Category Archives: Grover Furr

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

Grover Furr: Rejoinder to Roger Keeran

Written by Grover Furr

Let me begin by acknowledging the positive. Keeran correctly identified one error in my book. On page 30 I wrote:

Stalin did refer to Trotskyites in very hostile terms. But he did not advocate persecuting them [i.e. Trotskyites].

As Keeran notes, this is wrong. I should have written:

Stalin did refer to Trotskyites in very hostile terms. But he did not advocate persecuting former Trotskyites.

I’m grateful to Keeran for noting this error. Unfortunately, it is the sole valid criticism in his long review.

Keeran has fundamentally misunderstood my book Khrushchev Lied. This is clear from the title of his review: “Khrushchev Lied But What Is the Truth?” Moreover, in many places he utterly distorts what I have written.

Keeran expects me not only to prove that Khrushchev lied – he concedes that I do this successfully – but, somehow, to reveal “what really happened.” He writes:

The point of studying history is to understand what happened. Disputing Khrushchev’s views does not provide an alternative account of what happened. Furr admits this and says his study cannot satisfy the curiosity about “what really happened.”

Keeran has misconceived the subject of my book, which is the 61 “revelations” about Stalin (and Beria) Khrushchev“revealed” in his infamous “Secret Speech” to the 20th Party Congress in 1956.

In Chapter 10 of my book in a section titled “Exposing a Lie is Not the Same as Establishing the Truth” (143-145) I state:

Analysis of Khrushchev’s prevarications suggests two related but distinct tasks. By far the easier and shorter job is to show that Khrushchev was not telling the truth. This is the subject of the present book.

I then anticipate Keeran’s objection:

The interested student will naturally want to know more than the mere fact that Khrushchev lied. Once convinced that Khrushchev’s version of reality is false, she or he will want to know the truth – what really happened.

But the present study cannot satisfy that curiosity. (143)

ALL of Keeran’s criticisms stem from his inability to understand this essential distinction.

Keeran writes:

In spite of this disclaimer, Furr does suggest an alternative to Khrushchev’s view, and his alternative view is not credible.

Keeran is wrong. Nowhere in my book do I “suggest an alternative to Khrushchev’s view.” Why? As I explain on the same page:

A separate investigation would be necessary in each case – virtually, sixty-one studies for as many falsehoods. (143)

Without reference to what I have actually written Keeran repeatedly imputes to me some “interpretation” or other. Then he finds these constructs “not credible” [2] and — blames me! But they are his constructs, not mine!

Again and again Keeran falsely asserts that I state things in my book that are simply not there.

Yet, by trying to absolve Stalin entirely for the cult around him, Furr strains credibility.

This is false. Nowhere in my book do I “absolve Stalin” either partially or entirely for the “cult.” Instead, I cite a great deal of evidence which shows that Stalin opposed the disgusting “cult” around himself. (8)

Keeran remarks:

Stalin may have opposed renaming Moscow, but he apparently did not object when scores of other cities, towns, streets, squares, parks, factories and so on were named after him and when his pictures and statues became ubiquitous. Unlike Fidel Castro, Stalin did not do as much as he might have to discourage the cult that developed.

Keeran wishes Stalin had fought the “cult” even harder. Don’t we all! But this would be a legitimate criticism of my book only if I had tried to “absolve Stalin” – which I never do.

I do, however, make the following remark:

Some have argued that Stalin’s opposition to the cult around himself must have been hypocrisy. After all, Stalin was so powerful that if he had really wanted to put a stop to the cult, he could have done so. But this argument assumes what it should prove. To assume that he was that powerful is also to assume that Stalin was in fact what the “cult” absurdly made him out to be: an autocrat with supreme power over everything and everyone in the USSR. (8) [3]

Keeran states:

The book’s problems start with its title and argument. To call every Khrushchev revelation a lie has dramatic appeal and a figurative truth, but no one in their right mind could buy this as literal truth, because no one in their right mind could imagine Khrushchev or anyone else speaking for hours before a congress of the Communist Party about revelations that contained nothing but falsehoods.

Keeran may not “buy” it – but that is exactly what Khrushchev did! In my book I prove that every one of the 61 “revelations” Khrushchev made is false (except for one minor one, which I could not either verify or disprove).

Keeran confuses the words “statement” and “revelation”

A reader, however, has to wait until page 142 to hear the author acknowledge that “it would, of course, be absurd to say that every one of Khrushchev’s statements is false.” Yet, by not admitting that Khrushchev’s “revelations” artfully mixed truths and lies, this absurdity is precisely what Furr is guilty of. (Emphasis added)

This is all wrong. Khrushchev made many “statements”, or assertions, in the Speech that were not “revelations”, i.e. accusations against Stalin (or Beria). It is these 61 “revelations” that are false – not every single statement that Khrushchev made. The “absurdity” is Keeran’s own failure to recognize this elementary distinction.

Keeran compounds his confusion by stating:

Furr makes no effort to sort out the truth and falsehood of Khrushchev’s speech, but proceeds to focus only on what in Khrushchev’s statements were dubious, even if it means lumping together the trivial, disputable and half lies with the significant, provable and total lies.

Once again, Keeran again substitutes the word “statements’ for “revelations”. Then he accuses me of mixing the two up!

Concerning my treatment of Khrushchev’s remarks on the murder of Sergei M. Kirov Keeran writes:

Furr argues that Khrushchev’s insinuation was baseless and that the opposition leaders convicted were in fact part of a murder conspiracy. Furr is right on the first count but fails to prove the second.

This is completely false! Nowhere in this book do I “argue… that the opposition leaders convicted were in fact part of a murder conspiracy.” I do not do so because a lengthy, separate study is required get to the bottom of the Kirov murder. [4]

Keeran outlines at some length what he understands of the scholarship on the Kirov assassination. His is not an informed discussion; Keeran really knows very little about this question. [5] But even if Keeran knew much more than he does – so what? It is all irrelevant to a review of my book. I do not discuss the Kirov murder in my book. I discuss what Khrushchev said about the Kirov murder, and I prove that Khrushchev lied about it.

Keeran:

In spite of Furr’s claim about “every” Khrushchev revelation being a lie, Furr actually does not dispute much that Khrushchev said about the repression.

Of course I do not study, examine, or “dispute” all the statements Khrushchev made in his Speech! Only the 61 so-called “revelations” are the subject of my study. These are the accusations that shook the world; that caused half the world’s communists (outside of the communist countries themselves) to quit their parties; that led directly to the Sino-Soviet split, and later to Gorbachev’s ideological smokescreen by which he justified the return to predatory capitalism and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

It is manifestly unfair of Keeran to call my book “deeply flawed” because I stick to proving what I set out to prove, rather than examining other questions that Keeran wishes I had studied instead.

That does not mean I accept all of Khrushchev’s other statements as true – far from it! We have more than enough evidence today to prove that Khrushchev lied about many other matters as well. But a study of all of them is far beyond the scope of this one book.

Keeran writes:

… Furr asserts that Khrushchev “seriously distorted” Stalin’s words when he said that Stalin tried to justify mass repression by saying “as we march forward toward socialism class war must allegedly sharpen.”[32] Furr asserts that Stalin actually said, “the further we advance…the greater will be the fury of the remnants of the broken exploiting classes, the sooner they resort to sharper forms of struggle.”[33]

Does Furr really believe that the slight variation in words makes any difference in the meaning? Stalin’s words differ from Khrushchev’s paraphrase, but the meaning does not.

Keeran has distorted both Khrushchev’s false allegations and what Stalin really said. Here are Khrushchev’s words:

Stalin’s report at the February-March Central Committee plenum in 1937, ‘Deficiencies of party work and methods for the liquidation of the Trotskyites and of other two-facers’, contained an attempt at theoretical justification of the mass terror policy under the pretext that as we march forward toward socialism class war must allegedly sharpen. Stalin asserted that both history and Lenin taught him this.

On pages 42-3 of my book I quote Stalin’s words and point out that Stalin did not “justify” any “mass terror policy.” On page 274 I quote very similar words by Lenin of May 27, 1919. In order to prove that Stalin was striving to follow Lenin’s example I cite a speech by Stalin in 1929 in which he cites Lenin’s quote.

Khrushchev omitted this fact – of course, for it would not help him dishonestly smear Stalin. But why does Keeran not point it out to his readers?

Keeran:

Still, Furr seems to hold a version of the repression something like this:…

Wrong again! I give no “version of the repressions” in this book (and note that Keeran has to use the words “seems to hold”.) He continues:

Though Furr is correct about Stalin’s statements and the First Secretaries’ actions, this hardly proves that Stalin opposed mass repression.

Of course I do not prove that – because “mass repression” and Stalin’s role in it, is not the subject of my book. Again Keeran is “criticizing” my book because it is not a different book – one that I never wrote.

Likewise,

Granted that authorizing mass executions of persons duly convicted by the courts was not the same as ordering them, still Stalin’s signature showed that he was fully aware and supportive of the most extreme punishment for those convicted of serious crimes against the state. Furr seems loath to acknowledge this.

As Keeran admits, I prove Khrushchev lied in saying Stalin “ordered” mass executions. That is all I set out to do. My book is not about “mass repression” or Stalin’s attitude towards it.

Concerning the famous “torture telegram” Keeran states:

… Furr may be right in questioning the provenance of this wire and whether it was ever sent. Moreover, Furr is certainly right that in quoting the telegram Khrushchev omitted sentences so as to put Stalin in the worst possible light, that is, omitting sentences where Stalin stressed that physical pressure was permissible only “as an exception” and those sentences where Stalin condemned those who had abused these methods.

So Keeran admits I am right! But then he raises another “straw man”:

Khrushchev’s skullduggery notwithstanding, the telegram clearly showed Stalin’s willingness to condone torture in exceptional cases such as where a convict refused to divulge the existence or whereabouts of co-conspirators still at large. Had Furr acknowledged this … his account would have been forthright and useful rather than a strained effort to argue that every Khrushchev allegation was simply a lie.

But I do indeed “acknowledge this”. I wrote (78):

The first thing we should note, for our purposes, is what Khrushchev omitted – the entire passage in boldface (see Quotations). This passage does several things:

• It qualifies, limits, and restricts the conditions under which “means of physical pressure” are to be used.

So Keeran is wrong again. But there is an even greater distortion in Keeran’s words here, for he claims that my study is “a strained effort to argue that every Khrushchev allegation was simply a lie.” This is more than just false. it is what every anticommunist accuses me of — that my research is somehow biased in favor of Stalin; that I am a “Stalinist”.

I reject that term. In all my research I strive for objectivity – to discover the truth “and let the chips fall where they may.” Early in my book I write:

The most influential speech of the 20th century – if not of all time – a complete fraud? The notion was too monstrous. Who would want to come to grips with the revision of Soviet, Comintern, and even world history that the logic of such a conclusion would demand? It would be infinitely easier for everyone to believe that I had “cooked the books,” shaded the truth – that I was falsifying things, just as I was accusing Khrushchev of doing. Then my work could be safely ignored, and the problem would “go away.” Especially since I am known to have sympathy towards the worldwide communist movement of which Stalin was the recognized leader. When a researcher comes to conclusions that suspiciously appear to support his own preconceived ideas, it is only prudent to suspect him of some lack of objectivity, if not worse.

So I would have been much happier if my research had concluded that 25% of Khrushchev’s “revelations” about Stalin and Beria were false. However, since virtually all of those “revelations” that can be checked are, in fact, falsehoods, the onus of evidence lies even more heavily on me as a scholar than would ordinarily be the case. (4)

Like it or not, every “revelation” Khrushchev made against Stalin and Beria in the Speech is false (with the one exception previously stated). Not only did I not “strain” to prove this – I was subjectively unhappy that it is so.

Evidently Keeran too is unable to accept this astounding fact. No wonder! Over 50 years ago the worldwide communist movement was rebuilt in accordance with Khrushchev’s Speech and the many subsequent lies about Stalin by Khrushchev and his henchmen. To accept the fact that Khrushchev did virtually nothing but lie in this world-altering speech shakes the foundations of the political commitments that a great many people have held for a lifetime.

No wonder, then, that many find the truth is unpalatable. But it is the duty of Marxists to look the truth, no matter how disillusioning, squarely in the eye.

Keeran states:

Though Furr expends many words parsing Khrushchev’s statements in detail and indeed spends a whole chapter categorizing the various kinds of deceptions engaged in by Khrushchev, he makes little effort to sort the truth from the lies. In the end, one is left with two competing versions of the repression. Since Furr is content to act as a defense attorney and merely attack Khrushchev’s credibility without venturing his own interpretations of events, one never knows exactly what he thinks happened.

Not one of these statements of Keeran’s is true. There is nothing “narrow” in proving that Khrushchev lied – not just occasionally, not just frequently, but consistently. This, and not anything else, is the subject of my book.

Moreover, Keeran cannot decide what he thinks I have done – or failed to do:

* First he states his disappointment that I do not “sort the truth from the lies”. That is, he chides me for failing to determine what really did happen.

* Then he contradicts himself, complaining that there are “two competing versions of the repression” – evidently, Khrushchev’s and mine.

* Whereupon Keeran complains that I do not “venture” my “own interpretations of events” so that “one never knows exactly” what [Furr] thinks happened.”

Keeran is determined to criticize me – that much is clear. But he is utterly confused about what to criticize me for! Do I give a “competing version” to Khrushchev’s that is inadequate in some way? Or do I fail to give my “own interpretation of events”?

Once again Keeran has it all wrong. I do not state my “version of the repression”. To repeat: my book is an examination of Khrushchev’s 61 “revelations” or accusations. To determine “what really happened” would require many separate and lengthy evidence-based studies.

Keeran proceeds to tell us (a) what he thinks I think; then, (b) then, what he, Keeran, thinks. (c) Finally, Keeran “channels” the long-deceased Kaganovich and Molotov to outline what he thinks they may have thought!

This is nonsense. Keeran does not know “what I think” about “the repression”. In fact, he does not tell us what he means by “the repression” — what events, during what years, he is referring to.

Moreover, what I, or Keeran, or Kaganovich, or Molotov, “think” is irrelevant and misleading. The truth is not constituted by our, or anyone’s, “views”, “thinking”, or opinions, no matter what they are. The only way to arrive at statements that approximate the truth is by the scientific process of research: mastering the secondary literature; identifying the primary source evidence; locating, obtaining, and studying that evidence; drawing correct conclusions, appropriately qualified, from that evidence. To pretend, or to suggest to others, that one can arrive at a truthful account of events by outlining what somebody – anybody — “thinks”, is to substitute idealism for materialism.

Keeran’s paragraph beginning

Still, Furr seems to hold a version of the repression something like this…

is absurdly wrong. Nowhere in my book do I give a “version of the repression”, for reasons that I have already made clear above.

Keeran’s summary of Kaganovich’s and Molotov’s “views”, starting with the passage

Kaganovich[48] and Molotov viewed Stalin and the repression, differently than Furr does. I would paraphrase their views like this…

is just as wrong-headed. To summarize Kaganovich’s and Molotov’s views one would have to (a) collect all the passages in their writings and interviews where they spoke about “the repression”; and (b) arrange them in some logical order. Only then would you be in a position to (c) “paraphrase” their “views.” Keeran does not even attempt to do that.

But assuming Keeran had done this, what then would he have? A “true” account of “the repression”? No! because we now have access to a great deal of evidence that Kaganovich and Molotov never had, including much that Khrushchev deliberately kept hidden from them (as Matthew Lenoe has recently proven).

“Opinions”, “views”, and “what X thinks” where X is some “expert” — whatever that means — are to be studiously avoided! Remember Sherlock Holmes’ famous dictum:

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (“A Scandal in Bohemia”)

If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a man who believed in fairies, understood this principle materialists have no excuse for ignoring it! What we are greatly wanting is conclusions solidly founded upon an objective study of all the evidence.

Keeran clearly does not know what “the repression” refers to. But whatever he means, Kaganovich and Molotov were only peripherally involved in it. They were more than busy with other important jobs. Later, during Khrushchev’s tenure, they appeared to believe, and certainly went along with, much of Khrushchev’s account of the Stalin years. Both supported the “Secret Speech”. We know that Khrushchev kept hidden from them much of the evidence we now have. A careful, objective researcher today – granted, there are precious few such – can learn much more than Molotov or Kaganovich ever knew about these events.

In my book I examine Khrushchev’s claim that a “party commission” – it was in fact the Pospelov Commission – “determined” that many Party leaders executed after 1937 were “innocent.” This commission produced “rehabilitation reports” that were finally published in the late 1990s. In my book I study these reports and determine that they do not do what Khrushchev claimed – they do not prove the innocence of the Party leaders in question. Not even close! Therefore I have proven that Khrushchev lied. On the basis of my study of the primary sources I conclude that the evidence we have today tends to point towards their guilt, not their innocence. But I never claim that any of these persons were guilty.

Keeran gets this all wrong. He writes:

To support his view, Furr repeatedly makes sweeping references to evidence about the guilt of those punished: “the evidence we know exists,” “all the evidence we presently have,” “all the evidence at our disposal,” “a great deal of documentary evidence,” “a great deal of evidence,” “the vast preponderance of evidence,” etc., but he never actually explains what evidence he is referring to.

Apparently, he is simply referring to the well-known confessions and interrogations of the condemned, because he takes pains to argue that just because someone confessed does not mean he/she was innocent. Furr never acknowledges that confessions, particularly when given under duress, are pretty useless as historical evidence.

To review Keeran’s errors:

* I have no “view” that I am trying to “support.” As we have seen, Keeran sometimes chides me for not expressing my own views.

* All the evidence we have does indeed tends towards the defendants’ guilt, not their innocence. That’s a fact, like it or not. Khrushchev had claimed just the opposite and until the late ‘90s no one could actually see the reports Khrushchev was referring to. Now, we can. Conclusion? Khrushchev lied!

* I do indeed ‘explain what evidence I am referring to”, and in detail. I devote the whole of Chapter 11 to my study of the “rehabilitation reports.” In Chapter 4 I review the evidence we now have – which Khrushchev also had, of course – concerning the nine Party leaders Khrushchev names who were tried and executed in 1937-1938. The evidence supports their guilt, not their innocence. Yet again: Khrushchev lied!

Moreover, Keeran is completely wrong when he says that “confessions, particularly when given under duress, are pretty useless as historical evidence.” For starters, what does “pretty useless” mean? “Less useless” than just plain “useless”? So it is of some use? But what? And just what does “under duress” mean? This mealy-mouthed statement is worse than meaningless – it is an evasion of the serious question of how to approach this important category of evidence.

Then Keeran claims: “Furr never acknowledges” that his, Keeran’s, uninformed view on this subject is correct. Well, I certainly do not acknowledge the absurd formulations “under duress” and “pretty useless”! It is obvious that Keeran has never given serious attention to the question of how to use evidence from interrogations.

Here’s what I do: I devote a whole section of Chapter 10 to this question: “Torture and the Historical Problems Related To It” (147-150). I recommend it to the reader.

Keeran says:

A little later, Furr strengthens his claim by asserting that “the vast preponderance of evidence” points to their guilt. Strong words, however, are no substitute for proof. What is Furr’s evidence? Does he just mean the confessions and interrogation reports? He refers to nothing else.

And then:

One is left with warring assertions: Khrushchev’s baseless claims of innocence and Furr’s baseless claims of guilt.

But Keeran cannot quote or cite any place where I make this claim – because I do not make it. To repeat: I do not make any claim that any – much less all — of these Party leaders were “guilty.” Rather, I examine the evidence now available and show that it supports their guilt rather than their innocence. Khrushchev stated that this evidence proved they were innocent. Therefore, Khrushchev was lying.

Khrushchev’s men were looking for evidence that the men in question were innocent. Today we have the reports, kept secret until 1999. We have other evidence too, though nowhere near everything.

But Khrushchev’s men had access to everything – all the investigative reports and trial transcripts, most of which are still top-secret. We can assume that they included in their reports to Khrushchev any evidence they could find that these men were innocent. Therefore, the fact that they did not include any such evidence of innocence strongly implies that no such evidence exists.

Nevertheless, I do not conclude that they were guilty. But Keeran shows no awareness of these considerations and covers this up with empty phrases like “pretty useless” and “under duress.”

According to Keeran my book contains “an uncommon amount of speculation, insinuation and overstatement.” So why does he fail to cite even a single example of any of these? Evidently he could not identify any.

Keeran states:

If Khrushchev’s portrait of Stalin as an all-powerful, megalomaniacal, paranoid and bloodthirsty tyrant was wrong, still what is one to make of the Stalin in Furr’s dodgy portrait?

To repeat: no “portrait” of Stalin is to be found in my book. I prove that 60 of the 61 “revelations”, or accusations of wrongdoing alleged in Khrushchev’s Speech against Stalin and Beria, are false, with the majority of them outright, provable lies (See Chapter 10, “A Typology of Prevarication” and the Table on pp. 152-158). My book is not about Stalin; it is about Khrushchev’s Secret Speech.

Keeran then characterizes my “view” of Stalin:

One can hardly avoid concluding that Furr views Stalin as a leader who was removed from, or even opposed to, the mass repression occurring around him, a leader who sought individual and educational remedies to those who sought to undermine or overthrow him, and who was unfairly blamed for repression committed by others? This Stalin is no more believable than Khrushchev’s.

Yet again Keeran composes a fatuous “view” of Stalin; then imputes it to me; and then criticizes me for it! Just as Keeran’s “paraphrase” of Kaganovich’s and Molotov’s “views” is his words, his ideas, not theirs.

In discussing my final chapter Keeran admits that my speculation as to the possible reasons for Khrushchev’s massive falsifications are “plausible”. But then he posits an explanation of his own:

Nonetheless, I would suggest that Furr neglects yet another reason for Khrushchev’s behavior, namely, a desire to close the door decisively on the period and practice of harsh and widespread political repression. And he did.

No, he did not.

In September 1936 Nikolai Ezhov replaced Genrikh Iagoda as head (People’s Commissar) of the NKVD. In November 1938 Ezhov was replaced by Lavrentii Beria. According to the widely-publicized “Pavlov report” prepared for Khrushchev in 1953 and widely reprinted the number of persons sentenced to death in 1936-1940 were as follows: [6]

1936 – 1,118
1937 – 353,074
1938 – 328,618
1939 – 2,552
1940 – 1,649

In 1939 death sentences under Beria were less than 1% of those under Ezhov. In 1940 they were less than ½ of 1%. No mass political repression occurred during Stalin’s postwar years. The “Ezhovshchina” (= “bad time of Ezhov”) was never repeated.

The conclusion is inescapable: It was not Khrushchev, but Stalin and Beria who ended mass political repression, and they did it in late 1938. Moreover, I show in my book that Khrushchev himself had more blood on his hands than anyone else: the numbers of people executed in Moscow, then in the Ukraine, during the time Khrushchev was First Secretary in those places, exceeded all other areas. [7]

After Stalin’s death Lavrentii Beria was illegally arrested, tried and executed or, as many think, simply shot outright on June 26, 1953. That is, one of the leading members of the Soviet government — Beria was both Minister of State Security, the MGB, and of Internal Affairs, the MVD — and of the Party — Beria was a member of the Politburo, renamed the Presidium in October 1952 — was either judicially murdered, or just plain murdered. Stalin never, ever did anything like this!

Keeran concludes his review with a total distortion of what I wrote:

Furr concludes his account on an utterly false note, namely by proposing that Khrushchev’s ignominious lying can be traced to Lenin, Marx and Engels. … He … suggests a trail of blame worthy of the most hard-bitten Cold War ideologues.

I trace Khrushchev’s lies to Lenin, Marx, and Engels? Utter nonsense! Here are the exact words in my book, from Chapter 12, “Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Khrushchev’s Deception.”

There are historical and ideological roots to Khrushchev’s Speech, and these must also be sought in Soviet history. Stalin tried hard to apply Lenin’s analysis to the conditions he found in Russia and the world communist movement. Lenin, in turn, had tried to apply the insights of Marx and Engels. Lenin had tried to find answers to the critical problems of building socialism in Russia in the works of the founders of modern communism.

Stalin, never claiming any innovations for himself, had tried to follow Lenin’s guidelines as closely as he could. Meanwhile Trotsky and Bukharin, as well as other oppositionists, found support for their proposed policies in Lenin’s works too. And Khrushchev, like his epigones up to and including Gorbachev, cited Lenin’s words to justify, and give a Leninist or “left” cover to, every policy he chose.

Therefore, something in Lenin’s works, and in those of Lenin’s great teachers Marx and Engels, facilitated the errors that his honest successor Stalin honestly made, and that his dishonest successor Khrushchev was able to use to cover up his own betrayal.

But that is a subject for further research and a different book. (216-217)

Ever meet a “Cold War ideologue” who says things like this?

In a private email to Keeran in October 2011 I tried to put this vital matter another way:

I think Stalin et al., like Lenin et al., and like Marx and Engels, were “the best.” None were ever better.

In my view Stalin and those who were closely associated with him, plus tens or hundreds of thousands of Soviet communists, were faithful followers of Lenin. They did in fact implement, bring into being, what Lenin wanted — socialism. “Socialism in one country”, in fact.

They did not “fail to understand”, or “distort”, etc., Lenin’s ideas. They fulfilled them.

Lenin, of course, was striving to embody and fulfill what Marx and Engels had concluded. And I believe he did understand Marx and Engels better than anybody before or since, and did in fact follow their teachings with intelligence and innovation.

But you can’t “have it both ways.” If Stalin et al., faithfully followed Lenin, and Lenin et al. (for Lenin wasn’t alone either) did likewise with Marx and Engels, then it follows that there are some fundamental problems — flaws, if you will — in this whole line of thought. Because it ended up right back with capitalism!

To put it another way: If WE, or the communists of the future, strive to do what Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Engels advocated, then AT BEST we are going to end up right back with capitalism.

But we will not have their excuse. They were the first, the pioneers. Pioneers always make mistakes. In fact, it is inevitable — mistakes are a necessary part of any process.

But making the same mistake again is NOT a necessary part of the process. To make the same mistake again is to squander the lessons of both success and of failure that the predecessors in the communist movement have to teach us.

We have to learn from their mistakes, as well as their successes. Then we, at best, will make NEW mistakes, creative mistakes, mistakes “on a higher level” (in a Hegelian or dialectical sense). Along with new successes.

But, if we pretend that “Marx and Engels had all the answers”, or “Lenin had all the answers” (many Maoists literally believe that “Mao 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 something about “first as tragedy, then 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 — ALL of these figures — then we are doomed to be the “farce.” And that would be a 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 everthing.” Marx would be the last person in the world to exclude himself from this questioning.

I hope these remarks are helpful. They are intended in a friendly spirit, Roger. Please take them as such!

I urge readers to study Keeran’s review, then to study this response of mine. Then obtain a copy of my book – from your local library, if they have it (and if they don’t, have them buy a copy) –and study it. Decide for yourselves.

Endnotes

[1] All boldface in quotations has been added.

[2] “Not credible” is not a legitimate category of analysis anyway. What one person finds “credible” another will not. Materialists deal with evidence and its examination, not with subjective issues like “credibility”.

[3] Stalin was not a “dictator” like, for example, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were. Stalin sought advice and consensus. Historian Stephen Wheatcroft has called his style of leadership during the 1930s “team Stalin.” Getty and Naumov show that in February 1937 Stalin suggested a far lesser degree of punishment for Bukharin and Rykov than any of the other members of the Plenum Commission that considered it – but was overruled. (411-416)

Dmitrii Shepilov, an author that for some reason Keeran likes to cite, noted this too:

— Shepilov has told me that it is hard to lead Pravda. Of course it’s hard. I thought, maybe we could appoint two editors?

Here everybody began to protest.

— No, there’ll be a conflict of powers (dvoevlastie). … It’ll create disorder. … There’ll be nobody to consult with…

— Well, I see that the people do not support me. OK, where the people go – there also go I.

(Shepilov, Neprimknuvshii. Moscow: Vagrius, 2001, p. 237)

[4] I have now completed just such an evidence-based study of the Kirov murder. It is under contract to be published in Russia, in Russian translation, during 2012. In that study I do indeed prove that Kirov’s assassin, Leonid Nikolaev, was indeed the gunman for a clandestine opposition conspiracy. My study took a year to research and write and will be well over 400 pages in length.

[5] Keeran is obviously unfamiliar with the “scholars” he claims I should have “refuted or at least disputed.” Neither Pavel Sudoplatov nor Alla Krilina are historians with “strong credentials”, as Keeran claims. Sudoplatov was a former NKVD / MGB agent imprisoned under Khrushchev for 15 years, evidently for failing to fabricate lies against Beria. Kirilina was the longtime head of the Kirov museum in Leningrad / St. Petersburg.

Keeran mentions at least four other Cold War, anticommunist historians in this review. Every one of them is an anticommunist falsifier! I sent Keeran some evidence about two of them. Yet he still included their names in the final version of his review. Go figure!

[6] For one of many citations of these numbers see Getty and Naumov, The Road to Terror (Yale 1998) 528.
An official source for the document, in Russian, may be consulted here:
http://www.alexanderyakovlev.org/fond/issues-doc/1009312

[7] Those who are curious about what the evidence now available shows about the mass executions of the Ezhovshchina of roughly August 1937 to September 1938 should see paragraphs of my essay “Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform: Part One”, published April 2005 in Cultural Logic, from about par. 86 – end: http://clogic.eserver.org/2005/furr.html For a great deal of primary documentation on the Ezhovshchina, see my essay “The Moscow Trials and the “Great Terror” of 1937-1938: What the Evidence Shows” and the many primary sources linked at the bottom of this page:
http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/research/trials_ezhovshchina_update0710.html

December 7, 2011

Source

Khrushchev Lied But What Is the Truth?

Written by Roger Keeran

Khrushchev Lied: The Evidence That Every ‘Revelation’ of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) ‘Crimes’ in Nikita Khrushchev’s Infamous ‘Secret Speech’ to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956 is Provably False by Grover Furr. Kettering, Ohio: Erythros Press and Media, 2011. $25.00. Pp. 425.

In 1987 William Morrow and Company published a biography of a leading Soviet Communist, L. M. Kaganovich, written by Stuart Kahan, an American journalist and allegedly Kaganovich’s nephew, who claimed to have interviewed Kaganovich in Yiddish in Moscow and who portrayed Kaganovich as the “architect” of Soviet terror.[1] In a blurb a Yale historian praised the book as “an important contribution.”

A few years later, Kaganovich’s daughter and five other close relatives of Kaganovich issued a statement that they never heard of this so-called nephew, that Kaganovich did not understand or speak Yiddish, and that no interview with Kahan ever occurred. They detailed lies that riddled the book from beginning to end.[2]

This episode was emblematic of the difficulty of knowing Soviet history. No modern history is more lacking in reliable official sources or more shrouded in ideology, propaganda and disinformation than the history of the Soviet Union. Even though the Soviet archives were briefly and partially opened to researchers in the 1990s, the lack of official archival material remains a problem, and the end of the Cold War only slightly diminished the anti-Soviet vitriol of most writing.

On the whole, writing on the Soviet Union represented what a mainstream historian has called the “totalitarian thesis.”[3] According to this thesis, the Soviet Union could only be understood as a top-down dictatorship driven by power hunger and paranoia that sustained itself by arbitrary authority and violence. Leon Trotsky’s writing on the Soviet Union supplied the original inspiration for the totalitarian thesis [4], and Hanna Arendt gave it an academic imprimatur in 1951.[5]

After Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called secret speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 supplied the thesis with seemingly unimpeachable verification from the inside, the totalitarian thesis became the dominant academic paradigm as found in the works of its most prolific and influential expostulators, Robert Conquest and Roy Medvedev.

Starting in the 1990s, Soviet scholarship experienced a change. Researchers for a time gained access to the Soviet archives, and studies emerged that historians J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning called “anomalous” to the totalitarian paradigm.[6] Historian after historian found that the repression was not nearly as widespread as Conquest and others had proposed, that previous estimates of the number of victims of Soviet repression, figures of 20 million or 12 million, or 10 million, or 7 to 8 million victims, were simply phantasmagorical.[7]

According to historians J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, a careful examination of archival records revealed that the number of persons shot during the repression of 1937-38 came to 681,692, and adding those who died in prison and exile “we reach a figure of nearly 1.5 million deaths due to repression in the 1930s.”[8] These are large numbers to be sure but nowhere near the previous exaggerations. Other studies, from those of telephone directories in Leningrad to census data confirmed that previous estimates vastly overstated the size of the repression.

Still other studies discovered that the repression did not simply emanate from the top but developed a life of its own in factories, local party and government organizations and the army, where the accused were most often officials and where the repression, as ironic as it sounds, was accompanied by growing democracy at the grassroots level.[9]

Also, the repression occurred in the context of economic problems, industrial sabotage, and plots against the regime. According to Getty and Naumov, three opposition groups actively conspired against the Stalin regime in the early 1930s: “The Riutin group, a reactivated Trotskyist organization, and the Eismont-Tolmachev-Smirnov group.”[10]

Other studies provided a more nuanced view of Stalin, who emerged as less powerful, more competent, more hands-on, and more seriously theoretical than the brutal tyrant drawn by the totalitarian paradigm.[11]

Though the new revisionist Soviet history contradicted or modified parts of the totalitarian paradigm, it did not overthrow it, but then in 2011 Grover Furr’s book, Khrushchev Lied appeared.[12]

Furr aimed further than any previous revisionist account. Indeed, he aimed at a central pillar of the totalitarian paradigm, Khrushchev’s secret speech, in which Khrushchev made a broad indictment of Stalin’s leadership, including the “revelations” that that Stalin had created a “cult of the individual,” that in his “last testament” Lenin had warned of Stalin’s propensity to abuse power, that Stalin had been a fearful and incompetent wartime leader, and that he had engineered the trials of the 1930s that had devastated the leadership of the CPSU and resulted in phony trials, imprisonment and executions of countless numbers of good Communists and other innocents. Furr promised to provide evidence that “every ‘revelation’ of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) ‘crimes’ … is provably false.”

Given the importance Khrushchev’s speech played in all subsequent scholarship as well as in the thinking of most Communist parties,[13] Furr’s book promised to be a tour de force of momentous historical and political implications. This turned out to be not quite the case.

The book begins with nine chapters in which Furr, a Montclair State University professor who is fluent in Russian, tries to rebut the sixty-one revelations that Khrushchev made in his speech. Then, follows a chapter in which Furr categorizes Khrushchev’s lies, a chapter on the “falsified rehabilitations” that followed the speech, and a chapter on the reasons, implications and legacies of the speech. Nearly half the book is taken up by an appendix, in which Furr supplies quotations from primary and secondary source material to support his argument.

Before taking up some of the problems with Furr’s book, I would like to give him credit for a number of contributions. First, Furr underscores the importance of Khrushchev’s speech, “the most influential speech of the 20th century,” in shaping all subsequent views of Stalin and the Soviet Union.

On this point, Furr reinforces the observation of the Italian Marxist Domenico Losurdo, who says, “Without a doubt there were two turning points that have determined the contemporary view of Stalin: the outbreak of the Cold War in 1947 and the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU.”[14]

The impact of the speech is what gives such gravity to Furr’s contribution in shining a spotlight on the fundamental mendacity of Khrushchev’s speech. Furr is certainly right that much in Khrushchev’s speech was false, even knowingly and maliciously false.

The disingenuousness marked even its publication, in which editors added such audience reactions as “commotion in the hall” and “indignation in the hall” and “applause,” even though those who actually heard the speech recalled “total silence reigned in the hall.”[15]

The allegation in the secret speech that more or less tied all the other allegations together was that Stalin had built up a “cult of the individual” in order to enhance his dictatorial powers. Furr shows how misleading this accusation was. First, the existence of a cult of personality was no revelation since Party leaders had discussed it for years. Secondly, Stalin not only did not foster the cult but expressed distaste with it, or at least with some of its excesses. Third, all Party leaders bore responsibility for the glorification of Stalin. Indeed, no one surpassed Khrushchev when it came to sycophancy.

In his memoirs, Party functionary Dmitri Shepilov, recalled the 18th Party Congress in 1939, where Khrushchev lauded Stalin twenty-six times as “our genius of a leader,” “our great Stalin,” “our beloved leader,” and so on.[16] Furr gives examples of Stalin resisting its excesses, as when he prevented the renaming of Moscow after himself. (Furr’s most amusing story concerns Stalin’s attitude toward idolatry. Once in chastising his sons’ arrogance, Stalin reportedly said, “Do you think you are, STALIN? Do you think I am STALIN? HE is Stalin—there!” he said pointing to a pompous portrait.)

Yet, by trying to absolve Stalin entirely for the cult around him, Furr strains credibility. Stalin may have opposed renaming Moscow, but he apparently did not object when scores of other cities, towns, streets, squares, parks, factories and so on were named after him and when his pictures and statues became ubiquitous.[17] Unlike Fidel Castro, Stalin did not do as much as he might have to discourage the cult that developed.

Another Khrushchev lie that Furr exposes concerns the so-called Lenin testament. Toward the end of his life Lenin wrote a letter in which he said Stalin had “unlimited authority,” and Lenin was “not sure whether he [Stalin] will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution.” Lenin also said Stalin was “too rude.”

Furr maintains that Lenin never viewed or labeled what he wrote as a “testament” and that Khrushchev most likely lifted this characterization from Trotsky. Moreover, Furr points out that Lenin never used the words, “abuses his power.” More significantly, Furr disputes Khrushchev’s implication of a rift between Lenin and Stalin. At the time of the letter, not only was Stalin in charge of safeguarding Lenin’s health, but also Lenin entrusted Stalin with his very life by making Stalin the caretaker of a cyanide capsule Lenin wished to take if his suffering became unbearable. Furr might also have pointed out that, however critical Lenin was of Stalin, he was even more critical of Trotsky and other top leaders.[18]

Furr convincingly rebuts many other Khrushchev statements. Some of the falsehoods are trivial. Many are not. Several of the widely believed revelations concerned Stalin’s conduct during the war—that he was demoralized and inactive at the start of the German invasion and that he was an incompetent commander. Furr points out that this view is completely at variance with those who worked most closely with Stalin, including Marshall Georgii K. Zhukov, who (even after Stalin had demoted him) praised his wartime leadership.[19]

The most extensive part of Furr’s book and of Khrushchev’s speech concerns the Moscow Trials and related repression of 1936-38. Here, Furr makes his most important contribution, though, it is a contribution beset with problems of its own. Throughout the secret speech, Khrushchev attempted to place the entire blame for the repression on Stalin and Beria.

For example, Khrushchev maintained that Stalin demanded “absolute submission” and those who opposed him were doomed to removal from leading bodies and “moral and physical annihilation”; that Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov’s telegram to the Politburo on September 25, 1936 was responsible for the appointment of Nikolai Ezhov as head of the NKVD and for pushing the NKVD “on the path of mass arrests and executions”; that Stalin justified “a mass terror policy” by the idea that “as we march forward toward socialism class war must allegedly sharpen”; that the repression involved the preparation of lists, 383 lists, of thousands of persons “whose sentences were prepared in advance” that were sent to “Stalin personally for his approval.”[20]

Furr convincingly argues that putting exclusive blame on Stalin and Beria is entirely misleading. For example, far from repressing dissent, Stalin showed great tolerance for disagreement. More importantly, no one had greater or more direct responsibility for the repression than the heads of the NKVD, first Genrikh Yagoda and subsequently Nicolai Ezhov (sometimes spelled Yezhov), and Party first secretaries like Khrushchev.

The memoirs of Party leader Dmitrii Shepilov completely supported Furr on this point. Shepilov said, “During the devastating purges of 1937-38, and later in Moscow and Ukraine, no individual cases were decided without Khrushchev’s personal knowledge and approval….Perhaps the most glaring and revolting aspect of Khrushchev’s activity was that many of the persons whom he sent to the gallows, he later, with a hypocrisy unsurpassed in history, mourned the demise of from the highest party and government rostrums. In these lamentations there was the added twist that the men held responsible for the deaths of our glorious communists were, of course, Stalin, and his colleagues, but never Khrushchev himself.”[21]

Moreover, Furr points out that though Khrushchev blamed Stalin for the repression, he completely ignored that Stalin deserved credit for ending the repression in 1938 and for the punishment of Yagoda and Ezhov for their excesses. Historian Boris A. Starkov recounted that in 1938 A. A. Zhdanov, A. A. Andreev, K. E. Voroshilov, L. M. Kaganovich, A. I. Mikoyan and V. M. Molotov turned against Ezhov and convinced Stalin and the Central Committee that Ezhov’s excesses were undermining the morale, the economy and the defense of the country, and Stalin removed Ezhov.[22] Shepilov said simply, “Stalin stopped Ezhov’s churning meat grinder.”[23]

In short, Furr has come up with a valid and momentous insight that one of the most influential speeches in history was riddled with lies, distortions and fabrications.

This discovery, however, has made Furr (to use one of Stalin’s memorable phrases) “dizzy with success.” In his exuberance, Furr allows all sorts of problems to bedevil and enervate his account. First, there is a conceptual problem. The point of studying history is to understand what happened. Disputing Khrushchev’s views does not provide an alternative account of what happened. Furr admits this and says his study cannot satisfy the curiosity about “what really happened.”[24] In spite of this disclaimer, Furr does suggest an alternative to Khrushchev’s view, and his alternative view is not credible.

Moreover, some of Furr’s specific refutations lack either the facts or arguments to be convincing. Instead, he often resorts to a tendentious and one-sided reading of the evidence, to innuendos and speculation, to overblown and hyperbolic language, and to unsupported allegations of his own.

The book’s problems start with its title and argument. To call every Khrushchev revelation a lie has dramatic appeal and a figurative truth, but no one in their right mind could buy this as literal truth, because no one in their right mind could imagine Khrushchev or anyone else speaking for hours before a congress of the Communist Party about revelations that contained nothing but falsehoods. Even Furr himself does not believe this.

A reader, however, has to wait until page 142 to hear the author acknowledge that “it would, of course, be absurd to say that every one of Khrushchev’s statements is false.” Yet, by not admitting that Khrushchev’s “revelations” artfully mixed truths and lies, this absurdity is precisely what Furr is guilty of. Having staked this extreme claim, Furr makes no effort to sort out the truth and falsehood of Khrushchev’s speech, but proceeds to focus only on what in Khrushchev’s statements were dubious, even if it means lumping together the trivial, disputable and half lies with the significant, provable and total lies. Moreover, when the evidence to make his case is unavailable, Furr slips into the role of a dubious defense attorney who nitpicks the evidence, badgers witnesses and kicks up sand.

Take Furr’s treatment of one of the most important episodes in Soviet history, the Kirov assassination. On December 1, 1934 in the Party headquarters in Smolny, Sergei Kirov, the head of the Communist Party of Leningrad, was shot in the head and killed by a Party member, Leonid Nikolaev.

Kirov was a supporter and friend of Stalin’s, (the two had vacationed together the previous summer), and Kirov had been sent to Leningrad at least in part to counteract the opposition elements in the party there. The day after the assassination, Stalin went to Leningrad and took personal charge of the investigation, which ended up implicating the opposition leaders, G. Zinoviev and L. Kamenev, and set off the Moscow Trials and associated repression. In the secret speech, Khrushchev implied that Stalin was behind Kirov’s murder.

Furr argues that Khrushchev’s insinuation was baseless and that the opposition leaders convicted were in fact part of a murder conspiracy. Furr is right on the first count but fails to prove the second. Moreover, his refutation is superficial and tendentious. Furr’s refutation takes up less than two pages and involves quotations from three historians, all of whom dispute Stalin’s involvement in Kirov’s murder.

One would never know from Furr’s account that Khrushchev’s implication became the conventional wisdom among such Cold War Sovietologists as Robert Conquest, The Great Terror,[25] and Amy Knight, Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery.[26] In other words, a serious rebuttal of what Khrushchev implied would involve acknowledging what the Cold Warriors have written in support Khrushchev’s view and then refuting or at least disputing it. Furr does not do this. He does not even identify two of the historians he quotes, Pavel Sudaplatov and Alla Kirilina. Furr neither provides their credentials (though strong), nor gives any reason that they are more credible (though they are) than Amy Knight or Robert Conquest. In other words, sometimes Furr has a stronger case than he bothers to make.

Moreover, Furr is highly selective about what he chooses to use from his sources. He fails to acknowledge, for example, that though the three historians he quotes disputed Khrushchev’s view, none of them supported Furr’s view. That is, none of them believe that the oppositionists convicted in the Moscow trials were guilty of Kirov’s murder. For example, Kirilina dismissed Stalin’s culpability for the murder but argued that Nikolaev was a lone assassin.[27]

A recent examination of the case by historian Matthew Lenoe (The Kirov Murder and Soviet History [2010]) relied heavily on the recollections of Genrikh Samoilevich Liushdov, one of the lead investigators in the Kirov case, who subsequently defected to Japan, and whose papers were examined by Lenoe in the Hokkaido University Library in Japan. Lenoe provided evidence that Stalin had nothing to do with Kirov’s murder, hence proof that Khrushchev lied, but he also supported the lone assassin theory, hence not supporting Furr’s view either.[28]

If Furr is right about the Kirov murder, he does not prove it here, and at best one will have to await his forthcoming study of the case. In spite of Furr’s claim about “every” Khrushchev revelation being a lie, Furr actually does not dispute much that Khrushchev said about the repression. He does not question that mass repression occurred, that it was directed not just against Trotskyites, Zinovievites, and Bukharinites, but against “many honest Communists”; that the repression involved “the fabrication of cases against Communists,” “false accusations,” “glaring abuses of socialist legality,” “barbaric tortures,” and “the death of innocent people”; that 70 percent of the Central Committee elected at the 17th Congress were “arrested and shot” and a majority of the delegates to the 17th Party Congress were arrested; that on January 10, 1939 Stalin sent a telegram to various bodies declaring that “methods of physical pressure” were permissible “in exceptional cases”; and so on.[29]

Thus, while Furr accepts the major facts of the repression, he often quibbles over minor points, and without sufficient evidence, disputes the idea that everyone punished was innocent, and objects to laying the blame for the repression on Stalin (and Beria). Granted that many people besides Stalin carried out the repression and granted that Stalin played a role in ending the 1936-38 repression, the question remains how involved, aware and responsible was Stalin for the repression? If Khrushchev tried to shift total responsibility to Stalin, Furr seems bent on trying to deny Stalin any responsibility. In any case, Furr’s reasoning and evidence on this point are dubious.

For example, Khrushchev said that “mass repressions grew tremendously” after Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov sent a telegram to members of the Political Bureau on September 25, 1936 calling for N. I. Ezhov to replace Yagoda as head of the NKVD.[30] In the telegram, Stalin said the NKVD was “four years behind” in “unmasking the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc.” [31] Furr says that Khrushchev lied about this. Furr narrowly focuses, however, on what Stalin meant by saying that the NKVD was four years behind. Furr says that what Stalin really meant was the NKVD was four years behind in unmasking the opposition bloc not four years behind in applying repression.

Furr is right about the meaning of those particular words, but Furr ignores the other truth in Khrushchev’s statement, namely that Stalin bore direct responsibility for increasing the repression by picking Ezhov, who broadened the scale of repression. In a similar vein, Furr asserts that Khrushchev “seriously distorted” Stalin’s words when he said that Stalin tried to justify mass repression by saying “as we march forward toward socialism class war must allegedly sharpen.”[32] Furr asserts that Stalin actually said, “the further we advance…the greater will be the fury of the remnants of the broken exploiting classes, the sooner they resort to sharper forms of struggle.”[33]

Does Furr really believe that the slight variation in words makes any difference in the meaning? Stalin’s words differ from Khrushchev’s paraphrase, but the meaning does not.

Molotov’s testimony made this clear. When Chuev asked Molotov whether Stalin was correct about the class struggle intensifying under socialism, Molotov did not equivocate: “It was correct in view of the periods analyzed then.”[34] Furr contends, “Stalin went on to call for an individual approach and for political education, not for anything like repression or ‘terror.'”[35] In reality, according to Furr, “it was the Party First Secretaries and others around the country…who turned to ‘mass repression.'”[36]

Though Furr is correct about Stalin’s statements and the First Secretaries’ actions, this hardly proves that Stalin opposed mass repression. If anyone knew Stalin’s views on repression, it was Molotov, and Molotov said, “It was mainly Stalin who took upon himself this difficult task [of repression]”[37] and that Ezhov “overdid it because Stalin demanded greater repression.” [38]

Furthermore, Furr’s notion that Stalin opposed mass repression is contradicted by the historians Getty and Naumov, who found in the Soviet archives “Stalin’s signature on documents authorizing mass executions.”[39] Granted that authorizing mass executions of persons duly convicted by the courts was not the same as ordering them, still Stalin’s signature showed that he was fully aware and supportive of the most extreme punishment for those convicted of serious crimes against the state. Furr seems loathe to acknowledge this.

As for the so-called torture telegram, Furr may be right in questioning the provenance of this wire and whether it was ever sent. Moreover, Furr is certainly right that in quoting the telegram Khrushchev omitted sentences so as to put Stalin in the worst possible light, that is, omitting sentences where Stalin stressed that physical pressure was permissible only “as an exception” and those sentences where Stalin condemned those who had abused these methods.

Khrushchev’s skullduggery notwithstanding, the telegram clearly showed Stalin’s willingness to condone torture in exceptional cases such as where a convict refused to divulge the existence or whereabouts of co-conspirators still at large. Had Furr acknowledged this and thus sifted and winnowed the truth from the falsehoods in this matter, his account would have been forthright and useful rather than a strained effort to argue that every Khrushchev allegation was simply a lie.[40]

A similar one-sidedness adheres to Furr’s treatment of Khrushchev’s and Stalin’s views of Trotskyism. Furr points out that Khrushchev suggested that Stalin favored annihilating Trotskyists even those who had long ago broken with Trotsky’s ideas and returned to Leninism. Furr correctly points out that Stalin never called for the persecution of such erstwhile Trotskyists, but instead called for “an individual, differentiated approach.”[41]

Furr goes further, however. Furr says that Stalin opposed persecuting Trotskyists altogether. Here are Furr’s exact words: “Stalin did refer to Trotskyites in very hostile terms. But he did not advocate persecuting them [i.e. Trotskyites]. While stressing the need for renewed vigilance Stalin also proposed the establishment of special ideological courses for all leading party workers. That is, Stalin saw the problem of Trotskyism as a result of a low level of political understanding among Bolsheviks.”

One has only to read the complete texts of Stalin provided by Furr in the appendix to appreciate not only that Khrushchev lied but also that Furr misleads. Stalin made clear that two categories existed, those who had once been Trotskyists, and those who not only remained Trotskyists but who had become “a gang of wreckers, diversionists, spies, assassins, without principles and ideas, working for the foreign intelligence services.” The former should not be persecuted. For the latter, however, Stalin thought that “not the old methods, the methods of discussion, must be used, but new methods, methods for smashing and uprooting it.”[42]

Of course, Furr knows that such recent historians as Getty and Naumov confirm the oppositional activity of Trotskyists in the 1930s and knows that Stalin thought these forces had to be smashed and uprooted. Yet, his narrow preoccupation with Khrushchev’s lies leads him into careless formulations that play fast and loose with the truth. Though Furr expends many words parsing Khrushchev’s statements in detail and indeed spends a whole chapter categorizing the various kinds of deceptions engaged in by Khrushchev, he makes little effort to sort the truth from the lies. In the end, one is left with two competing versions of the repression. Since Furr is content to act as a defense attorney and merely attack Khrushchev’s credibility without venturing his own interpretations of events, one never knows exactly what he thinks happened.

Still, Furr seems to hold a version of the repression something like this: A massive repression occurred in the Soviet Union in the years 1936-38. This repression took the lives and liberties of large numbers of Communist leaders, including members of the Central Committee elected at the 17th Party Congress. This repression involved torture and forced confession and the framing and punishment of many innocent people. The blame for this repression rested primarily with the regional party secretaries, like Khrushchev, and the leaders of the NKVD, notably Ezhov. Furthermore, many of those who suffered from the repression were guilty. Others were knowingly framed by Ezhov and his cohorts who were in league with the opposition and who used excessive repression to discredit the leadership. This version of the repression is thus the diametrical opposite of Khrushchev’s, which was more or less that no legitimate reason for the repression existed, that virtually all those punished were innocent, and that the only reason for the repression was to ensure Stalin’s unchallenged and absolute authority.

The problem with these competing narratives is that neither has much evidence to support them. To support his view that the vast majority of victims were innocent, Khrushchev relied on a review of cases prepared before the 20th Congress known as the Pospelov Report, which was cursory at best. To support his view, Furr repeatedly makes sweeping references to evidence about the guilt of those punished: “the evidence we know exists,” “all the evidence we presently have,” “all the evidence at our disposal,” “a great deal of documentary evidence,” “a great deal of evidence,” “the vast preponderance of evidence,” etc., but he never actually explains what evidence he is referring to.[44]

Apparently, he is simply referring to the well-known confessions and interrogations of the condemned, because he takes pains to argue that just because someone confessed does not mean he/she was innocent. Furr never acknowledges that confessions, particularly when given under duress, are pretty useless as historical evidence.

An example of the warring narratives occurs over the most sensational of Khrushchev’s allegations, namely that the ninety-eight members and candidates (70 percent) of the Party’s Central Committee elected at the 17th Congress and the majority of the delegates to the 17th Party Congress who were “arrested and shot” were in fact innocent. Furr claims that “a great deal of evidence” suggests that “a significant number” of these high ranking Communists “appear to have been guilty after all.” A little later, Furr strengthens his claim by asserting that “the vast preponderance of evidence” points to their guilt. [45] Strong words, however, are no substitute for proof. What is Furr’s evidence? Does he just mean the confessions and interrogation reports? He refers to nothing else.

One is left with warring assertions: Khrushchev’s baseless claims of innocence and Furr’s baseless claims of guilt. No doubt serious anti-Soviet activity and plots existed. No doubt the repression took the lives of countless innocents. But how great was the anti-Soviet activity and who was guilty and who was innocent remain unresolved questions.

Still, these are extremely serious questions. The construction of the first socialist society, the lifting of an illiterate, impoverished, oppressed and backward people into an era of literacy, culture, material well-being and atomic energy; the Soviet defeat of fascism, the Soviet role in the Chinese, Cuban, and Vietnamese revolutions and in the liberation struggles of the third world arguably make the Russian Revolution the most important event of the twentieth century. Understanding that history, its failures and its accomplishments, consequently has the utmost interest not only to professional historians but to socialists and revolutionaries worldwide.

For this reason, some persistent writing and editing anomalies in Furr’s book are particularly annoying. While the second edition has corrected the most egregious errors of the first, the book still contains some inconsistent spelling of Russian names, a lack of identification of persons, and an uncommon amount of speculation, insinuation and overstatement. The seriousness of the problems under discussion deserve more care in the writing.

However glaring, the manifest weaknesses of Furr’s book should not obscure the conclusion that Furr and other revisionist historians have driven a stake into the reliability of Khrushchev and historians like Conquest who relied on Khrushchev.

If Khrushchev’s portrait of Stalin as an all-powerful, megalomaniacal, paranoid and bloodthirsty tyrant was wrong, still what is one to make of the Stalin in Furr’s dodgy portrait? One can hardly avoid concluding that Furr views Stalin as a leader who was removed from, or even opposed to, the mass repression occurring around him, a leader who sought individual and educational remedies to those who sought to undermine or overthrow him, and who was unfairly blamed for repression committed by others? This Stalin is no more believable than Khrushchev’s.

Both portraits ignore a simple idea—that first and foremost, Stalin was a revolutionary, and the repression of the 1930s must be understood in the context of revolutionary violence.

The great American sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about the difficulty that most Americans have in accepting revolutionary violence. In Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba, Mills wrote as if a Cuban revolutionary were speaking to an American. In response to American outrage over the pictures of the revolutionaries summarily executing five or six hundred supporters of the dictator Batista without “a fair trial,” the Cuban says:

This was war. During the Batista regime, thousands of our people were murdered….So what would you expect? Maybe in easy moral terms, no killing is excusable….But however immoral the purposes and the results of killing are quite different in different places and at different times. Because you see it does matter who is getting killed and why. But whether you think so or not, you certainly have no grounds for talking about injustice: Who gave any trial to the people of Hiroshima? Well, this, too, was a war. Remember, too, Yankee, that morals are easy to come by sitting in your quiet suburbs away from it all protected from it all. Morals are easy to say out [sic] when you’re rich and strong and all the unpleasantnesses of the world are hidden from you—by distance, by amusements, by your own indifference, by your own private way of life.[46]

Not much has changed. If anything, it requires an even greater stretch for Americans today to imagine the strain on Soviet revolutionaries, who were surrounded by hostile imperialist powers that actively plotted their overthrow, faced with ambitious and unscrupulous internal foes that were masters of political intrigue and convinced that they knew better than Stalin how to lead the country. The Soviet leaders were confronted with the daunting tasks of constructing a socialist society, collectivizing a recalcitrant peasantry, industrializing at breakneck speed, all while bracing for an inevitable conflict with Nazi Germany.

To empathize with these revolutionaries and to understand the repression of the 1930s, one must do what Mills did, seek the voice of the Russian revolutionaries of the 1930s. The two revolutionaries who provide the best insight into Stalin and the repression were Lazar Kaganovitch and Viacheslav Molotov. Both were veteran Bolsheviks, who played a variety of crucial roles in building socialism and defeating German fascism. Both were extremely close to Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s. Both were demoted by Stalin in the 1950s (Molotov’s wife was even imprisoned), but neither turned against Stalin or the revolution. Both opposed Khrushchev, were defeated by him and expelled from the Communist Party. Both lived long lives. Molotov died in 1986 and Kaganovich died in 1991, and both left behind memoirs that present remarkably similar views of Stalin and the repression.

Before turning to what they had to say, it is important to remember that just as the Cuban revolutionaries were shaped by the violence they had experienced at the hands of Batista and his men, so Stalin and his colleagues were shaped by the repression they had endured at the hands of the tsar and the tsar’s secret police. In Stalin & Co.: The Politburo — The Men Who Run Russia, Walter Duranty, a correspondent for the New York Times in Moscow, put a fine edge on this point.

Duranty noted that the conflict in the Soviet Party after Lenin’s death involved two camps, the “Western Exiles,” those like Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, who had spent a considerable amount of time before the revolution abroad, and the “Home Guard,” those like Stalin and his close associates who had stayed a struggled at home. The latter had to endure spies, provocateurs, arrests, imprisonment, torture, threats to family and friends, conditions unknown to those in exile. The experience of struggle under dire conditions made Stalin’s suspicious and hard as well as contemptuous of those whose circumstances had been easier.[47] To understand the ruthlessness displayed by Stalin and his associates in the 1930s, one must never forget the ruthlessness they had endured.

Kaganovich[48] and Molotov viewed Stalin and the repression, differently than Furr does. I would paraphrase their views like this: The period from 1930 through the start of World War II constituted an extremely perilous time for Soviet socialism. The danger was represented by a combination of circumstances. The Soviet Union was surrounded by hostile imperialist states and the inevitability of war increased with every passing year. To survive the Soviet Union had to industrialize quickly and to obtain the resources and manpower to do this, it had to quickly collectivize agriculture. Industrialization and collectivization involved wrenching social transformations that directly threatened the interests of some of the people and demanded great sacrifice.

Those whose interests were threatened and whose conditions worsened provided a base of opposition to these policies. These circumstances put immense strains on the unity of the Communist Party and the Soviet government. Some in the Party leadership and government opposed the policies of industrialization and collectivization, and in some cases this opposition developed into a determination to end these policies and overthrow of the Soviet government even if that meant resorting to assassination, industrial sabotage, inciting insurrection, and cooperating with foreign governments. Even where opposition stopped short of such extremes, it nevertheless meant an insupportable violation of unity and democratic centralism.

Stalin showed patience with opposition for years, but after the dissemination of the openly oppositional Riutin Platform, the assassination of Party leader Kirov, and signs of industrial sabotage impeding growth, Stalin reacted. He supported the appointment of Ezhov as head of the NKVD and endorsed the repression under Ezhov, including the arrest and punishment of Party leaders in the three Moscow Trials. Many excesses occurred that in retrospect were regrettable: torture, forced confessions, the railroading of innocent people.

Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich and others viewed these measures not simply as “terror” or “political repression,” but as a Party “purge,” that is, measures necessary to rid the Party not just of demonstrably treasonous, criminal, and opposition elements but of all elements that were divisive and unreliable because under the circumstances weakness, divisiveness, and unreliability were tantamount to treason.

In this sense, even with their excesses, the purges were necessary to give the Party and hence the nation a unified and resolute leadership with which to prepare itself to wage a life-and-death war with fascism. If Stalin had not had the foresight, the courage, and toughness to preside over these purges (and to end them when they became became counterproductive), the revolution and the country may not have survived the German invasion and millions of more people would have suffered and died than actually did.

Both Kaganovich and Molotov regarded Stalin’s ruthlessness or hardness not as a personal defect but as a quality that the times forged and demanded. It was a steeliness for which Stalin was named. It was a quality necessary and admired by true Bolsheviks. It had nothing at all to do with vainglory, or power hunger, or paranoia. It did, however, become more and more pronounced as Stalin experienced the betrayal of former colleagues in the Party leadership.

Yet, his ruthlessness did not reflect a desire for personal power or for the wealth or luxury or flattery or deference and the other trappings of power. Rather, Stalin’s toughness, like his intellectual prowess, his hard work, long hours, and modesty were traits totally in service of the Party and the revolution. This more or less was the view of Kaganovich and Molotov, two of Stalin’s closest associates, who lived through the hardest times with him, and lived long enough to write memoirs.

Furr ends his account with some speculation on the reasons Khrushchev engaged in his meretricious attacks on Stalin and Beria. He suggests four possible explanations: that Khrushchev wanted to shift blame from “his own role in the unjustified mass repressions of the 1930s,” that Khrushchev wanted to take the USSR on a “sharply different” political course, that Khrushchev wanted to gain an edge on his rivals in the leadership who had been close to Stalin, and that Khrushchev wanted to stop the “democratic reforms with which Stalin was associated.”[49]

All of these are plausible explanations, and they are not mutually exclusive. Yet, the second of these is the most consequential. In the book, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Thomas Kenny and I argue Khrushchev did take the Soviet Union on a new course domestically in many ways that sowed the seeds of the collapse under Gorbachev.[50] So, we hold no brief for Khrushchev.

Nonetheless, I would suggest that Furr neglects yet another reason for Khrushchev’s behavior, namely, a desire to close the door decisively on the period and practice of harsh and widespread political repression. And he did. For all his limitations as a leader, when he expelled Malenkov, Molotov and Kaganovich from the leadership and from the party, Khrushchev understood that neither the times nor circumstances required their imprisonment or execution.

Furr concludes his account on an utterly false note, namely by proposing that Khrushchev’s ignominious lying can be traced to Lenin, Marx and Engels. Thus, Furr goes from ignoring an obvious reason for Khrushchev’s behavior to entertaining an incomprehensible reason. He ignores Khrushchev’s undeniable contribution in ending the practice of mass repression, but then suggests a trail of blame worthy of the most hard-bitten Cold War ideologues. Just as they would fancifully trace the repression and all other problems of the Soviet Union to Marx and Lenin, so Furr would do the same with Khrushchev.

This is a troubling but fitting coda for a book that provides a much needed but deeply flawed re-assessment of Khrushchev’s secret speech and the totalitarian paradigm the speech did so much to foster.

November 23, 2011

Endnotes

1. Stuart Kahan, The World of the Kremlin: The First Biography of L. M. Kaganovich, The Soviet Union’s Architect of Fear (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987).
2. “Statement of the Kaganovich Family,” http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org and http://.oocities.org/capitolhill/embassy/7213/kagan.html (accessed July 2011).
3. Christopher Read, “Main Currents of Interpretation of Stalin and the Stalin Years,” in Christopher Read, ed., The Stalin Years a Reader (Houndmills, Basingstoke, and Hampshire, England: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 9.
4. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going? (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1937).
5. Hanna Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1951).
6. J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning, “Introduction,” Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (Cambridge, England and New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 4.
7. Getty and Manning, 10-13.
8. J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 591.
9. See essays by Hoffman, Manning, Fitzpatrick, Nove, and Weathcroft in Getty and Manning, and Wendy Goldman, Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin: The Social Dynamics of Repression (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
10. Getty and Naumov, 52-68.
11. See for example essays by Davies and Harris in Sarah Davies and James Harris, eds., Stalin: A New History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
12. Grover Furr, Khrushchev Lied: The Evidence that Every “Revelation: of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) “Crimes” in Nikita Khrushchev’s Infamous “Secret Speech” to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956 is Provably False (Kettering, Ohio: Erythros Press and Media, 2011).
13. For an example of the immediate impact of the speech on western Communist Parties, see The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism: A Selection of Documents Edited by the Russian Institute of Columbia University (New York: Columbia University, 1956).
14. Domenico Losurdo, “History of the Communist Movement: Failure, Betrayal or Learning Process,” Nature, Society and Thought vol. 16, no. 1 (2003), 41.
15. Furr, 141.
16. Dmitrii Shepilov, The Kremlin’s Scholar: A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 72.
17. See for example, “List of places named after Joseph Stalin,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wike/List_of_places_after_Joseph_Stalin (accessed July 2001).
18. Furr, 11-20.
19. Furr, 95.
20. Khrushchev quoted by Furr, 22, 41-42, 43-44, 73
21. Shepilov, 71.
22. Boris A. Starkov, “Narkom Ezhov,” in Getty and Manning, 36-38.
23. Shepilov, 41.
24. Furr, 143.
25. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York and Oxford: Oxford Universuty Press, 1990), 479.
26. Amy Knight, Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery (New York: Hill & Wang, 1999).
27. Matthew Lenoe, “Key to the Kirov Murder on the Shelves of Hokkaido University Library,” Slavic Research Center News No. 3 (February, 2006), http://src-h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/eng/news/no13/enews13-essay3.html (accessed July 2011).
28. Matthew E. Lenoe, The Kirov Murder and Soviet History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).
29. Khrushchev quoted by Furr, 35 and 79.
30. Khrushchev quoted by Furr, 42.
31. Furr, 42.
32. Furr, 43.
33. Furr, 43-44.
34. Albert Resis, ed. Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics Conversations with Felix Chuev (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), 259.
35. Furr, 44.
36. Furr, 45.
37. Resis, 258.
38. Resis, 263.
39. Getty and Naumov, 25.
40. Furr, 330-331.
41. Furr, 30.
42. Stalin in Furr, 262.
43. Getty and Naumov, 62-64.
44. Furr, 26, 29, 30, 37, 39.
45. Furr, 37, 39.
46. C. Wright Mills, Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba (New York: Ballantine Books, 1960), 51.
47. William Duranty, Stalin & Co.: The Politburo—The Men Who Run Russia (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1949), 18-19.
48. See for example: “Thus Spake Kaganovich,” http://www.oocities.org/capitolhill/embassy/7213/kaganovich.html (accessed July 2011).
49. Furr, 197-199.
50. Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union (New York: International Publishers, 2004).

Source

Writings on the Role of Lavrenty Beria

Stalin and supporters continued this struggle against opposition from other elements in the Bolshevik Party, resolutely but with diminishing chances for success, until Stalin died in March 1953. Lavrentii Beria’s determination to continue this same struggle seems to be the real reason Khrushchev and others murdered him, either judicially, by trial on trumped-up charges in December 1953, or — as much evidence suggests — through literal murder, the previous June.

[….] 

Beria’s “Hundred Days” — really, 112 days, from Stalin’s death on March 5 1953 to Beria’s removal on June 26 — witnessed the inception of a large number of dramatic reforms. Had the Soviet leadership permitted these reforms to fully develop, the history of the Soviet Union, the international communist movement, the Cold War — in short, of the last half of the 20th century – would have been dramatically different.

[….] 

The wide circulation and credence given to these stories among Russians of all political camps show that many Russians believe Stalin’s and Beria’s deaths were all too convenient for the nomenklatura. The evidence that Beria, like Stalin, wanted a communist perestroika — a “restructuring,” albeit of political, not economic, power, instead of the capitalist super-exploitation and fleecing of the country that has gone under that name since the late 1980s — is quite independent of any evidence that they may have been murdered.

Source: Grover Furr’s “Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform”

Khrushchev records a discussion with fellow-revisionist Nikolay Bulganin by Stalin’s death-bed on the danger to their plans if the Marxist-Leninist Lavrenty Beria were to become again Minister in control of the. security services:

“‘Stalin’s not going to pull through. . . . You know what posts Beria will take for himself?’
‘Which one?’
‘He will try and make himself Minister of State Security. No matter what happens, we can’t let him do this. If he becomes Minister of State Security it will be the beginning of the end for us’.
Bulganin said he agreed with me”,
(N. S. Khrushchev (1971): p. 319).

[….]

But by the end of June 1953, it had become clear that the efforts to convince the Marxist-Leninists that the exculpation of the doctors had been justified had only been temporarily successful. Headed by Beria, the security forces, under Marxist-Leninist control since the readjustment of portfolios after Stalin’s death, were continuing to inestigate the ‘doctors’ case’.

Clearly, if the revisionist conspirators were to feel safe, Beria and his Marxist-Leninist colleagues in the security forces had to be eliminated as a matter of urgency.

On 10 July 1953, a few days after Beria had been arrested, a leading article in ‘Pravda’ revealed the real reason for that arrest — a reason not disclosed in the report of his ‘trial’ — namely, that he had ‘deliberately impeded’ and ‘tried to distort’ instructions of the Central Committee and the Soviet government designed to clear up ‘certain illegal and abritary actions’ — an obvious reference to the ‘doctors’ case’:

“Having been charged with carrying out ‘the Instructions of the Party Central Committee and the Soviet Government with a view . . . to clearing up certain illegal and arbitrary actions, Beria deliberately impeded the implementation of these instructions and, in a number of cases, tried to distort them”.
(‘Pravda’, 10 July 1953, in: B. Nicolaevsky: op. cit.; p. 147).

Source: Bill Bland’s “The ‘Doctors’ Case’ and the Death of Stalin”

“Stalin was trying hard to limit the damage being done by a revisionist (i.e., Yezhov — WBB). In this situation, Lavrenty Beria was put in this sensitive and critical job. Stalin himself put Beria into this job.

Beria ‘cleansed’ the NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs — Ed.). He placed trusted Bolsheviks in the key positions. As he had personal knowledge from Georgia of who was reliable or not, many of the appointees were from Georgia.

It is accepted by even hostile and anti-Marxist writers that, following Beria’s changes, thousands of prisoners in the camps were released.

Marxist-Leninists are aware that Beria effectively cleared the NKVD of revisionist practices and revisionist personnel”.
(Alliance No. 30 (October 1998); p. 85. 86. 87).

[….]

“It was essential to have in charge of the Russian atomic bomb project someone who was an utterly reliable Bolshevik. Stalin ensured that Lavrenty Beria was given this mandate”
(Alliance, No. 30 (October 1998); p. 87).

[….]

The chronology of the coups and counter-coups in Georgia makes it clear, in my view, that Beria was a Marxist-Leninist.

Source: Bill Bland’s “On the Coups and Counter-Coup in Georgia”

This (ON BERIA) is related to Ludo Martens’ book “Another View of Stalin.” It is a critique of his assessment of Beria. The rest of the Martens’ book relies on facts. However oddly, in stark contrast to the rest of the book, the analysis of Lavrenty Beria does NOT show facts at all. Martins has only theories and/or rumor or gossip, which is what Kremlinologists used to create the totalitarian paradigm against all of Soviet society! Why would he believe this or believe Khrushchev?

[….]

It was enemies that considered Beria an enemy, enemies that were in fact capitalists, never communists, and who proved this of themselves later on by wrecking collectives that worked well!. There were only THEORIES or ACCUSATIONS against Beria to that effect, primarily based on his desire to return to a NEP-type system for awhile after WWII . Well, Lenin did it after the Civil War for the same reasons Beria wanted to do it after World War II. Accusations are insinuated due to Beria’s desire to keep friendly with the West – who, after all, were ALLIES in WWII. Why not be friendly with allies?

In going along with the idea of Beria that Martens presents, Martens is falling INTO the same totalitarian paradigm that his entire book seeks to dismantle.

Beria did a good job for Stalin, in fact, an EXCELLENT, SUPERB job. Far from wanting to kill Stalin, Beria did everything in his power AGAINST STALIN’S ORDERS to try to prevent Stalin from wandering into mined areas of land during the time Stalin insisted on staying in Moscow in the war. Stalin could have been easily killed: Beria was trying to prevent this. Beria also had MANY occasions to kill Stalin AND get away with it!

Source: On Lavrenty Beria

But a prominent charge regarded Beria’s advocacy of a “unified Germany”. Leading the charge against Ulbricht’s sectarian polices was Beria, who was “indignant when I (Ulbricht) opposed the policy concerning the German question in 1953”: Knight Ibid; p. 192). Several sources point to the significance of this charge:

“The Soviet leadership offers the following reasons for the charges against Beria. . . . ‘ that he advocated the creation of a unified Germany as a “bourgeois, peace-loving nation” (1:162) and the abandonment of East Germany’s status as a separate, socialist state;” [On the Crimes and Anti-Party, Anti-Government Activities of Beria.] Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 2-7 July 1953, from Izvestia CC – CPSU:1991, 1:140-214 & 2:141-208. New Evidence on Beria’s Downfall, by Rachel A. Connell.

“New accounts confirm that Beria did want to trade German reunification for neutralization.” ‘New Evidence on the East German Uprising of 1953; ”Paper #3: Reexamining Soviet Policy Towards Germany During the Beria Interregnum, “Cold War History Project” by James Richter.

Source: Fighting German ultra-leftist revisionism

Mike Ely tries to troll the Espresso Stalinist, attempts to smear Beria, fails

Recently, I posted a re-print of Grover Furr’s responses to Mike Ely’s charges against Beria. In response, Mike Ely attempted to troll me on this same re-print. A screenshot of his comment is here (click for full size):

The text says, “I have to say to our socialist Joe Paternos: that photo is one of the creepier things I’ve ever seen on a left site.”

In this comment he callously refers to a picture of Beria holding Stalin’s daughter, apparently attempting to joke about it rather than posting anything of political value. He also refers to people who view Beria as a Marxist-Leninist as “socialist Joe Paternos,” a reference to a football coach brought up on sexual abuse charges.

In other words, people who view Beria as a Marxist-Leninist and show evidence, aside from the lies of anti-communist scholars, that show him as one who was murdered by revisionists within the CPSU leadership on trumped-up charges of sexual violence, are no better than child molesters and sex criminals themselves! For all his talk of struggle he apparently doesn’t have any more scientific evidence that Beria was a rapist and child molester than a few trolls on this blog. I am not against him posting here, but as admin I marked this asinine comment as spam, because that’s what it was.

In response, I will now post another follow-up by Furr, which sums up the debate nicely. Soon I will be posting more information on Beria.

— Espresso Stalinist

Dear fellow listmembers,

Here are my responses to Mike Ely’s uncritical acceptance of anticommunist accusations of sexual predation by Lavrentii Beria:

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46825

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46957

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46986

If you scroll up and down, you’ll see Mike E’s responses, and those of others.

I think the whole discussion speaks for itself. Those who have eyes to read, and draw obvious conclusions, let them do so!

Sincerely,

Grover Furr

Grover Furr’s Response to Mike Ely’s Charges Against Beria

Dear fellow listmembers:

On his blog today Mike Ely repeated as true the rumors spread during Khrushchev’s time that Lavrentiy Beria was a rapist and molester.

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46772

Ely’s remarks were accepted as true by at least one followup poster, who
also threw in the rumors about mass rapes by the Red Army:

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46817

I just thought this stuff could not pass without a reply. Here’s mine:

________________

http://kasamaproject.org/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-no-more/#comment-46825

Grover Furr said
November 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm

We should not accept accusations against communists from anticommunist sources without checking the evidence. Why? Because very, very often they turn out to be false!

Mao Zedong was accused of being a sexual predator by his physician Li Zhisui in his book The Private Life of Chairman Mao.

These charges are routinely rejected. Rightly, I think since there is no corroboration of them. The historiographical principle here is “testis unus, testis nullus” — one single witness cannot establish an historical fact.

Moreover, one must be skeptical when such charges come from a person’s political enemies and are written to serve political ends.

The same thing is true concerning the charges against Beria. They were all made after Khrushchev and others in the Presidium of the Party (formerly the Politburo) murdered Beria — either judicially, in a trial that was hushed up, or outright, on June 26, 1953, after which Beria was never seen again.

Under Khrushchev, and then under Gorbachev, Beria was slandered more than anyone else in the Soviet history, more even than Stalin. But after the end of the USSR there began a virtual “Beria boom” of many books and articles re-examining Beria and his life. This includes a number of biographies. With one exception that I know of all of them reject the charges that Beria was a sexual predator, while the exception, Aleksei Sukhomlin, _Kto ty, Lavrentiy Beria?_ [= _Who Are You, Lavrenti Beria?_) does not pretend to resolve the contradictions in these charges.

The Wikipedia article cited by Mike Ely is no good at all. All the citations but one come from Simon Montefiore’s book _Stalin. The Court of the Red Tsar_, which is nothing but a collection of anticommunist and anti-Stalin rumors. Moreover, Montefiore did not bother to put in the sources for the statements he made, so it is almost impossible, and sometimees plainly impossible, to check his sources. When one does check them, they are further books of rumors, rather than evidence.

But nothing sells like anticommunism, anti-Stalin, anti-Mao, anti-Lenin, etc.

The one other source cited in the Wikipedia article, Amy Knight’s book on Beria, is also viciously anticommunist. But Knight does record the fact that Beria’s wife and son reject the charges. She fails to mention that many Russian historians reject them as well. But Knight’s book was published in 1993, when the only materials available were those selectively published by Gorbachev’s men, to “justify” his anticommunism. We have a lot more today.

In an article in _Kommersant-Vlast’_, a capitalist-business publication, journalist Evgeny Zhirnov stated the following:

“One of the specialists who has been able to study Beria’s case file and that of General Vlasik, commander of Stalin’s guard [dismissed in 1951 – GF], both still top-secret, discovered an extremely interesting fact. The list of women, to the rapes of which Beria supposedly confessed according to his case file, is almost identical to the lists of women with whom Vlasic was accused of having affairs with — and Vlasic was arrested long before Beria.”

(_Kommersant-Vlast’_ June 6 2000, pp. 44-45)

* * * * *

The same is the case with the alleged mass rapes by Red Army soldiers in Eastern Europe, especially Germany, at the end of World War II. There has never been any independent study — study done by someone who is not a fanatical anticommunist — on this question.

Rapes there were — but were there a higher proportion of rapes among Red Army soldiers than among Allied soldiers? How are these rapes documented? And so on. This subject is normally cited _only_ in a context of anticommunist vituperation, and as there has never been a careful study of the whole question of rape by the various armies after WW2.

I hope these remarks are helpful.

__________________

Grover Furr

PCR/Grover Furr Interview

“Khrushchev’s accusations against Stalin are false”

Interview with Grover Furr by the Revolutionary Communist Party in Brazil [translated from Spanish]


Published: August 12, 2010

“I found that the period of Soviet history with Stalin at the head has been completely distorted. Not just ‘a mistake here and there’, but basically a massive fraud, the biggest lie of the century.”

The Issue No. 118 (July 2010) A Verdade, newspaper promoted by our comrades of the Revolutionary Communist Party (Brazil) publishes an interview with Grover Furr, author of important political works include “The Shame Anti-Stalinist”, recently launched in Moscow. Furr, a Ph.D. in comparative literature or medieval Princeton University and from 1970 taught at the University of Montclair (New Jersey, USA). He was responsible for courses on the Vietnam War and social protest literature, among others. His research interests focus mainly on Marxism, the history of the USSR and the international communist movement. In the following interview, Professor Furr talks about his investigation into accusations against Stalin and Khrushchev, of which says that “60 of the 61 charges are demonstrably false.” Below is the interview

Truth – Recently, a large number of books have been published to attack the person and work of Joseph Stalin. What explains the intensification of the struggle against the regime “Stalinist” in the U.S. and the world?

Grover Furr – Since late 1920, Stalin has been the main target of shouting anti-communist and capitalist. Leon Trotsky attacked Stalin to justify its inability to win over the working masses of the Soviet Union. The real cause of the defeat of Trotsky is his interpretation of Marxism-a kind of extreme economic determinism, predicted that the revolution was doomed to failure if it was followed by revolutions in other advanced industrial countries. But the party leadership chose Stalin’s plan to build socialism in one country. Trotsky’s ideas were (and still have) a great influence on all those anti-capitalist and openly. Trotskyist historians are well received by historians capitalists. Pierre Broué and Vadim Rogovin, leading Trotskyist historians in recent decades, have been praised and still frequently cited by historians openly reactionary. Many in the party leadership in 1930 strongly opposed Stalin when he fought for democracy within the Party and, especially, democratic elections for the Soviets. The major conspiracies in the 1930’s revealed the existence in the elites of a broad trend in opposition to the policies associated with Stalin. These conspiracies actually existed: the opposition party trying to overthrow and assassinate Soviet leaders of government, or take power leading a revolt in the rear, in collaboration with the Germans and Japanese. Nikolai Ezhov, head of the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), had its own right-wing conspiracy, including collaboration with the Axis. To achieve its objectives executed hundreds of thousands of innocent Soviet citizens to undermine the trust and loyalty to the Soviet government. When Stalin died, Khrushchev, and many are party leaders who could blame these great Stalin repressions. They also invented many outright lies about Stalin, Beria Lavrentii and close associates of Stalin. When Gorbachev took power (1985) also realize that their capitalist “reforms”-the distance equal to capitalist market relations “could be justified if its anti-communist campaign was described as an attempt to” rectify the crimes of Stalin. “These lies and horror stories are still the main form of anti-communist propaganda in the world today. The trend is to intensify, as the capitalists are pulling down wages and social benefits of workers walk into an exacerbated nationalism, to racism and war.

Truth – What made you become interested in the history of the USSR?

Grover Furr – When I was in college, from 1965 to 1969, joined protests against U.S. war in Vietnam. One day, someone told me that the Vietnamese communists could not be “good guys” because they were all Stalinists and Stalin killed millions of innocent people. ” That stuck with me. It was probably that, in early 1970, so I read the first edition of The Great Terror by Robert Conquest. I was impressed when I read it. But I knew a certain field of Russian and could read this language, because I had studied Russian literature from the school. Then I examined the book by Robert Conquest carefully. Apparently, nobody had done it! I discovered the dishonest use of sources makes Conquest. His notes do not support any of his conclusions “anti-Stalin.” Basically, he used any source that was hostile to Stalin, regardless of whether it was reliable or not. So I decided to write something coherent. It took me a long time, but eventually published in 1988. During this time I studied the research being done by new historians of the USSR, Arch Getty, Robert Thurston and many others.

Truth – Antistalinskaia Podlost, his book (“The Shame Anti-Stalinist”) was recently published in Moscow. Tell us a little about it.

Grover Furr – A decade ago I heard about the large number of documents that were revealed in secret files of the former Soviet Union and began to study them. I read somewhere that one or two statements by Khrushchev in his famous “secret speech” of 1956, were identified as false from beginning to end. So I thought I could do some research and write an article pointing out some errors exposed by him during the “secret speech.” I never imagined to find that everything he said Khrushchev (60 of 61 charges against Stalin and Beria) was to be completely false. No 61 cargo could not find anything that would confirm or denied by. I realized that this would change everything, because virtually the entire history since 1956 is based on the words of Khrushchev or writers related to it. I found that the period of Soviet history with Stalin at the head has been completely distorted. Not just “a mistake here and there, but basically a massive fraud, the biggest lie of the century. And thanks to my colleague from Moscow, Vladimir L. Bobrov, who first showed me these documents, gave me valuable advice on several occasions and did an excellent job of translation. Without the dedication of Vladimir nothing would have happened.

Truth – In your research you had direct access to newly declassified Soviet archives. What these documents say about the millions who died under socialism, especially during the administration of Stalin?

Grover Furr – whereas people die all the time, I guess you talk about death “surplus.” Russia and Ukraine experienced famine every three or four years. The 1932-33 famine occurred during collectivization. No doubt that more people died than would have died naturally. However, many people die in famines successive-every three years, indefinitely into the future, if there was no collectivization. Collectivization meant that the famine of 1932-33 was the last, with the exception of the severe famine of 1946-1947, which was much worse, but that was due to the war. And as I mentioned before, Nikolai Ezhov deliberately killed thousands of innocent people. It is interesting to consider what might have happened if Russia had not collectivized agriculture and had not accelerated its industrialization program, and if the intrigues of the opposition in the 1930’s had not been crushed. If the USSR had not done the collectivization, the Nazis and the Japanese would have won. If Stalin had not contained the right-wing conspiracies, Trotskyists, nationalists and military, the Japanese and the Germans had conquered the country. In both cases, the victims among the Soviet people would have been much, much more numerous than the 28 million war dead. The Nazis would have killed many more Slavs and Jews that they killed. With these resources, and perhaps even with the armies of the USSR for its part, the Nazis would have been much, much stronger when fighting against England, France and the U.S. With the Soviets and the oil resources of Sakhalin, the Japanese would have killed many, many more Americans. The fact is that the USSR under Stalin saved the world from fascism, not only once, during the war, but three times: by collectivization, and the disruption of the opposition right-tortskista-military and in war. How many millions this give him?

Truth – Some authors have tried to find similarities between Stalin and Hitler, and some even say that the supposed “Stalinism” was “worse” than Nazism. Was there really any relationship between Stalin and Hitler?

Grover Furr – The anti-capitalist and not examine the class struggle and exploitation. In fact, it could be assumed that these things do not exist or are not important. But the class struggle, oppression is caused by the motor of history. Ignore this is falsifying history. Hitler was a capitalist, an authoritarian type is common in many capitalist countries. Stalin led the Bolshevik Party and the USSR, when the Communists around the world were fighting against all forms of capitalist exploitation. When we say “worst” we must always ask: “Worse for whom?” The USSR and the communist movement during the Stalin definitely was “worse than the Nazis” for capitalists. That’s why they hate capitalists to Stalin and communism. The communist movement during the period of Lenin and Stalin, and even later, was the greatest force for human liberation in history. And again we must ask, “Whose Liberation? “Liberation from what?” The answer is: the liberation of the working class in the world of capitalist exploitation, misery and war.

The Truth – One of the most frequent attacks Stalin is that he would be responsible for the famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933, also called the Great Famine. Does this version of the story corresponds to what actually happened?

Grover Furr – The “Holodomor” is a myth. Never happened. This myth was invented by pro-fascist Ukrainian nationalists, along with the Nazis. Douglas Tottle demonstrated in his book “Fraud, Famine and Fascism” (1988). Arch Getty, one of the best historians bourgeois (ie, no Marxist and non-communist), also has a good article on this. Robert Conquest is what gives the old version that the Soviets deliberately caused the famine in Ukraine. No shred of evidence that might confirm this vision, so such a test has never come to light. The myth of the “Holodomor” persists because it is the “founding myth” of rights of Ukrainian nationalism. Ukrainian nationalists invaded the USSR along with the Nazis killed millions of people, including many Ukrainians. His only “excuse” is the propaganda lie that “freedom fighters” against the Soviet communists, who were “worse than Nazis.”

The Truth “A message for Brazilian workers. Grover Furr – Fight for communism! All power to the working class around the world!