copernicus University in Torun (Poland). He expresses uncertainty as to who the killers were.

Для мене тут більше питань, ніж відповідей. Хто вбивці? Якщо це зробили гітлерівці, то чому так невпорядковано? Чому все це видається хаотичним, недбалим? Чому воно не збігається з культурою смерті, яку сповідували / 106 / німці? Чому не було знято золоті коронки й мости, не відібрані коштовності? По-німецьки це мало б зовсім інший вигляд: Ordnung, порядок. Розстрільний взвод, розстріл обличчя в обличчя… Тож усе свідчить про те, що вбивства чинили, найімовірніше, співробітники НКВС. Але остаточну крапку поставимо тільки тоді, коли буде досліджено весь периметр городища.

For me there are more questions here than answers. Who were the killers? If the Hitlerites did this, then why is the site so disorderly? Why does all this look chaotic, careless? Why does it not conform to the culture of death that the Germans professed? Why were the gold crowns and bridges not extracted, the valuables not taken? According to the German manner this would have a completely different appearance: Ordnung, order. A firing squad, shooting face to face… So everything suggests that the murders were most likely done by NKVD officials. But we will be able to draw a final conclusion only when the whole perimeter of the settlement has been investigated. [14]

In November 2012 the Polish members of a joint Polish-Ukrainian archaeological group issued a written report on the excavation of this mass murder site. In mass grave No. 1, 367 sets of human remains were exhumed and examined during 2011, and 232 bodies in 2012. The locations of many more mass graves were also determined. Concerning the finding of Kuligowski‘s badge this report reads as follows:

Była to odznaka Polskiej Policji Państwowej z numerem 1441, która należała do: Post. PP Józef KULIGOWSKI s. Szczepana i Józefy z Sadurskich, ur. 12 III l898 w m. Strych. WWP od 20 VI l919. 10 pap. Uczestnik wojny 1920, sczególnie odznaczył się w bitwie pod Mariampolem 24 V 1920. W policji od l921. Początkowo służbę pelnił w woj. tarnopolskim. Następnie od 1924 przez wiele lat w Łodzi – w 1939 w V Komis. W sierpniu 1939 zmobilizowany do l0 pal. Odzn. VM V kl. nr679.L. 026/l ( 15), 35[.]6.; za: red. Z. Gajowniczek, B. Gronek ,,Księga cmentarna Miednoje,‖ t. l, Warszawa 2005, s. 465. Odznaka została przekazana do miejscowego muzeum. [15]

It was a Polish National Police badge number 1441, which belonged to: Constable of the National Police Jósef Kuligowski son of Stephen and of Josepha née Sadurska, b. 12 March l898 in the village of Strych. In the Polish army on 20 June l919. 10 pap. Participant in the 1920 war, particularly distinguished himself at the Battle of Mariampol 24 May 1920. In the police from l921. Initially served in the Tarnopol region. Then from 1924 for many years in Lodz – in 1939 in the V Komis. In August 1939 mobilized to l0 pal. as Nr679.L class V VM. [NKVD transfer list] 026 / l ([position]15), 35 [.] 6, according to: ed Z. Gajowniczek, B. Gronek,, ―Mednoye Cemetery Book,‖ Vol. l, Warsaw 2005, p. 465. Badge has been transferred to the local museum.


Here is the entry for Kuligowski from Volume One of the ―Mednoe Cemetery Book‖: [16]


Kuligowski was taken prisoner by the Red Army sometime after September 17, 1939, when Soviet troops entered Eastern Poland to prevent the German Army from establishing itself hundreds of miles further east at the USSR‘s pre-1939 border. He was held in the Ostashkov prisoner-of-war camp in Kalinin oblast‘ (province), now renamed Tver‘ oblast‘. In April 1940 along with other prisoners he was transferred from Ostashkov to the town of Kalinin (now Tver‘). After that there is no further information about him.

Kuligowski is counted as one of the victims of the ―Katyn Massacre. What purports to be a record of his transfer, with the word ―Mord‖ (Murder) added, is on one of the official Polish websites about Katyn. [17]


As stated in the Polish media account of May 25 2011, Kuligowski‘s name is on the transfer lists of Ostashkov prisoners reproduced in the official account by Jędrzej Tucholski published in 1991. [18] Kuligowski is also listed in other recent Polish lists of Katyn victims. [19] Naturally the original Russian record of prisoner transfer reprinted in Tucholski‘s Mord w Katyniu does not contain the word ―Mord‖ (=murder).

The Polish archaeologist in charge of the excavations and author of the report, Dr. Dominika Siemińska, has determined that the victims buried in the mass grave in which this badge was found were killed no earlier than 1941: [20]

Z pewno cią stwierdzono, że zbrodnia została dokonana nie wcze niej niż w 1941 roku. (p. 4)

It can be confirmed with certainty that the crime did not take place earlier than 1941.

They were able to determine the time period by dating the shell casings found in the graves. All but a very few were of German manufacture. Almost all of them are datable to 1941.

Some of the bodies were arranged in the ―sardine-packing (Sardinenpackung) formation [21] favored by Obergruppenführer [22] Friedrich Jeckeln, commander of one of the Einsatzgruppen, extermination teams whose task it was to carry out mass executions. A photograph of the bodies in grave no. 1 shows this arrangement of bodies. [23]



Also, a large percentage of the bodies in the mass graves are of children. The Soviets did not execute children. So the evidence is strong that this is a site of German, not Soviet, mass executions. This conclusion is confirmed by the recent research of other Ukrainian scholars concerning this very burial site. Relying on evidence from German war crimes trials, eyewitness testimony of Jewish survivors, and research by Polish historians on the large-scale massacres of Poles by Ukrainian Nationalists, Professor Ivan Katchanovski and Volodymyr Musychenko have established that the victims buried at this site were mainly Jews but also Poles and ―Soviet activists.‖ Katchanovski concludes that Ukrainian authorities have tried to push the blame onto the Soviet NKVD in order to conceal the guilt of the Ukrainian Nationalist forces who are celebrated as ―heroes‖ in today‘s Ukraine, including in Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy itself. [24]

However, regardless of which party is guilty of the mass executions, the fact remains that Kuligowski was indeed transported from Ostashkov POW camp to Kalinin in April 1940 but was not shot until 1941 at the earliest. And this means that the transportation lists, which are assumed to be lists of victims being shipped off to be shot, were not that at all. Kuligowski was transported in April 1940 by the Soviets not in order to be shot but for some other reason. He remained alive, probably to be captured and executed by the Germans, most likely in the second half of 1941 but possibly somewhat later. Moreover, Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy is 800 miles from Kalinin (Tver‘).

This is the major deduction from this discovery that is relevant to our understanding of the Katyn Massacre case: The fact that a Polish POW’s name is on one of the Soviet transportation lists can no longer be assumed to be evidence that he was on his way to execution, and therefore that he was executed by the Soviets.

Ludwik Małowiejski

There is evidence that more Polish POWs are buried in these same mass graves, and therefore were executed at the same time, by the Germans in 1941 or 1942. The epaulette of a Polish policeman‘s uniform and Polish military buttons were found in grave No. 2. [25]

In September 2011 Polish media reported that police badge number 1099/II belonging to Senior Police Constable (starszy posterunkowy) Ludwik Małowiejski had been found in the Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy mass graves. [26] It had been assumed that, like Kuligowski, Małowiejski was a ―Katyn Massacre‖ victim whose body was buried in a mass grave at Mednoe near Kalinin, where – it has been assumed – other ―Katyn victims shot by the NKVD in 1940 are buried. Małowiejski‘s name is also on the recent Polish lists of Katyn victims. [27] Like Kuligowski he is memorialized in the ―Mednoe Cemetery Book‖ – in this case, Volume 2, page 541:

profileHis transfer record with the word ―Mord‖ (Murder) added, like Kuligowski‘s, is also on the same official Polish Katyn website: [28]


Like Kuligowski‘s, Małowiejski‘s name is also on the Russian lists of prisoners shipped out of the Ostashkov camp. [29]

In 2011 it was still assumed that the mass graves at Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy were those of victims of the Soviet NKVD. Therefore this apparent discrepancy about the place of burial of one victim received little attention. Since then the Polish archaeological team has definitively dated the site as 1941 at the earliest and argues that it is an SS Einsatzgruppe mass murder site, meaning late 1941 or 1942. This in turn means that Kuligowski, Małowiejski, and perhaps others – perhaps many others – were killed by the Germans in 1941, not by the Soviets in 1940.

The article by Sergei Strygin cited in note 1 above contains photographs of the memorial tablets of both Kuligowski and Małowiejski at the special memorial cemetery at Mednoe. These, and the thousands of other memorial tablets at this site, reflect the assumption that the ―transit lists‖ were really ―execution lists‖ – an assumption that the discovery at Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy proves to be false. It is clear today that neither man‘s body is buried at Mednoe. The question now is: Are any of the Polish POWs whose memorial tablets are there alongside those of Kuligowski and Małowiejski really buried there? At present there is no reason to think so.


So where does this leave us? By “us” I mean those researchers who are fascinated by the uncertainty and the political contentiousness, the challenge of all the contradictory evidence and the mysteriousness, of what I have come to call “the Katyn Forest Whodunnit.” What does this mean for people who want to know the truth no matter what it may be, “no matter whose ox is gored”?

Briefly, here’s the status of this question at present, as I understand it:

* There is no evidence that the 14,000+ Polish POWs who were transferred out of Soviet POW camps in April and May 1940 were in reality being sent to be shot. This assumption has been one of the main supports of the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. It must now be rejected. Since Kuligowski and Małowiejski were on those transportation lists and survived to be killed in 1941 by the Nazis, then others could have as well. There is no basis to think that only a few of the Polish prisoners were not shot by the Soviets in April-May 1940 and that, just by chance, two of this group have been identified. Rather it is likely that most of the Polish POWs were not killed by the Soviets but remained in Soviet captivity to be captured and shot by the Nazis sometime after the middle of 1941.

* The “smoking gun” documents from “Closed Packet No. 1” are linked to the assumption that all the POWs shipped out of the camps were being shipped to execution. The fact that they were not shipped to execution in April-May 1940 is an additional reason to suspect that these documents may indeed be forgeries, as some have long argued.

* The confession-interviews of the three NKVD witnesses, Soprunenko, Tokarev, and Syromiatnikov, strongly suggest that the NKVD did execute some Poles. Their testimony is inconsistent – as is to be expected from 50 year-old remembrances of men in their 80s. What’s more, they testified under threat of criminal prosecution and so may have elaborated their confessions in order to please their interrogators. But even researchers who contend that the Germans shot the Poles whose bodies were disinterred by the Germans at Katyn in April-June 1943 do not claim that the Soviets shot no Poles at all.

* In 2004 the Russian Prosecutor’s office announced that it had closed the criminal investigation on the grounds that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed. This announcement is contained in the following statement on the Prosecutor’s web page dated April 7, 2011:

21 сентября 2004 г. уголовное дело по обвинению должностных лиц НКВД СССР в совершении преступления, предусмотренного п. «б» ст. 193-17 УК РСФСР (1926 г.), т.е. превышения власти, выразившегося в принятии незаконных решений о применении в отношении 14 542 польских граждан расстрела, прекращено на основании п. 4 ч. 1 ст. 24 УПК РФ – за отсутствием события преступления.

On September 21, 2004 the criminal case against officials of the NKVD in the commission of an offense under subsection “b” of Art. 193-17 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (1926), ie abuse of power, manifesting itself as the taking of an illegal decision on the application of shooting to 14,542 Polish citizens, was closed on the basis of paragraph 1 of paragraph 4, part 1, Article 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation — for lack of a crime.

This appears to say that the investigation found that no crime had been committed. This is different from Cienciala’s interpretation, which is “that no one would be charged with the crime.” (259) The Prosecutor’s text plainly states that there was no crime in the first place. Nevertheless Russian officials, including President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev, have continued to state that the Soviets are guilty of killing all the Poles.

The Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy discovery proves that the “transit lists” are not “execution lists.” Instead, they are merely what they seem to be — lists of Polish POWs being transferred somewhere else for some purpose. Some of the Polish POWs transferred may have been tried and shot by the Soviets. But others such as Jósef Kuligowski and Ludwik Małowiejski were not transferred to execution. They were transferred for some other purpose – most likely to a correctional labor camp as stated in Document 53, p. 155 in Cienciala et al. (quoted above).

The Burdenko Commission

The fact is: A Polish POW’s name on a “transit list” does not mean that he was executed by the Soviets in April-May 1940 or indeed at any time. This forces us to take a closer look at the Soviet Burdenko Commission Report of January 1944. The Burdenko Commission report contains the following information about materials it allegedly found on a body unearthed from grave No. 8 at Katyn:

4. На трупе № 46: Квитанция (№ неразборчив), выданная 16 дек. 1939 г. Старобельским лагерем о приеме от Арашкевича Владимира Рудольфовича золотых часов. На обороте квитанции имеется отметка от 25 марта 1941 г. о том, что часы проданы Ювелирторгу.

6. На трупе № 46: Квитанция от 6 апреля 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Арашкевича денег в сумме 225 рублей.

7. На том же трупе № 46: Квитанция от 5 мая 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Арашкевича денег в сумме 102 рубля.

4. On body No. 46: A receipt (number illegible) issued 16 Dec. 1939, by the Starobelsk camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Vladimir Rudolfovich Araszkewicz. On the back of the receipt is a note dated 25 March 1941, stating that the watch was sold to the Jewelry trading trust.

6. On body No. 46: A receipt dated 6 April 1941, issued by camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 225 rubles from Araszkewicz.

7. On the same body. No. 46: A receipt dated 5 May 1941, issued by Camp No. l-ON, showing receipt of 102 rubles from Araszkewicz. [30]

Włodzimierz Araszkiewicz is on the Polish lists of victims of Katyn, and also on the earlier list of Adam Mosziński, Lista Katyńska (GRYF, London 1989). [31] His father’s name, Rudolf, is on his transfer record: [32]


As often with these Polish lists there are contradictions. Mosziński, Lista Katyńska, has Araszkiewicz in the Starobelsk camp, while the „Indeks” record (above) puts him at the Ostashkov camp, while Tucholski has him at both Kozel’sk and Ostashkov! [33] Here is Araszkiewicz’s memorial from Volume 1 of the “Mednoe Cemetery Book,” page 11:


According to the Burdenko Commission report Camp No. 1-ON, origin of the receipt found on body No. 46 and bearing Araszkiewicz’s name, was one of three labor camps named No. 1-ON, 2-ON, and 3-ON, where “ON” stands for “osobogo naznacheniia” (special purpose or assignment). These camps were near Smolensk. The “special purpose” was road construction.

The Special Commission established that, before the capture of Smolensk by the Germans, Polish war prisoners, officers and men, worked in the western district of the region, building and repairing roads. These war prisoners were quartered in three special camps named: Camp No. 1 O.N., Camp No. 2 O.N., and Camp No. 3 O.N. These camps were located 25 to 45 kilometers west of Smolensk.

The testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence establish that after the outbreak of hostilities, in view of the situation that arose, the camps could not be evacuated in time and all the Polish war prisoners, as well as some members of the guard and staffs of the camps, fell prisoner to the Germans. (Burdenko Comm. 229)

According to the “official” version this story must be false, part of a putative Soviet coverup. The Nazis had begun their Katyn propaganda campaign on April 15, 1943. [34] By January 1944 the Katyn issue had been public for nine months, plenty of time for the Soviets to manufacture a false version.

However, in their very first response of April 16, 1943 the Soviets had already claimed that Polish officers were involved in construction in the Smolensk area.

Немецко-фашистские сообщения по этому поводу не оставляют никакого сомнения в трагической судьбе бывших польских военнопленных, находившихся в 1941 году в районах западнее Смоленска на строительных работах и попавших вместе со многими советскими людьми, жителями Смоленской области, в руки немецко-фашистских палачей летом 1941 года после отхода советских войск из района Смоленска. [35]

The German-fascist communiqué on this matter leaves no doubt about the tragic fate of the former Polish POWs who in 1941 were engaged in construction works in the area to the west of Smolensk and who, together with many Soviet citizens, residents of Smolensk oblast’, fell into the hands of the German-fascist killers during the summer of 1941 after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the Smolensk region.

This is essentially the same claim the Burdenko Commission made nine months later. But on April 16, 1943 no one knew exactly what the Germans would do or exactly what they would say. No one knew that Katyn would become a huge German propaganda campaign. The consistency between the Sovinformburo statement of April 16, 1943 and the Burdenko Commission report nine months later is therefore worthy of note, just as an inconsistency would have been. It might well be true.

The Burdenko Commission report also mentions finding similar documents on another body unearthed at Katyn: that of Edward Levandowski.

3. На трупе № 101: Квитанция № 10293 от 19 дек. — 1939 г., выданная Козельским лагерем о приеме от Левандовского Эдуарда Адамовича золотых часов. На обороте квитанции имеется запись от 14 марта 1941 г. о продаже этих часов Ювелирторгу.…

8. На трупе № 101: Квитанция от 18 мая 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Левандовского Э. денег в сумме 175 рублей.

3. On body No. 101: A receipt No. 10293 dated 19 Dec. 1939, issued by the Kozelsk camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Eduard Adamovich Lewandowski. On the back of the receipt is a note dated 14 March 1941, on the sale of this watch to the Jewelry trading trust.…

8. On body No. 101: A receipt dated 18 May 1941, issued by Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 175 rubles from Lewandowski.

Edward Lewandowski, son of Adam, is also on Mosziński, Lista Katyńska [36] and in Tucholski (p. 317 col. 2; p. 891 No. 35). This time there are no contradictions – all these sources have him at Ostashkov, nowhere near the Smolensk area and Katyn. He is also stated to have been “murdered” at Kalinin, the destination of most of the transports from Ostashkov. Here is his memorial in the “Mednoe Cemetery Book” Volume One, p. 498:


Meanwhile the Burdenko Commission claimed to have found his body at Katyn, along with documents dated December 1939 from Kozel’sk and May 1941 from the same Camp 1-ON, near Smolensk, as Araszkiewicz’s. [37]


The Burdenko Commission report also mentions the following find:

9. На трупе № 53: Неотправленная почтовая открытка на польском языке в адрес: Варшава, Багателя 15 кв. 47 Ирене Кучинской. Датирована 20 июня 1941 г. Отправитель Станислав Кучинский.

9. On body No. 53: An unmailed postcard in the Polish language addressed Warsaw, Bagatelia 15, apartment 47, to Irene Kuczinska, and dated 20 June 1941. The sender is Stanislaw Kuczinski. (Burdenko Comm. pp. 246-247).

A Stanisław Kucziński is named in the Katyn victims list. The name is a common one. The record below is that of the only person by that name who is said in those lists to have been killed in the Katyn Massacres:


This Stanisław Kucziński, son of Antoni, is also memorialized in the “Mednoe Cemetery Book” I, p. 459 [38]:


Once again this victim is stated to have been transferred from the camp at Ostashkov to Kalinin and “murdered” there, though the Burdenko Commission stated that they found his body at Katyn. [39]

How can the Polish Katyn lists assert that Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński were killed (“Mord”) at Kalinin and buried nearby at Mednoe when their bodies were unearthed by the Burdenko Commission at Katyn? Only by assuming that the Burdenko Commission was lying when it claimed to have found these corpses at Katyn with papers from March, May, and June 1941 on them. But then the Soviets would have had to go to Kalinin, unearth these bodies and bring them to Katyn. Or they could have chosen the names of three victims they knew were buried at Kalinin and claim they had discovered their bodies at Katyn.

But why go to all that trouble when they could have just planted false documents on the bodies of persons they knew to have been shot at Katyn? After all, if the Soviets had shot all these men they knew not only who was buried at Kalinin but also who was buried at Katyn. So why not use the bodies, or at least the identities, of three men who really were buried at Katyn? Why use the names of three men buried hundreds of miles away?

No objective historian would make such an assumption. One only has to assume that the Burdenko Commission was lying if one has already made the prior assumption that the transportation lists are really “death lists.” That is, the second assumption entails the first: it is “an assumption based upon an assumption.” If it were definitely the case that the “transfer lists” really were lists of Poles being shipped to execution, then we could confidently state that these assertions by the Burdenko Commission were fabrications – lies intended to blame on the Germans murders that the Soviets had in fact carried out. But the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyn’skiy have proven that the “transfer lists” were notlists of persons being shipped to execution. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Soviets did any of this.

It is simpler to assume that the Burdenko Commission really did unearth the bodies of Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński at Katyn. [40] That means that Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński could have been shipped to a labor camp, a “camp of special purpose” as, according to the Burdenko Commission, they were called; captured by the Germans during the summer of 1941; shot either at the Katyn Forest site or, if shot at their camps – 25 to 45 Km from Smolensk – their corpses brought to Katyn as part of the Nazi propaganda campaign to split the Allies. A number of witnesses testified to the Burdenko Commission that they saw German trucks loaded with corpses being driven in the direction of Katyn. [41]

This is the only scenario that accounts for the facts as we now know them. Moreover, it is strengthened by a discovery the Germans themselves made. The 1943 German report on Katyn states that the following item was found in one of the mass graves:

eine ovale Blechmarke unter den Asservaten vor, die folgende Angaben enthält

9 4 2 4
Stadt Ostaschkow [42]

The text of the original badge would have been, in Russian, like this:


9 4 2 4

г. Осташков

A probable English translation would be:

Prison Kitchen, NKVD Directorate, Kalinin Oblast’

[prisoner, or cell, or badge number] 9 4 2 4

town of Ostashkov [43]

None of the “transport lists” from the camp at Ostashkov were for transport to Katyn or anywhere near Smolensk. All these lists state that the Polish prisoners were sent to Kalinin. Therefore the person buried at Katyn who had this badge in his possession had been shipped to Kalinin. But, obviously, he was not shot there. The badge was unearthed at Katyn. Therefore, the owner of this badge was also shot at Katyn, or nearby.

There seems to be just one way these men, and doubtless many more, could have ended up shot and buried at Katyn. They must have been transferred from Kalinin to a labor camp near Katyn, where the Germans captured and shot them. This hypothesis fits the scenario as outlined by the Sovinformburo statement of April 16, 1943, and by the Burdenko Commission. It also offers independent confirmation of the main conclusion of this article: that the prisoners transferred out of the POW camps in April-May 1940 were not being shipped to execution.

What really did happen?

The discoveries in the mass graves at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy constitute a lethal blow to the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. This is something that should interest all of us. Katyn has been the most famous crime alleged against Stalin and the Soviet government. It has been the crime most firmly grounded in documentary evidence. For example, it is unlike the alleged “Holodomor,” the supposedly deliberate starvation by Stalin of millions of Ukrainians in the famine of 1932-1933, for which no evidence has ever been found. [44]

All the post-Soviet states today employ “Soviet atrocities” narratives to justify the pro-fascist, anti-semitic, and pro-Nazi actions of the forces that sided with the Germans against the Soviet Union before, during, and after World War 2. Katyn is the keystone of contemporary right-wing Polish nationalism. Katyn is also a key component of anti-Stalin, anti-Soviet, and anticommunist propaganda generally. Until now, it has been the best known such alleged atrocity and by far the best documented one. Katyn has been the best proven “crime of Stalinism.” That is no longer the case.

So what really did happen? In my view – and here I am following a number of the very competent Russian researchers who have likewise concluded that the “official” version is wrong – the Soviets did execute some Poles.

We know that after occupying Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, formerly Eastern Poland, in September 1939 the Soviet NKVD searched for Poles who had been involved in the 1920-21 war in which Poland had taken these territories from the Russian Socialist Republic, which had been exhausted by four years of civil war and Allied intervention, typhus epidemic, and famine. [45] Imperialist Poland had deprived the majority populations – Belorussians, Ukrainians, and Jews – of many of their national and civil rights. [46] The Polish government had sent “settlers” (osadnicy), mainly former military officers, to “polonize” (“make more Polish”) the lands, giving them estates and making them government officials and teachers. Poland had violently repressed the communist movement and the Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Jewish minorities in these lands, as well as in Poland proper. Moreover: during the Russo-Polish war of 1920-21 somewhere between 18,000 and 60,000 Red Army POWs had died in Polish captivity. There is good documentation that they were treated brutally, starved, frozen, and many of them murdered outright. [47]

Therefore it is probable that the Soviets would have arrested and prosecuted any Polish POWs and civilians they could find who had been involved in these crimes. Many of these people were deported to places of exile deep within the USSR (where many of them survived World War 2, far away from their former homes where the fighting and Nazi and Ukrainian [48] mass murders were the most ferocious). Others must have been tried, convicted, and either executed or sent to labor camps.

It is likely that a substantial number of the Polish POWs – military officers, policemen, and guards of various kinds — had been involved either in repression of or atrocities against Soviet troops, communists, trade unionists, or workers, peasants, or Belorussian, Ukrainian, and Jewish schools or institutions. The Soviet Union would have prosecuted them. It is also likely that some Polish POWs were sentenced to labor in areas that were captured by the Germans when they invaded the USSR in 1941, and subsequently executed, as Kuligowski and Małowiejski were.

Former NKVD men Soprunenko, Tokarev, and Syromiatnikov testified that they knew of some executions of Polish prisoners. So there’s no reason to doubt that the Soviets did shoot some Poles. But the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy prove that the “transit” or “shipment” documents do not record the shipping of the prisoners to execution. This is the basis of the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre: it has now been proven false. The Polish POWs were not being shipped to execution when the camps they were in were closed in April-May 1940.

I predict that in “mainstream” – i.e., anticommunist – academia the discourse about the Katyn Massacre will change very little. Mainstream anticommunism is motivated far more by “political correctness” – by political motives – than by any desire to discover the truth. When mainstream anticommunist scholarship does mention the Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy discoveries it will be only to try to dismiss them. One way of attempting to do so is demonstrated in the Ukrainian archaeological report cited below – to claim that the NKVD carried out these executions. Other similar subterfuges can be invented. The central importance of these discoveries for an objective understanding of this infamous historical event will be denied at all costs.

Perhaps the Polish archaeologist’s report anticipated this by relegating the finding of Kuligowski’s badge to a footnote. It could be considered a principled and even courageous act by this archaeologist, Dr. Dominika Siemińska, to reveal the discovery of the badge and to give the important details about it in the report, no matter how minimized and downplayed. No one compelled her to insert this information, which directs the attentive reader to the contradiction between the discovery at Volodymyr-Volyns’skiy and the “official” version of Katyn. Questioning of the “official” version is not tolerated in the public sphere in Poland. One hopes that Dr. Siemińska’s career will not suffer because of her adherence to scientific objectivity.

The report of the Ukrainian part of the same team does not mention the discovery of either badge. Moreover, the Ukrainian report goes out of its way to suggest that the Soviets might still somehow be responsible for the mass executions. It protests the finding of the Polish report that the graves used the “Jeckeln system” “since it only began to be used by the Nazis at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942.” No evidence is included in support of this claim.

Додатковохочетьсявідмітити, щоданийметодрозстрілівнеможнаназивати «системоюЄкельна», на який посилаються наші польські колеги. Цей нацистській метод не передбачав страти у поховальній ямі. До того ж його почали застосовувати лише наприкінці 1941 – на початку 1942 р. у Ризі, що хронологічно не відповідає володимирській страті.

In addition we wish to note that this method of execution should not be called the “Jeckeln system,” to which our Polish colleagues refer. This Nazi method was not used for executions in a funeral pit. In addition, it began to be used only in late 1941 – early 1942 in Riga, which does not correspond chronologically to the Volodymyr executions.

The Ukrainian report mentions the fact that the German shell casings found were from 1941, but then states “It is known that Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in mass executions of Polish citizens.” [49]

У поховальних ямах виявлено ідентичні гільзи , головним чином калібру 9 мм. Більшість з них мають позначки dnh (виробництво заводу Верк Дурлах в Карлсрує, Німеччина) та kam (виробництво фабрики Hasag у Скаржиці Кам’яній, Польща) 1941 р. Проте виявлені і декілька гільз радянського зразка. Все це потребує додаткових досліджень, оскільки стверджувати про те, що розстріли проводилися гітлерівцями при наявності в поховальних ямах гільз радянського зразка– не є об’єктивним. Відомі факти (зокрема дані розстрілів польських військових у Катині), що радянські органи НКВС використовували при розстрілах німецьку зброю.

In the burial pits were found identical shells, mainly of 9 mm caliber. Most of them have the mark “dnh” (production of the factory Werk Drulach [50] in Karlsruhe, Germany) and “kam” (production of the Hasag factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna, [51] Poland) of 1941. However a few shells of Soviet type were also found. All this requires further research, inasmuch as it is not objective to affirm that the shootings were carried out by the Hitlerites when shells of Soviet type were found in the pits. Facts are known (including the facts of the shooting of Polish military men at Katyn) that the Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in shootings.

Details of the shells, 150 in all, found in grave No. 1 are given in footnote 3, page 8 of the Polish report but are absent from the Ukrainian report:

1. “kam, 67, 19, 41”- 137 szt; 2. “dnh, *, l , 41” – 7 szt; 3. Geco, 9 mm – l szt; 4. łuski bez oznaczeń, 7,62 x 25, wz. 30, produkcja ZSRR – 5 szt.

1. “kam, 67, 19, 41” – 137 units; 2. “dnh, *, 1, 41” – 7 units; 3. Geco, 9 mm. – 1 unit; 4. Shells without markings, 7.62 x 25 caliber, USSR production of 1930s type – 5 units.

These identifying marks on shell casings are known as ―”headstamps.” According to the analysis by Sergei Strygin “kam, 67, 19, 41” signifies the Hasag factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna, “67” the percentage of copper in the bullet, “19” the lot number, and “41” the year of production. “dnh *, 1, 41” signifies the Dürlach factory, “*” means the shell was jacketed in brass; “1” is the lot number, and “41” the year of production. One hundred forty-four, or 96% of the 150 shells found, were of German make and can be dated to 1941. [52]


The Polish, but not the Ukrainian, report also specifies the shells found in grave No. 2:

l. “kam, 67. 19, 41″- 205 szt; 2. „dnh, .*, l, 41″ – 17 szt; 3. łuski bez oznaczeń. 7.62 x 25. wz. 30, produkcja ZSRR — 2 szt; 4. łuska „B , 1906”

1. “Kam, 67, 19, 41” – 205 units; 2. “dny, *, 1, 41” – 17 units; 3. Shells without markings, 7.62×25 caliber – USSR production of 1930s – 2 units; (one) shell “B , 1906.”

Of 225 shells found in this grave, 205 are the German 1941 “Hasag” type, 17 are the German 1941 “Dürlach” type, 2 are of the unmarked 1930s Soviet type; and one is marked “B 1906.” [53] Hence 98.67% of the shells are of 1941 German manufacture.

By contrast neither of the Ukrainian reports cites the numbers of each type of shell or the fact that German shells made in 1941 constitute the overwhelming majority of those found. The following paragraph appears word-for-word in each:

Упоховальнихямахвиявленоідентичнігільзи , головнимчиномкалібру 9 мм. Більшістьзнихмаютьпозначки dnh (виробництвозаводуВеркДурлахвКарлсрує, Німеччина) таkam (виробництвофабрики Hasag уСкаржиціКам’яній, Польща) 1941 р. Протевиявленіідекількагільзрадянськогозразка. Все це потребує додаткових досліджень, оскільки стверджувати про те, що розстріли проводилися гітлерівцями при наявності в поховальних ямах гільз радянського зразка– не є об’єктивним. Відомі факти (зокрема дані розстрілів польських військових у Катині), що радянські органи НКВС використовували при розстрілах німецьку зброю. [54]

In the burial pits were found identical shells, mainly of caliber 9 mm. Most of them have the mark “dnh” (Werk Dürlach production plant in Karlsruhe, Germany), and “kam” (production factory in Hasag Skarżysko Kamienna, Poland) in 1941. However, several shell casings of Soviet model were also found. All this requires more research inasmuch that it is not objective to assert that the shootings were carried out by the Hitlerites even though shells of Soviet model were found in the burial pits. Examples are known (including data of shootings of Polish soldiers in Katyn) that the Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in executions.

There are some problems with the conclusion in the Ukrainian report. First, it is an example of circular reasoning. It assumes that the mass killings at Katyn, which even the Germans admitted were carried out with German ammunition, was a Soviet crime. But that is the very assumption that the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy call into question.

Second, it assumes that even the overwhelming preponderance of German ordnance is not enough to establish that the killings were done by the Germans, since the Soviets could also use German ammunition. No doubt this is the reason the Ukrainian report does not give the numbers of shells or the percentage of them that are German and of 1941 manufacture. (The Ukrainian reports should have added that Germans could also use Soviet ammunition. The Germans captured immense amounts of Soviet arms and ammunition in 1941.)

Відмічено також, що вбиті часто прикривали обличчя руками, або обіймали іншу жертву (жінки тулили до себе і прикривали дітей). (Doslizhdennia; Zvit 15)

It is also noted that those killed often covered their faces with their hands, or embraced another victim (women hugged to themselves and covered children).

There are no examples anywhere of the Soviet NKVD shooting children.

Ukrainian archaeologist Oleksei Zlatohorskyy (Russian: Aleksei Zlatogorskii) has pointed out the political problems raised by the Polish archaeologist’s identification of the Germans as the murderers:

Неосторожные высказывания польских археологов о принадлежности останков, найденных на территории замка Казимира Великого во Владимире-Волынском, могут поставить под сомнение уже известные преступления НКВД по отношению к польским офицерам, сообщил директор ГП “Волынские древности” Алексей Златогорский в комментарии

Incautious statements by Polish archaeologists about the belongings of the remains found on the land of the castle of Kazimir Velikii in Vladimir-Volynskii could cast doubt upon the already known crimes of the NKVD in relation to Polish officers, said the direction of the state enterprise “Volyn antiquities” Aleksei Zlatogorskii in a commentary to [55]

The only “already known crimes of the NKVD in relation to Polish officers” is the Katyn Massacre – to be more precise, the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. Prof. Zlatohorskyy does not explain how the Polish report “casts doubt” upon the “official” version of Katyn.

The Ukrainian report cited above appears to be a shorter, perhaps Internet version of a longer report written by Zlatohorskyy and two other Ukrainian archaeologists, S.D. Panishko and M.P. Vasheta. This report (Zvit)omits any mention of Kuligowski, Małowiejski, or their badges. Its appendix does include photographs also found in the Polish report. Among them are a photo of the Polish policeman’s epaulette and of the “sardine-packing” arrangement of bodies in Grave No. 2. (Zvit 91,92,97). The very “orderly” arrangement of bodies contradicts the description by Prof. Kola.

The opening of an exhibition concerning this site at the Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy Historical Museum on March 5 2013 has been announced. The accompanying article states only that in 1997 researchers assumed that the victims buried there were Poles shot by the NKVD in 1939-1940, and suggests that this is still their conclusion.

Виставка розповідає про результати ексгумаційних робіт протягом 2010-2012 рр., розкриває перед відвідувачами основні віхи історії ще одного великого замку на Волині та страхітливого злочину, прихованих від людського ока.

The exhibit tells of the results of the works of exhumation during the years 2010-2012, reveals to visitors the basic milestones of yet another great castle of Volhynia and of a horrifying crime hidden from human eyes. [56]

Even if we set aside all the evidence that the Germans killed the victims at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, there remains the fact that most of the ammunition used was manufactured in 1941. The “transit” or “shipment” documents are of April-May 1940. Kuligowski and Małowiejski could not have been killed earlier than 1941. No one has suggested that they were killed in Kalinin and Kharkiv in April-May 1940 and then their badges brought to a mass grave in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, hundreds of miles away, and there thrown into the burial pit.

Kuligowski and Małowiejski were indeed shipped out of their POW camps in April 1940, as recorded in the Soviet transit lists published by Tucholski in 1991. But neither of them was being sent to execution. They were killed in 1941 in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, Ukrainian SSR. According to the evidence now available they were killed by the Germans. But this is not important for our present purposes. What is important is this: it is invalid to conclude that any of the prisoners shipped out of the Polish POW camps in April-May 1940 were being sent to their deaths. This in itself disproves the “official” version of the Katyn massacre.


The opinions of persons who are motivated by a desire to learn the truth about Katyn as about historical questions generally can be altered by the evidence discovered at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy. This can happen only if the news of the discovery, and of its implications for the understanding of the Katyn issue, becomes widely known and understood.

This is no easy matter. Aside from a small number of researchers, what most people learn about the Katyn issue reflects the “official” version. Discussion of Katyn is actively discouraged in mainstream academic and political circles under the pretext that the matter has been so firmly established by evidence that only cranks and communists could question it.

However, the very act of discouraging free discussion and doubts about the “official” viewpoint has the potential to stimulate curiosity and questioning.


[1]“‘Волынская Катынь’ оказалась делом рук гитлеровцев.” [“The ‘Volhynian Katyn’ turns out to be a deed of the Hitlerites.”] At

[2] According to the “official” account, small numbers of Polish prisoners were confined at or shipped to other camps and were not executed.

[3] Hitler outlined this “Big Lie” in Mein Kampf: Chapter 6, “War Propaganda,” and Chapter 10, “Why the Second Reich Collapsed.”

[4]«Секретныедокументы из особых папок» Вопросы Истории 1993 № 1, сс. 3-22.

[5] At

[6] I picked the title “The Katyn Forest Whodunnit” for my page because it expresses my own uncertainty, and thereby my own dedication to objectivity. I don’t know “who did it,” the Nazis or the Soviets, the Soviets or the Nazis, and I would like to know. Moreover, I don’t care “who did it.” If the Germans did it, it is just what they did all over Eastern Europe and on a much larger scale. If the Soviets did it, we should try to discover why they did. It would not be “endemic to communism,” as the anticommunists claim. In fact, though, it appears more and more likely that the Soviets did not “do it.”

[7] I have taken the texts of all but one of the confessions from the official Polish volumeKatyń. Dokumenty zbrodni- Tom 2 Zagłada marzec-czerwiec 1940. (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo „Trio,” 1998). They were originally published separately. I have checked those original versions against this one. In addition, Syromiatnikov gave an interview to Polish journalist Jerzy Morawski in 1992. All these interviews with ex-NKVD officers Soprunenko, Syromiatnikov, and Tokarev are available at

[8] A photograph of Kuligowski‘s badge may be viewed at and a somewhat lighter, more legible copy at

[9] “Osoby z Listy Katyńskiej mordowano we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?!” (Persons from the Katyn List murdered at Włodzimierz Wołyński?!), ITVL May 25, 2011. At–

[10] All translations in this article are mine.

[11] The surrounding region of Volhynia was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I; then part of Poland; then part of the Soviet Ukraine; then occupied by the Germans; then again part of Soviet Ukraine, and is now part of Ukraine. Until 1939 the language of the urban elite was mainly Polish, that of the peasantry mainly Ukrainian and Yiddish.

[12] See “Tropem zbrodni NKWD pod Włodzimierzem Wołyńskim” (Trail of NKVD crime near Włodzimierz Wołyński) at ; Włodzimierz Wołyński – groby polskich ofiar NKWD” (graves of Polish victims of the NKVD) at ; “Czyje mogiły odnaleziono we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?” (Whose graves found at Włodzimierz Wołyński?) This last article speaks of „ofiar pomordowanych przez NKWD w latach 1940-1941 w sowieckiej katowni na zamku we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim” (victims murdered by the NKVD in 1940-1941 in the Soviet execution chamber in the castle at Włodzimierz Wołyński). Many more similar articles could be cited.

[13] “ВолинськаКатинь. УВолодимирі-ВолинськомузнайденомасовепохованняжертвНКВС 1939–1941 років.” Tyzhden’.ua October 4, 2011. At

[14] In reality there was plenty of “order” in the burials. We shall see below that both the Polish and Ukrainian reports attest to this fact. There is also a great deal of evidence, including photographs, that German troops executed people from behind rather than in “firing-squad” formation.

[15] Sprawozdanie z Nadzoru Nad Badaniami Archeologiczno-Ekshumacyjnymi na Terenie Rezerwatu Historyczno-Kulturowego Miasta Włodzimierza Wołyńskiego (Ukraina). Opracowanie zespołowe pod kierunkiem dr Dominiki Siemińskiej. Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa. (Report of the Supervision on the Archaeological-Exhumation Investigation in the Area of the Reservation of the Historical-Cultural Town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy (Ukraine). A Team Description under the Direction of Dr. Dominika Siemińska. Council for the Commemoration of Struggle and Martzrdom). Toruń, 2012, Note, pp. 1-2. At

[16] Miednoje. Księga Cmentarna Polskiego Cmentarza Wojennego. Warsaw: Rada Ochrony Pamiêci Walk i Mêczeñstwa 2005. Tom 1, 465.

[17] According to the Home Page „Indeks Represjonowanych” ( ) this online record is a digital version of the contents of the official volume: Maria Skrzyńska-Pławińska, ed. Rozstrzelani w Twerze : alfabetyczny spis 6314 jeńców polskich z Ostaszkowa rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940 i pogrzebanych w Miednoje, według źródeł sowieckich i polskich. Warszawa : Ośrodek KARTA, 1997.

[18] Jędrzej Tucholski. Mord w Katyniu: Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk. Lista ofiar. Warszawa: Instztut Wydawniczy Pax, 1991, p. 810. No. 15: NKVD list No. 026/1 of 13 April 1940, position 15. In spite of the presence of Kuligowski’s name on this NKVD list, for some reason the alphabetical section of Tucholski (p. 314 col. 2) lists Kuligowski on its “victims list” (lista ofiar) as “probably Ostashkov” (Prawdop. Ostaszków).

[19] See “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.”

[20] See above, note 14.

[21] A description of this method of execution may be found on the English-language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at

[22] Equivalent to full or four-star General, the highest SS rank aside from that of Heinrich Himmler, whose rank was Reichsführer-SS.

[23] Photograph at (as of May 6 2013). It is taken from page 8 of the Polish archeological report cited above.A description of this method of execution may be found on the English language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at

[24] Volodymyr Musychenko. ―Ialatpcaojnj Hfrtcanj Bumj ]crf¿?‖ Slovo Pravdy (Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy) March 29, 2011. At 57&catid=1:newsukraine ; Ivan Katchanovski, ―Katyn in Reverse in Ukraine: Nazi-led Massacres turned into Soviet Massacres.‖ OpEd News, December 13, 2012, at ; I. Katchanovski, ―Suyasoa qpm{tjla qan‘>t{ oa Cpmjo{ 7pep PUO(b) ta oaxjsts:ljw naspcjw cbjcstc,‖ Ukraina Moderna No. 19 (April 30 2013). At

[25] Photos available at , from the Polish archaeological report.

[26] “Kolejny policjant z Listy Katyńskiej odnaleziony we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim..” [Another policeman on the Katyn List is found in Volodymyr-Volynsky]. At

[27] “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.” At

[28] The following text is from

[29] Tucholski p. 887 No. 76. Małowiejski was in a transport of 100 Polish prisoners sent to the Kalinin NKVD on April 27, 1940. Of course his name is also on Tucholski’s alphabetical list (p. 322, col. 2) as is Kuligowski’s, and on other official lists of Katyn victims.

[30] “Report of Special Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest.” (Burdenko Report). In The Katyn Forest Massacre. Hearings Before the Select Committee To Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session. …Part 3 (Chicago). March 13 and 14, 1952. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952 (, p. 246.

[31] “Część Pierwsza. Obóz w Kozielsku. Groby w Lesie Katyńskim,” p. 3 (pages unnumbered).

[32] The following text is from

[33] Araszkiewica at Kozel’sk: Tucholski p. 68 col. 2 (the alphabetical list). In the Russian-language “transit lists” that take up almost 400 pages of Tucholski’s book, Araszkiewicz’s transfer from Ostashkov to Kalinin is recorded on list No.062/2 of May 19, 1940, the last shipment of prisoners out of Ostashkov: p. 907, No. 7.

[34] The New York Times published a very brief notice of the German claim on April 16, 1943; see “Nazis Accuse Russians,” p. 4.

[35] “Совинформбюро. Гнусныеизмышлениянемецко-фашистскихпалачей” (Sovinformburo: Vile Fabrications of the German-Fascist Executioners), April 16, 1943. At

[36]“Część Druga. Obóz w Ostaszkowie,” p. 13 (pages unnumbered).

[37] The following text is from

[38]  The following text is from

[39] Mosziński, Lista Katyńska, lists the only Stanisław Kucziński in the Katyn victims lists as at the Starobelsk camp; see “Część Trzecia. Obóz w Starobielsku,” page 34 (unnumbered pages). Tucholski (p.314 col. 1; lists p. 851 No. 87) puts a Stanisław Kucziński at Ostashkov, thus agreeing with the “Indeks” list. The “Indeks” list and Tucholski agree that this Kucziński’s father’s name was Adam; Mosziński does not give any father’s name. Mosziński’s Stanisław Kucziński was a “rtm,” a Rotmistrz, or Captain of Cavalry, while Tucholski’s was a constable of police (“Funkcj. PP, posterunek Pruszków”). It appears that Mosziński and the other two sources are indicating different men.

[40] The names of these three men are not on the list of 4143 bodies, some of them nameless, in the German report Amtliches Material.

[41] Testimony of P.F. Sukhachev, October 8, 1942, and of Vladimir Afanasievich Yegorov, undated, to Burdenko Commission, Burdenko Comm (note 26), 241-2.

[42] Amtliches Material zum Massenmord von KATYN. Berlin: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. Franz Eher Nachf. GmbH., 1943, p. 46. The German sentence reads: “… an oval tin badge among the exhibits, which contains the following information.

[43] The abbreviation “T.K.” may mean “prison kitchen” (тюремнаякухня) or “pantry,” or it may mean something else. What matters is that the badge or marker comes from Ostashkov.

[44] For a brief overview of this question see Mark Tauger, “Famine in Russian History,”Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, Volume 10: Supplement. (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 2011), 79-92. Tauger’s own works on the famine are cited at page 92. I consider Tauger to be the world’s authority on this famine, to the study of which he has devoted decades. See also R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft,The Years of Hunger. Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2009 [2004]), 440-1. Concerning the “Yezhovshchina” (also called “the Great Terror”) see the Yezhov confession of August 4, 1939 printed in Никита Петров, “Сталинский питомец” — Николай Ежов (Nikita Petrov, “Stalin’s Pet” – Nikolai Yezhov), Moscow 2008, 367–79 (English translation at ). Stalin told aircraft designer Alexander Yakovlev that Yezhov had been executed because he had killed many innocent people; see А. Яковлев, Цельжизни. Запискиавиаконструктора (М.: 1973), 267 (глава: “Москвавобороне”). For the present author’s views see Grover Furr, “The Moscow Trials and the ‘Great Terror’ of 1937-1938: What the Evidence Shows” (written July 2010).

[45] See, for example, Piotr Kołakowski, NKWD i GRU na ziemiach polskich 1939-1945(Warsaw: Bellona, 2002), 74, which discusses NKVD searches and arrests: “nazwiska osób walczących o granice II Rzeczypospolitej w latach 1918-1921” (names of persons who fought for the boundaries of the Second Republic in 1918-1921), “nazwiska wszystkich ochotników, którzy wojowali z bolszewikami w 1920 r.” (names of all volunteers who had fought the Bolsheviks in 1920), i.e. in the war which forced Soviet Russia to cede all of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia to Poland in the Treaty of Riga (March 1921).

[46] See the hair-raising anti-Ukrainian terror of November 1938 described by Jeffrey Burds, “Comment on Timothy Snyder’s article…” At

[47] For an introduction to this heated question see the section “Polish Massacres of Russian POWs 1919-1920” on my “Katyn Forest Whodunnit” page (note 5).

[48] Ukrainian nationalist forces allied with the Germans massacred roughly 100,000 Polish civilians in German-occupied Western Ukraine in 1943 and 1944. This is known in Poland as “Rzeź wołyńska,” the “Volhynian massacres,” in Ukraine as “Волинська трагедія,” the “Volhynian tragedy.”

[49] “Дослідження виявлених решток людей , розстріляних в 1941 році на городищі “ вали” у володимирі- волинському .ексгумаційні дослідження 2012 року”. (Investigation of discovered remains of persons shot in 1941 at the ‘Shafts’ site at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy. Investigation of exhumations of 2012.) (Doslizhdennia) At

[50] The correct name for this German munitions factory was Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff AG Dürlach Werk. A specialized Internet database on German ordnance states that the Dürlach factory was actually in Baden: see German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: c-e, at

[51] A town south of Warsaw about halfway between Radom and Kielce. The German munitions factory was HASAG Eisen und Metallwerke G.m.b.H. According to the database cited in the previous note this was the Hugo Schneider AG, Werk Skarżysko Kamienna, Poland.

[52] “B 1906” appears to be Austrian rifle ordnance made for the Tsarist Army during the Russo-Japanese War. See the drawing at and the photograph obtained by Sergei Strygin at

[53] Doslizhdennia (online); Звіт про результати археологічно-ексгумаційних рятівних досліджень на городищі “вали” у м. володимирі-волинському 2012 р. (Report on the results of the archaeological exhumation recovery investigations at the “Vali” [“shafts”] site in the town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy in 2012.). Luts’k, 2012. ( Zvit) Available atЗвіт 2012_Володимир-Волинський.pdf These are two versions of the same report. The much fuller PDF version contains many pages of photographs, graphs, tables, and drawings, but no clear accounting of the cartridge shells as the Polish report has.

[54] Скороход, Ольга. “Польские археологи нагнетают ситуацию вокруг жертв, расстрелянных в 1941-м.” (Ol’ga Skorokhkod. Polish archeologists stir up the situation around the victims shot in 1941). February 20, 2013, is a Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper. Roughly half the population of today’s Ukraine use Russian as their first language.

[55] Виставка: “Прихована історія: археологічні дослідження на городищі Володимира-Волинського 2010-2012 років” (Exhibition: “Hidden history: archaeological investigations at a site in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy in the years 2010-2012”),


Grover Furr: German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937


Originally posted by Grover Furr

German Intelligence, Communist Anti-Trotskyism, and the Barcelona “May Days” of 1937

I’m writing an article on the falsifications in Khrushchev’s infamous 1956 “Secret Speech.” A few weeks ago I ran across the following statement, in an article on the subject of this speech:

“…в угоду политической конъюнктуре деятельность Троцкого и его сторонников за границей в 1930-1940 годах сводят лишь к пропагандистской работе. Но это не так. Троцкисты действовали активно: организовали, используя поддержку лиц, связанных с абвером, мятеж против республиканского правительства в Барселоне в 1937 году. Из троцкистских кругов в спецслужбы Франции и Германии шли “наводящие” материалы о действиях компартий в поддержку Советского Союза. О связях с абвером лидеров троцкистского мятежа в Барселоне в 1937 году сообщил нам Шульце-Бойзен…Впоследствии, после ареста, гестапо обвинило его в передаче нам данной информации, и этот факт фигурировал в смертном приговоре гитлеровского суда по его делу.” (| Судоплатов, П. “Разведка и Кремль.” М., 1996, с. 88; | Haase, N. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin, 1993, S. 105) [1]

English translation from Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov, _The Intelligence Service and the Kremlin, Moscow 1996, p. 58: 

“In the interests of the political situation the activities of Trotsky and his supporters abroad in the 1930s are said to have been propaganda only. But this is not so. The Trotskyists were also involved in actions. Making us of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organized a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937. From Trotskyist circles in the French and German special intelligence services came “indicative” information concerning the actions of the Communist Parties in supporting the Soviet Union. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schuze-Boysen… Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this fact figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case.” 

This passage is indeed in Sudoplatov’s book. But the footnote to the Haase volume is not. I assume it was added either by Lifshits, author of the Russian-language article, or by Trosten, author of the German version. 

So I obtained the Haase volume. The text on pp. 105 ff. is the actual text of the German Reichskriegsgericht (Military Court of the Reich) against Harro Schulze-Boysen, charged with espionage for the Soviet Union (Haase, Norbert. Das Reichskriegsgericht und der Widerstand gegen die nationalsozialistische Herrschaft. Berlin: Druckerei der Justizvollzugsanstalt Tegel, 1993).The relevant paragraph, also on p. 105, reads thus:

Anfang 1938, während des Spanienkrieges, erfuhr der Angeklagte dienstlich, daß unter Mitwirkung des deutschen Geheimdienstes im Gebiet von Barcelona ein Aufstand gegen die dortige rote Regierung vorbereitet werde. Diese Nachricht wurde von ihm gemeinsam mit der von Pöllnitz der sowjetrussischen Botschaft in Paris zugeleitet.

English translation: 

“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, was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris.”

“Pöllnitz” was Gisella von Pöllnitz, a recent recruit to the “Red Orchestra” (Rote Kapelle) anti-Nazi Soviet spy ring who worked for United Press and who “shoved the report through the mailbox of the Soviet embassy” (Brysac, Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra. Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 237). 

* * * * *

By itself Sudoplatov’s statement only proves that Soviet intelligence sincerely believed that Trotskyists were involved with “persons with ties to German military intelligence” in preparing this revolt. By the time he wrote his memoirs, in the 1990s, Sudoplatov was very anti-Soviet, and showed much remorse for many of the things he had done in the Soviet secret service. The fact that he insisted that the Trotskyists were involved with the Nazis in the “May Days” revolt of 1937 in Barcelona surely means that he sincerely believed it was true.

The information from the German Military Court published by Haase provides independent confirmation of Sudoplatov’s statement and of Soviet contentions at the time. It fully confirms Communist suspicions that German intelligence was involved in planning the Barcelona revolt of May 1937. Communist hostility towards Trotskyists and Trotskyism becomes understandable in the light of this information. 

There’s good evidence that the real panic over clandestine Trotskyists did not take place, even in the USSR, until after the May Days in Barcelona, 1937. Stalin’s speeches (two of them) to the February – March 1937 Central Committee Plenum, minimized the dangers of Trotskyists; declared them marginalized; and encouraged CC members not to discriminate against people who used to be Trotskyists but no longer were. [2]

By June or July this had all changed. At the enlarged session of the Military Soviet, held on June 1-4 to discuss the just-uncovered and very serious Tukhachevsky conspiracy, Stalin gave a speech in which he states that Tukhachevsky and the rest “tried to make out of the USSR another Spain.” [3] The meant create a civil war, of course. But specifically it seems to have meant: Do what the Trotskyists and others had done in the May Days in Barcelona — stab the USSR in the back in the course of a war with the fascists.

The Soviet NKVD had very credible evidence that Trotskyists were collaborating with the German military and Japanese. Soviet leaders certainly believed it. Pavel Sudoplatov believed it, in his memoirs, and he became very, very “anti-Stalin” and anti-Soviet in his old age.

The real panicked hunt for hidden oppositionists, Rights, Trotskyists, and others, began after that Plenum, in the atmosphere of the Tukhachevsky conspiracy. But the Tukhachevsky conspiracy was preceded by the Barcelona “May Days” revolt. 

The German Military Court evidence cited above shows that the German Secret Service was involved in the planning of the “May Days” revolt. Later in May 1937 Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky wrote out by hand a lengthy statement in which he admitted to conspiring against the Soviet Union with the German General Staff. [4] Tukhachevsky stated that the commanders discussed their planned revolt with Trotsky. These events provide the most likely explanation for the beginning of the fervent persecution by Communists of Trotskyists in Spain. [5]


[1] S Lifshits, “Preslovutyi Doklak Khrushcheva, ili CACATUM NON EST PICTUM”. In Moskva Sadovoe Kol’tso, , downloaded July 5 2004. The same article is published as a pamphlet in German: Gersch Troston, Chruschtschows berüchtigte Rede, oder CACATUM NON EST PICTUM (hingeschissen ist nicht gemalt). «Marxistisch-leninistische Schriftenreihe für Geschichte, Politik, Ökonomie und Philosophie» (ISSN 1861-2954), Heft 45. Berlin: Ernst-Thaelmann-Verlag, n.d. I have verified all the Russian and English quotations in this article with the originals.

[2] J.V. Stalin, Mastering Bolshevism. NY: Workers Library Publishers, 1937, pp. 26-7; 43-4. Cited from

[3] J.V. Stalin, “Speech by J.V. Stalin at the Ministry of Defense,” Secret Documents. Toronto, CA: Northstar Compass, n.d. [1996], p. 115: “These people tried to make out of the USSR another Spain…” Original in Lubianka. Stalin i Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosbezopasnosti NKVD 1937-1938. Eds. V.N. Khaustov et al. Moscow: “Materik”, 2004, p. 206; Stalin, Sochineniia [Collected Works], vol. 14, at 

[4] Partial English translation in Steven J. Main, “The Arrest and ‘Testimony’ of Marshal of the Soviet Union M.N. Tukhachevsky (May – June 1937),” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 10, No. 1 (1997), 151-195. Trotsky and his followers are mentioned throughout Tukhachevsky’s statement.

[5] It’s important to emphasize that there is no evidence that any Trotskyists were killed by Soviet or other communists in Spain, with the exception of Andres Nin, POUM leader and former secretary of Trotsky. See Grover Furr, “Fraudulent Anti-Communist Scholarship From A “Respectable” Conservative Source: Prof. Paul Johnson,” at

Grover Furr: Anatomy of a Fraudulent Scholarly Work: Ronald Radosh’s “Spain Betrayed”


Grover Furr

Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War by Ronald Radosh (Editor), Mary Radosh Habeck (Editor), Grigory Sevostianov (Editor). Annals of Communism series. Yale University Press, June 2001.

1. Long awaited and published to rave reviews — albeit predictably by Cold War conservatives (Arnold Beichman) and anti-communist liberals (Christopher Hitchens) — Radosh’s commentary on the 81 documents from the Comintern archives in Moscow concerning its involvement in the Spanish Civil War turns out to be notable for quite another reason: it is an utterly fraudulent work. [1]

2. In the course of this review-essay I’ll present a lot of evidence to substantiate this serious charge. I’ll also discuss, though briefly, the major positive reviews of the book. They are full of the same stuff. In several instances, an innocent reader might think that the reviewers had not actually read the documents themselves, but only Radosh’s commentary. For how could anyone compare what the Comintern documents state with what Radosh says about them, without noticing the enormous discrepancies between the two?

3. I won’t say much in this report about the documents themselves. Many of them are fascinating and valuable, though Radosh, in his zeal to arraign the communists, basically neglects them.

4. But one conclusion is so striking that it cannot be left unstated. Far from showing Soviet “betrayal,” these 81 documents make the Comintern, the International Brigades, and the massive Soviet aid to Spain appear in an extremely positive light. Reading the documents alone, and ignoring Radosh’s “commentary,” any objective person will come away with tremendous respect for the communist effort in the Spanish Civil War, not only by the Comintern and the justly famed International Brigades, but of the Soviet Union — or, as Radosh says it, in his crude demonizing synecdoche, of “Moscow” and “Stalin.”

5. Despite itself, Radosh’s book represents something valuable: an object lesson in the rhetorical strategies of anti-communism. Perhaps the biggest question of all — “Why lie, if the truth is on your side?” — will require a few remarks about the uses of anti-Stalinism in foreclosing any objective understanding of the successes and failures of the communist movement.

6. Radosh’s book contains so many errors and distortions that even a much longer review could not discuss them all. Therefore, I examine the documents in which the major “revelations” are supposedly to be found. To identify those, I’ve used (a) the four-page publicity handout from Yale University Press that accompanies the book, and (b) a number of the major reviews favorable to this volume, from leading publications (all are listed at the end). A few other documents were chosen because they seem to me particularly interesting. This close examination constitutes the bulk of the review.

7. I’ll also point out some examples of simple editorial incompetence. Radosh could have provided useful summaries of long and significant documents, or helpful and specific references to other scholarly work — surely the duty of a competent commentator — but scarcely ever does.

8. At the end of the review I’ve included some remarks of a more general nature about the issues raised both by these documents themselves and by Radosh’s commentary. There’s a good deal that can be said by Marxists in criticism of the Bolsheviks and the Comintern during the Stalin period — or of any political group, communist or not, at any period — and in conclusion I’ll allude to one or two things with special reference to Spain. But any and all criticism should be based on what actually happened as that can be deduced from the best evidence available, rather than on fabrications or demonization, as with Radosh and many other Cold-War writers, either from the Right or, not infrequently, the so-called Left.

9. What follows is a short outline of the main ideological frameworks for interpreting the Spanish Civil War. Some knowledge of them is essential to an appreciation of Radosh’s interpretation, the documents themselves, and the present review. Considerations of space preclude any more detailed discussion of the foundational texts of these frameworks. (I am planning a critique of Orwell’s influential book at a future time.)

10. The Spanish Civil War has always posed a special problem for the kind of anti-communist who is determined to argue that the leadership of the international Communist movement never acted out of any idealistic motives. Such people are convinced — at any rate, they are determined to convince others — that all communist struggles, no matter how noble in appearance, were in reality aimed at manipulative, cynical, authoritarian goals, ultimately far worse than those of the capitalist exploiters they professed to oppose. Khrushchev’s portrayal of a malevolent, virtually demonic Stalin after 1956, while it differed little from Trotsky’s, was far more influential, and except in China and Albania quickly became widely accepted within the Communist movement itself. It was essential in smoothing the path for Trotskyist and, in terms of Spain, Anarchist narratives, hitherto current only among tiny, marginalized groups.

11. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is basically such an account, though Orwell’s superior literary ability, British patriotism during World War II, and subsequent endorsement of mainstream Cold War ideology, gave his work the status of a somewhat independent authority. Orwell’s book remains the main representative of these anti-communist paradigms, the only book about the Spanish Civil War that most people ever encounter.

12. According to this interpretation, further popularized in British director Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom (1995), Trotskyists and, especially, Anarchists are the true revolutionaries, collectivizing the land, ceding control of factories to the workers, and promoting egalitarian relations generally. The Communists are portrayed as counter-revolutionaries, whose rank-and-file think they are fighting to defeat the fascists in order that, in the victorious bourgeois-democratic Spanish Republic, they can then initiate a struggle for working-class revolution, but whose leadership — Stalin — aims in reality at a bleak authoritarian dictatorship of the kind Trotskyists, Anarchists, conventional capitalist anti-communists and even fascists, claimed was the state of affairs in the USSR itself. This creates a certain tension within the otherwise “united front” of anti-communist versions of the Spanish Civil War, since capitalist anti-communism is normally aimed at the radical, not the putatively conservative, nature of the communist movement.

13. The Communist version, on the other hand — the version by far the best supported by the evidence — is that the “United Front Against Fascism” and for a liberal, bourgeois-democratic (and therefore capitalist) society was the only way to unite as many social forces as possible, including nationalists, urban capitalists, and wealthier peasants, to defeat the fascists. According to this view, upon victory a Spanish Republic would have a strong, organized working class which would continue the fight for progressive social reforms and, ultimately, socialist revolution. The Communists held that to begin a revolutionary struggle in the midst of the war against the fascist armies would guarantee the defeat of the Republic — a defeat which, in fact, happened.

14. A critique of the Communist view from the Left is certainly warranted — indeed, essential. But what passes for a “left” critique, the Anarchist-Trotskyist version outlined above, accepts the basic premises of the reactionary Cold War critique, to the point that it can be cited in service to the latter, as Radosh does here. To clear the ground for a real Left critique, it is first necessary to recover the historical truth of what did, in fact, happen, both in the Spanish Civil War and in the Soviet Union itself. A real Left critique of the Comintern’s politics which both fully and correctly appreciates its successes and goes beyond it to identify the main roots of its failures, is yet to be made, despite a few promising starts which have long been available, albeit little known (see below, and note 6).

15. Radosh’s own view, as represented in his commentary in Spain Betrayed, is contradictory. In places Radosh argues, according to the fashion of conservative capitalist anti-communists, that the Comintern was hiding its truly revolutionary intentions. In other passages, however, he endorses the Orwell-Trotskyist-Anarchist view that the Communists were a conservative force that “betrayed” the revolutionary potential in Spain. Radosh seems untroubled by, indeed unaware of, this basic contradiction, as in the case of the many passages in which he — in the most generous description of his practice — makes flagrant and egregious errors in reading the very texts upon which he is “commenting.”

Document 5

16. Document 5, a report by Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to the Secretariat of the ECCI (Executive Committee, Communist International) of July 23, 1936, contains the following lines:

We should not, at the present stage, assign the task of creating soviets and try to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in Spain. That would be a fatal mistake.

Radosh claims that this statement (a statement repeated in the press release)

. . . supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (5-6)

But it does not. It clearly states that there are “stages,” the present one being the stage of “maintaining unity with the petty bourgeoisie and the peasants and the radical intelligentsia . . .” (11). Radosh’s claim could only be true if he gave evidence that the Communists were denying what everyone would have expected of them — to wish to move to another “stage,” once the fascists were defeated. Radosh gives no evidence that the Communists were making any such claims to have abandoned the ultimate goal of a Soviet-style revolution in Spain. So there can be no question of “disguising their true objective.”

17. It ought also to be noted that Radosh also wants it “both ways.” Sometimes he criticizes the Communists for opposing social revolution, which the Anarchists supposedly stood for. This is Ken Loach’s main contention in Land and Freedom. But other times, as here, Radosh criticizes the Communists for wanting social revolution but supposedly “disguising” their intentions.

18. Document 5 also offers an obvious mistranslation from the Russian. Immediately after the lines quoted above, Radosh et al. allege that Dimitrov wrote the following:

Therefore we must say: act in the guise of defending the Republic. . . . (p.11; emphasis added)

In his commentary Radosh states:

The very careful use of these terms, as well as the injunction to “act under the semblance of defending the republic,” supports the contention of some scholars that the Communists purposely disguised their true objective, social revolution. (pp. 5-6; emphasis added)

19. Evidently Radosh is referring to a different translation of the document than that which finally ended up in the volume, although arguably “in the guise of” and “under the semblance of” convey much the same thing: duplicity, dishonesty. However, there is an interesting footnote in the text of Document 5 attached to the phrase “in the guise.” That note, number 11 on page 515, reads thus: “Literally, ‘under the banner.'” In other words, what Dimitrov actually said is this:

Therefore we must say: act under the banner of defense of the Republic. . . .

20. The question is: What does “under the banner” — in Russian, “pod znamenem” — mean in Russian? The answer is: it means the opposite of what Radosh says it means. Rather than “under the semblance” or “in the guise,” it means “in service to” or “in defense of.” At exactly this time, one of the foremost Soviet philosophical journals was titled “Pod Znamenem Marksisma“: literally, “Under the Banner of Marxism,” often translated as “In Defense of Marxism.” No one would even think of translating that title as “In the Guise of,” or “Under the Semblance of,” Marxism! “Under the banner of” is a military metaphor, meaning “In the ranks of.”

21. In other words, what Dimitrov actually said was:

. . . act in defense of the Republic. . . .

There must be an interesting story behind that footnote. Whoever translated Document 5 — Radosh tells us (p. xxxi) that there were two translators for the Russian documents — that person evidently knew that “in the guise” was not the correct translation, and wanted to tell the world, even if by a footnote, that he or she was not responsible for this particular mistranslation.

22. This is the only mistranslation from the Russian that can be discerned in this collection, because Radosh et al. don’t give us the documents in the original languages (mostly Russian, but a few in Spanish, German and French). This would have been easy to do — on a book-related web page, for example. But the way this mistranslation is treated makes one wonder whether there may be more.

Document 42

23. Radosh spends a lot of words on Documents 42 through 44 because one of the central points of his book is that in these documents, especially Document 42, is to be found the proof that the Communists instigated the Barcelona uprising of May, 1937 as a pretext for violently suppressing their Anarchist opposition.

24. Briefly, the context for Radosh’s comments is as follows, in the words of Helen Graham, who has written authoritatively and most recently on this event (Graham 1999, p. 485):

On the afternoon of Monday 3 May 1937 a detachment of police attempted to seize control of Barcelona’s central telephone exchange (Telefónica) in order to remove the anarchist militia forces present therein. . . . Those days of social protest and rebellion have been represented in many accounts, of which the single best known is still George Orwell’s contemporary diary account, Homage to Catalonia, recently given cinematic form in Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom. It is paradoxical, then, that the May events remain among the least understood in the history of the civil war.

25. Radosh takes Document 42 to be directly related to this event:

. . . we have the proof that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern and Moscow, had decided to provoke a clash, in the full understanding that the outcome would give them precisely the opportunity they had long been seeking. (174)

Radosh does not bother to tell us what would have been wrong with the communists’ seizing the telephone exchange from the anarchists. After all, the government, not one of the various parties, should have been in control of the exchange. And the assault was led by the Police Chief of Barcelona who, though a communist, was also a government official.

26. The anarchists had clearly been prepared for such an attack for a long time — after all, they had a machine-gun nest in the first floor which prevented the police from seizing the building at once. What justification did the anarchists — not the government, but one of the political parties in Barcelona — have controlling the telephone exchange in the first place?

27. The words that Radosh takes as “proof” that “the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct” — I emphasize “essentially” because even Radosh feels he has to qualify this statement, evidently realizing he is on weak grounds here — are as follows:

. . . the author of the report noted that the Communists had decided not to wait for a crisis, but to “hasten it and, if necessary, to provoke it” (emphasis added).

But Document 42 says nothing whatsoever about the attack on the telephone exchange, or about any plan for confrontation with the anarchists. The sentence quoted in part by Radosh in his commentary reads this way in full:

In a word, to go decisively and consciously to battle against Caballero and his entire circle, consisting of some leaders of the UGT. This means not to wait passively for a “natural” unleashing of the hidden government crisis, but to hasten it and, if necessary, provoke it, in order to obtain a solution for these problems.  . . . The leadership of the party is more and more coming to the conviction that with Caballero and his circle the Republic will be defeated, despite all the conditions guaranteeing victory. (194)

These lines do not refer at all to the attempt by the Communist Chief of Police to take possession for the Republican government of the telephone exchange that had been unlawfully seized and held by the anarchists, the event that precipitated the “May Days” in Barcelona and to which Radosh tries to tie this statement, or to any plan to incite any actions against the anarchists. Instead, the paragraph quoted just above refers to the previous points 8 through 14 of Document 42, in which the unnamed communist author says that the PCE has decided to take action against the Caballero government. There is nothing whatsoever in this document that connects it with the attempt to retake the telephone exchange.

28. Radosh’s allegation — one of the “bombshell” findings Radosh claims to have found — is a lie. This whole “discovery” is a complete swindle on the unsuspecting reader. I stress this point because Radosh’s supposed “discovery” here has been so widely touted as one of the major “revelations” of these Soviet documents. For example, the Press Release from Yale University Press that accompanied the books publication lists seven documents and summarizes what Radosh says they contain. The blurb on Document 42 reads:

Barcelona — the civil war within the Civil War. The five-day street battle in Barcelona was portrayed by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia and by Ken Loach in the film Land and Freedom. The historical dispute has always been: Was the anarchist reaction deliberately provoked? Document 42 shows that the view held by the Communists’ opponents was essentially correct. The Spanish Communist Party, with the support and knowledge of the Comintern, decided to provoke the clash. (emphasis added)

We should also note, in passing, the esteem in which Loach and Orwell are held by establishment anti-Communist ideologues like Radosh, and the way in which the echo-chamber of the “big lie” functions in the blurb above by pairing these supposed “authorities” with the specious “facts” that Radosh is creating here.

29. Richard Bernstein, whose very positive review of Radosh’s book appeared in the New York Times, tacitly recognizes that Document 42 did not prove what Radosh says it proves:

Two weeks later, the Communists, in the view of this book’s editors, did provoke the desired crisis, unleashing the Barcelona street battles that essentially eliminated the anarchist leadership and led to the replacement of Largo Caballero by a more malleable premier. [emphasis added]

(Bernstein makes it sound like Caballero was the leader of the anarchists; in fact, he was head of the government and a Socialist.)

30. In the interest of good sense, I would like to make a few additional remarks at this point.

1. The assumption, in Radosh’s Commentary and in other anti-communist accounts Radosh quotes, is that, by taking the Telephone exchange away from the anarchists and returning it to government control, the Communists were “provoking” the anarchists.

2. The anarchists had no business whatsoever holding the telephone exchange. The Police Chief, besides being a communist, was also a government officer. If removing an armed group of occupiers who have taken control of the telephone exchange is not a legitimate matter for the police, what is?

3. Imagine if the Communists had occupied the telephone exchange, fortified it with a machine-gun nest, interrupted government phone calls whenever they wanted to, and then a non-Communist police chief had tried to oust them? Would Radosh not take that as evidence that the Communists wanted to take over?

Document 43

31. One of Radosh’s statements about Document 43 has been cited in several favorable reviews of his book:

As the Comintern document cited earlier revealed, Stalin had in mind a Spanish version of the Moscow purge trials most likely to be held in Barcelona. (209) [2] 

The document in question, No. 43, is a report from an anonymous source, presumably to the Comintern. In it the informant states:

The immediate political consequences of the putsch [the anarchist attempt to seize power — this is the way this writer interprets the “May Days” in Barcelona] are very great. Above all, the following one: the Trotskyist-POUMists revealed themselves to the nation as people who belong totally to Franco’s fifth column. The people are nourishing unbelievable animosity toward the Trotskyists. The masses are demanding energetic and merciless repression. This is what is demanded by the masses of people of all of Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona. They demand complete disarmament, arrest of the leaders, the creation of a special military tribunal for the Trotskyists! This is what the masses demand. (196-197)

In his discussion of this document on p. 176, Radosh wrote:

In other words, the call was out for the creation in Spain of the equivalent of the Moscow purge trials. . .

“In other words” (why not use the same words?) “the call was out for” can only mean one thing: Radosh assumes that our unnamed informant, writing to the Comintern in Moscow, is speaking for someone other than himself. But this assumption is invalid. This document does not mean that any “call is out.” So far as we know, it’s the opinion of the writer alone. After all, he’s reporting to the Comintern. If the PCE, or Soviet advisers, had “put out the call” for a Moscow-style purge trial, he would have said so, for why hide it to the Comintern? And if Stalin had expressed interest in a Spanish “purge trial,” surely this writer would have said so as well.

Document 44

32. Document 44 is a report to the Comintern sent to Marshal Voroshilov, Commissar (Minister) of Defense of the USSR and the man whose office oversaw military equipment and material aid for the Spanish Republic, by a certain “Goratsy,” whom Radosh, in another failure of his editorial responsibility, does not further identify. Radosh accuses the Comintern of lying to itself, in that it states the communist belief

that the “uprising” carried out by “the extremist wing [of the anarchists] in the block with the POUM” was prepared in advance over a “long period of time.” (177) [This refers to the “May Days” in Barcelona — GF].

33. A few considerations are in order:

1. How does Radosh know that this is false? He has not proven it.

Furthermore, Radosh has already claimed that, in Document 42, he has evidence that the Comintern itself planned the Barcelona uprising, whereas here the Comintern reporter blames the uprising on the Anarchists. Why would the Comintern lie to itself? If the Comintern had successfully provoked this confrontation, as Radosh claims, why wouldn’t they be gloating over their success? Instead, they blame it on the anarchists, even in private communications within the Comintern. (206)

2. The document itself claims that the uprising was unexpected by the Communists. Once again: if it had been not only expected, but in fact “provoked,” as Radosh would have it, why would this not be noted, with pride, as a successful operation?

Document 1

34. Here a Spanish Communist in Moscow is writing to the Communist Party in Spain.

Radosh: “. . . the imperative tone taken by Moscow made it clear that there was little room for argument or maneuver by the small and relatively powerless PCE . . . (1-2).

Doc. 1: “After considering the alarming situation in connection with the Fascist conspiracy in SPAIN, we advise you: — . . . Please let us know your opinions on our proposals.” (7,9; emphasis added)

Conclusion: This document is not “imperative” in tone. Radosh is simply trying to make “Moscow” appear dictatorial and high-handed. The text will not support that interpretation, so he simply puts it into his commentary.

35. I put “Moscow” in quotation marks because this message, while certainly sent from the city of Moscow, was sent by a Spanish Communist, “Dios Major,” who signed the document. Why doesn’t Radosh mention this, saying only that “Moscow” sent it? Perhaps because to say that one Spanish Communist is “advising” other Spanish Communists does not support the impression — which Radosh evidently wants to give — that the Bolsheviks, Stalin, the Politburo, or whatever “Moscow” usually conveys, was trying to say anything to anybody. It appears that through metonymy, a linguistic trope in which “Moscow” represents any Communist leader, anywhere, allows Radosh to reduce all Communist leaders to “Moscow,” and “Moscow” to “Stalin.” Demonize Stalin, then, and all Communist leadership is automatically demonized as well.

36. Radosh gives other invidious readings of Document 1, but is rather vague about it. I’ll mention only one more example.

37. Document 1 reads, in part:

4. It is necessary to take preventative measures with the greatest urgency against the putchist attempts of the anarchists, behind which the hand of the Fascists is hidden.

The worst one could say about this piece of analysis — given, we recall, by one Spanish Communist to others, all of whom had extensive experience with the Spanish anarchists and hated them just as the anarchists, in turn, hated the communists — is that it was rhetorical over-statement to say that “the hand of the Fascists is hidden behind” the anarchists’ attempts at seizing power.

38. But here is what Radosh himself says about the anarchists:

Throughout the conflict, Soviet and Comintern advisers would decry the ‘subversive’ activities of the anarchists, and particularly their refusal to curtail revolutionary activities or to allow the formation of a regular, disciplined army. (3, emphasis added)

Radosh admits that the anarchists took this attitude towards the army. Yet how could the Fascists — who certainly had “a regular, disciplined army” — ever be defeated unless the Republic had one too? Guerrilla warfare — what Mao Tse-tung and Vo Nguyen Giap later refined into the doctrine of “People’s War” — is very important. But no theoretician of guerrilla or people’s war ever suggested that a war could be won without “a regular, disciplined army.”

39. In refusing to form such an army the anarchists played directly into the hands of the Fascists. Yet even while admitting this, Radosh attacks the Communists for stating the obvious: that this played into the Fascists’ hands. Elsewhere, in passages Radosh does not comment on, the Communists expressed the view that Fascist agents chose to infiltrate the Anarchists precisely for this reason.

40. Radosh’s Commentary continues:

The demand to establish a single union also stemmed from a new understanding of how to construct a socialist state: not through open revolution, but through the absorption of independent unions or parties into a single entity controlled by the Communists.

Radosh gives no evidence to support this statement at all. He certainly can’t cite Document 1, the document he is supposedly elucidating, because in it Dios Mayor proposes that

the C.G.T. (U.) [the Communist-led union movement] ought to propose to C.N.T. [the Socialist-led union movement] the immediately construction in the center and locally of joint committees to fight against the Fascist insurgents and to prepare the unification of the syndicates.

. . . At the same time you must establish broad social legislation, with extensive rights reserved in the unified C.G.T. . . .

41. Dios Mayor is proposing that the Communists call for unified action and a unified trade union organization. Radosh suggests that there is something underhanded about calling for unification: the Communists want to “absorb independent unions into a single entity controlled by the Communists.” But there is no suggestion of this in the document itself. I would note also Radosh’s concept of “absorption” here is standard anticommunist rhetoric. Other parties might “win a political struggle” for leadership of an organization, but communists only “control” — never “lead” — and “absorb,” with connotations of “suffocation,” “snuffing out independence.” [3] 

42. One might say, “Well, Radosh hates Communism, so for Radosh the communists can never do anything right.” But it’s more than that. For Radosh, if a non-communist makes a good proposal — say, trade union unity — that is good; whereas when Communists do the same thing, it’s bad. That’s because, for Radosh, communists never do anything honestly; their “dishonesty” is a given.

43. The interesting thing is that Radosh, using the documents his collaborators have selected, cannot demonstrate “dishonesty” on the part of the communists. An honest researcher would consider the possibility that, if the evidence at hand did not suggest the communists were “dishonest,” it just may possibly be because the communists were not dishonest.

Document 79

44. Radosh confesses that the previous document, no. 78, “suggests that he [Negrín] enjoyed a degree of autonomy from Communist control” (497). Radosh further acknowledges that even some anti-communist scholars of the SCW believe Negrín was “a more independent figure.” Radosh stresses that Document 79, a report by Marchenko, a Soviet and a Comintern representative, to Litvinov (Soviet Foreign Minister) and Voroshilov,

. . . makes it clear that the Spaniard’s views of politics closely coincided with the Soviets’, while the similarities between his vision for postwar Spain and that of the Soviet Union are striking This document suggests that if the Republicans had won the Civil War, Spain would have been very different from the nation that existed before 18 July 1936 and very close to the post-World War II “people’s democracies” of Europe.

This is false. Document 79 itself reveals that Marchenko was not supportive at all of Negrín’s outline of what a post-war Spanish Republic might look like:

I reacted in a very reserved way to Negrín’s idea and drew his attention to the difficulties and complications that the organization of a new party would cause. . . . If there are military successes, he can begin the formation of “his” united-Spanish political party, with the participation of the Communists if they will allow it, and without the Communists (and that means against them) if they refuse. (499; emphasis added).

The post-WWII “people’s democracies” of Eastern Europe were (a) propped up by the presence of the Red Army; (b) directly on the borders of the USSR; and (c) governed by Communist Parties (or communist-socialist united parties) run frankly by pro-Soviet communists. Negrín’s conception of a post-war Spanish Republic is very different from the post-war pro-Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe, sharing no essential similarity with them at all. Yet the allegation that a post-war Republic would have been forced into the mould of the post-WWII Eastern European regimes is, supposedly, one of the major “discoveries” of this collection of documents. This document alone shows that this claim of Radosh’s is without foundation.

Document 62

45. This is an important report by Palmiro Togliatti, head Comintern representative in Spain, to Dimitrov in Moscow. It is of great interest, and Radosh can find nothing to say about it that is at all negative. He makes false statements about its contents, however.

46. For example, Radosh writes:

Togliatti’s reports of are special importance. It is clear that, unlike other apparatchiks, Togliatti was extremely candid and forthright in his observations. (370, emphasis added)

But Radosh gives not a single example of these “other apparatchiks,” supposedly not-candid and not-forthright. Since Togliatti was later the head of the Italian Communist Party and a major leader of the Comintern, it does not seem to have hurt his reputation to have been “extremely candid and forthright.”

47. Note, too, Radosh’s use of a Russian term for an official of the Italian Communist Party. Radosh would never refer to an official of the Spanish Socialist party as an “apparatchik.” The point here is to give the impression, by whatever means possible, that “Moscow” controls everything.

48. Radosh’s discussion of this report contains several outright lies, including one that is very blatant — always provided that one actually reads the document itself. Radosh states:

At the same time, in Catalonia, Togliatti called for a policy of reinforcing the moderation of the Popular Front, rather than demagogic appeals to a revolution-minded populace. If the anarchists tried to move toward open revolt and stage a coup, he advised one solution only: “We will finally do away with them.” (emphasis added)

Here is the passage (390):

As for the anarchists, on this question, in my opinion, we have not merely hesitated, but made absolutely real mistakes in our tactics [Togliatti is referring to methods of political struggle — GF.] On the role from Barcelona to Valencia, I posed the question to the comrades accompanying me. Their opinion was very simple: the anarchists have lost all influence, in Barcelona (!) there is not even one anarchist worker, we are waiting until they organize a second putsch, and we will finally do away with them [emphasis added].

So this attitude is not that of Togliatti, but of some “comrades.” Here is what Togliatti wrote about this attitude; this passage begins immediately after that above:

This opinion is very widespread in the party, in particular in Catalonia, and when we stick to such an idea, it is impossible to carry out a policy of rapprochement with the anarchist masses and differentiation of their leaders. (390; emphasis added)

Radosh attributed to Togliatti the very views that Togliatti cites in order to strongly oppose them!

49. Again, Radosh writes:

While publicly advocating attempts at cooperation with opposition anarchists, Togliatti noted that their leaders were “scum, closely tied to Caballero,” and had to be fought via “large-scale action from below.” (371)

It is clear from the context of p. 390 — see the emphasis in the quotation above — that the “large-scale action from below” that Togliatti hoped for was action by the “anarchist masses,” as he stated in the passage quoted above, which alone can lead to “differentiation of their leaders.” In other words, Togliatti proposed relying on a democratic plan — winning over the anarchist masses to replace or repudiate their own leadership. Communist authors show appreciation for the political instincts of the anarchist rank-and-file many times in these documents; it is the anarchist leadership they see as the stumbling blocks to effective unity against Franco.

50. In addition to Togliatti, another Soviet adviser, Antonov-Ovseenko comes across very well in these documents. Radosh seriously distorts Document 22. Antonov-Ovseenko wrote:

The PSUC repeatedly proposed to the government that weapons at the rear [i.e. in areas not involved in battle] be seized and put at the disposal of the government. (p. 80)

Radosh calls this “Communist attempts to seize all the weapons at the rear (and thus to disarm the anarchists)” (p. 71). In reality, the PSUC (the Unified Socialist Party) — not just the communists, who were only a part of the PSUC — was proposing that armed men should be at the front fighting the war, and that arms were needed at the front, not in the rear. Orwell himself complains time and again about the obsolete, broken, and useless arms available to his own unit at the front, and that even these arms were in short supply. If, as Radosh suggests here, the armed anarchists were all in the rear, what were they doing there? If armed communists had been “all in the rear,” would Radosh not think this sinister?

51. In Document 21 Antonov-Ovseenko quotes an informant, “X,” who told him that the anarchists were carrying out mass executions in Catalonia and that they had executed 40 priests.

X. told me . . . [t]hree days ago, the government seriously clashed with the anarchists: the CNT seized a priest. . . . The priest pointed out another 101 members of his order who had hidden themselves in different places. They [the anarchists] agreed to free all 102 men for three hundred thousand francs. All 102 appeared, but when the money had been handed over, the anarchists shot forty of them. (76-7; emphasis added).

52. Radosh does not condemn the anarchists at this point for shooting the priests. Nor does he suggest that this charge against the anarchists is false (p. 71). Imagine if the communists had been executing up to 50 people a day, as “X” told Antonov-Ovseenko — would Radosh have let this pass without criticism? Rather, such a document would have been featured as a major find, one of the most important documents in the book. Yet when anarchists are alleged to be committing mass murder, and Communists are opposed to it, Radosh scarcely mentions the matter, and certainly does not praise the Communists for stopping such massacres. This illustrates one of the central weaknesses in Radosh’s commentary: he is, in fact, not much interested in these documents except insofar as they can be used to show the communists as “bad.”

53. A strongly positive review of the Radosh book in First Things states baldly: “Although leftist atrocities against the Church, including the execution of thousands of nuns and priests, were widespread, they are nowhere mentioned in these documents.” In his rush to provide Radosh with another positive review, this anonymous reviewer in a right-wing, “pro-religion” journal clearly never read even Radosh’s own commentary, much less the documents themselves.

Document 46

54. This is a report by Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, to Marshal Voroshilov. Radosh makes many false statements about the contents of this 14-page report. For example, Radosh states that “the writer [of the report] came to the stunning conclusion that the war and revolution “cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands.” (212). In fact, Dimitrov explicitly refuses to endorse the idea that the only way to victory is if the Communist party takes power.

The influence of the party is growing more and more among the masses, and chiefly among the soldiers; the conviction is growing among them that the war and the popular revolution cannot end successfully if the Communist party does not take power into its own hands. Who knows, that idea may indeed be correct. (232; emphasis added)

Arnold Beichman’s review makes the same inaccurate statement: “It is sad to read these Soviet archives and read the words of a Soviet agent to the Comintern’s Georgi Dimitrov: ‘The war cannot end successfully if the Communist Party does not take power in its own hands.'”

55. In fact, this is a very interesting statement, especially coming from Dimitrov, famous since the Seventh Comintern Congress in 1935 for championing the concept of the Communist International’s abandoning its independent advocacy of socialist revolution in order to make possible “united fronts” with all anti-fascist parties, as in Spain. The Spanish Communists, with the support of the Comintern, were struggling hard to make the United Front in Spain work. Here Dimitrov shows that he himself has doubts about it. The documents published in this volume could indeed provide much evidence for an argument that it was precisely the insistence on a United Front with the Spanish socialists and Anarchists that doomed the Republic. A competent commentary should have discussed this issue.

Document 70

56. This long report by General Walter (a Polish communist general whose real name was Karol Svershevsky) is of special interest since it includes the longest discussion of the International Brigades among the documents in this volume. These pages give Radosh a chance to slander not only the Soviets, but the members of the International Brigades as well, and he tries his best to do so by ignoring positive statements made about the Brigadistas in the documents at hand, while emphasizing the criticisms made about some of them.

57. Radosh begins with the following statement:

By early 1938, the international units were important to the Soviets and the Comintern only as a means of scoring points in the propaganda war and as bargaining chips in negotiations with the other great powers. (431)

Radosh continues immediately with the words, “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow.” However, nowhere in these documents is the statement above documented in the least.

58. Walter shows admirable frankness in discussing both strengths and weaknesses within the Brigades. Radosh ignores the strengths and distorts Walter’s words about the weaknesses.

59. For example, Radosh generalizes Walter’s criticism of some Brigadistas, that they thought themselves superior to the Spanish, and implies Walter said it was true of all Brigadistas. (431)

In Sverchevsky’s words, they [the international soldiers] believed they had come to Spain to save it from the fascists. This viewpoint had led directly to their superior attitude toward the Spanish, whom they treated like second-class citizens. (431)

60. In reality, Walter’s remark is a general one, critical of an ideological attitude to be found in the Brigades (438). The words “second-class citizens” are never used. Rather, Walter’s incisive political criticism is directed towards a shallow understanding of internationalism among many Brigadistas, as illustrated in the following passage:

It seems to me that the fundamental reason for, and primary source of, our troubles lies, first and foremost, in a deeply rooted conviction which stubbornly refuses to die that we, the internationalists, are only “helping,” that we “save” and “are saving” Spain, which, they say, without us would not have escaped the fate of Abyssinia. This harmful theory prevents the German and Italian comrades from seeing the silhouettes of “Junkers” and “Fiats” in the fascist air force; they forget that here, on Spanish soil, they are fighting with arms in hand, that is, in the most effective and revolutionary way, first and foremost against their own enemy, which has already oppressed their own countries and peoples for many years. French “volunteers” do not always notice the direct connection between Franco, De la Roque, and Doriot; they forget . . . that their vital interests lie in preventing a fascist sentinel from looming on the last border, the Pyrenees. The Poles do not completely comprehend that every one of their victories here is a direct blow against the Pilsudski gang, which has turned their country into a prison for the people. . . . (438)

61. Walter is unsparingly frank in his criticisms of the shortcomings of the Brigades. His analysis appears to be a model of honest criticism, including much criticism of the performance of communists. But Walter’s report also contains the highest praise for the Brigades (for example, see the first three paragraphs, p. 436). Typically, Radosh’s commentary is utterly one-sided; he mentions many of Walter’s critical comments, but not a single one of the positive ones.

62. In his extremely positive review, Schwartz is more shameless yet in quoting some of Walter’s frank criticisms of the political problems in the Brigades as though they were characteristic. Radosh and Schwartz are of the same kidney; see Radosh’s praise of Schwartz on p. xxv.

Schwartz: “Anti-Semitism was a serious problem among these “progressive” fighters.”

Document 70: “It is true that even then there were more than enough petty squabbling and strong antagonisms in the international units. The francophobia was most transparently obvious . . . anti-Semitism flourished (and indeed it still has not been completely extinguished). . . . (448)

Schwartz: “Above all, the International Brigades possessed transport, food, and other supplies far in excess of their Spanish counterparts, with whom they resolutely refused to ‘share their wealth.'”

Document 70: “The English and American soldiers not long ago were smoking ‘Lucky Strikes,’ not paying attention to the Spanish fighters next to them, who had spent days looking for a few shreds of tobacco. The internationalists receive frequent packages from home but are very rarely willing to share them with their Spanish comrades.” (453)

Schwartz: “International Brigade officers accounted exactly for the numbers of foreigners killed and wounded in battle, but ‘never knew of the casualties of the Spanish personnel.'” [emphasis added]

Document 70: “Richard, the commander of the 11th Brigade, reporting on the casualties suffered by the brigade at Brunete and Saragossa, always gave the exact number of dead and wounded and frequently even the names of the internationalists. But he never knew the casualties of the Spanish personnel.” (454)

In this case, Schwartz transformed the behavior of one commander, in one battle — behavior that the Communist general Walter was holding up for criticism — as typical of “International Brigade officers” generally. (Schwartz gives no page numbers, so verifying his dishonest quotations is a tedious job.)

63. Neither Radosh nor Schwartz put Walter’s criticisms of the Brigades into context. But Walter does. In addition to high praise for the International Brigades’ heroism and importance in the war (see pp. 436 and 459) Walter explains the difficult problems of overcoming national chauvinism, racism and distrust among nationalities:

The International Brigades and units were created literally within the course of one or two days from those volunteers who were on hand at the time . . . there were subunits that contains dozens of nationalities all of these were people who were absolutely unacquainted, not accustomed to one another, and right off found themselves in a battle. If you add to this the extremely acute shortage of political workers, the lack of qualified military cadres, and a whole number of other needs, then the weaknesses and the solution to this problem (adequate at that time) are not surprising. (448)

Schwartz: “According to Walter, the International Brigades, inspired by slogans of worldwide unity against Fascism, were plagued by a ‘petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another. . . . Everyone was superior to the French, but even they were superior to the Spanish, who were receiving our aid and allowing us to fight against our own national and class enemies on their soil.'”

Immediately preceding the passage quoted by Schwartz (449) occurs the following passage (Document 70):

The great, very exalted, and revolutionary objective, armed struggle with fascism, united everyone, and for its sake Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, and representatives of the world’s numerous nationalities, including blacks, Japanese, and Chinese, had to agree among themselves, found a common language, suffered the same adversities, sacrificed their lives, died heroes, and were filled with the very same hatred for the common enemy.

But at the very same time as the volunteers were unifying, this petty, disgusting, foul squabble about the superiority of one nationality over another was going on. . . .” (448-9)

64. At a time when every army in the world except communist-led armies were organized along officially racist lines (and some, like the Israeli army, are officially racist even today), this struggle for internationalism inspired millions around the world. Yet the venomous Schwartz sees the racist attitudes among Brigadistas as “the most shocking element of the picture, especially for those who for sixty years have witnessed the Lincoln veterans preening themselves for their antifascist virtue” (emphasis added). The International Brigades set a standard for anti-racism and internationalism that has never been equaled before or since. Schwartz’s insult is simply a measure of his contempt for such values.

Conclusion: Why Lie If You Have the Truth On Your Side?

65. The flagrant inadequacy of Radosh’s discussion of these very important and fascinating documents itself would fatally mar any work with scholarly pretensions. But there is a deeper problem with Radosh’s work. It is not merely that Radosh fails to comment accurately on the documents he publishes (Habeck did most of the translations; Sevostianov did the archival work in Moscow). More than that: Radosh actually lies, time and again, about the contents of documents which readers can study themselves a few pages after his commentary.

66. Radosh is one of a small number of former Communist Party members who, once they realized that the Soviet-led world Communist movement no longer championed an egalitarian, non-exploitative world and was not the answer to human liberation, simply decided that the other side must, therefore, have been right all along and became uncritical supporters of American capitalism and imperialism. Anyone familiar with Radosh’s history — any reader of his autobiography, Commies and the many reviews of it — might expect to find a lot of anti-communist prejudice — for example, giving a document the most anti-communist possible interpretation whenever there was any ambiguity.

67. But even a wary reader would also expect at least a couple of real “revelations” of communist deviousness, dishonesty, double-dealing, some kind of “betrayal” — something that would at least partially substantiate the claims of Radosh, and of those who reviewed his book positively. Even the wary reader would be unprepared for the extent of Radosh’s dishonesty. Not a single of Radosh’s allegations of Comintern or Soviet trechery is born out by the documents he himself publishes and comments on.

68. Is Radosh deliberately lying about the documents on which he’s commenting? Is he hoping that his only readers will be like-mindedly anti-communist drones that will simply take his word at face value? Or that those who notice his mendacity will be ignored or marginalized? Some of the distortions in the commentary are so blatant that one cannot account for them in any other way.

69. Yet I think that dishonesty and incompetence cannot provide the whole answer. On a deeper level, Radosh’s anti-communism, and specifically his allegiance to the demonization of Stalin, seems to produce a kind of tunnel vision that imposes a systematic distortion on everything he sees or reads.

70. Radosh mentions the name of Stalin dozens of times, although none of his documents were written by Stalin or are under his name, and only a few were sent to him. For Radosh, the word “Stalin” no longer denotes an individual, but is a synecdochal signifier for — depending on the circumstance — the Comintern, the Soviet political leadership, or even any Communist, anywhere. Like a kind of mirror-image of the “cult of personality” that existed from about 1930 until Stalin’s death in 1953, Radosh too attributes all the initiative and agency of all communists to Stalin alone. A more radical reductionism can scarcely be imagined, and is all the more noteworthy since Radosh seems entirely oblivious to his own practice here. It never occurs to him to justify it theoretically, historically, or in any way at all.

71. This ideological distortion is more serious because more pervasive. Many who think of themselves as “liberal” or even “left” share with Radosh a kind of reflexive assumption that, whenever “Stalin” — read, the Comintern — seems to have been acting according to its professed motives of supporting the exploited and oppressed around the world, it must really have been acting out of selfish motives which, if not obvious, are simply cleverly disguised. [4] 

72. I hope that readers of this review will be inspired to read Radosh’s book and see for themselves. In view, however, of the inaccurate and misleading nature of Radosh’s commentary there is only one way to read this book:

First, ignore Radosh’s commentary entirely. Read the documents themselves, and only them, very carefully.

Only after doing that should you read Radosh’s commentary. But every time Radosh makes any kind of assertion about any document, go to that document, find the relevant passage, and note what the document really says.

Often this is not easy to do. Radosh does not include page numbers to the passages of the documents when he gives his comments or summaries. Often he will write things like “As we have seen . . .” ( p. 502); “Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the series of documents that follow . . .” (p. 431); “The documentary evidence, as we have shown . . .” (p. 372). Here the job of finding the passage in question can take quite a long time. It’s always worth taking the time, though, because what one usually discovers is that that NO previous document has shown anything of the kind.

73. Radosh reminds us that one of the main stumbling blocks for Marxists is the figure of Stalin. Stalin has been demonized — by Trotsky and those who have relied on Trotsky; by some Soviet émigrés, also imitators of Trotsky, in the main; and by Khrushchev and those who have been accustomed to believe that Khrushchev’s so-called “revelations” about Stalin were true. As Robert Thurston has written, the demonized “Stalin” is “a powerful cultural construct in scholarship, film, popular works, etc. The difficulty is to try to get past that construction as best we can.” (Thurston, 2000). Radosh has not even tried.

74. As Roger Pethybridge, a well-known British Sovietologist, commented long ago:

If one considers all the well-known biographies of Stalin, a common feature emerges: the volumes are a quite accurate reflection of biographical method current at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, when historical biographies dwelt on so-called “good” and “bad” kings. The personality who reigned appeared to dominate not only the political but the social and economic life of his kingdom, so that by a sneeze or a yawn he could magically change the whole socioeconomic pattern of his reign. This method of historical biography has long been discounted in the treatment of authoritarian rule in earlier history. It has also been discarded with regard to the study of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, it still remains as a specter from the past in the study of Soviet personalities in high politics. (Pethybridge, 1976).

75. Since the end of the Soviet Union, many formerly secret Comintern and Bolshevik documents have been published, with more coming out all the time. Like the Comintern documents in Radosh’s book, most of them contradict the widely-propagated, and widely-believed, horror stories about the history of the Communist movement during the Stalin years. [5] 

76. It’s up to us all of us who recognize the desperate need for a truly classless, egalitarian society to learn from the successes and failures of our predecessors, including, especially, the Bolsheviks during the time of Stalin’s leadership. But in order to do this, we must first convince ourselves that we do not already know these things.

77. For example, many of the Comintern documents in this collection support the suggestion made by some on the Left that the United Front Against Fascism was doomed from the outset, even as a tactic in fighting fascism. [6]  For no matter how devotedly the communists supported only bourgeois democratic goals, many capitalist forces refused to co-operate with them, in effect preferring to risk a fascist victory rather than take their chances in a liberal capitalist state with a strongly organized working class and peasantry under communist leadership. The subsequent fate of the communist parties of Western Europe and the USA after World War II, who were viciously attacked by the capitalists despite their adherence to a reform-oriented, non-revolutionary program, further suggests that the united front strategy was wishful thinking.

78. That is, we have to be ready and willing to question the Cold-War, Trotskyist, and Khrushchevite versions of this history, and “do it all again,” so we can actually begin to understand what really happened. [7] 

79. If that’s what we’re about — and I think we should be — then Radosh’s book can help us, by reminding us not to be like him.

Reviews used in this essay 

Beichman, Arnold. “Deceit in the Spanish Civil War.” The Washington Times, Op-Ed, July 17, 2001, p. A21.

Bernstein, Richard. “Aiding Dictatorship, Not Democracy.” The New York Times, July 23, 2001. Cited at <>.

Review of Spain Betrayed in First Things 116 (October 2001). Cited at <>

Hitchens, Christopher. “Who Lost Spain?” Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001. Cited at <>

———, “The Unfolded Lie.” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001. Cited at <,1419,L-LATimes-Books-X!ArticleDetail-38407,00.html>

Schwartz, Steven. “The Red and the Black. The end of the myth of the Spanish Civil War.” Weekly Standard, July 16, 2001. Cited at <>

Other materials

Graham, Helen. “‘Against the State’: A Genealogy of the Barcelona May Days (1937).” European History Quarterly 29(4), 485-542.

Pethybridge, Roger. 1976. Review of Ronald Hingley, Joseph Stalin: Man and Legend (New York, 1974), in Slavic Review 35 (March 1976): 136.

Thurston, Robert W. Post to H-RUSSIA list, August 24, 2000.


1 There is absolutely no question that Radosh is lying in some places — e.g., in Document 62 where, as I discuss in the text, he attributes to Togliatti the views that, in the document itself, which any reader can study a few pages later, Togliatti explicitly criticizes. Radosh does this kind of thing many times.

The book is also an example of incompetence. Radosh simply does a poor job at what a commentator should do: summarizing the documents, isolating the most important aspects of them, putting them into an overall historical context, and so on.

These kind of faults should have been red flags to any editor. But there is a long history of anti-communist works getting published even though filled with errors that would doom any other kind of research.

The uncritical praise of so many reviewers suggests that one purpose of Radosh’s book is to influence those who will not read it carefully. Perhaps someone made the estimation that few people will read such a book anyway, and most of those who do will probably rely on the commentary, rather than study the documents themselves. Again, this is no excuse for the kind of mendacity displayed in Spain Betrayed, but rather a grasping after some kind of explanation for so poor a work.

Finally, the book is a failure. Radosh had boasted for years — in some ways, since the ’80s, when he began publishing stuff about the Spanish Civil War, but explicitly since he began working on this book — that it would “prove” the USSR (“Stalin”) betrayed Spain. In the event it not only fails to “prove” any betrayal; it fails to come up with a single example of anything devious, dishonest, anything at all to make the communist side or the USSR specifically look bad.

2 Radosh betrays his ignorance of Soviet history. “Purge trials” is a term no longer used even by anti-communist Sovietologists. The chistki, or “purges,” were expulsion of Communist Party members for many reasons, most commonly drunkenness, neglect of duty, etc., though sometimes for political deviations. They were completely separate from the three famous Moscow Trials of 1936-8, of persons who confessed to plotting to overthrow the Soviet government. The best, and classic discussion of this is J. Arch Getty, Origins of the great purges: the Soviet Communist Party reconsidered, 1933-1938. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

3 See the excellent typology of anti-communist rhetoric in James R. Prickett, “Anti-Communism and Labor History,” Industrial Relations 13 (October, 1974), 219-227.”

4 For example, Stalin stated that “The cause of Spain is the cause of all humanity.” The USSR sent huge amounts of aid, in materiel and men, to the Republic both itself and through the Comintern, much of which was not, in fact, repaid. Yet Cary Nelson, a staunch supporter of the American veterans of the Spanish Civil War and a prominent left-liberal, still feels compelled to explain Soviet aid in this way: “Stalin’s motivations, no doubt, were pragmatic. He probably hoped, for example, to use an alliance to help the Spanish Republic as a way of building a general antifascist alliance with the Western democracies.” (“The Spanish Civil War: An Overview,” accessed at <> on 20 February 2003). “Pragmatic” in this context explains nothing; the Soviets knew very well that the antifascist alliance they aimed at was jeopardized by their aid to the Republic, but did it anyway. For Nelson, the International Brigade volunteers can, and did, have idealistic motives, but Stalin cannot, even though the whole effort could hardly have taken place without his strong support at every step.

5 For example, the interrogations and confessions by such major figures as NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda and Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky have been published, making it clear that the accusations leveled against them by the Soviet government in the late ’30s were substantially accurate. There is also some additional evidence of Leon Trotsky’s contacts with oppositionists in the USSR who were plotting the overthrow of the government, as well as the first evidence of Trotsky’s contact with the Japanese fascist government, both central claims of the Communist movement in the ’30s but both strongly denied by Trotsky’s followers.

6 See, for example, “Lessons of People’s War in Spain 1936-1939,” Progressive Labor, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct.-Nov. 1974), 106-116, cited at <> (February 22, 2003). For more on a left critique of the consequences of the Popular Front strategy upon the world communist movement, see “Road to Revolution III: The Continuing Struggle Against Revisionism” (1970), at <>.

7 J. Arch Getty, the dean of the younger generations of American historians of the USSR, is quoted by the prominent (and very anti-communist) Russian historian Yuri Zhukov as having said Soviet history is poisoned by Cold War “propaganda,” and has to be done all over again. See Aleksandr Sabov, “Zhupel Stalina” (“Stalin’s Boogeyman”), Komsomolskaya Pravda, Nov. 5, 2001.

Contents copyright © 2003 by Grover Furr.

Format copyright © 2003 by Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087.


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


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

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: 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:


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


by Grover Furr


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

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

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

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

“After invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis and the Soviets divided the country as they had agreed to do in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…”

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

“… on 17 September, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

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

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

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

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

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

See rydz_dont_fight.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, when the USSR attacked Finland in 1939 the League did vote to expel the USSR, and several countries broke diplomatic relations with it. See

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

The Polish State Collapsed

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See new_spheres_0939.html

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Imperialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish Government In Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would have

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

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

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


See conclusion.html


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


Grover Furr
Montclair State University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montclair State University


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

6. Carsten, “New ‘Evidence’,” p. 273.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19. N.A. Series T-78, Roll No. 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Grover Furr: Israeli Rule over Palestinians is Fascist

Apartheid South Africa - Apartheid Israel (1)

Originally published in The Montclarion, student newspaper at Montclair State College (now University), Thursday, May 5, 1988, p. 13.

To the editor:

Professor Edward Aronow’s letter of April 21 on Israeli treatment of Palestinians is so filled with error and distortion that one short response can only begin to correct it.

Israeli rule over Palestinians is essentially fascist. The Israeli army assault on the West Bank town of Beita in the wake of the death of an Israeli teenager can only be described as a pogrom — brutal, murderous assault such as the Tsarist police and the Nazis committed against Jews.

Killing persons armed only with stones or “trying to flee” – – including numerous Palestinian teenagers — collective punishment, beatings, imprisonment without trail for indefinite periods, deportations — this is fascist repression, akin to Nazi terrorism.

The lesson of World War II — especially of the Nazi holocaust — is that fascism cannot be fought with “moderation.” Mass Palestinian protests, including violent protests, must be welcomed, and supported by all those who oppose injustice. Pacifist and “non-violent” protest would be morally irresponsible, since they can never succeed against fascist oppression, but only lead to the unnecessary deaths of many protesters.

Terrorist assassinations, whether by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), or the far more numerous acts of terrorist murder by the Israeli army and settlers, must be condemned. However, Israel is far more guilty in this regard, quantitatively, than the PLO.

About 10 times the number of Palestinians have been murdered by Israel than the number of Israelis murdered by PLO terrorists. Yet Israeli terrorist repression against Palestinians is termed `retaliation” or “assassination” in the US media!

Israeli fascist brutalities follow a long history of working with some of the worst fascists on earth, including South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Argentina. Israel is a major supplier of arms and military advisors to South Africa. Israeli advisors helped train the Iranian Secret Police under the fascist Shah in torture techniques. Today Israel is the major arms supplier to Khomeini’s Iran!

One need not look far to find the roots of Israeli terrorism and fascism. Take Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir. Before World War II he belonged to a Zionist grouplet that, in 1940, offered to enter the war on the side of Nazi Germany if the Nazis would permit a Zionist state, run along fascist lines, in Palestine. Shamir personally planned the 1948 terrorist murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Special Mediator for Palestine.

During the war, the major Zionist leaders collaborated with Adolf Eichmann to send half a million Hungarian Jews to their deaths in Nazi extermination camps, in return for the Nazis letter 1500 or so Zionists emigrate to Palestine — a fact long since documented by Zionist writers. Such is the “love” of the Zionist leaders for “their own people”!

The root problem is racism and its twin, nationalism. Israeli law claims that any Jew, anywhere in the world, has a right to full Israeli citizenship, while Arabic-speaking Palestinians have no such right even if they were born and have lived all their lives on the territory now comprising Israel. This is an inherently racist policy. Fascist racism is built into the very existence of the Israeli state.

It is in the interest of Israeli rulers to foment as much hatred between Jews and Palestinians as they can. Israel’s economy depends heavily upon the exploitation of very cheap Palestinian labor, just as South Africa’s does on Black labor.

Israeli Jewish workers are very militant; relative to population;there are more work-days lost to strikes in Israel than in any country in the world. Racism and nationalism are the main things keeping Jewish and non- Jewish workers from allying with one another.

At all costs, Israeli bosses must prevent this, while keeping the super-exploited Palestinian workers nearby and without rights. The parallel with South Africa — or with American treatment of “illegal aliens” and minorities — is unmistakable.

Incidentally, there are not “dozens of Arab states,” as Professor Aranow, following the Israeli government propaganda line, says. There is one major Arab state, Saudi Arabia, and several minor ones on that peninsula. There are many Arabic-speaking states, just as there are many countries besides England where English is spoken. There is no “Palestinian state” in Jordan. Here Professor Aranow simply parrots Israeli disinformation.

Like Israel, the Moslem, Arabic-speaking states are also undemocratic, elite-run dungeons. In light of Israeli terror, however, Professor Aranow’s prattle about the need to “await greater Arab political maturity” is racist nonsense.


Grover Furr on the Objective Study of Soviet History and Challenging the Bourgeois-Trotskyist Paradigm


“Political prejudice still predominates in the study of Soviet history. Conclusions that contradict the dominant paradigm are routinely dismissed as the result of bias or incompetence. Conclusions that cast doubt upon accusations against Stalin or whose implications tend to make him look either “good” or even less “evil” than the predominant paradigm holds him to have been, are called “Stalinist.” Any objective study of the evidence now available is bound to be called “Stalinist” simply because it reaches conclusions that are politically unacceptable to those who have a strong political bias, be it anticommunist generally or Trotskyist specifically.


No researcher today, no matter how anti-Soviet, dismisses Soviet evidence just because it is Soviet. Evidence from Soviet archives is routinely regarded as valid.


The testimony of the defendants at the three Moscow “Show” Trials is routinely dismissed as false. The defendants are said to have been threatened, or tortured, or in some other way induced to confess to absurd crimes which they could not have committed. This is all wrong.

There is no evidence worthy of the name that the defendants were threatened, or tortured, or induced to give false confessions by promises of some kind. Under Khrushchev, again under Gorbachev and, in fact, right up to this day the official stance of both Soviet and Russian regimes has been that the defendants’ confessions are false. The investigative materials, all but a small fraction of which are still classified in Russia today, have been scoured for any evidence that would discredit the Trials and prove the defendants’ confessions were false. But no such evidence has been discovered. For this reason we can be reasonably confident that no such evidence exists. 


In the case of a few of the more prominent defendants, Zinoviev and Bukharin, there is good evidence that they were not threatened or badly treated.

Most people who disregard the confessions of the defendants at the Moscow Trials have never studied the transcripts of these trials. They dismiss them because they have been told that the defendants’ confessions were fabricated. In reality, there is no evidence that this is so. As we shall see, the evidence given in those confessions is in fact corroborated by the archival material which is the main subject of this study. And in any event the confessions of the Moscow Trials defendants must be accorded the same respect as the rest of the evidence, or as any evidence. It must be identified, collected, and studied.


Given the absence of any evidence that these confessions were false, and given the logical progression from more detail in the secret documents to the least detail in public ones, any objective student would conclude that we should consider these confessions genuine unless and until evidence to the contrary should be discovered. But the practice among most scholars of this period of Soviet history is to do precisely the opposite. Any evidence that tends to support the theory that Trotsky or any of those accused of espionage, sabotage, conspiracy to overthrow the government or treasonable contacts with foreign governments did in fact so conspire, is routinely dismissed. The evidence itself is not evaluated.

There is never any reason to “dismiss” – to refuse to consider – any evidence. All evidence needs to be evaluated on its own merits and in conjunction with the rest of the evidence available, as we have done here.


We predict that regardless of the evidence neither staunch anticommunists nor Trotskyists will ever accept that Trotsky did in fact collaborate with Germany and Japan. The “Cold War” paradigm of Soviet history during Stalin’s time depends upon theconstruction of Stalin as an evil man who was killing innocent people and destroying the communist movement. If Trotsky and, by implication, the oppositionists who worked with him were guilty of what they were charged with and to which most, though of course not Trotsky, confessed, then this “Cold War” paradigm of Soviet history is dismantled.”

  – Grover Furr, “Evidence of Leon Trotsky’s Collaboration with Germany and Japan” quotations taken from pages 9 – 149.

Grover Furr reviews Robert Thurston’s “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934 -1941”

As always, the publication of an article does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content.

– Espresso Stalinist.


by Grover Furr, from Cultural Logic, Volume 1, Number 2, Spring 1998

Robert W. Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). $30.00.

Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism

1. Billions of workers all over the world are exploited, murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century — in fact, in all of human history — have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.

2. The Russian Revolution was the first of them, blazing the trail for all revolutionaries to come. Its history — its successes and failures — are the essential textbook for all workers and others who recognize the need to get rid of exploitation and build a better world run by those who toil.

3. Naturally the world’s capitalists do not want this learning process to happen! So the ruling class try to spread anti-Communist lies, the purpose of which is to demoralize potential revolutionaries and make us passive. These wrong ideas — wrong both in the sense that they are incorrect AND in that they serve the exploiters’ interests, not the interest of workers — include racism, religion, sexism, and anti- communism.

4. The main form anti-communism has taken for the past several decades has been anti-Stalinism. If workers and others can be convinced that any attempt to build a communist society — one based upon need, without exploitation, run by and for the working class — will end up “as bad as or worse than” Nazi Germany, then we will never really make the attempt. This means we will be reduced to struggling only for reforms under capitalism. This reformism is ultimately acceptable to the capitalists since it leaves them in control forever.

5. A second way the bosses use anti-Stalinism is to justify fascist repression and murder of any workers’ attempts to rebel against capitalism. After all, if “Stalinism” is “worse than Nazi Germany”, and if any attempt to build communism can lead only to “Stalinism”, then any and all repressive measures to suppress revolution are justified, including torture, mass murder, and fascism itself. This anti-communism has been the main justification for imperialist slaughter in the period since World War II, as indeed it had been for the Nazis’ aggression and atrocities.

6. Because it is the main ideological form of anti-communism, fighting anti-Stalinism is therefore a vital, life-and-death issue for the world’s workers — for all of us. This review essay will show how a new (1996) book can be useful in doing just that, and it also outlines some of the limitations of that book.

Strengths of Thurston’s Work

7. Thurston’s main points are as follows:

— The mass arrests and executions of 1936-38 in the USSR were not planned, but were panicked reactions to plots against the Soviet government.

— These events were not intended to, and did not in fact, spread “fear and terror” throughout the Soviet population, but rather were carried out against perceived enemies with the support and often the active participation of the Soviet population.

— They occurred at a time when the USSR was under enormous threat from hostile nations. (In addition, communists the world over were being imprisoned, tortured and murdered by capitalist regimes, though Thurston does not refer to these facts.)

— The numbers imprisoned and executed were far less that the inflated estimates claimed by anti-Communist sources.

— Rather than being cowed and demoralized by mass arrests and police activity, the growing Soviet industrial working class enjoyed an active voice inside the factories, encouraged by Soviet leaders to speak out about conditions in the plants and outside.

— The “acid test” of whether the workers and peasants supported Soviet socialism or were alienated from and hostile to it came with the Nazi invasion. Thurston shows that the Soviet people determinedly repulsed this massive onslaught by rushing either to join the Red Army or the factories to increase military production, while the Red Army fought with a dedication, effectiveness and morale utterly unmatched by the best Western capitalist armies.

8. Thurston’s introduction outlines what he calls the “standard version” (xiv) or “orthodox view” (xvi) of Stalin and the USSR in the ’30s, invoking the name of Robert Conquest — which he will then prove wrong. (Conquest, a former British Secret Service agent, is the foremost anti- communist liar about the Stalin years.) He also points out also how the present capitalist rulers of Russia have every motive to build anti-Stalinism.

9. This chapter also demonstrates that the Soviet legal system was evolving along recognizably capitalist lines in terms of its judicial process during the early ’30s. On the one hand, this contradicts the view of the Cold Warriors that the USSR was “totalitarian”, and this is Thurston’s main point: that the USSR was becoming more “liberal”, giving citizens protection against arbitrary police action, for example.

10. It reveals, however, how much the Bolsheviks relied on Western capitalist models, in the judicial system and elsewhere (education, culture, industry), for models of how to build a communist society. Here, the Bolsheviks’ view of communism was, as we can see now in hindsight, in many respects a “reformed” version of capitalist relationships. Learning from the Bolsheviks’ shortcomings as well as from their own experience, left forces within the Chinese Communist Party later challenged reliance on police and courts with reliance on the working class and poor peasants through political struggle, public trials, and an emphasis on self-criticism and being held accountable to the masses — a process that eventually reached its high point during the Cultural Revolution before it was finally defeated.

11. Chapter Two disposes of some ancient anti-Communist lies. Thurston shows there’s no evidence Stalin murdered either his second wife in 1932 or Politburo colleague Sergei Kirov in 1934. Both of these fairy-tales have been refuted by other scholars before Thurston but are still accepted without question as true by anti-Stalinists. Concerning the three big “Show Trials” of 1936-38, Thurston highlights the evidence that the basic charges against the defendants were in fact true. This was generally accepted even by keen Western observers at the time, like Joseph Davies, sent by President Roosevelt to check out the Soviet government (see his book Mission to Moscow), and confirmed long ago too by staunch anti-Communist scholars like Robert V. Daniels (see his Conscience of the Revolution, 1960).

12. Thurston shows that there was “wrecking” — industrial sabotage — in the economy under Yuri Pyatakov, whose confession to this effect is also shown to have been voluntary, not coerced (46). Even the charges against Nikolai Bukharin, main defendant in the 1938 trial, are shown to have been true in the main, as documents from Bolshevik archives prove (35-42). Thurston also states that some accusations against the defendants were “fabrications”, but he never gives any evidence to support this charge. In fact — though Thurston does not discuss this — it is quite likely that suspicions of “wrecking” were exaggerated by the recklessness built into the industrialization campaign, caused by the emphasis on “increasing productive forces” by sharpening wage differentials, privileges, and therefore class antagonisms: in short, by socialism, the mixture of communist and capitalist elements which communists since the days of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program had believed was a necessary interim stage between capitalism and a classless society.

13. Finally, Chapter Two also reaffirms that the massive arrests did not take place until after the arrests and executions in June 1937 of the military commanders led by Marshal Tukhachevsky. Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership clearly believed there was a real conspiracy, and there’s much, though not conclusive, evidence that such a conspiracy indeed existed. Chapter Three demonstrates that the Soviet government reacted in panic to the disclosure of such high-placed treason. There’s no evidence at all that Stalin was out to “terrorize the country”.

14. Nikolai Ezhov, the leader of the political police (or NKVD), was the person most directly responsible for the massive arrests and executions. Usually demonized by Cold-War historians, Ezhov was a long-time Communist with an honorable record, a worker since the age of 14, before being entrusted by the Politburo with the task of directly overseeing the repression of what all believed to be a massive counter-revolutionary plot.

15. Ezhov set high quotas for executions, which the police felt had to be met. There were many examples of police arresting and executing people either to “meet quotas” or from outright corruption. Recent research by Thurston ‘s colleagues suggests that between six and seven hundred thousand persons were executed during 1937-38. (See the article by Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov in American Historical Review, October 1993).

16. A few comments are in order here. First, the concept of “quotas” for executions appears to come from Lenin’s practice during the Civil War, although Thurston does not say so. After the Bolsheviks revolution privileged and propertied people throughout Russia opposed the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and White (anti-Communist) forces routinely executed Communists, workers who supported them, and all Jews. Under Lenin’s urging the Bolsheviks would take hostages from among the upper classes, threatening to execute them if the Whites opposed them.

17. It should be clear that such “quotas for execution” were completely inappropriate in a situation in which the Bolsheviks held state power and could confine anyone suspected of anti-Communist activity until their cases could be investigated. Such executions, whether of the guilty or, as was inevitable, of the innocent as well, serve no mass political function, as would public trials, investigations, and a concept of justice based upon the direct participation of the working class — an issue noted by Vyshinsky himself.

18. Anti-Communist “scholars” have repeatedly produced fantastically high figures for Soviet executions and jailings during the “purges”. Thurston challenges those inflated numbers with strong archival evidence. On page 137 he explicitly states that the inflated estimates are too high. On page 11 Thurston has a chart showing there were 1,196,439 camp inmates in 1937, a slight decline from the previous year (this included criminals as well as those arrested for political crimes, but does not include prison inmates). For purposes of comparison, we should note that this is much smaller than the US prison population today! While it seems clear to us now that many of those prisoners charged with political crimes (104,826, or 12.8% of the total) were not in fact guilty, that prison population is a long way from the Cold-War anti-Communist “guesstimates” of between 7 and 15 million prisoners — and some guess much higher still, 20 or 30 million!

19. Thurston shows there were, in fact, other real anti-Soviet plots in addition to the “Tukhachevsky Affair” (mass arrests and executions of military officers), including some spies within the NKVD itself. He also provides overwhelming evidence to show that the arrests targeted elite sectors — managers, specialists, intellectuals, party officials, and not “workers or poor peasants, the favored children of the new regime” (76). Naturally communists should not support unjust accusations against anyone, regardless of their class background. What this fact shows is that socialism — the continuation of capitalist relations of production and a capitalist notion of economic development — involved the continuation of class antagonisms under somewhat different forms, class antagonisms that found expression in the mass arrests and executions.

20. Thurston puts these events squarely in the context of the aftermath of the extremely violent years of 1914-21 (the beginning of World War I to the end of the very bloody Civil War) and, more immediately, of the sharpening international situation of the late ’30s, when Nazi Germany and all the imperialist countries were unmistakably bent upon surrounding and destroying the USSR.

21. However, even at that Thurston underplays the danger facing the Communist movement. On pages 34-5, he mentions the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, unchallenged by the French who wanted Hitler to rearm, so as to pit him against the USSR. He mentions the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, but not the huge military support given to Franco, leader of the Spanish fascists, by Nazi German and fascist Italy, nor the phony “neutrality” of England, France, and the USA which cut the Spanish Republic off from international aid. He mentions fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in December 1935, unchallenged by the other imperialists, but never the Japanese fascists’ seizure of Manchuria in 1931 or the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Japan and Italy (1936-37), or the Japanese invasion of China (1937). Stalin would later express the Soviet view that the other imperialists were encouraging the Germans to attack and destroy the Soviet union:

“They kept on urging the Germans to go farther and farther east: ‘You just start a war against the Bolsheviks, and all will be well'” (quoted in Alexander Werth, Russia at War, p. 39).

22. Also left out is the Nazi decimation of the German Communist Party, the largest in Europe, beginning in 1934. In 1936, when the Soviet “purges” began, German Communists were being tortured and murdered by the thousands in German concentration camps, and similar treatment was being meted out to Communists and workers in dozens of other capitalist lands — as, in fact, it still is. Little wonder that the Soviets weren’t prone to treat too kindly those it considered to be German spies and agents!

23. And Thurston repeats, time and again, what his sources show him: the Soviet government favored workers and poor peasants over all others in the population, while they were being exploited, killed, etc., in every other country in the world! Thurston’s own evidence shows that the USSR was a “dictatorship of the working class”.

24. Some police agencies treated evidence as very important, though many did not. Conditions in the labor and punishment camps, the so-called “Gulag”, Thurston argues, were bearable both before and after the period 1937 to 1938, but very bad during this period, reflecting the fact that most police, and even prisoners, were convinced those arrested during this time were traitorous conspirators who deserved the worst treatment.

25. By January 1938, Thurston shows, complaints of unjustified repression were flooding the Central Committee, and the Plenum began to demand that expulsions from the Party be reviewed for unfairness. The next month Andrei Vyshinsky, formerly the head prosecutor at the “Show Trials”, complained about conditions in the labor camps and demanded punishment of camp officials who permitted bad conditions. He also insisted that those who fabricated evidence be arrested. In fact a number of trials of such fabricators did take place this year and the next, often with great publicity.

26. The need to pay greater attention to physical evidence, as opposed to confession, was re-emphasized. By the middle of 1938 the great period of panic, mass arrests, and executions was over. Police procedures were regularized; conditions in the camps improved; many of those falsely arrested were released and exonerated. Trials of NKVD men who had tortured and framed people were held, and the NKVD purged of such people.

27. Certainly the Soviet state was justified in acting to arrest preemptively, in times of crisis, anyone suspected of treason. But there was no reason for executing people on the same flimsy basis; they could certainly have been imprisoned pending a serious review of their cases. Had this been done, many or most executions would not have taken place. What is more, well-publicized trials of those who were guilty, with evidence publicly given, would have raised political consciousness, as did the Chinese Communist Party’s public trials of landlords in the period after their seizure of power, in which peasants openly accused those who had exploited and murdered them.

28. Chapter Six, “Life in the Factories”, shows that the Stakhanovite movement was, in fact, a mass movement which gave all workers the opportunity to gain recognition for improving production and technique, rather than a cynical way of “speeding-up” the workers, as it has been described by anti-Communists. Thurston argues that, in fact, Stakhanovism gave workers more power. Workers’ views and criticisms were respected; supervisors and foremen ignored them at their peril.

29. But here too we see that “socialist” relations of production were basically a reformed version of capitalist relations of production. While acknowledging the communist, collective aspects of the Stakhanov movement, we can see in retrospect how it inevitably became associated with speed-up, given the retention of a wage system. Thurston’s book neglects this aspect of the movement.

30. Thurston quotes some American workers who had also worked in the USSR as saying that conditions of work, and the atmosphere in the factories, were better for Soviet workers in the 1930s than for workers in the US (192). But he then undercuts their view — far more informed than his own — in the next sentence, where he writes that “Soviet workers were hardly better off or freer than their American counterparts”.

31. Ironically, he has already cited evidence on page 170 that at least some Soviet workers had shorter working hours than US workers. At the time, many people thought Soviet workers were, in fact, better off than were American workers. One of them was Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s. In a passage not cited by Thurston, Reuther wrote home:

Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the “ruthless dictatorship in Russia”. I tell you … in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy… (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).

32. Thurston says nothing about free medical care, cited in many studies of and novels about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. And much of his chapter shows how Soviet workers had a tremendous amount of input and right to criticize. Thurston also doesn’t mention that millions of US workers were unemployed in the ’30s, while the Soviets had a labor shortage. He omits the fact that US workers trying to unionize for better conditions were being violently attacked, and often killed, by the police, the military, and employer-hired goons. Conditions for the working class in Europe generally were even worse, with fascist or virtually fascist regimes, all viciously anti-working class, in most countries.

33. The final chapter deals with the response of the Soviet population to World War II. Here too Thurston concludes that the Soviet regime retained much loyalty and enthusiasm among the population. Soviet soldiers fought against the Japanese in Mongolia with high morale in 1938, where their military leadership was excellent, and against Finland and then the German Wehrmacht in 1940 and 1941, where both political and military leadership was initially poor and led to larger casualties than necessary. In the opening days of WWII, the Red Army fought well, counterattacking against far superior Axis forces, often fighting to the last man, rarely surrendering unless surrounded or demoralized by huge casualties and a hopeless situation. German officers uniformly remarked that the Soviets fought far better than any Western army (215).

34. Civilian morale was generally high in June 1941, even in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland. The Polish fascist state had been racist towards Jews and Ukrainians in Eastern Poland, and therefore many of the Ukrainian population were supportive when the Soviets marched in, especially since the Soviets mainly repressed the enemies of the workers and peasants — landowners, Polish officers, and police — and did not collectivize the peasantry. But Ukrainian nationalists in Poland had already basically turned towards the Nazis, so many “Western” Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi invasion. German officers recognized that the Ukrainians in Soviet territory were very different, much more loyal to the USSR and often very hostile to the pro-Nazi West Ukrainians, as Thurston shows.


35. The research reported in this book because it will help to combat anti-communism and lies against Stalin and the USSR generally during his time. However, Thurston’s work also suffers from serious shortcomings. First, while he combats many anti-Communist lies with good evidence, Thurston also makes many statements critical of the Bolsheviks without any evidence. There are many instances of this.

36. Even more serious are Thurston’s historiographical shortcomings. Not a Marxist of any kind, Thurston frames his analysis entirely in bourgeois historical terms. Therefore, Thurston’s book is valuable when, and only when, he bases his conclusions on primary source evidence. Even when he does, this evidence must be put into an historical materialist, scientific framework in order for important lessons to emerge clearly.

37. Like all the other works of the anti-Cold War researchers — called “revisionists” or “Young Turks” — who have helped to refute anti-Stalin and anti-Communist lies, this is a work of bourgeois history. These works of research take capitalism for granted, and so have a capitalist bias from the outset. Though they come up with important evidence, and often use it well, they do so from an academic perspective. They may refute egregious Cold-War lies, but they never reject anti-communism, the fundamental premise of capitalist scholarship.

38. Most important for our purposes, the “revisionists” do not ask the questions which Marxists, and all those convinced that capitalism must be overthrown, need answers to: namely, What can we learn, positively and negatively, from the history of the USSR? What were the Bolsheviksí successes? Why did these dedicated communists fail?

39. Although it can’t provide answers to the questions revolutionaries need to ask, Thurston’s work, like those of other more objective, though bourgeois, researchers, can help us if we use them according to historical materialism, the scientific method of Marxism or communism.

40. After all, to learn the correct lessons, both positive and negative, from the Bolsheviks’ experience, the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and why it eventually turned into its opposite, we need something in addition to the Marxist method of understanding history, or dialectical and historical materialism. We also need an accurate account of what, in fact, happened, not a farrago of anti-Communist lies and horror stories.

41. It is here, in refuting anti-Communist lies, as well as in discovering what did happen in reality, that Thurston’s work, and that of other honest bourgeois historians, can be very helpful. Let me give two brief examples.

1. Capitalist Relations and Class Antagonisms within the USSR:

42. Thurston shows time and again that those most likely to have been arrested and executed during the panic of 1937-38 were officials, leaders, managers, officers, and “higher- ups” in general. This fact shows that there was a considerable divorce between “leaders” and ordinary workers and other citizens. How could this be?

43. Marx recognized that “all history is the history of class struggle”. The Bolsheviks believed that everything must be subordinated to the fight for industrialization and production. After the early ’30s they used “material incentives” to reward workers and managers, developing large wage differentials and, therefore, differences in living standards among workers and between workers and managers, Party leaders and rank-and-file members, and in every other aspect of society. Believing too that productive technique was “class-neutral”, they kept capitalist production relationships in the factories and capitalist relationships of hierarchy and inequality generally in society. Women still did all the housework as well as their jobs, putting real limits on the extent — real, also — to which sexism could be fought.

44. In short, social relationships in the USSR were “reformed” capitalist relationships more than they were truly communist egalitarian relationships. This had to give rise to new class antagonisms and create resistance to the disappearance of old ones.

45. Thurston’s research can help us see that the mass arrests and executions of 1937-38, which were “concentrated among the country’s elite” (232), reflected these class antagonisms at the same time Stalin and the Soviet leadership believed they had abolished class struggle. Without these capitalist relations the “panic” of the late ’30s and, in fact, the future evolution of the Soviet Union towards, first, state capitalism and, as now, “free-market” capitalism, would not have been possible.

2. Elitist Relations within the Party:

46. In 1938 and thereafter specific cases of police corruption, neglect of evidence, frame-ups, and other negligence were publicized and those guilty punished. Many cases of rehabilitation, both of the living and of those unjustly executed, took place. Nevertheless the Bolshevik leadership under Stalin never really underwent a thorough, public self-critical review of how any injustice could have happened, in order to get to the bottom of it.

47. There is also the question of why people like Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were in important positions of power to begin with. They had demonstrated rotten politics for years. Zinoviev had quit the party in fear rather than take part in the October Revolution. Bukharin had lied many times — Thurston documents this — and had even plotted with the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin during the Civil War. (The S-R’s then plotted to overthrow Lenin, and very likely tried to kill him.) They had been expelled from the Party.

48. What was the point of handing them major leadership posts? The Bolsheviks should have trained other members to do their jobs and not relied on these particular intellectuals. Perhaps the concept of a party of “professional revolutionaries”, a “cadre” party — Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others had worked for the Party all their lives — had not yet been entirely abandoned for the better concept of a mass party of the working class.

Conclusion: Fight Capitalist Lies

49. Thurston’s work is useful in debunking anti-Communist lies. And his work is only one of a growing body of what has been called “revisionist” research on the history of the USSR. These works use the same kind of bourgeois historical methodology, rules of evidence, logic, and documentation, commonly used in less contentious fields of history, but hardly ever in the study of the communist movement.

50. For the first time, an outline of the major events in the USSR during the Stalin years is beginning to emerge, although the anti-Communist “Cold Warriors” — often joined by enthusiasts for Leon Trotsky — are still actively spreading their lies and contesting every bit of research which contradicts their preconceived ideas, what is virtually a “Cold-War Party Line”.This is exciting, and heady, material!

51. But it is for revolutionaries and workers of today to use research like Thurston’s towards this end. Neither this work nor any others like it can provide the historical materialist framework without which human history will not reveal its truths.

Revisionists’ Research on Soviet History: A Brief Bibliographical Note(Note: It is a daunting task to keep abreast of the exciting research into the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. The “revisionists”, of which Thurston is a leading representative, have split the field of bourgeois Soviet history, and there is much animosity on both sides. In addition, it’s very helpful to be able to read Russian, both in order to look at original sources, and to follow the research now being published in Russia that Getty is publishing there, for example. What follows is only a brief introduction.)

1. There are a number of strands in the “new” history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin years. The work of the late E. H. Carr, and of his successors at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, led by R. W. Davies, and represented heavily in the journal Soviet Studies (since volume 45, 1993 retitled Europe-Asia Studies); the research of Jerry Hough, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Roberta Manning, the inspiration and, in some cases, the teachers of the younger “revisionists”; and the younger cohort themselves. I will concentrate on this third group.

2. The book under review is an excellent place to begin. But, to my mind, the first and groundbreaking work of this school is John Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A much revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College, 1979, under Roberta Manning, this work is fundamental. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the “accepted” version (Conquest-Solzhenitsyn, et al. — what Thurston calls the “standard version” or “orthodox view”) of this period must be rejected, how completely dishonest their “scholarship”, how poor their use of evidence. After Thurston, begin with Getty, and a careful reading of his footnotes.

3. The year after Getty’s book was published, the revisionists achieved recognition as a distinct school within Soviet history with Sheila Fitzpatrick’s article “New Perspectives on Stalinism”, The Russian Review 45, 4 (October 1986), 357-373, which the editors published together with four criticisms by established Cold-War historians, and a reply by Fitzpatrick, “Afterword: Revisionism Revisited”. A year later the same journal published eleven responses to Fitzpatrick’s article, including five by the leading younger scholars (William Chase, J. Arch Getty, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Gábor Rittersporn, and Lynne Viola), two supportive articles (by Jerry Hough and Roberta Manning), and an explicit attack by Conquest.

4. Robert Conquest’s voluminous work is the target, acknowledged or not, of much of the research on this period of Soviet history. Getty leads off his book with a brief exposé of Conquest’s irresponsible methods (Origins, p. 5 and note 12, p.222). The work of Steven G. Wheatcroft on the size of Soviet forced labor camps and number of deaths has developed as a refutation of Conquest and those whose research resembles his, like Steven Rosefielde. This debate continues today, and was launched by Wheatcroft’s article “On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-1956”, Soviet Studies 33 (April, 1981), 265-95. Conquest’s typically weak reply, with argument “from authority”, is in Soviet Studies 34 (July 1982), 434-39.

5. Wheatcroft and Conquest continue to criticize each other’s studies vigorously. For Wheatcroft’s research, begin with what appears in Europe-Asia Studies. For example, in “The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-1945”, EAS 48 (December 1996), 1319-1353, Wheatcroft attacks the facile, anti-Communist comparison of Stalin with Hitler. The abstract reads:

     Repression and mass killings carried out by German and Soviet leaderships during the period 1930-45 differed in several respects. It appears that the German leader Adolf Hitler put to death at least five million innocent people mainly because of his antipathy towards Jews and communists. In contrast, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some one million people because he apparently believed them to be guilty of crimes against the state. He was careful about documenting these executions whereas Hitler did not bother about making any pretence at legality.

6. A few other works which base themselves on recently-published Soviet archival documents and give the lie to Conquest-type horror-stories include: Nicolas Werth, “Goulag: Les Vrais Chiffres”, L’Histoire no. 169 (Septembre, 1993), 38-51; J. Arch Getty, Gábor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”, American Historical Review 98 (December, 1993), 1017-49; R.W. Davies, “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations”, New Left Review, 214 (November-December 1995), 62-80.

7. Other works explicitly critical of Conquest include: Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right”, Village Voice, Jan. 12, 1988 (on the web at Coplon interviewed many of the foremost historians of the USSR, including many “Cold Warriors” as well as some “revisionists”; all rejected Conquest’s phony research on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, 1986), incidentally showing how Conquest was paid by Ukrainian nationalist groups which had collaborated with the Nazis.

8. Thurston was, I think, the first and (to date) the only historian of the Soviet Union to dare to attack Conquest in an academic journal: see Thurston, “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest”, Slavic Review 45 (Summer 1986), 238-244.

9. A six-part series exposing the Nazi origins of the Ukrainian famine myth while remaining critical of Soviet actions from a communist viewpoint, can be found at the Progressive Labor Party website at; read its notes for scholarly references to that time. Another PLP series, this time in four parts, of Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990), begins at These articles contain yet more references to “revisionist” scholarship, and end with a brief bibliography of suggested further readings, at An appreciative but critical review of Getty’s Ph.D. dissertation, the basis of his 1985 book, is at

10. This should be enough for anyone interested in studying the latest critiques of the Cold-War lies about Stalin and Bolshevik history, the wars within the field of Soviet history, and the best results of bourgeois historiography, to sink their teeth into.

11. Finally: there is an important theoretical issue which I deal with briefly towards the end of my review, and which is not apparent in any of the social-historical and empirical research of the past twenty years or so. That question is: How can the method of dialectical and historical materialism be brought to bear on the “facts” as we are coming to know them, in order to draw valid conclusions from the Bolsheviks’ successes and errors, so that future communists may build upon the past without repeating its mistakes?

12. These works can help us learn something about what did happen, and help us refute anti-Communist lies. But the task of learning from the past to build towards a communist future is up to us.


A Comment on “A Pathetic Defence of Stalinist Repressions”

Anil Rajimwale, the leader of Communist Party of India and one of the party’s leading theoretician has published a review of Grover Furr’s Book Khrushchev Lied, in the pro CPI and pro Congress magazine Mainstream Weekly, titled A Pathetic Defence of Stalinist Repressions, the link to Rajimwale’s review is

Below we are publishing a short comment on the review made by Anil Rajimwale, written by comrade Manbhanjan (member editorial committee of Other Aspect)

One can understand the pain in the heart of die-hard Khrushchevite, Anil Rajimwale, while reviewing the book Khrushchev Lied. The pain is very genuine and inevitable because for some people it is extremely difficult to digest the truth. Since 20th Party Congress they have been deceived by anti-Marxist leadership of CPSU and their blood brother CPI regarding the truth in Soviet Union.

This time the truth was revealed by American Marxist scholar comrade Grover Furr. He has done exemplary research and attempted to publish facts hitherto unknown to the world. He discovered all the lies perpetuated by Khrushchev during the so called Secret speech during the 20th Party congress of CPSU.

This congress is regarded as the “Black Congress” in the history of International Communist Movement, as Khrushchev and his clique were successful in launching coup-d’état and overthrew socialism in the land of the first successful proletariat revolution. Khrushchev distorted the Marxist-Leninist teachings and presented to the world number of so-called “new theses”, i.e. “the peaceful co-existence between two systems”, “peaceful competitions between two system”, “peaceful transition identified with the parliamentary road”. After all in the “secret report “On the Cult of the Individual and its consequences”, that blackened the glorious road pursued by the Bolshevik Party since the death of Lenin. During the period Socialism was consolidated in Soviet Union under Dictatorship of Proletariat that defeated and eradicated the menace called fascism from the face of earth and liberated vast majority of human kind from capitalistic tyranny with the creation of the socialist camp after Second world war.

Comrade Anil Rajimwale in his whole political life has stuck to the lies propagated by Khrushchev and later Gorbachev regarding Stalin and has never moved beyond that. He has not only closed his eyes and seems oblivious about the criticism of Party of Labour of Albania under Comrade Enver Hoxha and later by the Chinese Party on the 20th Party Congress but also about the recent acknowledgement made by the Communist Party of Russian Federation on the achievement of Stalin. This is the high time for all communists to once again do a serious discussion by referring to the documents republished from the Archives by Revolutionary Democracy (India), Direct Democracy (Communist) Party and even by the overtly Trotskyite site Marxist Internet Archive, and then make correct assessment of the work and life of J.V.Stalin and the fundamental changes that occurred in the Soviet Union and the international communist movement, after the disastrous 20th CPSU congress.


Soviet Politicians on Beria

These are more excerpts to contribute to an all-around analysis of Beria and his role. I will point out that all these quotes come from a single source and as such should be taken with a grain of salt and not taken as the “final word” on these matters.

— Espresso Stalinist

BULGANIN: All these facts tell us that Beria was acting on the principle of: the worst things are, the better things are for him.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 46

BAGIROV (Candidate Member of the Presidium of the Central Committee): Beria–this chameleon, this most evil enemy of our Party, our people–was so cunning and adept that I personally, having known him for some 30-plus years before his exposure by the Presidium of the Central Committee, could not see through him, could not draw out his true enemy nature. I can only explain this as my excessive gullibility, and the dullness of my Party and Communist vigilance toward this double-dealer and scoundrel. This will be a serious lesson for me, too.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 78

MALYSHEV (Member of the Central Committee): For example, I, as a minister, have worked under the leadership of several comrades–Comrade Molotov, Comrade Kaganovich, and Beria. I must say, that each time you go to report on some matter to the comrades, you go with different feelings. You go to comrade Molotov with one feeling–we know that he is a strict leader, demanding, but whenever you go to him you know that there will be no hasty decisions, adventurist decisions, if you made a big and serious mistake you will never be struck at because of his mood. Then there’s comrade Kaganovich–a sometimes hot tempered fellow, but we know that he does not bear grudges. He’ll erupt, but it quickly passes and he makes the right decision. Beria is another thing. We minister’s knew that you would enter his office a minister, but who you would be on return–you didn’t know. Perhaps a minister, or perhaps you’d land in prison. This was his method: “A knock on the head”–and you’d come out staggering. In one word, Beria’s leadership style was the crude style of a dictator, no Party spirit. And speaking of Party spirit, I worked under Beria during the war, in charge of tanks,… and I was convinced that he never had any Party spirit.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 83

MIKOYAN: A few days before his death the late Ordzhonikidze, in a private conversation with me said “I don’t understand why Stalin doesn’t trust me. I am completely loyal to him, I don’t want to fight with him, I want to support him, but he doesn’t trust me. Beria’s schemes play a large part in this–he gives Stalin wrong information, but Stalin trusts him.”

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 110

SHATALIN (Secretary of the Central Committee): In the light of materials we now have on Beria, it is absolutely clear that presenting the Doctor’s Affair was useful only to him and his protectors. He wanted to use this incident to make points as a humanitarian and brave initiator. What does this rogue care for the interests of the State.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 119

VOROSHILOV: However, the question reasonably arises, why was this subject able to freely work in Party leadership and government for so long, without being exposed sooner, why did he have such a great authority, and hold such high Party and State positions? The question is entirely legitimate.

First and foremost,… Beria is an insidious and cunning enemy, a consummate adventurist, schemer, who knows how to skillfully worm his way into the trust of a leader, who can hide his base plans for a long time and wait for the proper moment. He witnessed the daily life of the great Stalin. Together with all of us he knew that Stalin, as the result of intense work, often fell sick in recent years, obviously this circumstance to a certain extent was the basis for Beria’s vile tactics. He waited in the hope that sooner or later Stalin would be no more. As the facts have now shown, after the death of Stalin this adventurist was counting on the speedy realization of his criminal plans against the Party and the State. That’s why he was in such a hurry after the death of Stalin, or perhaps he was being hurried….

In all these characteristics of his, Beria feared Stalin, he ingratiated himself with Stalin, but skillfully, in his own way; he would whisper all manner of disgusting things, would completely confuse him. And we could tell just by Comrade Stalin’s mood, when we met either for business or other reasons, we could all feel whom Beria had been “whispering” against that day.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 143

ANDREYEV: It was only lately, in the German question, and in other questions, that we saw his bourgeois degeneracy.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 155

ANDREYEV: And Beria, of course, at times did great work, but this was work done for a disguise, and in this was the difficulty of exposing him. He created himself a halo, that, for example, during the war he was during enormous work, etc., he was blackmailing in the name of Comrade Stalin. He was difficult to expose.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 157

TEVOSYAN (Member of the Central Committee): Yesterday, we learned from the speech of Comrade Kaganovich that this scoundrel Beria protested against referring to Comrade Stalin–along with the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin–when speaking about the teachings which guide our Party. That’s how far this scoundrel went.

Stickle, D. M., Ed. The Beria Affair. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1992, p. 159