Category Archives: Poland

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): The regional meeting of the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations of Europe was held in Paris

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In June, our party had the joy and the honor of hosting the regional meeting of the Parties and Organizations of Europe, members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations.

Intense exchanges and discussion allowed us to draw up and adopt a political resolution on the situation in Europe and on the tasks and mobilizations that our parties intend to develop.

An important part of the discussion focused on the attacks of the liberal and social-liberal governments against the working class and the popular masses and on the development of the resistance. Particular attention was paid to developing solidarity with the working class and the people of Greece in order to break the blackmail of the troika (IMF, EU and ECB) and of the governments of the EU states, which are united against the Greek people.

We also addressed the issue of the criminal policy being carried out by the States and the EU against refugees and immigrants.

We analyzed the tensions, the armed conflicts, the militarization of the economies of several EU States, particularly the imperialist powers, linked to the greater involvement of NATO.

On these different issues, plans were discussed in order to develop joint work among our parties and organizations, with the objective of taking part in existing mobilizations with our analysis and proposals, or of creating them with the aim of winning other forces.

Here are the various texts adopted by the Regional Conference.

Communique

In June 2015, the regional meeting of the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations, members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO), was successfully held in France in a fraternal atmosphere of internationalist solidarity.

At the beginning of the meeting, the participants paid tribute to the memory of recently deceased comrades, Frede Klitgard, of the Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark (APK) and Juan Marte, of the Communist Party of Labor (PCT) of the Dominican Republic. The meeting was dedicated to these two resolute Marxist-Leninists, and pledged to follow their example.

The parties and organizations congratulated the Party of Labor (EMEP) of Turkey for their success in the electoral battle through the alliance with the party HDP [People’s Democratic Party].

The participants exchanged views on the situation and experiences of work developed in their countries. They discussed the capitalist crisis in Europe, the rise of the rejection of neoliberal policies and austerity policies of the EU, the threats of imperialist war and their consequences.

After a long debate, an important political declaration was adopted unanimously, in which we express our solidarity with the struggle of the Greek workers and people against the blackmail of the EU, the IMF and the liberal and social-liberal governments of the EU States. We call on everyone in all countries to take part in the initiatives of solidarity with the workers and people of Greece, and to take part in the demonstrations of June 20.

We also approved a motion of solidarity with the Norwegian dockers.

We call on the workers and peoples of Europe to develop and implement the orientations contained in this political declaration.

The participants established common tasks and political activities for the coming months, to advance in the struggle for the revolutionary transformation of society and the development of proletarian internationalism.

France, June 2015

Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark – APK
Communist Party of the Workers of France – PCOF
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Party of the Workers of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the Communist Party of Greece (1918-1955)
Communist Platform for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy
Marxist-Leninist Organization Revolusjon of Norway
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) – PCE (ML)
Party of Labor of Turkey – EMEP

POLITICAL RESOLUTION

Let us mobilize against policies of austerity and war
Long live international solidarity!

For years, the EU and the governments of various countries have imposed austerity policies on the workers and the popular masses. The result of the crisis of the capitalist system, aggravated by these austerity policies, have been more than 25 million unemployed in the EU, a massive unemployment that primarily affects young people, who are condemned to insecurity, but also older workers, who are threatened with sinking into poverty. The poverty extends everywhere, in the cities and the countryside. With these austerity policies, “growth” destroys more and more jobs and further enriches the rich and large shareholders. It means more insecurity, lower wages, drastic cuts in social spending: health care, education, public transport, etc.

These neoliberal policies are being implemented by the governments that are applying the “road map” of big business, of the financial oligarchy, who want to reverse the social and political gains that the working class, toilers and peoples have won through years of struggle and who today are resisting and fighting to maintain them. The various European treaties and directives, particularly since the Maastricht Treaty (and its “convergence criteria” that established the euro), have continued and deepened this anti-worker and anti-people policy, in the name of the dogma of “free and undistorted competition,” which means the organized competition of all against all, social dumping, “liberalization of the labor market,” which means freedom for the bosses to fire, the super-exploitation of the workers and instability. Whether they are called the “mobility law” of Rajoy [Prime Minister of Spain], the “Jobs Act” de Renzi [Prime Minister of Italy], the “Hartz Law” in Germany, the “Macron Law” in France, etc. these counter-reforms are all aimed at lowering the price of labor power, facilitating dismissals, developing even more flexibility and challenging the collective rights of the workers.

In recent years, it is the “debt crisis” that serves to justify the policies of privatization, of drastic cuts in social budgets, the liquidation of measures of social protection, while they are more necessary than ever for the large impoverished masses. These include particularly women of the popular strata, working women, who are the first victims of the elimination of public services.

It is not the popular masses who are responsible for these debts. These debts were contracted the billions in public money were used to bail out the banks and help the big monopolies to become ever bigger, to finance the policies of armaments, “major projects” that are useless for the people but very profitable for the monopolies who build and manage them.

The rejection of these national and European austerity policies is general. This is shown in the workers’ and popular resistance, in the demonstrations, the strikes, etc. that are the results of these policies. It is also shown in the elections, particularly through the very high rate of abstention among the popular strata and the disavowal of the governing parties, whether of the right or of the social-democrats.

The right-wing populist parties, the parties of the extreme right are able to use their electoral capital on a sector of this protest movement to highjack it into “solutions” that avoid attacking the capitalist system and that are promoting nationalism, division and xenophobia. While some do not hide their fascistic and even fascist references, others hide them behind an increasingly “social” discourse.

But this rejection is also expressed in a progressive way, particularly through the support given to the forces that take a stand against the austerity policies, against the payment of the debt for life, against the orders of the IMF, the ECB, the EU and the imperialist powers in Europe.

We are in solidarity with the struggle of the Greek people and denounce the blackmail of the leaders of the EU

This is what happened in Greece, with the victory of Syriza in the January elections.

Simply calling for “renegotiating” the debt, for having announced the end of the policy of mega-austerity imposed by the troika, has unleashed an intense campaign of pressure, blackmail, etc. by the leaders of all the EU countries, the officials of the IMF and the European institutions, in order to impose the continuation of the austerity policy.

The hatred of these leaders is explained by the fact that in no case do they want a people to refuse to continue to suffer the austerity policies that they themselves are imposing on “their” people. They do not want the fight of the people, the workers, the youth of Greece, etc. to serve as an example to other peoples. They want to avoid the “contagious effect” that this resistance can cause. Therefore, they want to make the Greek government capitulate.

It is not possible to resist these pressures without the mobilization of the Greek workers and people. This is what must be developed.

But we also need the solidarity of the workers and peoples, especially in Europe, to develop. That is why we are working with all political, union and social forces that share this goal.

We must denounce and put pressure on the governments of the EU countries, particularly those of the imperialist powers such as Germany and France, to stop this policy of blackmail towards Greece.

We must demand the cancellation of the Greek debts.

We must develop the fight against the same austerity policies in all countries.

Down with “Fortress Europe”

Every day boats of refugee from Africa and the Middle East capsize, causing dozens of deaths. If they manage to enter the EU, which is continuing to build walls, police and military barriers, etc., they find themselves chased and harassed by the police of all the EU countries. They are forced to hide and to live in inhuman conditions. They are also the target of parties and organizations of the far-right and fascists who are carrying out racist and xenophobic campaigns on the theme of the dangers of the “invasion” of refugees.

These refugees, men, women and children, are fleeing poverty and wars. They come from Syria, from the Horn of Africa, from the countries of the Sahel, etc., in short, from countries where the great imperialist powers are waging wars. Under the pretext of the “fight against terrorism,” there is the war for control of mineral and oil resources, the control of strategic zones, the rivalries among the great powers and their local allies.

In other words, the warmongers are the main ones responsible for this immigration.

While the peoples are showing their solidarity, as in Italy, in welcoming the refugees, the governments are putting in place increasingly reactionary policies aimed at “preventing immigration” and criminalizing the migrants and all those in solidarity with them.

No to the policy of tension and war

Several EU States are taking part in imperialist wars in Africa and the Middle East.

The decision of the leaders of the European imperialist powers to integrate Ukraine into the economic and political sphere of influence of the EU, the direct interference of US imperialism through the growth in power of NATO at the borders of Russia and the support given to the reactionary government of Kiev and to the reactionary and fascist forces in Ukraine, have resulted in a situation of great tension at the very frontiers of the EU.

We are currently witnessing a “re-engagement” of NATO in Europe, strongly supported by the leaders of several countries of Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and the Baltic countries. This is accompanied by an increase in their military budgets.

For several years US imperialism has put pressure on its allies to “share the burden of defense.”

The danger of war in Europe is real.

We demand the cancellation of the treaty linking Ukraine to the EU, a treaty that subjects the workers and the peoples of Ukraine to the economic and political orders of the EU.

We denounce the policy of confrontation with Russia and we demand the withdrawal of the arms deployed by NATO in this region.

We call for mobilization for the withdrawal from NATO, the armed wing of US imperialism and its allies, as an important step towards its dissolution.

We call on all people to develop the mobilization against the rising war budgets.

We denounce the increasing establishment of police States

The involvement of several European imperialist powers in the “war against terrorism” in the Middle East and the Sahel is accompanied by the establishment of mechanisms of surveillance and mass control and the closer coordination between the police, civil and military intelligence services, linked with the US intelligence services, particularly through NATO.

In all countries, one can see the strengthening of the criminalization of “social protest,” the questioning of democratic freedoms, particularly in the area of the right to strike, the right to organize and demonstrate. These attacks are concentrated against the militant organizations and unionists who denounce the class collaboration of the leaders who are “negotiating” with the employers and the government the implementation of austerity policies.

We call on the people to denounce and combat the rise of fascism in the States that is currently developing.

The myth of a Europe of peace and shared prosperity is collapsing

The crisis in Europe is sharpening the contradictions within it, among the States, and within each country and, more generally, between the social classes. Inequality is deepening and tensions are becoming exacerbated.

The economic mechanisms put in place by the EU and the euro zone are increasing the unequal development and are posing the question, repeatedly and publicly, of maintaining the euro zone as it exists.

In the countries where the people have spoken out against joining the euro zone or against joining the EU, this opposition is continuing to grow.

Certain countries applied to join the EU, and then withdrew their application, such as Iceland.

Everywhere opposition to the EU, to its policies, its anti-democratic way of functioning is growing and, in the increasingly important sectors, this challenge also affects its decision to establish itself as an imperialist bloc in ever stronger competition with the other great powers, and its even greater aggressiveness on the economic and political level towards the dominated countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc.

Everywhere the consciousness is also growing that it is not possible to change the EU from within into a supposedly progressive institution at the service of peoples.

Therefore, we unconditionally defend the right of the peoples to break with the EU, the euro and all its political and economic mechanisms.

Paris, June 2015

Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark – APK
Communist Party of the Workers of France – PCOF
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Party of the Workers of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the Communist Party of Greece (1918-1955)
Communist Platform – for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy
Marxist-Leninist Organization Revolusjon of Norway
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) – PCE (ML)
Party of Labor of Turkey – EMEP

Members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations

MOTION OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE DOCKERS OF NORWAY

Call for support for the Norwegian dockers

The dockers are known worldwide for their internationalism and their solidarity with the workers and seamen who are fighting for their rights. Now the dockers themselves are in urgent need of international support and solidarity.

The dockers of Norway have been in conflict since November 2013, that is, for almost 12 months. They have been repressed and arrested by the police. Their only demand is that the employers ratify the collective agreement and abide by the Convention 137 of the ILO which grants the unionized dockers the prerogative to load and unload the cargo ships. But this right is being denied them, including in the port of Oslo.

In the port of Oslo, this fight has another international aspect, because the Turkish company Yilport obtained the “exclusive right” to operate in the port for the next twenty years. But Yilport not only refuses to negotiate a collective agreement, but even refuses any discussion with the dockers’ union. Yilport is also hiring unskilled workers from temporary employment agencies, which results in dismissing the dockers from their work. This attempt to eliminate the dockers’ union and to undermine the collective agreements is totally unacceptable. In reality this is an attack against the workers in all countries and in all sectors.

The Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations of Europe call on the workers, unions and democratic forces to show their solidarity and boycott Yilport until it rehires the union dockers in the port of Oslo and signs a collective agreement with them.

Workers of the world, unite!

Resolution adopted by the regional conference of Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations, held in France in June 2015

Source

Putin’s Western Allies

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Why Europe’s Far Right Is on the Kremlin’s Side

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Given that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated reasons for invading Crimea was to prevent “Nazis” from coming to power in Ukraine, it is perhaps surprising that his regime is growing closer by the month to extreme right-wing parties across Europe. But, in both cases, Putin’s motives are not primarily ideological. In Ukraine, he simply wants to grab territory that he believes rightly belongs to him. In the European Union, he hopes that his backing of fringe parties will destabilize his foes and install in Brussels politicians who will be focused on dismantling the EU rather than enlarging it.

In Hungary, for example, Putin has taken the Jobbik party under his wing. The third-largest party in the country, Jobbik has supporters who dress in Nazi-type uniforms, spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, and express concern about Israeli “colonization” of Hungary. The party has capitalized on rising support for nationalist economic policies, which are seen as an antidote for unpopular austerity policies and for Hungary’s economic liberalization in recent years. Russia is bent on tapping into that sentiment. In May 2013, Kremlin-connected right-wing Russian nationalists at the prestigious Moscow State University invited Jobbik party president Gabor Vona to speak. Vona also met with Russia Duma leaders including Ivan Grachev, chairman of the State Duma Committee for Energy and Vasily Tarasyuk, deputy chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources and Utilization, among others. On the Jobbik website, the visit is characterized as “a major breakthrough” which made “clear that Russian leaders consider Jobbik as a partner.” In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Jobbik’s enthusiasm is paid for with Russian rubles. The party has also repeatedly criticized Hungary’s “Euro-Atlantic connections” and the European Union. And, more recently, it called the referendum in Crimea “exemplary,” a dangerous word in a country with extensive co-ethnic populations in Romania and Slovakia. It seems that the party sees Putin’s new ethnic politics as being aligned with its own revisionist nationalism.

The Kremlin’s ties to France’s extreme-right National Front have also been growing stronger. Marine Le Pen, the party leader, visited Moscow in June 2013 at the invitation of State Duma leader Sergei Naryshkin, a close associate of Putin’s. She also met with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and discussed issues of common concern, such as Syria, EU enlargement, and gay marriage. France’s ProRussia TV, which is funded by the Kremlin, is staffed by editors with close ties to the National Front who use the station to espouse views close to National Front’s own perspective on domestic and international politics. The National Front wishes to replace the EU and NATO with a pan-European partnership of independent nations, which, incidentally, includes Russia and would be driven by a trilateral Paris-Berlin-Moscow alliance. Le Pen’s spokesman, Ludovic De Danne, recently recognized the results of the Crimea referendum and stated in an interview with Voice of Russia radio that, “historically, Crimea is part of Mother Russia.” In the same interview, he mentioned that he had visited Crimea several times in the past year. Marine Le Pen also visited Crimea in June 2013.

The list of parties goes on. Remember Golden Dawn, the Greek fascist party that won 18 seats in Greece’s parliament in 2012? Members use Nazi symbols at rallies, emphasize street fighting, and sing the Greek version of the Nazi Party anthem. The Greek government imprisoned Nikos Michaloliakos, its leader, and stripped parliamentary deputies of their political immunity before slapping them with charges of organized violence. But the party continues to take to the streets. Golden Dawn has never hidden its close connections to Russia’s extreme right, and is thought to receive funds from Russia. One Golden Dawn­­–linked website reports that Michaloliakos even received a letter in prison from Moscow State University professor and former Kremlin adviser Alexander Dugin, one of the authors of Putin’s “Eurasian” ideology. It was also Dugin who hosted Jobbik leader Vona when he visited Moscow. In his letter, Dugin expressed support for Golden Dawn’s geopolitical positions and requested to open a line of communication between Golden Dawn and his think tank in Moscow. Golden Dawn’s New York website reports that Michaloliakos “has spoken out clearly in favor of an alliance and cooperation with Russia, and away from the ‘naval forces’ of the ‘Atlantic.’”

Finally, a cable made public by WikiLeaks shows that Bulgaria’s far right Ataka party has close links to the Russian embassy. Reports that Russia funds Ataka have swirled for years, but have never been verified. But evidence of enthusiasm for Russia’s foreign policy goals is open for all to see. Radio Bulgaria reported on March 17 that Ataka’s parliamentary group “has insisted that Bulgaria should recognize the results from the referendum for Crimea’s joining to the Russian Federation.” Meanwhile, party leader Volen Siderov has called repeatedly for Bulgaria to veto EU economic sanctions for Russia.

In addition to their very vocal support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea within the EU, Jobbik, National Front, and Ataka all sent election observers to validate the Crimea referendum (as did the Austrian Freedom Party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang party, Italy’s Forza Italia and Lega Nord, and Poland’s Self-Defense, in addition to a few far-left parties, conspicuously Germany’s Die Linke). Their showing was organized by the Russia-based Eurasian Observatory For Democracy & Elections, a far-right NGO “opposed to Western ideology.” The EODE specializes in monitoring elections in “self-proclaimed republics” (Abkhazia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh) allied with Moscow, according to its website.

The Putin government’s cordial relations with Europe’s far right sit oddly, to say the least, with his opposition to “Nazis” in the Ukrainian government. Yet Putin’s dislike for Ukrainian “fascists” has nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with the fact that they are Ukrainian nationalists. The country’s Svoboda and Right Sector parties, which might do well in the post–Viktor Yanukovych Ukraine, stand for independence in a country that Putin does not believe should exist separate from Russia.

Similarly, Russian support of the far right in Europe has less to do with ideology than with his desire to destabilize European governments, prevent EU expansion, and help bring to power European governments that are friendly to Russia. In that sense, several European countries may only be one bad election away from disaster. In fact, some would say that Hungary has already met it. As support for Jobbik increases, the anti-democratic, center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has tacked heavily to the right and recently signed a major nuclear deal with Russia. Russia plans to lend Hungary ten billion euro to construct two new reactors at its Paks nuclear plant, making Hungary even more dependent for energy on Russia. Jobbik’s Vona wants to go even further, taking Hungary out of the EU and joining Russia’s proposed Eurasian Union.

European parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of May, are expected to result in a strong showing for the far right. A weak economy, which was weakened further by the European Central Bank’s austerity policies, has caused the extreme right vote to surge. Current polls show the far-right parties in France and Holland winning the largest share of seats in their national delegations. Brussels strategists worry that 20 percent of members of the new European parliament could be affiliated with parties that wish to abolish the EU, double the current number. That could cause an EU government shutdown to rival the dysfunction of Washington and deal a major blow to efforts to enlarge the Union and oppose Russian expansionism.

It is strange to think that Putin’s strategy of using right-wing extremist political parties to foment disruption and then take advantage — as he did in Crimea — could work in southern and western Europe as well. Or that some of the extreme right parties in the European parliament, who work every day to delegitimize the European Union and whose numbers are growing, may be funded by Russia. Yet these possibilities cannot be dismissed. Russia might soon be able to disrupt the EU from within.

To counter Russia, European leaders should start launching public investigations into external funding of extreme-right political parties. If extensive Russia connections are found, it would be important to publicize that fact and then impose sanctions on Russia that would make it more difficult for it to provide such support. Pro-European parties must find a way to mobilize voters who are notoriously unwilling to vote in European parliament elections. Europe will also have to rethink the austerity policies that have worsened the grievances of many Europeans and pushed them to support the anti-system, anti-European right. Although Germany has banned extreme right parties from representation, other countries have not. Germany may have therefore underestimated the extent of damage austerity policies could do to the European project and should rethink how its excessive budget cutting, monetary prudence, and export surpluses are affecting politics in the rest of Europe.

Putin’s challenge to Europe must be taken seriously. Rather than making another land grab in his back yard, he might watch patiently from the sidelines at the end of May as pro-Russia far-right parties win a dramatic election victory in European parliamentary elections. These elections could weaken the European Union and bring Russia’s friends on the far right closer to power.

Source

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

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Nazi propaganda poster blaming the NKVD for the Katyn Massacre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basically, there are two types of further evidence:

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

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

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

The Transit Documents

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

KatynMap

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

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

The final death transport left Kozielsk….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jósef Kuligowski

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

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

My translation: [10]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badges

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

Page

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

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

GraphKatyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

crimes

sardine

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

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

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

Ludwik Małowiejski

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

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

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

profile2

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

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

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

Plaques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://genproc.gov.ru/ms/ms_news/news-71620

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

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

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

The Burdenko Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

profile3

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

profile4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

profile5

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

profile6

The Burdenko Commission report also mentions the following find:

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

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

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

profile7

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

profile8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T. K. UNKWD K. O.
9 4 2 4
Stadt Ostaschkow [42]

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

Т. К. УНКВД К. О.

9 4 2 4

г. Осташков

A probable English translation would be:

Prison Kitchen, NKVD Directorate, Kalinin Oblast’

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

town of Ostashkov [43]

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

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

What really did happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katynbullets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

[1]“‘Волынская Катынь’ оказалась делом рук гитлеровцев.” [“The ‘Volhynian Katyn’ turns out to be a deed of the Hitlerites.”] At http://katyn.ru/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=253

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

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

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

[5] At http://www.tinyurl.com/katyn-the-truth

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

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

[8] A photograph of Kuligowski‘s badge may be viewed at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-zheton-1441.jpg and a somewhat lighter, more legible copy at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/kuligowski_badge_1441.jpg

[9] “Osoby z Listy Katyńskiej mordowano we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?!” (Persons from the Katyn List murdered at Włodzimierz Wołyński?!), ITVL May 25, 2011. At http://www.itvl.pl/news/osoby-z-listy-katynskiej-mordowano-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim–

[10] All translations in this article are mine.

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

[12] See “Tropem zbrodni NKWD pod Włodzimierzem Wołyńskim” (Trail of NKVD crime near Włodzimierz Wołyński) at http://wolyn.btx.pl/index.php/component/content/article/1-historia/168-tropem-zbrodni-nkwd-pod-wodzimierzem-woyskim.html ; Włodzimierz Wołyński – groby polskich ofiar NKWD” (graves of Polish victims of the NKVD) at http://www.nawolyniu.pl/artykuly/ofiarynkwd.htm ; “Czyje mogiły odnaleziono we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?” (Whose graves found at Włodzimierz Wołyński?) http://wpolityce.pl/depesze/10407-czyje-mogily-odnaleziono-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim This last article speaks of „ofiar pomordowanych przez NKWD w latach 1940-1941 w sowieckiej katowni na zamku we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim” (victims murdered by the NKVD in 1940-1941 in the Soviet execution chamber in the castle at Włodzimierz Wołyński). Many more similar articles could be cited.

[13] “ВолинськаКатинь. УВолодимирі-ВолинськомузнайденомасовепохованняжертвНКВС 1939–1941 років.” Tyzhden’.ua October 4, 2011. At http://tyzhden.ua/Society/31329

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

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

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

[17] http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11036 According to the Home Page „Indeks Represjonowanych” (http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/index.html ) this online record is a digital version of the contents of the official volume: Maria Skrzyńska-Pławińska, ed. Rozstrzelani w Twerze : alfabetyczny spis 6314 jeńców polskich z Ostaszkowa rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940 i pogrzebanych w Miednoje, według źródeł sowieckich i polskich. Warszawa : Ośrodek KARTA, 1997.

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

[19] See “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.” http://www.ornatowski.com/index/katyn.htm

[20] See above, note 14.

[21] A description of this method of execution may be found on the English-language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Jeckeln#World_War_II_mass_murderer

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

[23] Photograph at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-gruppa4.jpg (as of May 6 2013). It is taken from page 8 of the Polish archeological report cited above.A description of this method of execution may be found on the English language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Jeckeln#World_War_II_mass_murderer

[24] Volodymyr Musychenko. ―Ialatpcaojnj Hfrtcanj Bumj ]crf¿?‖ Slovo Pravdy (Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy) March 29, 2011. At http://spr.net.ua/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=919:2011-09-29-07-41- 57&catid=1:newsukraine ; Ivan Katchanovski, ―Katyn in Reverse in Ukraine: Nazi-led Massacres turned into Soviet Massacres.‖ OpEd News, December 13, 2012, at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Katyn-in-Reverse-in-Ukrainby-Ivan-Katchanovski-121212-435.html ; I. Katchanovski, ―Suyasoa qpm{tjla qan‘>t{ oa Cpmjo{ 7pep PUO(b) ta oaxjsts:ljw naspcjw cbjcstc,‖ Ukraina Moderna No. 19 (April 30 2013). At http://www.uamoderna.com/md/199

[25] Photos available at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/polskie_guziki_pagon_VV2012.jpg , from the Polish archaeological report.

[26] “Kolejny policjant z Listy Katyńskiej odnaleziony we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim..” [Another policeman on the Katyn List is found in Volodymyr-Volynsky]. At http://www.itvl.pl/news/kolejny-policjant-z-listy-katynskiej-odnaleziony-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim

[27] “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.” At http://www.ornatowski.com/index/katyn.htm

[28] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11445

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

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

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

[32] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=8437

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

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

[35] “Совинформбюро. Гнусныеизмышлениянемецко-фашистскихпалачей” (Sovinformburo: Vile Fabrications of the German-Fascist Executioners), April 16, 1943. At http://tinyurl.com/sovinformburo041643

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

[37] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11191

[38]  The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11001

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

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

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

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

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

[44] For a brief overview of this question see Mark Tauger, “Famine in Russian History,”Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, Volume 10: Supplement. (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 2011), 79-92. Tauger’s own works on the famine are cited at page 92. I consider Tauger to be the world’s authority on this famine, to the study of which he has devoted decades. See also R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft,The Years of Hunger. Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2009 [2004]), 440-1. Concerning the “Yezhovshchina” (also called “the Great Terror”) see the Yezhov confession of August 4, 1939 printed in Никита Петров, “Сталинский питомец” — Николай Ежов (Nikita Petrov, “Stalin’s Pet” – Nikolai Yezhov), Moscow 2008, 367–79 (English translation at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/ezhov080439eng.html ). Stalin told aircraft designer Alexander Yakovlev that Yezhov had been executed because he had killed many innocent people; see А. Яковлев, Цельжизни. Запискиавиаконструктора (М.: 1973), 267 (глава: “Москвавобороне”). For the present author’s views see Grover Furr, “The Moscow Trials and the ‘Great Terror’ of 1937-1938: What the Evidence Shows” (written July 2010). http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/trials_ezhovshchina_update0710.html

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

[46] See the hair-raising anti-Ukrainian terror of November 1938 described by Jeffrey Burds, “Comment on Timothy Snyder’s article…” At http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/comment13.htm

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

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

[49] “Дослідження виявлених решток людей , розстріляних в 1941 році на городищі “ вали” у володимирі- волинському .ексгумаційні дослідження 2012 року”. (Investigation of discovered remains of persons shot in 1941 at the ‘Shafts’ site at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy. Investigation of exhumations of 2012.) (Doslizhdennia) At http://volodymyrmuseum.com/publications/32-publications/naukovi-statti/170-doslidzhennya-vyyavlenykh-reshtok-lyudey-rozstrilyanykh-v-1941-rotsi-na-horodyshchi-valy-u-volodymyri-volynskomu-ekshumatsiyni-doslidzhennya-2012-roku

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

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

[52] “B 1906” appears to be Austrian rifle ordnance made for the Tsarist Army during the Russo-Japanese War. See the drawing at http://7.62x54r.net/MosinID/MosinAmmoID02.htm#Austria and the photograph obtained by Sergei Strygin at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-gilza_B_1906.jpg

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

[54] Скороход, Ольга. “Польские археологи нагнетают ситуацию вокруг жертв, расстрелянных в 1941-м.” (Ol’ga Skorokhkod. Polish archeologists stir up the situation around the victims shot in 1941). Gazeta.ru February 20, 2013, http://gazeta.ua/ru/articles/history/_polskie-arheologi-nagnetayut-situaciyu-vokrug-zhertv-rasstrelyannyh-v-1941-m/483525 Gazeta.ru is a Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper. Roughly half the population of today’s Ukraine use Russian as their first language.

[55] Виставка: “Прихована історія: археологічні дослідження на городищі Володимира-Волинського 2010-2012 років” (Exhibition: “Hidden history: archaeological investigations at a site in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy in the years 2010-2012”), http://www.formuseum.info/2013/02/27/vistavka.html

Source

Stalin Society: The Katyn Massacre

Nazi propaganda poster depicting executions of Polish military officers by the Soviets, with caption in Slovak: "Forest of the dead at Katyn"

Nazi propaganda poster depicting executions of Polish military officers by the Soviets, with caption in Slovak: “Forest of the dead at Katyn”

by Ella Rule
July 2002

At the end of the First World War, the boundary between Russia and Poland was settled as being along a line which became known as the Curzon line – Lord Curzon being the British statesman who had proposed it.

This demarcation line was not to the liking of the Poles, who soon went to war against the Soviet Union in order to push their borders further eastward. The Soviet Union counter-attacked and were prepared not only to defend themselves but, against Stalin’s advice, to liberate the whole of Poland. Stalin considered such an aim to be doomed to failure because, he said, Polish nationalism had not yet run its course. The Poles were determined NOT to be liberated so there was no point in trying. Hence the Poles put up fierce resistance to Soviet advances. Ultimately the Soviet Union was forced to retreat and even cede territory to the east of the Curzon line to Poland. The areas in question were Western Byelorussia and the western Ukraine – areas populated overwhelmingly by Byelorussians and Ukrainians respectively rather than by Poles. The whole incident could not but exacerbate the mutual dislike of the Poles and the Russians.

On 1 September 1939, Nazi German invaded Poland. On 17 September, the Soviet Union moved to reoccupy those parts of Poland that lay east of the Curzon line. Having taken over those areas, the Soviet Union set about distributing land to the peasants and bringing about the kind of democratic reforms so popular with the people and so unpopular with the exploiters. During the battle to retake the areas east of the Curzon line, the Soviet Union captured some 10,000 Polish officers, who became prisoners of war. These prisoners were then held in camps in the disputed area and put to work road building, etc.

Two years later, on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union by surprise. The Red Army was forced hurriedly to retreat and the Ukraine was taken over by the Germans. During this hurried retreat it was not possible to evacuate to the Soviet interior the Polish prisoners of war. The chief of camp no. 1, Major Vetoshnikov gave evidence that he had applied to the chief of traffic of the Smolensk section of the Western Railway to be provided with railway cars for the evacuation of the Polish prisoners but was told it was unlikely to be possible. Engineer Ivanov, who had been the Chief of Traffic in the region at the time, confirmed there had been no railway cars to spare. “Besides, ” he said, “we could not send cars to the Gussino line, where the majority of the Polish prisoners were, since that line was already under fire”. The result was that, following the Soviet retreat from the area, the Polish prisoners became prisoners of the Germans.

In April 1943, the Hitlerites announced that the Germans had found several mass graves in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers allegedly murdered by the Russians.

This announcement was designed to further undermine the co-operation efforts of Poles and Soviets to defeat the Germans. The Russo-Polish alliance was always difficult because the Polish government in exile, based in London, was obviously a government of the exploiting classes. They had to oppose the Germans because of the latter’s cynical takeover of their country for lebensraum. The Soviet Union’s position was that so long as the Soviet Union could retain the land east of the Curzon line, they had no problem with the re-establishment of a bourgeois government in Poland. But the alliance was already in difficulties because the Polish government in exile, headed by General Sikorski, based in London, would not agree to the return of that land. This is in spite of the fact that in 1941 after Hitler invaded Poland, the Soviet Union and the Polish government in exile had not only established diplomatic relations but had also agreed that the Soviet Union would finance “under the orders of a chief appointed by the Polish government-in-exile but approved by the Soviet government ” the formation of a Polish army – this chief being, in the event, the thoroughly anti-Soviet General Anders (a prisoner of the Soviets from 1939). By 25 October 1941 this Army had 41,000 men including 2,630 officers. General Anders, however, eventually refused to fight on the Soviet-German front because of the border dispute between the Soviet Union and Poland, and the Polish army had to be sent elsewhere to fight – i.e., Iran.

Nevertheless, despite the hostility of the Polish government in exile, there was a significant section of Poles resident in the Soviet Union who were not anti-Soviet and did accept the Soviet claim to the territories east of the Curzon line. Many of them were Jewish. These people formed the Union of Polish Patriots which put together the backbone of an alternative Polish government in exile.

The Nazi propaganda relating to the Katyn massacres was designed to make it impossible for the Soviets to have any dealings with the Poles at all. General Sikorski took up the Nazi propaganda with a vengeance, claiming to Churchill that he had a “wealth of evidence”. How he had obtained this “evidence” simultaneously with the German announcement of this supposed Soviet atrocity is not clear, although it speaks loudly of secret collaboration between Sikorski and the Nazis. The Germans had made public their allegations on 13 April. On 16 April the Soviet government issued an official communiqué denying “the slanderous fabrications about the alleged mass shootings by Soviet organs in the Smolensk area in the spring of 1940”. It added:

“The German statement leaves no doubt about the tragic fate of the former Polish prisoners of war who, in 1941, were engaged in building jobs in areas west of Smolensk and who, together with many Soviet people, fell into the hands of the German hangmen after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.”

The Germans had in fabricating their story decided to embellish it with an anti-Semitic twist by claiming to be able to name Soviet officials in charge of the massacre, all of whom had Jewish names. On 19 April Pravda responded:

“Feeling the indignation of the whole of progressive humanity over their massacre of peaceful citizens and particularly of Jews, the Germans are now trying to arouse the anger of gullible people against the Jews. For this reason they have invented a whole collection of ‘Jewish commissars’ who, they say, took part in the murder of the 10,000 Polish officers. For such experienced fakers it was not difficult to invent a few names of people who never existed – Lev Rybak, Avraam Brodninsky, Chaim Fineberg. No such persons ever existed either in the ‘Smolensk section of the OGPU’ or in any other department of the NLVD…”

The insistence of Sikorski in endorsing the German propaganda led to the complete breakdown in relations between the London Polish government in exile and the Soviet government – as to which Goebbels commented in his diary:

“This break represents a one-hundred-per-cent victory for German propaganda and especially for me personally … we have been able to convert the Katyn incident into a highly political question.”

At the time the British press condemned Sikorski for his intransigence:

The Times of 28 April 1943 wrote:

“Surprise as well as regret will be felt by those who have had so much cause to understand the perfidy and ingenuity of the Goebbels propaganda machine should themselves have fallen into the trap laid by it. Poles will hardly have forgotten a volume widely circulated in the first winter of the war which described with every detail of circumstantial evidence, including that of photography, alleged Polish atrocities against the peaceful German inhabitants of Poland.”

What lay at the basis of Sikorski’s insistence that the massacre had been carried out by the Soviets rather than the Germans was the dispute over the territory east of the Curzon line. Sikorski was trying to use the German propaganda to mobilise western imperialism behind Poland’s claim to that territory, to try to force them out of the position, as he saw it, of taking the Soviet Union’s side on the issue of this border dispute.

If one reads bourgeois sources today, they all assert that the Soviet Union was responsible for the Katyn massacre, and they do so with such assurance and consistency that in trying to argue the contrary one feels like a Nazi revisionist trying to deny Hitler’s slaughter of Jews. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachov was even enrolled on this disinformation campaign and produced material allegedly from the Soviet archives which ‘proved’ that the Soviets committed the atrocity and, of course, that they did so on Stalin’s orders. Well, we know the interest that the Gorbachovs of this world have in demonising Stalin. Their target is not so much Stalin as socialism. Their purpose in denigrating socialism is to restore capitalism and bring lives of luxurious parasitism to themselves and their hangers-on at the cost of mass suffering among the Soviet peoples. Their cynicism matches that of the German Nazis and it is hardly surprising to find them singing from the same hymn sheet.

Bourgeois sources blithely claim that Soviet evidence in support of blaming the Germans for the atrocity was either totally absent or based purely on hearsay evidence of terrorised inhabitants of the region. They don’t mention one piece of evidence which even Goebbels had to admit was a bit of a bummer from his point of view. He wrote in his diary on 8 May 1943,

“Unfortunately, German ammunition has been found in the graves at Katyn … It is essential that this incident remains a top secret. If it were to come to the knowledge of the enemy the whole Katyn affair would have to be dropped. “

In 1971 there was correspondence in The Times suggesting the Katyn massacres could not have been done by the Germans since they went in for machine gunning and gas chambers rather than despatching prisoners in the way the Katyn victims had been killed, i.e., by a shot in the back of the head. A former German solider then living in Godalming, Surrey, intervened in this correspondence:

“As a German soldier, at that time convinced of the righteousness of our cause, I have taken part in many battles and actions during the Russian campaign. I have not been to Katyn nor to the forest nearby. But I well remember the hullabaloo when the news broke in 1943 about the discovery of the ghastly mass grave near Katyn, which area was then threatened by the Red Army.

“Josef Goebbels, as the historic records show, has fooled many people. After all, that was his job and few would dispute his almost complete mastery of it. What is surprising indeed, however, is that it still shows evidence in the pages of The Times thirty odd years later. Writing from experience I do not think that at that late time of the war Goebbels managed to fool many German soldiers in Russia on the Katyn issue … German soldiers knew about the shot in the back of the head all right … we German soldiers knew that the Polish officers were despatched by none other than our own. “

Moreover, very many witnesses came forward to attest to the presence of Polish prisoners in the region after the Germans had taken it over.

Maria Alexandrovna Sashneva, a local primary school teacher, gave evidence to a Special commission set up by the Soviet Union in September 1943, immediately after the area was liberated from the Germans, to the effect that in August 1941, two months after Soviet withdrawal, she had hidden a Polish war prisoner in her house. His name had been Juzeph Lock, and he had spoken to her of ill-treatment suffered by Polish prisoners under the Germans:

“When the Germans arrived they seized the Polish camp and instituted a strict regime in it. The Germans did not regard the Poles as human beings. They oppressed and outraged them in every way. On some occasions Poles were shot without any reason at all. He decided to escape…”

Several other witnesses gave evidence that they had seen the Poles during August and September 1941 working on the roads.

Moreover, witnesses also testified to round-ups by the Germans of escaped Polish prisoners in the autumn of 1941. Danilenko, a local peasant, was among several witnesses who testified to this.

“Special round ups were held in our place to catch Polish war prisoners who had escaped. Some searches took place in my house 2 or 3 times. After one such search I asked the headman .. whom they were looking for in our village. [He] said that an order had been received from the German Kommandatur according to which searches were to be made in all houses without exception, since Polish war prisoners who had escaped from the camp were hiding in our village. “

Obviously the Germans did not shoot the Poles in full sight of local witnesses, but there is nonetheless significant evidence from local people as to what was happening. One witness was Alexeyeva who had been detailed by the headman of her village to serve the German personnel at a country house in the section of the Katyn Forest known as Kozy Gory, which had been the rest home of the Smolensk administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. This house was situated some 700 metres from where the mass graves were found. Alexeyeva said:

“At the close of August and during most of September 1941 several trucks used to come practically every day to the Kozy Gory country house. At first I paid no attention to that, but later I noticed that each time these trucks arrived at the grounds of the country house they stopped for half an hour, and sometimes for a whole hour, somewhere on the country road connecting the country house with the highway. I drew this conclusion because some time after these trucks reached the grounds of the country house the noise they made would cease.

“Simultaneously with the noise stopping single shots would be heard. The shots followed each other at short but approximately even intervals. Then the shooting would die down and the trucks would drive right up to the country house. German soldiers and NCOs came out of the trucks. Talking noisily they went to wash in the bathhouse, after which they engaged in drunken orgies.

“On days when the trucks arrived more soldiers from some German military units used to arrive at the country house. Special beds were put up for them… Shortly before the trucks reached the country house armed soldiers went to the forest evidently to the spot where the trucks stopped because in half an hour they returned in these trucks, together with the soldiers who lived permanently in the country house.

“…On several occasions I noticed stains of fresh blood on the clothes of two Lance Corporals. From all this I inferred that the Germans brought people in the truck to the country house and shot them.”

Alexeyeva also discovered that the people being shot were Polish prisoners.

“Once I stayed at the country house somewhat later than usual… Before I finished the work which had kept me there, a soldier suddenly entered and told me I could go … He … accompanied me to the highway.

“Standing on the highway 150 or 200 metres from where the road branches off to the country house I saw a group of about 30 Polish war prisoners marching along the highway under heavy German escort… I halted near the roadside to see where they were being led, and I saw that they turned towards our country house at Kozy Gory.

“Since by that time I had begun to watch closely everything going on at the country house, I became interested. I went back some distance along the highway, hid in bushes near the roadside, and waited. In some 20 or 30 minutes I heard the familiar single shots. “

The other two requisitioned maids at the country house, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, gave supporting evidence. Other residents of the area gave similar evidence.

Basilevsky, director of the Smolensk observatory, was appointed deputy burgomeister to Menshagin, a Nazi collaborator. Basilevsky was trying to secure the release from German custody of a teacher, Zhiglinsky, and persuaded Menshagin to speak to the German commander of the region, Von Schwetz, about this matter. Menshagin did so but reported back it was impossible to secure this release because “instructions had been received from Berlin prescribing the strictest regime be maintained. “

Basilevsky then recounted his conversation with Menshagin:

“I involuntarily retorted ‘Can anything else be stricter than the regime existing at the camp?’ Menshagin looked at me in a strange way and bending to my ear, answered in a low voice: yes, there can be! The Russians can at least be left to die off, but as to the Polish war prisoners, the orders say they are to be simply exterminated. “

After liberation Menshagin’s notebook was found written in his own handwriting, as confirmed by expert graphologists. Page 10, dated 15 August 1941, notes:

“All fugitive war prisoners are to be detained and delivered to the commandant’s office. “

This in itself proves the Polish prisoners were still alive at that time. On page 15, which is undated, the entry appears: “Are there any rumours among the population concerning the shooting of Polish war prisoners in Kozy Gory (for Umnov) ” (Umnov was the Chief of the Russian police).

A number of witnesses gave evidence that they had been pressured in 1942-43 by the Germans to give false testimony as to the shooting of the Poles by the Russians.

Parfem Gavrilovich Kisselev, a resident of the village closest to Kozy Gory, testified that he had been summonsed in autumn of 1942 to the Gestapo where he was interviewed by a German officer:

“The officer stated that, according to information at the disposal of the Gestapo, in 1940, in the area of Kozy Gory in the Katyn Forest, staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shot Polish officers, and he asked me what testimony I could give on this score. I answered that I had never heard of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shooting people at Kozy Gory, and that anyhow it was impossible, I explained to the officer, since Kozy Gory is an absolutely open and much frequented place, and if shootings had gone on there the entire population of the neighbouring villages would have known …

“…The interpreter, however, would not listen to me, but took a handwritten document from the desk and read it to me. It said that I, Kisselev, resident of a hamlet in the Kozy Gory area, personally witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“Having read the document, the interpreter told me to sign it. I refused to do so… Finally he shouted ‘Either you sign it at once or we shall destroy you. Make your choice.’

“Frightened by these threats, I signed the document and thought that would be the end of the matter. “

But it wasn’t the end of the matter, because the Germans expected Kisselev to give parol evidence of what he had ‘witnessed’ to groups of ‘delegates’ invited by the Germans to come to the area to witness the evidence of supposed Soviet atrocities.

Soon after the German authorities had announced the existence of the mass graves to the world in April 1943,

“the Gestapo interpreter came to my house and took me to the forest in the Kozy Gory area.

“When we had left the house and were alone together, the interpreter warned me that I must tell the people present in the forest everything exactly as I had written it down in the document I had signed at the Gestapo.

“When I came to the forest I saw the open graves and a group of strangers. The interpreter told me that these were Polish delegates who had arrived to inspect the graves. When we approached the graves the delegates started asking me various questions in Russian in connection with the shooting of the Poles, but as more than a month had passed since I had been summoned to the Gestapo I forgot everything that was in the document I had signed, got mixed up, and finally said I didn’t know anything about the shooting of Polish officers.

“The German officer got very angry. The interpreter roughly dragged me away from the ‘delegation’ and chased me off. Next morning a car with a Gestapo officer drove up to my house. He found me in the yard, told me that I was under arrest, put me into the car and took me to Smolensk Prison …

“After my arrest I was interrogated many times, but they beat me more than they questioned me. The first time they summoned me they beat me up heavily and abused me, complaining that I had let them down, and then sent me back to the cell. During the next summons they told me I must state publicly that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by the Bolsheviks, and that until the Gestapo was satisfied I would do this in good faith, I would not be released from prison. I told the officer that I would rather sit in prison than tell people lies to their faces. After that I was badly beaten up.

“There were several such interrogations accompanied by beatings, and as a result I lost all my strength, my hearing became poor and I could not move my right arm. About one month after my arrest a German officer summoned me and said: ‘You see the consequences of your obstinacy, Kisselev. We have decided to execute you. In the morning we shall take you to Katyn Forest and hang you.’ I asked the officer not to do this, and started pleading with them that I was not fit for the part of ‘eye-witness’ of the shooting as I did not know how to tell lies and therefore I would mix everything up again.

“The officer continued to insist. Several minutes later soldiers came into the room and started beating me with rubber clubs. Being unable to stand the beatings and torture, I agreed to appear publicly with a fallacious tale about shooting of Poles by Bolsheviks. After that I was released from prison, on conditions that on the first demand of the Germans I would speak before ‘delegations’ in Katyn Forest…

“On every occasion, before leading me to the graves in the forest, the interpreter used to come to my house, call me out into the yard, take me aside to make sure that no one would hear, and for half an hour make me memorise by heart everything I would have to say about the alleged shooting of Polish officers by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“I recall that the interpreter told me something like this: ‘I live in a cottage in ‘Kozy Gory’ area not far from the country house of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In spring 1940 I saw Poles taken on various nights to the forest and shot there’. And then it was imperative that I must state literally that ‘this was the doing of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.’ After I had memorised what the interpreter told me he would take me to the open graves in the forest and compel me to repeat all this in the presence of ‘delegations’ which came there.

“My statements were strictly supervised and directed by the Gestapo interpreter. Once when I spoke before some ‘delegation’, I was asked the question: ‘Did you see these Poles personally before they were shot by the Bolsheviks?’ I was not prepared for such a question and answered the way it was in fact, i.e., that I saw Polish war prisoners before the war, as they walked on the roads. Then the interpreter roughly dragged me aside and drove me home.

“Please believe me when I say that all the time I felt pangs of conscience, as I knew that in reality the Polish officers had been shot by the Germans in 1941. I had no other choice, as I was constantly threatened with the repetition of my arrest and torture. “

Numerous people corroborated Kisselev’s testimony, and a medical examination corroborated his story of having been tortured by the Germans.

Pressure was also brought on Ivanov, employed at the local railway station (Gnezdovo) to bear false witness:

“The officer inquired whether I knew that in spring 1940 large parties of captured Polish officers had arrived at Gnezdovo station in several trains. I said that I knew about this. The officer then asked me whether I knew that in the same spring 1940, soon after the arrival of the Polish officers, the Bolsheviks had shot them all in the Katyn Forest. I answered that I did not know anything about that, and that it could not be so, as in the course of 1940-41 up to the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, I had met captured Polish officers who had arrived in spring 1940 at Gnezdovo station, and who were engaged in road construction work.

“The officer told me that if a German officer said the Poles had been shot by the Bolsheviks it meant that this was a fact. ‘Therefore’, the officer continued, ‘you need not fear anything, and you can sign with a clear conscience a protocol saying that the captured Polish officers were shot by the Bolsheviks and that you witnessed it’.

“I replied that I was already an old man, that I was 61 years old, and did not want to commit a sin in my old age. I could only testify that the captured Poles really arrived at Gnezdovo station in spring 1940. The German officer began to persuade me to give the required testimony promising that if I agreed he would promote me from the position of watchman on a railway crossing to that of stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, which I had held under the Soviet Government, and also to provide for my material needs.

“The interpreter emphasised that my testimony as a former railway official at Gnezdovo station, the nearest station to Katyn Forest, was extremely important for the German Command, and that I would not regret it if I gave such testimony. I understood that I had landed in an extremely difficult situation, and that a sad fate awaited me. However, I again refused to give false testimony to the German officer. He started shouting at me, threatened me with a beating and shooting, and said I did not understand what was good for me. However, I stood my ground. The interpreter then drew up a short protocol in German on one page, and gave me a free translation of its contents. This protocol recorded, as the interpreter told me, only the fact of the arrival of the Polish war prisoners at Gnezdovo station. When I asked that my testimony be recorded not only in German but also in Russian, the officer finally went beside himself with fury, beat me up with a rubber club and drove me off the premises…”.

Savvateyev was another person pressurised by the Germans to give false testimony. He told the Soviet Commission of Inquiry:

“In the Gestapo I testified that in spring 1940 Polish war prisoners arrived at the station of Gnezdovo in several trains and proceeded further in trucks, and I did not know where they went. I also added that I repeatedly met those Poles later on the Moscow-Minsk highway, where they were working on repairs in small groups. The officer told me I was mixing things up, that I could not have met the Poles on the highway, as they had been shot by the Bolsheviks, and demanded that I testify to this.

“I refused. After threatening and cajoling me for a long time, the officer consulted with the interpreter about something in German, and then the interpreter wrote a short protocol and gave it to me to sign. He explained that it was a record of my testimony. I asked the interpreter to let me read the protocol myself, but he interrupted me with abuse, ordering me to sign it immediately and get out. I hesitated a minute. The interpreter seized a rubber club hanging on the wall and made to strike me. After that I signed the protocol shoved at me. The interpreter told me to get out and go home, and not to talk to anyone or I would be shot…”

Others gave similar testimony.

Evidence was also given as to how the Germans ‘doctored’ the graves of the victims to try to eliminate evidence that the massacre took place not in the autumn of 1941 but in the spring of 1940 shortly after the Poles first arrived in the area. Alexandra Mikhailovna had worked during the German occupation in the kitchen of a German military unit. In March 1943 she found a Russian war prisoner hiding in her shed:

“From conversation with him I learned that his name was Nikolai Yegorov, a native of Leningrad. Since the end of 1941 he had been in the German camp No. 126 for war prisoners in the town of Smolensk. At the beginning of March 1943, he was sent with a column of several hundred war prisoners from the camp to Katyn Forest. There they, including Yegorov, were compelled to dig up graves containing bodies in the uniforms of Polish officers, drag these bodies out of the graves and take out of their pockets documents, letters, photographs and all other articles.

“The Germans gave the strictest orders that nothing be left in the pockets on the bodies. Two war prisoners were shot because after they had searched some of the bodies, a German officer discovered some papers on these bodies. Articles, documents and letters extracted from the clothing on the bodies were examined by the German officers, who then compelled the prisoners to put part of the papers back into the pockets on the bodies, while the rest was flung on a heap of articles and documents they had extracted, and later burned.

“Besides this, the Germans made the prisoners put in the pockets of the Polish officers some papers which they took from the cases or suitcases (I don’t remember exactly) which they had brought along. All the war prisoners lived in Katyn Forest in dreadful conditions under the open sky, and were extremely strongly guarded… At the beginning of April 1943, all the work planned by the Germans was apparently completed, as for three days not one of the war prisoners had to do any work…

“Suddenly at night all of them without exception were awakened and led somewhere. The guard was strengthened. Yegorov sensed something was wrong and began to watch very closely everything that was happening. They marched for three or four hours in an unknown direction. They stopped in the forest at a pit in a clearing. He saw how a group of war prisoners were separated from the rest and driven towards the pit and then shot. The war prisoners grew agitated, restless and noisy. Not far from Yegorov several war prisoners attacked the guards. Other guards ran towards the place. Yegorov took advantage of the confusion and ran away into the dark forest, hearing shouts and firing.

“After hearing this terrible story, which is engraved on my memory for the rest of my life, I became very sorry for Yegorov, and told him to come to my room, get warm and hide at my place until he had regained his strength. But Yegorov refused… He said no matter what happened he was going away that very night, and intended to try to get through the front line to the Red Army. In the morning, when I went to make sure whether Yegorov had gone, he was still in the shed. It appeared that in the night he had attempted to set out, but had only taken about 50 steps when he felt so weak that he was forced to return. This exhaustion was caused by the long imprisonment at the camp and the starvation of the last days. We decided he should remain at my place several days longer to regain his strength. After feeding Yegorov I went to work. When I returned home in the evening my neighbours Branova, Mariya Ivanovna, Kabanovskaya, Yekaterina Viktorovna told me that in the afternoon, during a search by the German police, the Red Army war prisoner had been found, and taken away. “

Further corroboration was given by an engineer mechanic called Sukhachev who had worked under the Germans as a mechanic in the Smolensk city mill:

“I was working at the mill in the second half of March, 1943. There I spoke to a German chauffeur who spoke a little Russian, and since he was carrying flour to Savenki village for the troops, and was returning on the next day to Smolensk, I asked him to take me along so that I could buy some fats in the village. My idea was that making the trip in a German truck would get over the risk of being held up at the control stations. The German agreed to take me, at a price.

“On the same day at 10 p.m. we drove on to the Somolensk-Vitebsk highway, just myself and the German driver in the machine. The night was light, and only a low mist over the road reduced the visibility. Approximately 22 or 23 kilometres from Smolensk at a demolished bridge on the highway there is a rather deep descent at the by-pass. We began to go down from the highway, when suddenly a truck appeared out of the fog coming towards us. Either because our brakes were out of order, or because the driver was inexperienced, we were unable to bring our truck to a halt, and since the passage was quite narrow we collided with the truck coming towards us. The impact was not very violent, as the driver of the other truck swerved to the side, as a result of which the trucks bumped and slid alongside each other.

“The right wheel of the other truck, however, landed in the ditch, and the truck fell over on the slope. Our truck remained upright. The driver and I immediately jumped out of the cabin and ran up to the truck which had fallen down. We were met by a heavy stench of putrefying flesh coming evidently from the truck.

“On coming nearer, I saw that the truck was carrying a load covered with a tarpaulin and tied up with ropes. The ropes had snapped with the impact, and part of the load had fallen out on the slope. This was a horrible load – human bodies dressed in military uniforms. As far as I can remember there were some six or seven men near the truck: one German driver, two Germans armed with tommy-guns – the rest were Russian war prisoners, as they spoke Russian and were dressed accordingly.

“The Germans began to abuse my driver and then made some attempts to right the truck. In about two minutes time two more trucks drove up to the place of the accident and pulled up. A group of Germans and Russian war prisoners, about ten men in all, came up to us from these trucks. … By joint efforts we began to raise the truck. Taking advantage of an opportune moment I asked one of the Russian war prisoners in a low voice: ‘What is it?’ He answered very quietly: ‘For many nights already we have been carrying bodies to Katyn Forest’.

“Before the overturned truck had been raised a German NCO came up to me and my driver and ordered us to proceed immediately. As no serious damage had been done to our truck the driver steered it a little to one side and got on to the highway, and we went on. When we were passing the two covered trucks which had come up later I again smelled the horrible stench of dead bodies”.

Various other people also gave testimony of having seen the trucks loaded with dead bodies.

One Zhukhov, a pathologist who actually visited graves in April 1943 at the invitation of the Germans, also gave evidence:

“The clothing of the bodies, particularly the greatcoats, boots and belts, were in a good state of preservation. The metal parts of the clothing – belt buckles, button hooks and spikes on shoe soles, etc. – were not heavily rusted, and in some cases the metal still retained its polish. Sections of the skin of the bodies which could be seen – faces, necks, arms – were chiefly a dirty green colour, and in some cases dirty brown, but there was no complete disintegration of the tissues, no putrefaction. In some cases bared tendons of whitish colour and parts of muscles could be seen.

“While I was at the excavations people were at work sorting and extracting bodies at the bottom of a big pit. For this purpose they used spades and other tools, and also took hold of bodies with their hands and dragged them from place to place by the arms, the legs or the clothing. I did not see a single case of bodies falling apart or any member being torn off.

“Considering all the above, I arrived at the conclusion that the bodies had remained in the earth not three years, as the Germans affirmed, but much less. Knowing that in mass graves, and especially without coffins, putrefaction of bodies progresses more quickly than in single graves, I concluded that the mass shooting of the Poles had taken place about a year and a half ago, and could have occurred in autumn 1941 or in spring 1942. As a result of my visit to the excavation site I became firmly convinced that a monstrous crime had been committed by the Germans. “

Several other people who visited the graves at the time gave like testimony.

Moreover, pathologists who examined the bodies in 1943 concluded that they could not have been dead longer than two years. Furthermore, documents were found on some of the bodies which had obviously been missed by the Germans when they doctored the evidence. These included a letter dated September 1940, a postcard dated 12 November 1940, a pawn ticket receipted 14 March 1941 and another receipted 25 March 1941. Receipts dated 6 April 1941, 5 May 1941, 15 May 1941 and an unmailed postcard in Polish dated 20 June 1941. Although all these dates pre-date Soviet withdrawal, they all postdate the time of the alleged murder of the prisoners by the Soviet authorities in the spring of 1940, the time given as the date of the supposed massacre by all those whom the Germans were able to bully into giving false testimony. If, as is claimed by bourgeois propagandists, these documents are forgeries, it would have been the easiest thing to forge documents which postdated the Soviet departure, but his was not done – and it was not done because the documents found were undoubtedly genuine.

Source

The Truth about Katyn

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Nazi propaganda poster. Reads in French: “If the Soviets win the war, Katyn will be everywhere.”

The Truth About Katyn

Report of Special Commission

for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest

The Special Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest (near Smolensk) was set up on the decision of the Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Committed by the German-Fascist Invaders and Their Associates.

The Commission consists of: Member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Burdenko (Chairman of the Commission); member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Alexei Tolstoy; member of the Extraordinary State Commission the Metropolitan Nikolai; President of the All-Slav Committee, Lt.-Gen. Dundorov; the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Kolesnikov; People’s Commissar of Education of the Russian S.F.S.R.. Academician Potemkin; the Chief of the Central Medical Administration of the Red Army, Col.-Gen. Smirnov; the Chairman of the Smolensk Regional Executive Committee, Melnikov. To accomplish the task assigned to it the Commission invited the following medico-legal experts to take part in its work: Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Director of Scientific Research in the Institute of Forensic Medicine Prozorovsky; the Head of the Faculty of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow Medical Institute, Doctor of Medicine Smolyaninov; Senior Staff Scientists of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health of the U.S.S.R. Semenovsky and assistant Professor Shvaikova; Chief Pathologist of the Front, Mayor of Medical Service, Professor Voropayev.

The Special Commission had at its disposal extensive material presented by the member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Burdenko, his collaborators, and the medico-legal experts who arrived in Smolensk on September 26, 1943, immediately upon its liberation, and carried out preliminary study and investigation of the circumstances of all the crimes perpetrated by the Germans.

The Special Commission verified and ascertained on the spot that 15 kilometres from Smolensk, along the Vitebsk highway, in the section of the Katyn Forest named “Kozy Gory,” 200 metres to the S.W. of the highway in the direction of the Dnieper, there are graves in which Polish war prisoners shot by the German occupationists were buried.

On the order of the Special Commission, and in the presence of all its members and of the medico-legal experts, the graves were excavated. A large number of bodies clad in Polish military uniform were found in the graves. The total number of bodies, as calculated by the medico-legal experts, is 11,000. The medico-legal experts made detailed examinations of the exhumed bodies and of documents and material evidence discovered on the bodies and in the graves.

Simultaneously with the excavation of the graves and examination of the bodies, the Special Commission examined numerous witnesses among local residents, whose testimony establishes with precision the time and circumstances of the crimes committed by the German occupationists. The testimony of witnesses reveals the following.

The Katyn Forest

The Katyn Forest had for long been the favourite resort of Smolensk people, where they used to rest on holidays. The population of the neighbourhood grazed cattle and gathered fuel in the Katyn Forest. Access to the Katyn Forest was not banned or restricted in any way. This situation prevailed in the Katyn Forest up to the outbreak of war. Even in the summer of 1941 there was a Young Pioneers’ Camp of the Industrial Insurance Board in this forest, and it was not liquidated until July, 1941.

An entirely different regime was instituted in the Katyn Forest after the capture of Smolensk by the Germans. The forest was heavily patrolled. Notices appeared in many places warning that persons entering without special passes would be shot on the spot.

The part of the Katyn Forest named “Kozy Gory” was guarded particularly strictly, as was the area on the bank of the Dnieper, where 700 metres from the graves of the Polish war prisoners, there was a country house – the rest home of the Smolensk Administration of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Internal Affairs. When the Germans arrived this country house was taken over by a German institution named “Headquarters of the 537th Engineering Battalion.”

Polish War Prisoners in Smolensk Area

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

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

The former Chief of Camp No. 1 O.N., Major of State Security Vetoshnikov, interrupted by the Special Commission, testified: “I was waiting for the order on the removal of the camp, but communication with Smolensk was cut. Then I myself with several staff members went to Smolensk to clarify the situation. In Smolensk I found a tense situation. I applied to the chief of traffic of the Smolensk section of the Western Railway, Ivanov, asking him to provide the camp with railway cars for evacuation of the Polish war prisoners. But Ivanov answered that I could not count on receiving cars. I also tried to get in touch with Moscow to obtain permission to set out on foot, but I failed. By this time Smolensk was already cut off from the camp by the Germans, and did not know what happened to the Polish war prisoners and guards who remained in the camp.”

Engineer Ivanov, who in July 1941 was acting Chief of Traffic of the Smolensk Section of the Western Railway, testified before the Special Commission: “The Administration of Polish War Prisoners’ Camps applied to my office for cars for evacuation of the Poles, but we had none to spare. Besides, we could not send cars to the Gussino line, where the majority of the Polish war prisoners were, since that line was already under fire. Therefore, we could not comply with the request of the Camps Administration. Thus the Polish war prisoners remained in the Smolensk Region.”

The presence of the Polish war prisoners in the camps in the Smolensk Region is confirmed by the testimony of numerous witnesses who saw these Poles near Smolensk in the early months of the occupation up to September 1941 inclusive.

Witness Maria Alexandrovna Sashneva, elementary schoolteacher in the village of Zenkovo, told the Special Commission that in August 1941 she gave shelter in her house in Zenkovo to a Polish war prisoner who had escaped from camp.

“The Pole wore Polish military uniform, which I recognised at once, as during 1940 and 1941 I used to see groups of Polish war prisoners working on the road under guard… I took an interest in the Pole because it turned out that, before being called up, he had been an elementary schoolteacher in Poland. He told me that he had completed normal school in Poland and then studied at some military school and was a Junior Lieutenant of the Reserve. At the outbreak of war between Poland and Germany he was called up and served in Brest-Litovsk, where he was taken prisoner by Red Army units…. He spent over a year in the camp near Smolensk.

“When the Germans arrived they seized the Polish camp and instituted a strict regime in it. The Germans did not regard the Poles as human beings. They oppressed and outraged them in every way. On some occasions Poles were shot without any reason at all. He decided to escape. Speaking of himself, he said that his wife too, was a teacher and that he had two brothers and two sisters….”

On leaving next day the Pole gave his name, which Sashneva put down in a book. In this book, “Practical Studies in Natural History,” by Yagodovsky, which Sashneva handed to the Special Commission, there is a note on the last page: “Juzeph and Sofia Loek. House 25, Ogorodnaya St., town Zamostye.” In the list published by the Germans, under No. 3796 Lt. Juzeph Loek is put down as having been shot at “Kozy Gory” in the Katyn Forest in the spring of 1940. Thus, from the German report, it would appear that Juzeph Loek had been shot one year before the witness Sashneva saw him.

The witness Danilenkov, a peasant of the “Krasnaya Zarya” collective farm of the Katyn Rural Soviet, stated: “In August and September, 1941, when the Germans arrived, I used to meet Poles working on the roads in groups of 15 to 20.”

Similar statements were made by the following witnesses: Soldatenkov, former headman of the village of Borok; Kolachev, a Smolensk doctor; Ogloblin, a priest; Sergeyev, track foreman; Smiryagin, engineer; Moskovskaya, resident of Smolensk; Alexeyev, chairman of a collective farm in the village of Borok; Kutseev, waterworks technician; Gorodetsky, a priest; Brazekina, a bookkeeper; Vetrova, a teacher; Savvateyev, stationmaster at the Gnezdovo station, and others.

Round-Ups of Polish War Prisoners

The presence of Polish war prisoners in the autumn of 1941 in Smolensk districts is also confirmed by the fact that the Germans made numerous round-ups of those war prisoners who had escaped from the camps.

Witness Kartoshkin, a carpenter, testified: “In the autumn of 1941 the Germans not only scoured the forests for Polish war prisoners, but also used police to make night searches in the villages.”

Zakharov, former headman of the village of Novye Bateki, testified that in the autumn of 1941, the Germans intensively “combed” the villages and forests in search of Polish war prisoners. Witness Danilenkov a peasant of the Krasnaya Zarya collective farm, testified: “Special round-ups were held in our place to catch Polish war prisoners who had escaped. Some searches took place in my house two or three times. After one such search I asked the headman, Konstantin Sergeyev, whom they were looking for in our village. Sergeyev said that an order had been received from the German Kommandantur according to which searches were to be made in all houses without exception, since Polish war prisoners who had escaped from the camp were hiding in our village. After some time the searches were discontinued.”

The witness collective farmer Fatkov testified: “Round-ups and searches for Polish war prisoners took place several times. That was in August and September, 1941. After September, 1941, the round-ups were discontinued and no one saw Polish war prisoners anymore.”

Shootings of Polish War Prisoners

The above-mentioned “Headquarters of the 537th Engineering Battalion” quartered in the country house at “Kozy Gory” did not engage in any engineering work. Its activities were a closely guarded secret. What this “headquarters” engaged in, in reality, was revealed by numerous witnesses, including Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, residents of the village of Borok of the Katyn Rural Soviet.

On the order of the German Commandant of the Settlement of Katyn, they were detailed by the headman of the village of Borok, Soldatenkov, to serve the personnel of “headquarters” at the above-mentioned country house. On arrival in “Kozy Gory” they were told through an interpreter about a number of restrictions;­

They were absolutely forbidden to go far from the country house or to go to the forest to enter rooms without being called and without being, escorted by German soldiers, to remain in the grounds of the country house at night. They were allowed to come to work and leave after work only by a definite route and only escorted by soldiers. This warning was given to Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, through an interpreter, personally by the Chief of the German Institution, Ober-leutnant Arnes, who for this purpose summoned them one at a time.

As to the personnel of the “headquarters,” Alexeyeva testified: “In the ‘Kozy Gory’ country house there were always about thirty Germans. Their chief was Ober-leutnant Arnes, and his aide was Ober-leutnant Rekst. Here were also a Lieutenant Hott, Sergeant-Major Lumert, N.C.O. in charge of supplies; Rose, his assistant Isikes, Sergeant-Major Grenewski, who was in charge of the power station; the photographer, a corporal whose name I do not remember; the interpreter, a Volga German whose name seems to have been Johann, but I called him Ivan; the cook, a German named Gustav; and a number of others whose names and surnames I do not know.”

Soon after beginning their work, Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya began to notice that “something shady” was going on at the country house.

Alexeyeva testified: “The interpreter warned us several times on behalf of Arnes that we wore to hold our tongues and not chatter about what we saw and heard at the country house. Besides, I guessed from a number of signs that the Germans were engaged in some shady doings at this country house…. At the close of August and during most of September 1941 several trucks used to come practically every day to the ‘Kozy Gory’ country house. At first I paid no attention to that, but later I noticed that each time these trucks arrived at the grounds of the country house they stopped for half-an-hour, and sometimes for a whole hour, somewhere on the country road connecting the country house with the highway. I drew this conclusion because some time after these trucks reached the grounds of the country house the noise they made would cease.

“Simultaneously with the noise stopping, single shots would be heard. The shots followed one another at short but approximately even intervals. Then the shooting would die down and the trucks would drive up right to the country house. German soldiers and N.C.O.s came out of the trucks. Talking noisily they went to wash in the bathhouse, after which they engaged in drunken orgies. On those days a fire was always kept burning in the bathhouse stove.

“On days when the trucks arrived more soldiers from some German military units used to arrive at the country house. Special beds were put up for them in the soldiers’ Casino set up in one of the halls of the country house. On those days many meals were cooked in the kitchen and a double ration of drinks was served with the meals. Shortly before the trucks reached the country house armed soldiers went to the forest evidently to the spot where the trucks stopped, because in half an hour or an hour they returned in these trucks, together with the soldiers who lived permanently in the country house.

“Probably I would not have watched or noticed how the noise of the trucks coming to the country house used to die down and then rise again were it not for the fact that whenever the trucks arrived We (Konakhovskaya, Mikhailova and myself) were driven to the kitchen if we happened to be in the courtyard near the house; and they would not let us out of the kitchen if we happened to be in it. There was also the fact that on several occasions I noticed stains of fresh blood on the clothes of two Lance Corporals. All this made me pay close attention to what was going on at the country house.

“Then I noticed strange intervals in the movement of the trucks and their pauses in the forest. I also noticed that bloodstains appeared on the clothes of the same two men – the Lance Corporals. One of them was tall and red-headed, the other of medium height and fair. From all this I inferred that the Germans brought people in the truck to the country house and shot them. I even guessed approximately where this took place as, when coming to and leaving the country house, I noticed freshly thrown-up earth in several places near the road. The area of this freshly thrown-up earth increased every day. In the course of time the earth in these spots began to look normal.”

In answer to a question put by the Special Commission – what kind of people were shot in the forest near the country house – Alexeyeva replied that they were Polish war prisoners, and in confirmation of her words stated:

“There were days when no trucks arrived at the country house, but even so soldiers left the house for the forest, whence came frequent single shots. On returning the soldiers always took a bath and then drank.

“Another thing happened. Once I stayed at the country house somewhat later than usual. Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya had already left. Before I finished the work which had kept me there, a soldier suddenly entered and told me I could go. He referred to Rose’s order. He also accompanied me to the highway.

“Standing on the highway 150 or 200 metres from where the road branches off to the country house I saw a group of about 30 Polish war prisoners marching along the highway under heavy German escort. I knew them to be Poles because even before the war, and for same time after the Germans came, I used to meet on the highway Polish war prisoners wearing the same uniform with their characteristic four-cornered hats. I halted near the roadside to see where they were being led, and I saw that they turned towards our country house at ‘Kozy Gory.’

“Since by that time I had begun to watch closely everything going on at the country house, I became interested. I went back some distance along the highway, hid in bushes near the roadside, and waited. In some 20 or 30 minutes I heard the familiar single shots. Then everything became clear to me and I hurried home.

“I also concluded that evidently the Germans were shooting Poles not only in the daytime when we worked at the country house, but also at night in our absence. I understood this also from recalling the occasions when all the officers and men who lived in the country house, with the exception of the sentries, woke up late, about noon. On several occasions we guessed about the arrival of the Poles in ‘Kozy Gory’ from the tense atmosphere that descended on the country house…. All the officers left the country house and only a few sentries remained in it, while the Sergeant-Major kept checking up on the sentries over the telephone…”

Mikhailova testified: “In September, 1941, shooting was heard very often in the ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest. At first I took no notice of the trucks, which were closed at the sides and on top and painted green. They used to drive up to our country house always accompanied by N.C.O.’s. Then I noticed that these trucks never entered our garage, and also that they were never unloaded. They used to come very often, especially in September, 1941.

“Among the N.C.O.’s who always sat with the drivers I began to notice one tall one with a pale face and red hair. When these trucks drove up to the country house, all the Germans, as if at a command, went to the bathhouse and bathed for a long time, after which they drank heavily in the country house. Once this tall red-headed German got down from the truck, went to the kitchen and asked for water. When he was drinking the water out of a glass I noticed blood on the cuff of the right sleeve of his uniform.”

Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya witnessed the shooting of two Polish war prisoners who had evidently escaped from the Germans and been caught. Mikhailova testified: “Once Konakhovskaya and I were at our usual work in the kitchen when we heard a noise near the country house. On coming out we saw two Polish-war prisoners surrounded by German soldiers who were explaining something to N.C.O. Rose. Then Ober-Leutnant Arnes came over to them and told Rose something. We hid some distance away, as we were afraid that Rose would beat us up for being inquisitive.

“‘We were discovered, however, and at a signal from Rose the mechanic Grenewski drove us into the kitchen and the Poles away from the country house. A few minutes later we heard shots. The German soldiers and N.C.O. Rose, who soon returned, were engaged in animated conversation. Wanting to find out what the Germans had done to the detained Poles, Konakhovskaya and I came out again. Arnes’ aide, who came out simultaneously with us from the main entrance of the country house, asked Rose something in German, to which the latter answered, also in German: ‘Everything is in order.’ We understood these words because the Germans often used them in their conversation. From all that took place I concluded that these two Poles had been shot.”

Similar testimony was given by Konakhovskaya. Frightened by the happenings at the country house, Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya decided to quit work on some convenient pretext. Taking advantage of the reduction of their “wages” from nine to three marks a month at the beginning of January, 1942, on Mikhailova’s suggestion they did not report for work. In the evening of the same day a car came to fetch them, they were brought to the country house and locked up by way of punishment – Mikhailova for eight days and Alexeyeva and Konakhovskaya for three days each. After they had served their terms all of them were sacked.

While working at the country house Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya had been afraid to speak to each other about what they had observed of the happenings there. But during their arrest, sitting in the cell at night, they shared their knowledge.

At the interrogation on December 24, 1943, Mikhailova testified: “Here for the first time we talked frankly about the happenings at the country house. I told all I knew. It turned out that Konakhovskaya and Alexeyeva also knew these facts but, like myself, had been afraid to discuss them. I learned from them that it was Polish war prisoners the Germans used to shoot at ‘Kozy Gory.’ Alexeyeva said that once in the autumn of 1941, when she was going home from work, she saw the Germans driving a large group of Polish war prisoners into ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest and then she heard shooting.”

Similar testimony was given by Alexeyeva and Konakhovskaya. On comparing notes Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya arrived at the firm conviction that in August and September, 1941, the Germans had engaged on mass shootings of Polish war prisoners at the country house in “Kozy Gory.”

The testimony of Alexeyeva is confirmed by the testimony of her father, Mikhail Alexeyev, whom she told as far back as in the autumn of 1941, during her work at the country house, about her observations of the Germans’ activities at the country house. “For a long time she would not tell me anything,” Mikhail Alexeyev testified, “only on coming home she complained that she was afraid to work at the country house and did not know how to get away. When I asked her why she was afraid she said that very often shooting was heard in the forest. Once she told me in secret that in ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest the Germans were shooting Poles. I listened to my daughter and warned her very strictly that she should not tell anyone else about it, as otherwise the Germans would learn and then our whole family would suffer.”

That Polish war prisoners use to be brought to “Kozy Gory” in small groups of 20 to 30 men escorted by five to seven German soldiers, was also testified by other witnesses interrogated by the Special Commission: Kisselev, peasant of “Kozy Gory” hamlet; Krivozertsev, carpenter of Krasnyi Bor station in the Katyn Forest; Ivanov, former station master at Gnezdovo in the Katyn Forest area; Savvateyev, station master on duty at. the same station; Alexeyev, chairman of a collective farm in the village of Borok; Ogloblin, priest of Kuprino Church, and others. These witnesses also heard shots in the forest at “Kozy Gory.”

Of especially great importance in ascertaining what took place at “Kozy Gory” country house in the autumn of 1941 is the testimony of Professor of Astronomy Bazilevsky, director of the Smolensk Observatory. In the early days of the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, Professor Bazilevsky was forcibly appointed by the assistant Burgomaster while to the post of Burgomaster they appointed the lawyer Menshagin, who subsequently left together with them, a traitor who enjoyed the special confidence of the German Command and in particular of the Smolensk Kommandant Von Schwetz.

Early in September, 1941, Bazilevsky addressed to Menshagin a request to solicit the Kommandant Von Schwetz for the liberation of the teacher Zhiglinsky from War Prisoners Camp No. 126. In compliance with this request Menshagin approached Von Schwetz and then informed Bazilevsky that his request could not be granted since, according to Von Schwetz, “instructions had been received from Berlin prescribing that the strictest regime be maintained undeviatingly in regard to war prisoners without any slackening.”

“I involuntarily retorted,” witness Bazilevsky testified, ” ‘Can anything be stricter than the regime existing in the camp?’ Menshagin looked at me in a strange way and bending to my ear, answered in a low voice: ‘Yes, there can be! The Russians can at least be left to die off, but as to the Polish war prisoners, the orders say that they are to be simply exterminated.’ ‘How is that? How should it be understood?’ I exclaimed: ‘This should be understood literally. There is such a directive from Berlin,’ answered Menshagin, and asked me ‘for the sake of all that is Holy’ not to tell anyone about this…

“About a fortnight after this conversation with Menshagin, when I was again received by him, I could not keep from asking: ‘What news about the Poles?’ Menshagin hesitated for a little, but then answered: ‘Everything is over with them. Von Schwetz told me that they had been shot somewhere near Smolensk.’ Seeing my bewilderment Menshagin warned me again about the necessity of keeping this affair in the strictest secrecy and then started ‘explaining’ to me the Germans’ policy in this matter. He told me that the shooting of Poles was one link in the general chain of anti-Polish policy pursued by Germany, which became especially marked in connection with the conclusion of the Russo-Polish Treaty.”

Bazilevsky also told the Special Commission about his conversation with the Sonderfuehrer of the 7th Department of the German Kommandant’s Office, Hirschfeld, a Baltic German who spoke good Russian:

“With cynical frankness Hirschfeld told me that the harmfulness and inferiority of the Poles had been proved by history and therefore reduction of Poland’s population would fertilise the soil and make possible an extension of Germany’s living space. In this connection Hirschfeld boasted that absolutely no intellectuals had been left in Poland, as they had all been hanged, shot or confined in camps.”

Bazilevsky’s testimony is confirmed by the witness Yefimov, Professor of Physics, who has been interrogated by the Special Commission and whom Bazilevsky at that time, in the autumn of 1941, told about his conversation with Menshagin.

Documentary corroboration of Bazilevsky’s and Yefimov’s testimony is supplied by notes made by Menshagin in his own hand in his notebook. This notebook, containing 17 incomplete pages, was found in the files of the Smolensk Municipal Board after the liberation of Smolensk by the Red Army. Menshagin’s ownership of the notebook and his handwriting have been confirmed both by Bazilevsky, who knew Menshagin’s hand well, and by expert graphologists.

Judging by the dates in the notebook, its contents relate to the period from early August, 1941, to November of the same year. Among the various notes on economic matters (on firewood, electric power, trade, etc.) there is a number of notes made by Menshagin evidently as a reminder of instructions issued by the German commandant’s office in Smolensk. These notes reveal with sufficient clarity the range of problems with which the Municipal Board dealt as the organ fulfilling all the instructions of the German Command.

The first three pages of the notebook lay down in detail the procedure in organising the Jewish “Ghetto” and the system of reprisals to be applied against the Jews.

Page 10, dated August 15, 1941, contains the following note: “All fugitive Polish war prisoners are to be detained and delivered to the commandant’s office.” Page 15 (undated) contains the entry: “Are there any rumours among the population concerning the shooting of Polish war prisoners in ‘Kozy Gory’ (for Umnov).”

It transpires from the first entry, firstly, that on August 15, 1941, Polish war prisoners were still in the Smolensk area and, secondly, that they were being arrested by the German authorities. The second entry indicates that the German Command, worried by the possibility of rumours about the crime it had committed circulating among the civilian population, issued special instructions for the purpose of checking this surmise. Umnov, mentioned in this entry, was the Chief of the Russian Police in Smolensk during the early months of its occupation.

Beginning of German Provocation

In the winter of 1942-43 the general military situation changed sharply to the disadvantage of the Germans. The military power of the Soviet Union was continually growing stronger. The unity between the U.S.S.R. and her Allies was growing stronger. The Germans resolved to launch a provocation, using for this purpose the crimes they had committed in the Katyn Forest, and ascribing them to the organs of the Soviet authorities. In this way they intended to set the Russians and Poles at loggerheads and to cover up the traces of their own crimes. A priest, Ogloblin, of the village of Kuprino in the Smolensk district, stated:

“After the events at Stalingrad, when the Germans began to feel uncertain, they launched this business. The people started to say that ‘the Germans are trying to mend their affairs.’ Having embarked on the preparation of the Katyn provocation, the Germans first set about looking for witnesses who would, under the influence of persuasion, bribes or threats, give the testimony which the Germans needed. The attention of the Germans was attracted to the peasant Parfen Gavrilovich Kisselev, born in 1870, who lived in the hamlet nearest to the house in ‘Kozy Gory.’ “

Kisselev was summoned to the Gestapo at the close of 1942. Under the threat of reprisals, they demanded of him fictitious testimony alleging that he knew that in the spring of 1940 the Bolsheviks shot Polish war prisoners at the country house of the administration of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in “Kozy Gory.”

Kisselev informed the Commission: “In the autumn of 1942 two policemen came to my house and ordered me to report to the Gestapo at Gnezdovo station. On that same day I went to the Gestapo, which had its premises in a two-storeyed house next to the railway station. In a room there were a German officer and interpreter. The German officer started asking me through the interpreter how long I had lived in that district, what my occupation and my material circumstances were. I told him that I had lived in the hamlet in the area of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ since 1907 and worked on my farm. As to my material circumstances, I said that I had experienced some difficulties since I was old and my sons were at the war.

“After a brief conversation on this subject, the officer stated that, according to information at the disposal of the Gestapo, in 1940, in the area of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ in the Katyn Forest, staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shot Polish officers, and he asked me what testimony I could give on this score. I answered that I had never heard of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs shooting people at ‘Kozy Gory,’ and that anyhow it was impossible, I explained to the officer, since ‘Kozy Gory’ is an absolutely open and much frequented place, and if shootings had gone on there the entire population of the neighbouring villages would have known.

“The officer told me I must nevertheless give such evidence because he alleged the shootings did take place. I was promised a big reward for this testimony. I told the officer again that I did not know anything about shootings, and that nothing of the sort could have taken place in our locality before the war. In spite of this the officer obstinately insisted on my giving false evidence.

“After the first conversation about which I have already spoken, I was summoned again to the Gestapo in February, 1943. By that time I knew that other residents of neighbouring villages had also been summoned to the Gestapo and that the same testimony they demanded of me had also been demanded of them.

“At the Gestapo the same officer and interpreter who had interrogated me the first time again demanded of me evidence that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers, allegedly effected by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940. I again told the Gestapo officer that this was a lie, as before the war I had not heard anything about any shootings, and that I would not give false evidence. The interpreter, however, would not listen to me, but took a handwritten document from the desk and read it to me. It said that I, Kisselev, resident of a hamlet in the ‘Kozy Gory’ area, personally witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“Having read this document, the interpreter told me to sign it. I refused to do so. The interpreter began to force me to do it by abuse and threats. Finally he shouted: ‘Either you sign it at once or we shall destroy you. Make your choice!’

“Frightened by these threats, I signed the document and thought that would be the end of the matter.”

Later, after the Germans had arranged visits to the Katyn graves by various “delegations,” Kisselev was made to speak before a “Polish delegation” which arrived there. Kisselev forgot the contents of the protocol he had signed at the Gestapo, got mixed up, and finally refused to speak. The Gestapo then arrested Kisselev, and, by ruthless beatings, in the course of six weeks again obtained his consent to “public speeches.”

In this connection Kisselev stated: “In reality things went quite a different way. In spring, 1943, the Germans announced that in the “Kozy Gory” area in Katyn Forest they had discovered the graves of Polish officers allegedly shot in 1940by organs of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Soon after that the Gestapo interpreter cattle to my house and took me to the forest in the “Kozy Gory” area.

“When we had left the house and were alone together, the interpreter warned me that I must tell the people present in the forest everything exactly as it was written down in the document I had signed at the Gestapo.

“When I came into the forest I saw open graves and a group of strangers. The interpreter told me that these were ‘Polish delegates’ who had arrived to inspect the graves. When we approached the graves the ‘delegates’ started asking me various questions in Russian in connection with the shooting of Poles, but as more than a month had passed since I had been summoned to the Gestapo I forgot everything that was in the document I had signed, got mixed up, and finally said I did not know anything about the shooting of Polish officers.

“The German officer got very angry. The interpreter roughly dragged me away from the ‘delegation’ and chased me off. Next morning a car with a Gestapo officer drove up to my house. He found me in the yard, told me that I was under arrest, put me into the car and took me to Smolensk Prison…

“After my arrest I was interrogated many times, but they beat me more than they questioned me. The first time they summoned me they beat me up heavily and abused me, complaining that I had let them down, and then sent me back to the cell. During the next summons they told me I must state publicly that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by the Bolsheviks, and that until the Gestapo was satisfied I would do this in good faith I would not be released from prison. I told the officer that I would rather sit in prison than tell people lies to their faces. After that I was badly beaten up.

“There were several such interrogations accompanied by beatings, and as a result I lost all my strength, my hearing became poor and I could not move my right arm. About one month after my arrest a German officer summoned me and said: ‘You see the consequences of your obstinacy, Kisselev. We have decided to execute you. In the morning we shall take you to Katyn Forest and hang you.’ I asked the officer not to do this, and started pleading with him that I was not fit for the part of ‘eye-witness’ of the shooting as I did not know how to tell lies and therefore I would mix everything up again.

“The officer continued to insist. Several minutes later soldiers came into the room and started beating me with rubber clubs. Being unable to stand the beatings and torture, I agreed to appear publicly with a fallacious tale about shooting of Poles by Bolsheviks. After that I was released from prison on condition that on the first demand of the Germans I would speak before ‘delegations’ in Katyn Forest…

On every occasion, before leading me to the graves in the forest, the interpreter; used to come to my house, call me out into the yard, take me aside to make sure that no one would hear, and for half an hour make me memorise by heart everything I would have to say about the alleged shooting of Polish officers by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“I recall that the interpreter told me something like this: ‘I live in a cottage in ‘Kozy Gory’ area not far from the country house of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In spring 1940 I saw Poles taken on various nights to the forest and shot there.’ Andthen it was imperative that I must state literally that “this was the doing of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.” After I had memorised what the interpreter told me, he would take me to the open graves in the forest and compel me to repeat all this in the presence of ‘delegations’ which came there.

“My statements were strictly supervised and directed by the Gestapo interpreter. Once when I spoke before some ‘delegation’ I was asked the question: ‘Did you see these Poles personally before they were shot by the Bolsheviks?’ I was not prepared for such a question and answered the way it was in fact, i.e., that I saw Polish war prisoners before the war, as they worked on the roads. Then the interpreter roughly dragged me aside and drove me home.

“Please believe me when I say that all the time I felt pangs of conscience, as I knew that in reality the Polish officers had been shot by the Germans in 1941. I had no other choice, as I was constantly threatened with the repetition of my arrest and torture.”

Kisselev’s testimony regarding his summons to the Gestapo, subsequent arrest and beatings are confirmed by his wife Aksinya Kisseleva, born 1870, his son Vassily Kisselev, born 1911, and his daughter-in-law Mariya Kisseleva, born 1918, who live with him, as well as by track foreman Timofey Sergeyev, born 1901, who rents a room in Kisselev’s hamlet. The injuries caused to Kisselev at the Gestapo (injury of shoulder, considerable impairment of hearing) are confirmed by a protocol of medical examination.

In their search for “witnesses” the Germans subsequently became interested in railway workers at the Gnezdovo station, two and half kilometres from “Kozy Gory,” the station at which the Polish prisoners arrived in spring 1940. The Germans evidently wanted to obtain corresponding testimony from the railwaymen. For this purpose, in spring 1943, the Germans summoned to the Gestapo the ex-stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, Ivanov, the stationmaster on duty, Savvateyev, and others.

Ivanov, born in 1882, gave the following account of the circumstances in which he was summoned to the Gestapo: “It was in March 1943. I was interrogated by a German officer in the presence of an interpreter. Having asked me through the interpreter who I was and what post I held at Gnezdovo station before the occupation of the district by the Germans, the officer inquired whether I knew that in spring 1940 large parties of captured Polish officers had arrived at Gnezdovo station in several trains. I said that I knew about this, The officer then asked me whether I knew that in the same spring 1940, soon after the arrival of the Polish officers, the Bolsheviks had shot them all in the Katyn Forest. I answered that I did not know anything about that, and that it could not be so, as in the course of 1940-41, up to the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, I had met captured Polish officers who had arrived in spring 1940 at Gnezdovo station, and who were engaged in road construction work.

“The officer told me that if a German officer said the Poles had been shot by the Bolsheviks it meant that this was the fact. ‘Therefore,’ the officer continued, ‘you need not fear anything, and you can sign with a clear conscience a protocol saying that the captured Polish officers were shot by the Bolsheviks and that you witnessed it.’’

“I replied that I was already an old man, that I was 61 years old, and did not want to commita sin in my old age. I could only testify that the captured Poles really arrived at Gnezdovo station in spring 1940. The German officer began to persuade me to give the required testimony promising that if I agreed he would promote me from the position of watchman on a railway crossing to that of stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, which I had held under the Soviet Government, and also to provide for my material needs.

“The interpreter emphasised that my testimony as a former railway official at Gnezdovo station, the nearest station to Katyn Forest, was extremely important for the German Command, and that I would not regret it if I gave such testimony. I understood that I had landed in an extremely difficult situation, and that a sad fate awaited me. However, I again refused to give false testimony to the German officer. He started shouting at me, threatened me with beating and shooting, and said I did not understand what was good for me. However, I stood my ground. The interpreter then drew up a short protocol in German on one page, and gave me a free translation of its contents. This protocol recorded, as the interpreter told me, only the fact of the arrival of the Polish war prisoners at Gnezdovo station. When I asked that my testimony be recorded not only in German but also in Russian, the officer finally went beside himself with fury, beat me up with a rubber club and drove me off the premises….”

Savvateyev, born in 1880, stated: “In the Gestapo I testified that in spring 1940 Polish war prisoners arrived at the station of Gnezdovo in several trains and proceeded further in trucks, and 1 did not know where they went. I also added that I repeatedly met these Poles later on the Moscow-Minsk highway, where they were working on repairs in small groups. The officer told me. I was mixing things up, that I could not have the Poles on the highway, as they had been shot by the Bolsheviks, and demanded that I testify to this.

“I refused. After threatening and cajoling me for a long time, the officer consulted with the interpreter about something in German, and then the interpreter wrote a short protocol and gave it to me to sign. He explained that it was a record of my testimony. I asked the interpreter to let me read the protocol myself, but he interrupted me with abuse, ordering me to sign it immediately and get out. I hesitated a minute. The interpreter seized a rubber club hanging on the wall and made to strike me. After that I signed the protocol shoved at me: The interpreter told me to get out and go home, and not to talk to anyone or I would be shot.

The search for “witnesses” was not limited to the above-mentioned persons. The Germans strove persistently to locate former employees of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and extort from them the false testimony which the Germans needed.

Having chanced to arrest Ignatyuk, formerly a labourer in the garage of the Smolensk Regional Administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, the Germans stubbornly, by threats and beatings, tried to extort from him testimony that he had been a car driver and not merely a labourer in the garage, and had himself driven Polish war prisoners to the shooting site.

Ignatyuk, born in 1903, testified in this connection: “When I was examined for the first time by Chief of Police Alferchik, he accused me of agitating against the German authorities, and asked what work I had done for the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. I replied that I had worked in the garage of the Smolensk Regional Administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs as a labourer. At this examination Alferchik tried to get me to testify that I had worked as a car driver and not as a labourer. Alferchik was greatly irritated by his failure to obtain the required testimony from me, and he and his aide, whom he called George, tied up my head and mouth with some rag, removed my trousers, laid me on a table and began to beat me with rubber clubs.

“After that I was summoned again for examination, and Alferchik demanded that I give him false testimony to the effect that the Polish officers had been shot in Katyn Forest by organs of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs in 1940, of which I allegedly was aware, as a chauffeur who had taken part in driving the Polish officers to Katyn Forest, and who had been present at their shooting. Alferchik promised to liberate me from prison if I would agree to give such testimony, and get me a job with the police where I would be given good living conditions – otherwise they would shoot me…

“The last time I was interrogated in the police station by examiner Alexandrov, who demanded from me the same false testimony about the shooting of the Polish officers as Alferchik, but at this examination, too, I refused to give false evidence. After this examination I was again beaten up and sent to the Gestapo… In the Gestapo; just as at the police station, they demanded from me false evidence about the shooting of the Polish officers in Katyn Forest in 1940 by Soviet authorities, of which I as car driver was allegedly aware.”

A book published by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and containing material about the “Katyn Affair” fabricated by the Germans, refers to other “witnesses” besides the above-mentioned Kisselev: Godesov (alias Godunov) born in 1877, Grigori Silversov, born in 1891, Ivan Andreyev, born in 1917, Mikhail Zhigulev, born in 1915, Ivan Krivozertsev, born in 1915, and Matvey Zakharov, born in 1893.

A check-up revealed that the first two of the above persons (Godesov and Silversov) died in 1943 before the liberation of the Smolensk Region by the Red Army; the next three (Andreyev, Zhigulev and Krivozertsev) left with the Germans, or perhaps were forcibly abducted by them, while the last – Matvey Zakharov – formerly a coupler at Smolensk Station, who worked under the Germans as headman in the village Novye Bateki, was located and examined by the Special Commission.

Zakharov related how the Germans got from him the false testimony they needed about the “Katyn affair”: “Early in March, 1943, an employee of the Gnezdovo Gestapo whose name I do not know came to my house and told me that an officer wanted to see me. When I arrived at the Gestapo a German officer told me through an interpreter: ‘We know you worked as coupler at Smolensk Central Station and you must testify that in 1940 cars with Polish war prisoners passed through Smolensk on the way to Gnezdovo, after which the Poles were shot in the forest at ‘Kozy Gory.’ ’ In reply I stated that in 1940 cars with Poles did pass Smolensk westwards, but I did not know what their destination was.

“The officer told me that if I did not want to testify of my own accord he would force me to do so. After saying this he took a rubber club and began to beat me up. Then I was laid on a bench and the officer, together with the interpreter, beat me. I do not remember how many strokes I had, because I soon fainted.

“When I came to, the officer demanded that I sign a protocol of the examination. I had lost courage as a result of the beating and threats of shooting, so I gave false evidence and signed the protocol. After I had signed the protocol I was released from the Gestapo.

“Several days after I had been summoned to the Gestapo, approximately in mid-March, 1943, the interpreter came to my house and said I must go to the German general and confirm my testimony in his presence. The general asked me whether I confirmed my testimony. I said I did confirm it, as on the way I had been warned by the interpreter that if I refused to confirm the testimony I would have a much worse experience than I had on my first visit to the Gestapo.

“Fearing a repetition of the torture, I replied that I confirmed my testimony. Then the interpreter ordered me to raise my right hand, and told me I had taken an oath and could go home.”

It has been established that in other cases also the Germans used persuasion, threats and torture in trying to obtain the testimony they needed, for example, from Kaverznev, former deputy chief of the Smolensk Prison, and Kovalev, former staff member of the same prison. Since the search for the required number of witnesses failed to yield any success, the Germans posted up in Smolensk city and neighbouring villages the following handbill, an original of which is on the files of the Special Commission:

“Notice to the population. Who can give information concerning the mass murder of prisoners, Polish officers and priests by the Bolsheviks in the forest of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ near the Gnezdovo-Katyn highway in 1940? Who saw columns of trucks on their way from Gnezdovo to ‘Kozy Gory,’ or who saw or heard the shootings? Who knows residents who can tell about this! Rewards will be given for any information. Information to be sent to Smolensk, German Police Station, No. 6, Muzeinaya Street, and in Gnezdovo to the German Police Station, house No. 105 near the railway station. Foss, Lieutenant of Field Force, May 3, 1943.”

A similar notice was printed in the newspaper “Novy Put,” published by the Germans in Smolensk – No. 35 (157) for May 6, 1943.

The fact that the Germans promised rewards for the evidence they needed on the”Katyn affair” was confirmed by witnesses called by the Special Commission: Sokolova, Pushchina, Bychkov, Tondarev, Ustinov and many other residents of Smolensk.

Preparing Katyn Graves

Along with the search for “witnesses” the Germans proceeded with the preparation of the graves in Katyn Forest: they removed from the clothing of the Polish prisoners whom they had killed all documents dated later than April, 1940 – that is, the time when, according to the German provocational version, the Poles were shot by the Bolsheviks – and removed all material evidence which could disprove this provocational version. In its investigation the Special Commission revealed that for this purpose the Germans used up to 500 Russian war prisoners specially selected from war prisoners’ camp No. 126.

The Special Commission has at its disposal numerous statements of witnesses on this matter. The evidence of the medical personnel of the above-mentioned camp merits special attention. Dr. Chizhov, who worked in camp No. 126 during the German occupation of Smolensk, testified:

“Just about the beginning of March 1943 several groups of the physically stronger war prisoners, totalling about 500, were sent from the Smolensk Camp No. 126 ostensibly for trench work. None of these prisoners ever returned to the camp.”

Dr. Khmurov, who worked in the same camp under the Germans, testified:

“I know that somewhere about the second half of February or the beginning of March, 1943, about 500 Red Army men prisoners were sent from our camp to a destination unknown to me. The prisoners were apparently to be use for trench digging, for the more physically fit men were selected…”

Identical evidence was given by medical nurse Lenkovskaya, medical nurse Timofeyeva, and witnesses Orlova, Dobroserdova and Kochetkov.

The testimony of Moskovskaya made it clear where the 500 war prisoners from Camp 126 were actually sent. On October 5, 1943, the citizen Moskovskaya, Alexandra Mikhailovna, who lived on the outskirts of Smolensk and had worked during the occupation in the kitchen of a German military unit, filed an application to the Extraordinary Committee for the Investigation of Atrocities Perpetuated by the German Invaders, requesting them to summon her to give important evidence. She told the Special Commission that before leaving for work in March, 1943, when she went to fetch firewood from her shed in the yard on the banks of the Dnieper, she discovered there an unknown person who proved to be a Russian war prisoner.

Moskovskaya, who was born in 1922, testified:

“From conversation with him I learned that his name was Nikolai Yegorov, a native of Leningrad. Since the end of 1941 he had been in the German camp No. 126 for war prisoners in the town of Smolensk. At the beginning of March 1943, he was sent with a column of several hundred war prisoners from the camp to Katyn Forest. There they, including Yegorov, were compelled to dig up graves containing bodies in the uniforms of Polish officers, drag these bodies out of the graves and take out of their pockets documents, letters, photographs and all other articles.

“The Germans gave the strictest orders that nothing be left in the pockets on the bodies. Two war prisoners were shot because after they had searched some of the bodies, a German officer discovered some papers on these bodies. Articles, documents and letters extracted from the clothing on the bodies were examined by the German officers, who then compelled the prisoners to put part of the papers back into the pockets on the bodies, while the rest was flung on a heap of articles and documents they had extracted, and later burned.

“Besides this, the Germans made the prisoners put into the pockets of the Polish officers some papers which they took from the cases or suitcases (I don’t remember exactly) which they had brought along. All the war prisoners lived in Katyn Forest in dreadful conditions under the open sky, and were extremely strongly guarded…. At the beginning of April 1943, all the work planned by the Germans was apparently completed, as for three days not one of the war prisoners had to do any work….

“Suddenly at night all of them without exception were awakened and led somewhere. The guard was strengthened. Yegorov sensed something was wrong and began to watch very closely everything that was happening. They marched for three or four hours in an unknown direction. They stopped in the forest at a pit in a clearing. He saw how a group of war prisoners were separated from the rest and driven towards the pit and then shot. The war prisoners grew agitated, restless and noisy. Not far from Yegorov several war prisoners attacked the guards. Other guards ran towards the place. Yegorov took advantage of the confusion and ran away into the dark forest, hearing shouts and firing.

“After hearing this terrible story, which is engraved on my memory for the rest of my life, I became very sorry for Yegorov, and told him to come to my room, get warm and hide at my place until he had regained his strength. But Yegorov refused…. He said no matter what happened he was going away that very night, and intended to try to get through the front line to the Red Army. In the morning, when I went to make sure whether Yegorov had gone, he was still in the shed. It appeared that in the night he had attempted to set out, but had only taken about 50 steps when he felt so weak that he was forced to return. This exhaustion was caused by the long imprisonment at the camp and the starvation of the last days. We decided he should remain at my place several days longer to regain his strength. After feeding Yegorov I went to work. When I returned home in the evening my neighbours Baranova, Mariya Ivanovna, Kabanovskaya, Yekaterina Viktorovna told me that in the afternoon, during a search by the German police, the Red Army war prisoner had been found, and taken away.”

As a result of the discovery of the war prisoner Yegorov in the shed, Moskovskaya was called to the Gestapo, where she was accused of hiding a war prisoner. At the Gestapo interrogation Moskovskaya stoutly denied that she had any connection with this war prisoner, maintaining she knew nothing about his presence in her shed. Since they got no admission from Moskovskaya, and also because the war prisoner Yegorov evidently had not incriminated Moskovskaya, she was let out of the Gestapo.

This same Yegorov told Moskovskaya that as well as excavating bodies in Katyn Forest, the war prisoners were used to bring bodies to the Katyn Forest from other places.

The bodies so brought were thrown into pits along with the bodies that had been dug up earlier. The fact that a great number of bodies of people shot by the Germans in other places were brought to the Katyn graves is confirmed also by the testimony of engineer mechanic K. S. Sukhachev, born in 1912, an engineer mechanic of the “Rosglavkhleb” combine, who worked under the Germans as a mechanic in the Smolensk city mill. On October 8, 1943, he filed a request that he be called to testify. Called before the Special Commission, he stated:

“I was working at the mill in the second half of March, 1943. There I spoke to a German chauffeur who spoke a little Russian, and since he was carrying flour to Savenki village for the troops, and was returning on the next day to Smolensk, I asked him to take me along so that I could buy some fats in the village. My idea was that making the trip in a German truck would get over the risk of being held up at the control stations. The German agreed to take me, at a price.

“On the same day at 10 p.m. we drove on to the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway, just myself and the German driver in the machine. The night was light, and only a low mist over the road reduced the visibility. Approximately 22 or 23 kilometres from Smolensk at a demolished bridge on the highway there is a rather deep descent at the by-pass. We began to go down from the highway, when suddenly a truck appeared out of the fog coming towards us. Either because our brakes were out of order, or because the driver was inexperienced, we were unable to bring our truck to a halt, and since the passage was quite narrow we collided with the truck coming towards us. The impact was not very violent, as the driver of the other truck swerved to the side, as a result of which the trucks bumped and slid alongside each other.

“The right wheel of the other truck, however, landed in the ditch, and the truck fell over on the slope. Our truck remained upright. The driver and I immediately jumped out of the cabin and ran up to the truck which had fallen down. We were met by a heavy stench of putrefying flesh coming evidently from the truck.”

“On coming nearer, I saw that the truck was carrying a load covered with a tarpaulin and tied up with ropes. The ropes had snapped with the impact, and part of the load had fallen out on the slope. This was a horrible load – human bodies dressed in military uniforms. As far as I can remember there were some six or seven men near the truck: one German driver, two Germans armed with tommy-guns – the rest were Russian war prisoners, as they spoke Russian and were dressed accordingly.

“The Germans began to abuse my driver and then made some attempts to right the truck. In about two minutes time two more trucks drove up to the place of the accident and pulled up. A group of Germans and Russian war prisoners, about ten men in all, came up to us from these trucks…. By joint efforts we began to raise the truck. Taking advantage of an opportune moment I asked one of the Russian war prisoners in a low voice: ‘What is it?’ He answered very quietly: ‘For many nights already we have been carrying bodies to Katyn Forest.’

“Before the overturned truck had been raised a German N.C.O. came up to me and my driver and ordered us to proceed immediately. As no serious damage had been done to our truck the driver steered it a little to one side and got on to the highway, and we went on. When we were passing the two covered trucks which had come up later I again smelled the horrible stench of dead bodies.”

Sukhachev’s testimony is confirmed by that of Vladimir Afanasievich Yegorov, who served as policeman in the Police Station during the occupation. Yegorov testified that when owing to the nature of his duties he was guarding a bridge at a crossing of the Moscow-Minsk and Smolensk-Vitebsk highways at the end of March and early in April, 1943, he saw going towards Smolensk on several nights big trucks covered with tarpaulins and spreading a heavy stench of dead flesh. Several men, some of whom were armed and were undoubtedly Germans, sat in the driver’s cabin of each truck, and behind.

Yegorov reported his observations to Kuzma Demyanovich Golovney, Chief of the Police Station in the village of Arkhipovka, who advised him to “hold his tongue” and added: “This does not concern us. We have no business to be mixing in German affairs.”

That the Germans were carrying bodies on trucks to the Katyn Forest is testified by Frol Maximovich Yalovlev-Sokolov (born in 1896), a former agent for restaurant supplies in the Smolensk Restaurant Trust and, under the Germans, Chief of Police of Katyn. He stated that once, early in April, 1943, he himself saw four tarpaulin-covered trucks passing along the highway to Katyn Forest. Several men armed with tommy-guns and rifles rode in them. An acrid stench of flesh came from these trucks.

From the above testimony it can be concluded with all clarity that the Germans shot Poles in other places too. In bringing their bodies to the Katyn Forest they pursued a triple object: firstly to destroy the traces of their own crimes, secondly to ascribe their own crimes to the Soviet Government, thirdly to increase the number of “victims of Bolshevism” in the Katyn Forest graves.

Excursions to the Katyn Graves

In April, 1943, having finished all the preparatory work at the graves in Katyn Forest, the German occupationists began a wide campaign in the Press and over the radio in an attempt to ascribe to the Soviet Power atrocities they themselves had committed against Polish war prisoners. As one method of provocational agitation, the Germans arranged visits to the Katyn graves by residents of Smolensk and its suburbs as well as “delegations” from countries occupied by the German invaders or their vassals. The Special Commission questioned a number of delegates who took part in the “excursions” to the Katyn graves.

Zhukov, a doctor specialising in pathological anatomy who worked as Medico-Legal Expert in Smolensk, testified before the Special Commission: “The clothing of the bodies, particularly the greatcoats, boots and belts, were in a good state of preservation. The metal parts of the clothing – belt buckles, button hooks and spikes on shoe soles, etc. – were not heavily rusted, and in some cases the metal still retained its polish. Sections of the skin of the bodies which could be seen – faces, necks, arms – were chiefly a dirty green colour, and in some cases dirty brown, but there was no complete disintegration of the tissues, no putrefaction. In some cases bared tendons of whitish colour and parts of muscles could be seen.

“While I was at the excavations people were at work sorting and extracting bodies at the bottom of a big pit. For this purpose they used spades and other tools, and also took hold of bodies with their hands and dragged them from place to place by the arms, the legs or the clothing. I did not see a single case of bodies falling apart or of any member being torn off.

“Considering all the above, I arrived at the conclusion that the bodies had remained in the earth not three years, as the Germans affirmed, but much less. Knowing that in mass graves, and especially without coffins, putrefaction of bodies progresses more quickly than in single graves, I concluded that the mass shooting of the Poles had taken place about a year and a-half ago, and could have occurred in autumn 1941 or in spring, 1942. As a result of my visit to the excavation site I became firmly convinced that a monstrous crime had been committed by the Germans.”

Testimony to the effect that the clothing of the bodies, its metal parts, shoes and even the bodies themselves were well preserved was given by numerous witnesses who took part in “excursions” to the Katyn graves and who were questioned by the Special Commission. These witnesses include the manager of the Smolensk Water Supply System, Kitzev; a Katyn school teacher, Vetrova; a telephone operator of Smolensk Communications Bureau, Shchedrova; a resident of the village of Borok, Alexeyev; a resident of the village of Novye Bateki, Krivozertsev; the stationmaster on duty at Gnezdovo station, Savvateyev; a citizen of Smolensk, Pushchina; a doctor at the Second Smolensk Hospital, Sidoruk; Kesserev, a doctor at the same hospital.

Germans Attempt To Cover Up Traces of Their Crimes

The “excursions” organised by the Germans failed to achieve their aim. All who visited the graves saw for themselves that they were confronted with the crudest and most obvious German-Fascist frame-up. The German authorities accordingly took steps to make the doubters keep quiet. The Special Commission heard the testimony of a great number of witnesses who related how the German authorities persecuted those who doubted or disbelieved the provocation. These doubters were discharged from work, arrested, threatened with shooting.

The Commission established that in two cases people were shot for failure to “hold their tongues.” Such reprisals were taken against the former German policeman Zagainev, and against Yegorov, who worked on the excavation of graves in Katyn Forest. Testimony about the persecution of people who expressed doubt after visiting the graves in Katyn Forest was given by Zubareva, a woman cleaner employed by Drug Store No. 1 in Smolensk; Kozlova, assistant sanitation doctor of Stalin District Health Department in Smolensk, and others.

Yakovlev-Sokolov, former Chief of Police of Katyn area, testified: “A situation arose which caused serious alarm in the German Commandant’s Office, and police organs in the periphery were given urgent instructions to nip in the bud all harmful talk at any price, and arrest all persons who expressed disbelief in the ‘Katyn affair.’ I myself, as chief of the area police, was given instructions to this effect at the end of May 1943 by the German commandant of the village of Katyn, Oberleutnant Braung, and at the beginning of June by the chief of Smolensk District Police, Kamensky.

“I called an instructional conference of the police in my area, at which I ordered the police to detain and bring to the police station anyone who expressed disbelief or doubted the truth of German reports about the shooting of Polish war prisoners by the Bolsheviks. In fulfilling these instructions of the German authorities I clearly acted against my conscience, as I myself was certain that the ‘Katyn affair’ was a German frame-up. I became finally convinced of that when I myself made an ‘excursion’ to Katyn Forest.”

Seeing that the summer 1943 “excursions” of the local population to the Katyn graves did not achieve their purpose, the German occupation authorities ordered the graves to be filled in. Before their retreat from Smolensk they began hastily to cover up the traces of their crimes. The country house occupied by the “H.Q. of the 537th Building Battalion” was burned to the ground.

The Germans searched for the three girls Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya – In the village of Borok in order to take them away and perhaps to kill them. They also searched for their main “witness,” Kisselev, who together with his family had succeeded in hiding. The Germans burned down his house. They endeavoured to seize other “witnesses” too – the former stationmaster of Gnezdovo, Ivanov, and the former acting stationmaster of the same station, Savvateyev, as well as the former coupler at the Smolensk station, Zakharov.

During the very last days before their retreat from Smolensk, the German-Fascist occupationists looked for Professors Bazilevsky and Yefimov. Both succeeded in evading deportation or death only because they had escaped in good time. Nevertheless, the German-Fascist invaders did not succeed in covering up the traces of or concealing their crime.

Examination by medico-legal experts of the exhumed bodies proved irrefutably that the Polish war prisoners were shot by the Germans themselves. The protocol of the Medico-Legal Experts’ Investigation follows.

Protocol of the Medico-Legal Experts’ Investigation

In accordance with the instructions of the Special Commission for ascertaining and investigating the circumstances of the shooting of Polish officers prisoners by the German-Fascist invaders in Katyn Forest (near Smolensk), a Commission of Medico-Legal Experts was set up consisting of Prozorovsky, Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R. and Director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine; Doctor of Medicine Smolyaninov, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow State Medical Institute; Doctor of Medicine Voropayev, Professor of Pathological Anatomy; Doctor Semenovsky, senior staff scientist of the Thanatology Department of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R.; Assistant Professor Shvaikova senior staff scientist of the Chemico-Legal Department of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R.; with the participation of Major of Medical Service Nikolsky, Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the Western Front; Captain of Medical Service Bussoyedov, Medico-Legal Expert of the X. Army; Major of Medical Service, Subbotin, Chief of Pathological Anatomy Laboratory No. 92; Major of Medical Service Ogloblin; Senior Lieutenant of Medical Service Sadykov, medical specialist; Senior Lieutenant of Medical Service Pushkareva.

During the period between January 16 and January 23, 1944, these medico-legal experts conducted exhumation and medico-legal examination of the bodies of Polish war prisoners buried in graves on the territory of “Kozy Gory” in Katyn Forest 15 kms. from Smolensk. The bodies of Polish war prisoners were buried in a common grave about 60 by 60 by three metres in dimension, and also in another grave about seven by six by three and a half metres. Nine hundred and twenty-five bodies were exhumed from the graves and examined. The exhumation and medico-legal examination of the bodies were effected in order to establish: (a) identity of the dead; (b) causes of death; (c) time of burial.

Circumstances of the case: See materials of the Special Commission. Objective evidence: See the protocols of the medico-legal examination of the bodies.

Conclusion of Medico-Legal Experts

On the basis of the results of the medico-legal examination of the bodies, the commission of medico-legal experts arrived at the following conclusion:

Upon the opening of the graves and exhumations of bodies from them, it was established that:

(a) Among the mass of bodies of Polish war prisoners there were bodies in civilian clothes, the number of which, in relation to the total number of bodies examined, is insignificant (in all two out of 925 exhumed bodies); shoes of army pattern were on these bodies.

(b) The clothing on the bodies of the war prisoners showed that they were officers, and included some privates of the Polish Anny.

(c) Slits in the pockets, pockets turned inside out, and tears in them discovered during examination of the clothing show that as a rule all the clothes on each body (greatcoats, trousers, etc.) bear traces of searches effected of the dead bodies.

(d) In some cases whole pockets were found during examination of the clothing, scraps of newspapers, prayer books, pocket books, postage stamps, postcards and letters, receipts, notes and other documents, as well as articles of value (a gold nugget, dollars). Pipes, pocket knives, cigarette papers, handkerchiefs and other articles were found in these pockets, as well as in the turned-out and torn pockets, under the linings, in the belts of the coats, in footwear and socks.

(e) Some of the documents found contain data referring to the period between November 12, 1940, and June 20, 1941.

(f) The fabric of clothes, especially of greatcoats, uniforms, trousers and tunics, is in a good state of preservation and can be torn with the hands only with great difficulty.

(g) A very small proportion of the bodies (20 out of 925) had the hands tied behind the back with woven cords. The condition of the clothes on the bodies – namely the fact that uniform jackets, shirts, belts, trousers and underwear are buttoned up, boots or shoes are on the feet, scarves and ties tied around the necks, suspenders attached, shirts tucked in – testifies that no external examination of the bodies and extremities of the bodies had been effected previously. The intact state of the skin on the heads, and the absence on them, as on the skin of the chests and abdomens (save in three cases out of 925) of any incisions, cuts or other signs, show convincingly that, judging by the bodies exhumed by the experts’ commission, there had been no medico-legal examination of the bodies.

External and internal examination of 925 bodies proves the existence of bullet wounds on the head and neck, combined in four cases with injury of the bones of the cranium caused by a blunt, hard heavy object. Also, in a small number of cases were discovered injuries of the abdomen caused simultaneously with the wound in the head.

Entry orifices of the bullet wounds, as a rule singular, more rarely double, are situated in the occipital part of the head near the occipital protuberance, at the big occipital orifice or at its edge. In a few cases entry orifices of bullets have been found on the back surface of the neck, corresponding to the first or second or third vertebrae of the neck. The points of exit of the bullets have been found more frequently in the frontal area, more rarely in the parietal and templar areas as well as in the face and neck.

In 27 cases the bullet wounds proved to be blind (without exit orifices), and at the end of the bullet channels under the soft membrane of the cranium, in its bones, in the membranes and in the brain matter, were found deformed, barely deformed, or altogether undeformed cased bullets of the type used with automatic pistols, mostly of the 7.65mm. calibre.

The dimensions of the entry orifices in the occipital bone make it possible to draw the conclusion that fire arms of two calibres were employed in the shooting: in the majority of cases, those of less than 8mm., i.e., 7.65mm. or less, and in a lesser number of cases, those of more than 8mm., i.e., 9mm.

The nature of the fissures of the cranial bones, and the fact that in some cases traces of powder were found at the entry orifice, proves that the shots were fired pointblank or nearly pointblank. Correlation of the points of entry and exit of the bullets shows that the shots were fired from behind with the head bent forward. The bullet channel pierced the vital parts of the brain, or near them, and death was caused by destruction of the brain tissues. The injuries inflicted by a blunt, hard, heavy object found on the parietal bones of the cranium were concurrent with the bullet wounds of the head, and were not in themselves the cause of death.

The medico-legal examination of the bodies carried out between January 16 and January 23, 1944, testifies that there are absolutely no bodies in a condition of decay or disintegration, and that all the 925 bodies are in a state of preservation – in the initial phase of desiccation of the body – which most frequently and clearly was expressed in the region of the thorax and abdomen, sometimes also in the extremities; and in the initial stage of formation of adipocere (in an advanced phase of formation of adipocere in the bodies extracted from the bottom of the graves); in a combination of desiccation of the tissues of the body with the formation of adipocere.

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the muscles of the trunk and extremities absolutely preserved their macroscopic structure and almost normal colour; the internal organs of the thorax and peritoneal cavity preserved their configuration. In many cases sections of heart muscle have a clearly discernible structure and specific colouration, while the brain presented its characteristic structural peculiarities with a distinctly discernible border between the grey and white matter.

Besides the macroscopic examination of the tissues and organs of the bodies, the medico-legal experts removed the necessary material for subsequent microscopic and chemical studies in laboratory conditions.

Properties of the soil in the place of discovery were of a certain significance in the preservation of the tissues and organs of the bodies. After the opening of the graves and exhumation of the bodies and their exposure to the air, the corpses were subject to the action of warmth and moisture in the late summer season of 1943. This could have resulted in a vigorous progress of decay. However, the degree of desiccation of the bodies and formation of adipocere in them, especially the good state of preservation of the muscles and internal organs, as well as of the clothes, give grounds to affirm that the bodies had not remained in the earth for long.

Comparing the condition of bodies in the grave on the territory of “Kozy Gory” with the condition of the bodies in other burial places in Smolensk and its nearest environs – Gedeonovka, Maglenshchina, Readovka, Camp No. 126, Krasny Bor, etc. (see protocol of the Commission of Medico-Legal Experts dated October 22, 1943) – it should be admitted that the bodies of the Polish war prisoners were buried on the territory of “Kozy Gory” about two years ago. This finds its complete corroboration in the documents found in the clothes on the bodies, which preclude the possibility of earlier burial (see point” d ” of paragraph 36 and list of documents).

The commission of medico-legal experts, on the basis of the data and results of the investigation, consider as proved the fact of the killing by shooting of the Polish Army officer and private war prisoners; asserts that this shooting dates back to about two years ago, i.e. between September and December of 1941; regards the fact of the discovery by the commission of medico-legal experts, in the clothes on the bodies, of valuables and documents dated 1941, as proof that the German-Fascist authorities who undertook a search of the bodies in the spring-summer season of 1943 did not do it thoroughly, while the documents discovered testify that the shooting was done after June 1941; notes that in 1943 the Germans had made an extremely small number of post-mortem examinations of the bodies of the shot Polish war prisoners; notes the complete identity of method of the shooting of the Polish war prisoners with that of the shooting of Soviet civilians and war prisoners widely practised by the German-Fascist authorities in the temporarily occupied territory of the U.S.S.R., including the towns of Smolensk, Orel, Kharkov, Krasnodar and Voronezh.

Signed by the Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., PROZOROVSKY; Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow State Medical Institute, Doctor of Medicine SMOLYANINOV; Professor of Pathological Anatomy, Doctor of Medicine VOROPAYEV; Senior Staff Scientist of Thanatological Dept. of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Doctor SEMENOVSKY; Senior Staff Scientist of the Forensic Chemistry Dept. of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Assistant ProfessorSHYAIKOVA.

Smolensk, January 24, 1944.

Documents Found On the Bodies

Besides the data recorded in the protocol of the commission of medico-legal experts, the time of the shooting of the Polish officer prisoners by the Germans (autumn 1941, and not spring 1940 as the Germans assert) is also ascertained by documents found when the graves were opened, dating not only the latter half of 1940 but also the spring and summer (March-June) of 1941. Of the documents discovered by the medico-legal experts, the following deserve special attention:

1. On body No. 92: A letter from Warsaw addressed to the Central War Prisoners’ Bureau of the Red Cross, Moscow, Kuibyshev Street, House No. 12. The letter is written in Russian. In this letter Sofia Zigon inquires the whereabouts of her husband Tomasz Zigon. The letter is dated September 12, 1940. The envelope bears the impress of it German rubber stamp “Warsaw Sept. 1940” and a rubber stamp “Moscow, Central Post Office, ninth delivery, Sept. 28, 1940,” and an inscription in the Russian language: “Ascertain and forward for delivery, November 15, 1940” (signature illegible).

2. On body No. 4: A postcard registered under the number 0112 from Tarnopol stamped “Tarnopol Nov. 12, 1940.” The written text and address are discoloured.

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

4. On body No. 46: A receipt (number illegible) issued December 16, 1939 by the Starobelsk Camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Vladimir Rudolfovich Araszkevicz. On the back of the receipt is a note dated March 25, 1941 stating that the watch was sold to the Jewellery Trading Trust.

5. On body No. 71: A small paper ikon with the image of Christ, found between pages 114 and 145 of a Catholic prayer book. The inscription, with legible signature, on the back of the ikon reads: “Jadwiga” and bears the date April 4, 1941.”

6. On body No. 46: A receipt dated April 6, 1941 issued by the Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of a sum in roubles from Araszkevicz.

7. On the same body No. 46: A receipt dated May 5, 1941 issued by Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 102 roubles from Araszkevicz.

8. On body No. 101: A receipt dated May 15, 1941 issued by Camp No. 1 showing receipt of 175 roubles from Lewandowski.

9. On body No. 53: An unmailed postcard in the Polish language addressed Warsaw Bagatelia, 15, Flat 47, to Irene Kuczinska, and dated June 20, 1941. The sender is Stanislaw Kuczinski.

Conclusions of the Special Commission

From all the material at the disposal of the Special Commission, namely evidence given by over 100 witnesses questioned, data supplied by the medico-legal experts, documents and material evidence found in the graves in the Katyn Forest, the following conclusions emerge with irrefutable clarity:

1. The Polish prisoners of war who were in the three camps west of Smolensk, and employed on road building before the outbreak of war, remained there after the German invaders reached Smolensk, until September, 1941, inclusive.

2. In the Katyn Forest, in the autumn of 1941, the German occupation authorities carried out mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war from the above-named camps.

3. The mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest was carried out by a German military organisation hiding behind the conventional name “H.Q. of the 537th Engineering Battalion,” which consisted of Ober-leutnant Arnes, his assistant, Ober-leutnant Rekst, and Lieutenant Hott.

4. In connection with the deterioration of the general military and political situation for Germany at the beginning of the year 1943, the German occupation authorities, with provocational aims, took a number of steps in order to ascribe their own crimes to the organs of the Soviet Power, calculating on setting Russians and Poles at loggerheads.

5. With this aim, (a) the German-Fascist invaders, using persuasion, attempts at bribery, threats and barbarous torture, tried to find witnesses among Soviet citizens, from whom they tried to extort false evidence alleging that the Polish prisoners of war had been shot by the organs of Soviet Power in the spring of 1940; (b) the German occupation authorities in the spring of 1943 brought in from other districts bodies of Polish war prisoners whom they had shot and put them into the open graves in the Katyn Forest, calculating on covering up the traces of their own crimes, and on increasing the number of “victims of Bolshevik atrocities” in the Katyn Forest; (c) preparing for their provocation, the German occupation authorities started opening the graves in the Katyn Forest in order to take out documents and material evidence which exposed them, using for this work about 500 Russian prisoners of war who were shot by the Germans after the work was completed.

6. It has been established beyond doubt from the evidence of the medico-legal experts, that (a) the time of the shooting was the autumn of 1941; (b) in shooting the Polish war prisoners the German hangmen applied the same method of pistol shots in the back of the head as they applied in the mass execution of Soviet citizens in other towns, e.g., Orel, Voronezh, Krasnodar and Smolensk itself.

7. The conclusions drawn from the evidence given by witnesses, and from the shooting of Polish war prisoners by the Germans in the autumn of 1941, are completely confirmed by the material evidence and documents excavated from the Katyn graves.

8. In shooting the Polish war prisoners in the Katyn Forest, the German-Fascist invaders consistently carried out their policy of physical extermination of the Slav peoples.

Signed:

Chairman of the Special Commission, Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, Academician Burdenko.

Members:

Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, Academician Alexei Tolstoy.
Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, the Metropolitan Nikolai.
Chairman of the All-Slav Committee, Lieutenant-General Gundorov.
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Kolesnikov.
People’s Commissar for Education of the Russian S.F.S.R., Academician Potemkin.
Chief of the Central Medical Administration of the Red Army, Colonel-General Smirnov.
Chairman of the Smolensk Regional Executive Committee, Melnikov.

Smolensk, January 24, 1944.

Source

A Few Comments on ‘Critical Notes on Political Economy’ by Che Guevara

CheMuleFull

Rafael Martinez

On the 40th Anniversary of the Assassination of Che Guevara by US Imperialism

Here we present a brief review of the book ‘Apuntes criticos a la Economia Politica’ (Critical Notes on Political Economy), consisting of various materials written by Ernesto Che Guevara, published by Ocean Press, Melbourne, Australia 2006 (in Spanish). This was published in conjunction with the ‘Centro de Estudios Che Guevara’ in Cuba, where the original documents are located. This book presents a collection of materials, most of which were unpublished and, therefore, represent a very important reference point for further scrutiny of Guevara’s economic thought.

It is convenient to warn the reader about our point of view with regard to the completeness of the materials selected by the editors. It is our firm belief that the published materials offer an incomplete reference point to Guevara’s overall view of political economy and that, if taken in isolation, these texts can help obliterate the essence of his economic thought and his contribution to the early stages of the economic reforms in Cuba. We hold the opinion that this publication does not contain all the available unpublished materials/notes on economic and philosophic topics that Guevara left us before taking off to Bolivia. Last, but not least, we call on the reader to see Guevara’s bare and sketchy language in the concrete historical context and circumstances in which Guevara was forced to scribble his thoughts. We find that a number of statements, especially those written by Guevara as comments to his readings, are not necessarily as clear as one would have hoped, leaving room for misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Guevara’s true intentions.

The book offers the following unpublished materials, which constitute, according to the editors, all the written materials left by Guevara with regard to his unfinished work for the publication of a manual of political economy. This manual of political economy would have been a response to the Soviet textbook of political economy with which he had already polemicised in public discussions:

  • Tentative plan
  • Prologue: the need of this book
  • Biographical sketch of Marx and Engels
  • 10 questions on the teachings of a famous book (referring to the Soviet textbook of Political Economy, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Spanish edition 1963)

These are followed by a lengthy appendix, some materials of which were also unpublished. The appendix starts with a selection of critical notes (unpublished) on economic-philosophic Marxist works, which we believe is a rather incomplete set of notes, given the fact that Guevara presented himself as a rather methodical and critical person who, as we see in the book, loved to scribble his thoughts as he read. We are eager to see the rest of Guevara’s annotations, particularly those related to Lenin’s works on the New Economic Policy, Stalin’s work, ‘Economic Problems…’ and Mao’s ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradiction’ among others. We believe that these materials would be crucial to reconstruct a more cohesive picture of the later stage of Guevara’s economic thought.

In our view, in these unpublished works Guevara does not contradict any of the principles of his economic thoughts formulated earlier in his published articles that have been available to the public for over 40 years. While consistent with the most relevant tenets of ‘Guevarism’ in political economy, this text is a most valuable document that reveals some remaining obscure aspects of Guevara’s economic thought and evolution. This document is particularly revealing and assists us in gaining further insight into the heart of Guevarism and its distinct idiosyncrasy. It most definitely assists us in further refuting the theses of neo-Trotskyism with regard to Guevara’s economic thinking and philosophy, which try to reconcile his criticism of the post-Stalin Soviet economic model with their anti-Stalinism. On the other hand, this new document further corroborates and sheds additional light on the negative aspects of Guevara’s economic thought. As a matter of fact, as will be seen below, these documents help us gain additional insight on Guevara’s interpretation of the dialectical method and how this leads him to commit serious mistakes of principle. In conclusion, this new set of documents sheds very important light on crucial aspects of Guevara’s writings and it will be instrumental in building a more comprehensive picture of the revolutionary’s economic thought, both in its glory and its misery, in its apogee and its defeat. This document is a mandatory source for those who wish to comprehend the intricacies of Guevara’s thought and its implications on questions of political economy of the transitional society in the conditions of Latin America.

In the foreword written as an introduction to the political economy textbook he planned to write he synthesises his point of view with regard to the progress made in the political economy of the transitional society. The essential points put forward in the foreword are consistent with the spirit behind his critical notes, indicating that he had already arrived at the basic tenets of this economic thinking. This paragraph bears witness to Guevara’s overall viewpoint on the state of Marxism-Leninism:

‘The immense amount of writings that he [Lenin – our note] would leave after his death constituted an indispensable complement to the works of the founders [Marx and Engels – our note]. Then the source became weaker and only some isolated works of Stalin and some writings from Mao Tse Tung managed to stand out as a witness to the immense creative power of Marxism. In his last years Stalin sensed the results of this backwardness in theory and ordered the publication of a manual accessible to the masses that would deal with issues of political economy up to our days’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

Guevara worked on the manual of political economy in the period 1965-1966 during his stays in Tanzania and Prague, after stepping down from office in Cuba. These materials bear excellent testimony to one of the most complex periods of the thinker in which he finally rejected the model of economic development pursued by the socialist camp at the time and had reached the stage at which he formulated his own interpretation of the theoretical sources of that economic practice. Guevara had reached a point at which he felt ready to formulate a list of theoretical and practical problems that he believed had not been addressed by Marxists at the time, as he had the firm belief that the state of theoretical development was not appropriate to the objective conditions imposed by the revolutionary process. To understand his state of mind it is most relevant to emphasise Guevara’s disillusionment with the economic reforms in Eastern Europe (and the Soviet Union for that matter), which he criticised most of all:

‘The solution that people want to give in Poland is the free development of the law of value, i.e. the return to capitalism. This solution had already been applied in the Polish countryside, where agriculture was de-collectivised; this year, due to drought and other natural adversities, Polish agriculture is in worse shape than before, has had more serious problems, in other words, the place where the economic calculus leads to … is solving the problems using the same system, by enhancing the material stimulus, the dedication of people to their material interest, leading, in a way, to the resurrection of categories that are strictly capitalist. This is something that has been happening for a while, which Poland is now trying and I think it is also being tried in other socialist countries’ (in ‘Annexes’, pp. 321-322).

In addition, Guevara was of the opinion that the reforms in Eastern Europe were of similar quality to those implemented in Yugoslavia, which Guevara refers to as aberrations due to mistakes of principles:

‘Poland is going along the Yugoslav path, of course; collectivisation is reverted, private property inland is reinstated, a new system of exchange is established and contacts are maintained with the United States. In Czechoslovakia and Germany the Yugoslav system is under study in order to apply it’ (in ‘Annexes’, pp. 404-405).

On the other hand, we are inclined to believe that Guevara would have disagreed with the assertion that there was capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in the sense implied by Marxist-Leninists. On pages 380-381 of the present volume he seems to agree with Sweezy’s rebuttal of the Chinese thesis about the capitalist character of Yugoslavia, indicating that he would rather agree with the statement that ‘Yugoslavia is moving towards capitalism’.

By openly objecting to the essence of the economic reform in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Guevara alienates himself from the mainstream economic thought at the time. In doing so he becomes critical not only of the present but also of the past and as it becomes clearer to us now, he arrived at the belief that at the source of these economic deviations stands Lenin’s attitude towards the economics of the transitional society and the first steps of the construction of socialism:

‘In the course of our practical and theoretical investigation we have a clear suspect, with name and surnames: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’ (in the ‘Prologue’, p. 31).

Guevara is most likely a victim of the ideological confusion of the time in Cuba, which, in conjunction with the lack of materials in Spanish translation, may have created the pre-conditions for arriving at some dreadful conclusions. One of the most shocking pieces revealed by this document is Guevara’s rebuttal of some of Lenin’s theses on the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union. In particular, Guevara does not understand Lenin’s call for the New Economic Policy and its role in the prospective of socialist transformations in a predominantly petty-bourgeois country. To blame Lenin for the restoration, or to be more exact according to Guevara’s reasoning, for the process of restoration of capitalism at the time in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe is a reflection, among other things, of Guevara’s failure to grasp Lenin’s dialectical approach to the solution of contradictions in the transitional society:

‘It is a real fact that all the juridical superstructure of the current Soviet society comes from the New Economic Policy; in this the old capitalist relations are preserved, the old categories of capitalism, i.e., commodities exist, to a certain extent, profit and the interest that the banks appropriate exist and, of course, there exists the direct material interest of the workers’ (ibid., in ‘Some thoughts about the socialist transition’, p. 11).

To blame the New Economic Policy for the right-wing character of the economic reforms of the post-Stalin period shows how little Guevara understood of the essence of the transformation of the economic categories inherited from capitalism that occurred in the Soviet Union during the periods of transition to socialism and communism. This major mistake in Guevara’s economic thought is due to a number of circumstances. We believe that his idealist mistakes are to blame for this blunder. We should also take into account the fact that he was not acquainted with the Soviet materials on political economy and philosophy of the Stalin period. We emphasise this fact also because he was certainly not the only one affected by this shortcoming. As a matter of fact it affects many of those who take Stalin’s Economic Problems in isolation from the economic practice of socialist construction that this crucial work is a generalisation of. Without access to this documentation it is extremely hard to make a case in favour of the qualitative change of the character of the economic categories in the practice of the Soviet Union in the Stalin period. Unfortunately, so far the wealth of economic and philosophical materials published in major Soviet journals of the revolutionary period still remains in Russian only. At the time when the economic discussions under Guevara’s leadership had reached their apogee, a number of various ideological trends were tolerated and even published in the official Cuban press. Needless to say, these trends had institutionalised the fact that their analysis of the economic history of the Soviet Union was based on pseudo-bourgeois if not utterly bourgeois sources and that for them questions of dialectics and the Marxist method are as much abstract notions as they are alien to a bourgeois thinker. With this we do not mean to exonerate or excuse Guevara’s fundamental mistakes; however, we believe that this circumstance, together with preconceptions and ideological prejudices that became overwhelming and ubiquitous in ideological discussions at the time in Cuba, may have played a role in the formation of Guevara’s views on political economy.

What seemed at the time to be a relative obvious statement to many in Cuba, including Guevara himself, that the existence of commodity-money relations in the Soviet Union was inherited from the period of the New Economic Policy, is no more than a reflection of sheer ignorance of the complexity of the economic reality of the transitional society.

Guevara went further when he stated that the New Economic Policy was a requirement particular to the social and economic reality of post-revolutionary Russia and that Cuba, or any other country facing the tasks of revolutionary transformations, does not necessarily need to implement these policies. This statement is in principle correct. However, we think that Guevara may have wanted to make the issue of the disappearance of commodity-money relations a question of socialist education, rather than a question of the maturity of the relations of production and the development of the productive forces. We have certain evidence that Guevara does not necessarily agree with the fundamental principle of the objective character of the economic laws of the transitional society. Guevara’s seemingly correct statement against the absolutisation of the New Economic Policy as an intermediate and necessary step to the transition to socialism, as advocated by modern revisionism, seems to be considered by him from idealist positions. Here lies the core of Guevara’s deviation from the principles of Marxist-Leninist political economy. This does not necessarily deny the value of his fight against the tenets of modern revisionism, but it places severe restrictions on the value of his economic thinking.

It is extremely interesting to note that Guevara is aware of the evolution of the Soviet manual after the death of Stalin. He recognised that the manual changed both in its structure and its orientation as the Soviet economic structure evolved.

‘This manual has been translated into many languages and several editions have been published, undergoing pronounced changes in its structure and orientation as changes took place in the Soviet Union’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

Unfortunately, we lack further detail on this reasoning, which would be crucial in evaluating Guevara’s understanding of the history of the political economy of the Soviet Union. We believe we have a fair idea of Guevara’s point of view with regard to the change of orientation (at least along general lines, i.e. Stalin’s line for the suppression of commodity-money relations as opposed to their expansion under the revisionist economic model). But we are not particularly clear about what particular aspects of the economic policies in the 1950s he would refer to as a change in orientation, since the economic reforms of September 1953 onwards affected many aspects of the Soviet economic structure. As discussed above, we believe that Guevara does not necessarily understand the qualitative changes of the economic relations in Stalin’s period and the economic discussions that led to the first draft of the political economy textbook.

Nevertheless, to acknowledge an evolution in Soviet economic thinking at the time is very important in analysing the intricacies of Guevara’s own evolution and for the significance of his economic thought. It certainly reinforces the progressive aspect of his economic thinking with respect to what was widely accepted as a dogma by Trotskyite and neo-Trotskyite ideologists. Guevara does not subscribe to the dogma advocated by those who attacked and still attack the Soviet Union from ‘left’-wing revisionist positions, that allegedly Khrushchevism-Brezhnevism represents a continuation of what is usually referred to as Stalinism. According to this reasoning a rift is established between Leninism and ‘Stalinism’ and the latter is understood as a deviation or even its antithesis, and was perpetuated after Stalin’s death. They do not recognise a qualitative change in the economic policies in the 1960s compared to the political economy embodied in the policies of Stalin’s period. On the contrary, they view the economic evils of Soviet modern revisionism as a result of ‘Stalinist’ thinking. Nothing can be more absurd from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism, and Guevara is not afraid to polemicise with those who imply a rift between Lenin and Stalin, whether explicitly or implicitly, by rebutting the Soviet revisionists’ claims of Stalin’s mistakes:

‘In the alleged mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist one. He sees the danger enclosed in market relations and tries to break with it, while the new leadership is curved by the pressure of the superstructure and promotes the action of market relations by theorising that the use of these economic mechanisms may lead to communism’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 214).

It is well known that Guevara had an overall supportive attitude towards Stalin’s Economic Problems. However, the present text bears witness to the fact that he disagrees with some of the points raised by Stalin in this work. We will not elaborate more on this point since we would not be adding much of substance to what has already been said about the idiosyncrasy of Guevara’s economic thought. Nevertheless, it would probably be helpful to give a quote in which Guevara clearly states his position with regard to Trotsky and Trotskyism:

‘I think that the fundamental stuff that Trotsky was based upon was erroneous and that his ulterior behaviour was wrong and his last years were even dark. The Trotskyites have not contributed anything whatsoever to the revolutionary movement; where they did most was in Peru, but they finally failed there because their methods are bad’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 402).

We do not want to mislead the reader into believing that ‘Guevarism’ is a form of vindication of ‘Stalinism’. While appreciating the revolutionary character of Stalin’s contribution to political economy and demonising the tenets of modern revisionism, he also appears quite critical of Stalin’s deeds. Guevara concludes the above paragraph by bluntly making a terrible accusation:

‘Few voices oppose him publicly, showing this way the huge historical crime of Stalin: to have despised communist education and to have established a stiff cult of personality’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 214). 

Here Guevara manifests a lack of erudition and originality in perpetuating one of the most common criticisms of Stalin’s legacy. To talk about Stalin’s alleged contempt for communist education reflects a profound lack of knowledge of the history of the Soviet Union. It is factually incorrect and most likely reflects again the lack of translated materials and a general ignorance of everyday life in the Soviet Union. In essence Guevara echoes a rather superficial interpretation of the history of the Soviet Union, which is essentially divorced from the point of view and methodology of historical materialism. Revisionist ideologists, just like bourgeois historians, try to explain the essence of historical periods based on the personality of leaders and ascribe whatever prominent aspect of social life to them. Unfortunately, Guevara mechanically propagates subjective thinking into his economic analysis and discredits his image unnecessarily. It is unlikely that Guevara made a conscious effort to seriously evaluate the essence of such statements and to make a more objective analysis of Stalin’s period. Here, Guevara propagates anti-Marxist reasoning to substantiate one of the central tenets of his economic theory: the inclusion of consciousness into economic relations and therefore to consider consciousness as part of the object of political economy.

This aspect of Guevara’s economic thinking is well known and is repeated in these new materials on numerous occasions. In a letter to Fidel Castro, Guevara explicitly states something that we already expected as a result of the analysis of his published works. We were aware of strong similarities between Guevara’s striving for communist education and the Maoist interpretation of the role of consciousness in the relations of production:

‘Communism is a phenomenon of consciousness, one does not reach it by jumping into the vacuum, by a change in the quality of production, or by the simple clash between the productive forces and the relations of production. Communism is a phenomenon of consciousness and the consciousness of man has to be developed…’ (in ‘Some thoughts about the socialist transition’, p. 11).

It is worth noting that Guevara’s denunciation of Stalin’s alleged contempt for education is quite similar to Mao’s argument in his critique of Stalin’s Economic Problems:

‘Stalin’s book from first to last says nothing about the superstructure. It is not concerned with people; it considers things, not people. Does the kind of supply system for consumer goods help spur economic development or not? He should have touched on this at the least. Is it better to have commodity production or is it better not to? Everyone has to study this. Stalin’s point of view in his last letter [Reply to comrades A. V. Sanina and V. G. Venzher – editor’s note] is almost altogether wrong. The basic error is mistrust of the peasants’ (Mao Tse Tung, A Critique of Soviet Economics, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1977, p. 135).

This strongly suggests that this aspect of Guevara’s economic thinking is not original, as some experts of his work insistently argue. It is evident that this aspect of his thinking is the result of the influence of various ideological trends that circulated in Cuba at the time. It is clear to us that Guevara made a serious effort in the course of his investigation to disentangle complex questions of political economy. In doing so the spectrum of literature he was exposed to could not have been as broad as one would have hoped. Unfortunately, Guevara is driven by the prejudice propagated by many different revisionist trends outside the Soviet Union, and within it after Stalin’s death, that allegedly the economic thought at the time was characterised by dogmatism (on the other hand, we are unclear as to what exactly Guevara meant by dogmatism). While being progressive in the main, Guevara uncritically takes for granted what the Bettelheims and Sweezys propagated in Cuba without proof (speaking of dogmatic thinking…).

‘After a long lethargy, characterised by the most outright apologetic, the XXth Congress of the CPSU made a leap, but not forward; constrained by the dead end that the hybrid system led to and pressed by the superstructure, the Soviet leadership took steps backwards that were complemented by the new organisation of industry. The lethargy is followed by repression; both have the same dogmatic character’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 213).

Guevara on Collectivisation

This topic is probably the one in which this document gives us the most additional insight into Guevara’s economic thought. Guevara’s views on collectivisation are not really covered in the published materials available to us. One could only guess that for the sake of internal consistency Guevara would have advocated for a progressive stand with regard to the role of the state and the main relations of production in the countryside and his attitude with regard to modern revisionism on this question. It is fascinating to see confirmed this initial view that Guevara opposed the selling of the machine tractor stations to the collective farms. This policy had become default at the time of the Cuban revolution and was one of the most important aspects of the agrarian program of the revisionists around the world and was very much supported and even imposed by the Soviet revisionists.

It seems probable that Guevara was unaware of the fact that the Chinese leadership also advocated these policies at the time. According to various biographers of Guevara, at some point the contradiction between his economic policies and those instigated by the Soviet revisionists became so acute that the latter started to accuse Guevara of deviationism (Trotskyism, in particular) and that he in turn allegedly rebutted those accusations by arguing that if anything, he was closer to the Chinese with regard to the controversy. We do not want to debate the accuracy of the eyewitness’ accounts on which these authors based their assumptions about Guevara’s Maoism. What is clear to us, however, is that Guevara fundamentally deviates from mainstream Maoism on this question, probably without really knowing it.

Guevara raises one point correctly. It is a well-known fact that the relative weight of strictly private agricultural production of peasants was dropping with respect to the overall output of the collective farms, as reported by the Soviets at that time. This was due to the natural evolution created by the growing disparity of labour productivity between mechanised and manual labour and the fact that capital investment in general favoured the former for obvious reasons. Guevara is right in pointing to the fact that, at some point in the development of the collective system of production, the contradiction between the people’s property and the kolkhoz is not determined by the fraction of the means of production made up of private property of individual peasants.

‘Private property is being eliminated within the kolkhoz and, moreover the relative weight of collective property becomes overwhelming, but even if it was 100% the main issue still remains, the contradiction between the people’s property and the collective property’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 185).

Here Guevara addresses the general problem of the contradiction between collective property and socialised property as a problem per se, which always remains as long as collective property has not merged into the property of the whole people. If put into historical perspective, Guevara’s attitude represents a great step forward with respect to the character of the agrarian reforms fostered by modern revisionism. Here Guevara is aware of a basic element in the Marxist-Leninist approach to the resolution of contradictions between the city and the countryside, contradictions that modern revisionism tried to obliterate and reduce to a question of the different level of development of the forces of production and productivity. Guevara correctly disagrees with such a postulate, thus reinforcing the overall progressive character of his economic thought. This is further strengthened by Guevara’s open rebuttal of one of the biggest attacks on socialism by the Soviet revisionists, namely, the selling of the machine tractor stations from the state to the collective farms in the late 1950s. After a section of the revisionist manual of political economy devoted to substantiating the selling of the machine tractor stations, Guevara writes:

‘This is a concrete example of the contradictions that become antagonistic between the social property and the individual collectivity. The MTS [Machine Tractor Stations – editor’s note] may have had bureaucratic deviations, but the superstructure imposed its solution: more autonomy, more wealth of their own’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 187).

Nevertheless, one must always be careful with Guevara’s formulations. In fact, even though Guevara’s attitude to the revisionist plans for agriculture is overall progressive, one can never be cautious enough when dealing with this writings. Below we find a paragraph that may indicate that Guevara probably made his criticism for the wrong reasons:

‘Before, the need for commodity forms was explained by the existence of different forms of property. In practice the kolkhoz property acts as antagonist to the directly social property and therefore, the double character of labour is similar to that in capitalism. The double character of labour would disappear if this antagonism ceased to exist’ (in ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’, p. 159).

The first sentence is not controversial. Guevara simple states that under Stalin the persistence of commodity categories in socialism was understood as a result of the presence of two forms of property under socialism: socialised or state property and collective property or the kolkhoz. Unfortunately, Guevara addresses the relationship between the collective property and socialised property as antagonistic. We cannot agree with this as a general statement. In the conditions of the restoration of capitalism the relationship between the state (no more socialised) and collective property is antagonistic and it definitely becomes similar to that in the countries of classical capitalism. However, as long as the state property is socialised, i.e., loosely speaking, the means of production is in the hands of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat (regardless of the level of the development of the productive forces and the effective level of socialisation of the process of production), the relationship between the former and the kolkhoz system is not antagonistic. This type of statement is equivalent to saying that the relationship between the working class and the peasantry is a relationship of antagonism, which is definitely not true in the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, the double character of labour in the socialist system or in the transitional society is not driven by a relationship of antagonism.

Here one could argue that Guevara was implying that capitalist relations had been restored in the Soviet Union. He probably would have agreed to some extent with that statement. As a matter of fact, in the text of ‘10 questions on the teachings of a famous book’ he bluntly objects to the concept of the state of the whole people, a concept that was officially supported in the Soviet Union at the time, which clearly implies that he believed the dictatorship of the proletariat had been disbanded for good. Given the extent of Guevara’s criticism of the reforms in Eastern Europe and the fact that he openly talked about these as a regression with respect to earlier practices, one might be inclined to believe that perhaps Guevara was implying that capitalist relations had been restored to some extent in the countries of the former People’s Democracies and the Soviet Union. This might be the case, however, and very unfortunately, Guevara made the statement above in a general sense, as opposed to the case of the revisionist system alone. We are able to disentangle this by means of a short paragraph in the ‘Annexes’ written following a famous quote from Lenin’s On Cooperation that we insert here for the reader’s benefit:

‘By adopting NEP we made a concession to the peasant as a trader, to the principle of private trade; it is precisely for this reason (contrary to what some people think) that the co-operative movement is of such immense importance. All we actually need under NEP is to organise the population of Russia in co-operative societies on a sufficiently large scale, for we have now found that degree of combination of private interest, of private commercial interest, with state supervision and control of this interest, that degree of its subordination to the common interests which was formerly the stumbling-block for very many socialists. Indeed, the power of the state over all large-scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured proletarian leadership of the peasantry, etc. – is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society out of co-operatives, out of co-operatives alone, which we formerly ridiculed as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society? It is still not the building of socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it.” (V.I. Lenin, On Cooperation Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, Vol. 33, pp. 467-468.)

To which Guevara, to our despair, bluntly objects:

‘I think this is a wrong conception. The fundamental mistake is to think that the collective character is above its private character, something that practice has ruled out. The cooperative is the result of an economic need; there is a class force behind it and its consolidation and to acknowledge it is to strengthen the class that Lenin so feared’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 241).

Unfortunately, this reasoning is far from Marxist and reflects once again Guevara’s shallow understanding of dialectical materialism, without which a consistently Marxist treatment of political economy is simply not possible. Guevara is basically telling us, consciously or unconsciously, that the political union between the working class and the peasantry is not viable, even under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, by asserting that the collective sector acts as a private producer with respect to the socialised system. And if one reads his words literally one would have to conclude that Guevara does not see the progressive character of cooperation, however complex or simple, in the process of construction of the socialist economy. We are not even sure if Guevara thought carefully enough about the implications of such a statement.

Guevara on Mao

The present document sheds some light on the question of Guevara’s attitude towards Mao in a very revealing but brief passage, which touches upon a very important question in dialectical materialism. In particular, and possibly unconsciously, Guevara deals with one of the most distinct characteristics of Mao’s understanding of the interrelation of opposites in dialectical materialism. A more detailed analysis of this question has revealed a lot about the true essence of Mao’s understanding of the role of contradiction and equilibrium. Due to the lack of material the conclusions drawn here with regard to Guevara’s attitude towards Mao in general, and with respect to this aspect in particular, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The revisionist conception of the role of commodity-money relations is ultimately related to questions of dialectical materialism, such as the role of contradiction and equilibrium. It is no coincidence to see both aspects linked one way or the other in the analysis of the political economy of modern revisionism. Conversely, we would expect that Guevara would have a well-defined attitude toward the question of contradiction and equilibrium in dialectics for consistency sake, due to the progressive character of Guevara’s conception of the political economy of the transitional society. As a matter of fact the analysis of Guevara’s economic thought indicates a well-defined system of thought, not always correct, but at least self-consistent. One excellent example of self-consistency is Guevara’s negative attitude toward selling the machine tractor stations to the collective farms, as discussed in the previous section.

Before moving to the citation per se, it is relevant to emphasise our lack of understanding of Guevara’s attitude towards the Chinese CP at the time of the controversy with the Soviets. The present document confirms accounts by various biographers of Guevara’s positive attitude towards Mao. And rightly so, as already mentioned above:

‘…Then the source became weaker and only … some writings from Mao Tse Tung managed to stand out as a witness to the immense creative power of Marxism’ (in ‘The need for this book’, p. 30).

As pointed out in the section on Guevara’s stand toward collectivisation, he fundamentally departs from the mainstream stand on this question advocated by the Chinese at the time. It is clear that he opposed the selling of the main means of production to the communes and, if he had a chance, he would have probably rejected the policies of self-reliance that Chinese agrarian policies were based upon. We have no evidence at this point whether Guevara had a chance to analyse the Chinese policies in the countryside and whether he had the opportunity to develop a debate with Chinese officials on this matter. We do have accounts of intense discussion with Soviet and Eastern European economists, especially Czechoslovaks, but we do not seem to have accounts of similar contacts with the Chinese. We are also aware of Guevara’s criticism directed at the Polish leadership. We believe that Guevara would have favoured the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet controversy given his critical attitude toward the Soviets in general and the new economic reforms in particular, which he calls revisionist. But it is not clear to what extent Guevara would have supported the economic policies of the Chinese leadership during the post-Stalin period. We simply lack any evidence. In this respect, it is also relevant to bear in mind that the ideological confusion reigning in the international communist movement at the time (the true nature of modern revisionism was not yet fully understood) had a strong impact on Guevara’s reasoning. The analysis of Guevara’s economic thought shows that he was also a victim of this ideological confusion.

The citation under study in this section belongs to a comment of Guevara allegedly written next to a number of paragraphs of Mao’s On Contradiction. This complicated section of the document needs to be understood within a historical context and, of course, within the context of the pamphlet in its entirety, as Mao’s paragraph quoted by the editors is not even necessarily relevant to Guevara’s footnote. The implications of Guevara’s citation go far beyond the particular topic discussed in the paragraphs of On Contradiction that the editors of the book have chosen to publish, for understandable reasons, as will be discussed below. Guevara writes:

‘… For the Chinese the fundamental contradiction lies between imperialism and the oppressed world, because the latter are the basis for the existence of imperialism. Imperialism can exist without socialism but not without the exploitation of the peoples where the main struggle is for the people’s liberation. On the other hand, there can be no equilibrium between antagonistic opposites [our emphasis]; the socialist countries are antagonistic opposites of the imperialist countries; although they represent a solution of an earlier contradiction (exploited and exploiters) on a national scale, they do not solve the contradiction on an international scale’ (in ‘Annexes’, p. 243).

Guevara’s citation is open to all sorts of speculation. Needless to say, our analysis is for obvious reasons not necessarily unbiased. There are two relevant aspects that we deem necessary to comment on here. Firstly, Guevara points out the position of the Chinese with regard to what they believe are the main contradiction in the class struggle. Guevara voices one of the points that Mao insisted on in his work On Contradiction, that of the existence of a principal aspects of the contradiction, which determines the character of the contradiction and its most important manifestations:

‘Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be the principal and the other the secondary. The principal aspect is the one that plays the leading role on the contradiction. The quality of the thing is mainly determined by the principal aspect of the contradiction that has taken the dominant position’ (Mao Tse-Tung, On Contradiction, International Publishers, New York, 1953, p. 36).

While Mao’s analysis of the role of imperialism in China in On Contradiction is overall correct, the exaggeration of the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations, between rich and poor, eventually assisted the Chinese leadership in supporting and further developing the anti-Marxist theory of the three worlds (which by the way was not an invention of the Chinese leadership). To argue that the main contradiction is the antagonistic contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations, in the historical conditions of China at the time when the pamphlet was written, is correct. However, to exaggerate the dominant role of this contradiction by idealising and absolutising that relationship unavoidably leads revisionism to disregard the antagonistic class relations between the national bourgeoisie and the oppressed people, to disregard the internal contradictions, as secondary and therefore not relevant, following Mao’s stiff attitude toward secondary contradictions. This idealisation leads to the schematic representation of the division of the world into three types of countries, regardless of social formation, which is anti-Marxist in its core. By idealising the relationship between imperialism and the oppressed nations, between rich and poor nations, such relationships are ripped off their class character and turned into classless concepts, as classless as the mechanical division of the world of exploited and exploiters into the three worlds.

It is not clear to us what Guevara is actually implying by his remark. We do not even know if this conclusion is biased by discussions with Chinese comrades at the time or if it is just an overall comment on the pamphlet, written for his own benefit. Most likely Guevara agrees with the statement. Nevertheless and secondly, what is of particular relevant in our analysis is Guevara’s statement that ‘there can be no equilibrium between antagonistic oppositess, which we find truly remarkable, for the lack of a better word.

In order to appreciate the relevance of Guevara’s statement it is necessary to recall the specifics of Mao’s understanding of the role of contradiction and the dynamics that determine the interaction between the opposites in that contradiction. In contrast to the classical Marxist-Leninist understanding of the concept of qualitative and quantitative change, Mao introduces two forms of movement in On Contradiction:

‘The movement of all things assumes two forms: the form of relative rest and the form of conspicuous change. Both forms of movement are caused by the mutual struggle of the two contradictory factors contained in a thing itself. When the movement of a thing assumes the first form, it undergoes only a quantitative but not a qualitative change, and consequently appears in a state of seeming rest… Such unity, solidarity, amalgamation, harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, stability, equilibrium, coagulation, attraction, as we see in daily life, are all the appearance of things in the state of quantitative change’ (On Contradiction, p. 48).

According to Mao, there exist two types of motions, through which qualitative and quantitative changes manifest themselves. Qualitative changes take place through more or less violent motions and quantitative changes take place through relatively slow motions. From the point of view of a purely mechanical approach with regard to, for example, the transition of matter from one state into another and vice-versa, this reasoning would not necessarily provoke strong objections. However, Mao’s reasoning does have serious implications generally speaking, and in particular turns the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the dynamics of the opposites of contradictions into a theory of mechanical equilibrium between them, which is broken when antagonistic contradictions are resolved through qualitative changes or upheavals. According to this reasoning, the accumulation of quantitative changes is viewed from the point of view of harmony among the opposites of the contradiction. Harmony is broken when qualitative changes occur; harmony, however, is the form through which the interrelation of the opposites of the contradiction manifests itself between periods of upheavals. This mechanical interpretation of the understanding of the interrelation between quantitative and qualitative changes is not an innovation of Mao. As a matter of fact, this type of thinking had been extensively developed and applied to the theory of class struggle and political economy by Bogdanov and Bukharin in the Soviet Union.

To understand Bogdanovism and how his theory of equilibrium was adapted by Bukharin to questions of the political economy of the transitional society is crucial to comprehend the theories of market socialism advocated by modern revisionism. Bogdanov was one of the objects of criticism by Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and Stalin fought all this life against remnants of Bukharinism in political economy. In essence, the basic philosophical and theoretical tenets of modern revisionism are inspired by Bogdanov’s postulates formulated in his work Universal Science of Organisation – Tektology (1913-1922). Tektology has been highly praised by bourgeois scholars as a precursor of a whole trend of bourgeois ‘natural philosophy of organisation in complex systems’. As Bogdanov put it, ‘the aim of Tektology is the systematisation of organised complexes’ through the identification of universal organisational principles: ‘all things are organisational, all complexes could only be understood through their organisational character’. The starting point of Bogdanov’s Tektology was that nature has a general, organised character, with one set of laws of organisation for all objects. Two aspects of Bogdanov’s contributions were central in the development of the first theories of right-wing revisionist political economy in the 1920s: first, Bogdanov’s metaphysical concept of the law of organisation of a complex system (i.e. the economy of the transitional society) through the identification of universal organisational principles; secondly, the need for equilibrium of the complex system and the environment. Bogdanov believed he had developed a more complex conception of equilibrium, different from the purely mechanical conception, which considered that any complex system should correspond to its environment and adapt to it. But in practice Bogdanov’s postulates were implemented by a trend of Soviet economists in the 1920s, including Bukharin as the leading member of the future right-wing opposition to the plans for massive collectivisation and the gradual liquidation of commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy. In the 1920s the concept of ‘law of labour expenses’ circulated among wide circles of Soviet economists. This concept was exposed at the time as no more and no less than the law of value, dressed up in the form of the Bogdanovite law of organisation of a complex system. The law of labour expenses, according to Bukharin, would be a general law (applicable to all historical epochs and modes of production) that establishes the proportions of labour. In the modes of production based on commodity-money relations, the law of value would be the manifestation of this general law. Under socialism, according to Bukharin, the law of labour expenses would act ‘naked’ without using the form of the law of value. In the end, the regulator of labour exchange under socialism would be the principle of exchange of equal labour (values in the commodity economy). In essence, Bukharin propagated the use of the law of value as the regulator of the proportions of labour in the socialist economy, which is a mercantilist approach to the questions of political economy of the transitional society. The observation of the ‘law of labour expenses’ provides proportionality and, therefore, the necessary equilibrium of the complex system. Bukharin’s energetic opposition to the policies of collectivisation and massive industrialisation was based on the belief that the economic disproportions created by the systematic violation of the ‘law of labour expenses’ (i.e. the law of value) would disturb this abstract concept of economic equilibrium. The theories of market socialism that emerged after the Great Patriotic War and became the official theoretical foundation of the new regime after Stalin’s death is just a sophisticated version of Bogdanov/Bukharin’s ‘law of labour expenses’.

It is not within the scope of the present article to deal with this question in detail. This topic will be covered in more depth in the near future. Nevertheless what is relevant to the present discussion is to point out that Mao’s On Contradiction opens the way to conceiving the concept of harmony of opposites. These features of Mao’s philosophical thinking blossom further and adopt openly revisionist manifestations in a later work, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People in 1957, in which the harmony of the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie is considered feasible. It is very possible that Guevara was also acquainted with this later work of Mao, as it had become one of Mao’s most publicised works, especially at the time when Maoism was emerging as an ideological trend independent of mainstream revisionist ideology. The fact that Guevara explicitly denies the possibility of harmony of opposites strongly indicates that he was acquainted with this work.

By this we do not want to imply that Guevara had reached a point in his theoretical investigations at which he was in a position to systematically expose the tenets of what’s known today as the theory of Maoism. On the contrary, Guevara agrees with Mao on the role of ideology in the political economy of socialism. Their conceptions of the object of political economy in the transitional society do not differ significantly in their essence. It is in this aspect where Guevara’s economic theory stumbles into serious problems. This central shortcoming of Guevara’s economic thought prevents him from fully and consistently grasping the theory of political economy developed by Lenin and Stalin.

Within the context of the quotation under scrutiny, Guevara is obviously protesting against the theory of peaceful coexistence between what he refers to as socialist countries and imperialism. While internal antagonistic contradictions were in the main resolved by the socialist revolutions, the class contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie continue mainly under the form of the antagonistic relationship between socialism and imperialism. As a matter of fact, internal contradictions are intimately connected to the antagonistic relations with the imperialist world.

The citation presented above is followed by a hopelessly wrong and rather absurd sentence, to say the very least:

‘Finally, the law of uneven development is a law of nature, not of the dominant social system; therefore, the socialist countries also develop unevenly, which transforms itself through commerce into unequal exchange, or in other words, into the exploitation of some socialist countries by others.’

This sentence is not necessarily relevant to the above discussion. However, we bring this quotation up to make more evident the fact that our investigation on the heart of Guevara’s thought is far from understood and is plagued with pitfalls and inconsistencies. This statement is a blemish on the reputation of Guevara’s thought. To state that the uneven development of socialist countries is a necessary economic law is consistent with stating that the development of socialism spontaneously engenders exploitation of man by man, and therefore, the construction of communism is a hopeless illusion and lacks scientific substantiation both philosophically and from the point of view of political economy. Let us hope for the best, that Guevara was just being sarcastic. Unfortunately, whether this was the case or whether he was trying to make a point will probably remain a mystery to us.

Source

The Changing Leadership of the Secret Service

Nikolai_Yezhov_conferring_with_Stalin

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”

THE CHANGING LEADERSHIP OF THE SECRET SERVICE

It is accepted by most if not all Marxist-Leninists, that at various times, revisionists within the USSR Bolshevik party took control of the secret services.

Since that is the case, determining whether particular campaigns undertaken by the secret services – were really in the interests of the Marxist-Leninists, or the interests of the revisionists – needs to take into account several specific facts of the campaign as well as the personality of the chiefs of the secret service at the particular time in question.

In assessing the evidence regarding the alleged Zionist Plot, it is therefore necessary to understand those who made the allegations and effected the arrests.

The Case of Ezhov And the Appointment of Beria To The Secret Services

Stalin’s attempts at creating a trusted and close network of Marxist-Leninists around him in foreign policy (See Part Two of this article), matched a similar strategy in the secret service. In previous Alliance issues, we have discussed how, Stalin attempted to either root out, or at worst, to contain the counter-revolutionary terror, that was striking at the best of the Bolsheviks, as intended and organised by the hidden revisionists.

Firstly Yagoda was removed from heading the secret service after his Trotskyite affiliations became clear. His substitute was Nikolai Ivanovich Ezhov, who became the head of the Secret Police the NKVD. But again it appears that this office had been infiltrated by hidden revisionists.

For example, Arch Getty has shown how Stalin obstructed Ezhov in his “mass” arrests and expulsions from the party. For example, this exchange shows the antagonism between the two:

Ezhov: Comrades as a result of the verification of party documents we expelled more than 200,000 members of the party.
Stalin: [Interrupts] Very many.
Ezhov: Yes very many. I will speak about this..
Stalin: [Interrupts] If we explained 30,000..(inaudible remark) and 600 former Trotskyites and Zinoviev-ists it would be a bigger victory.
Ezhov: More than 200,000 members were expelled. Part of this number.. were arrested.”

Cited from Stenographic Records. Cited In AStalinist Terror, New Perspectives.”Ed. J.Arch Getty & Roberta T. Manning. Cambridge University Press, 1993. p.51).

Zhdanov (a close comrade-in-arms of Stalin) tried to place further brakes upon Ezhov, as shown when:

“In a highly publicized attack Zhdanov accused the Saratov kraikom (party leadership-Ed) of “dictatorship” and “repression”.. At the Feb 1937 Central Committee Plenum, Zhdanov gave the keynote speech on democratizing party organisations, ending bureaucratic repression of “little people,” and replacing the co-option of party leaders with grass roots elections. Indeed under pressure of this line, contested secret ballot party elections were held in 1937.”

Cited from Stenographic Records. Cited In AStalinist Terror, New Perspectives.”Ed. J.Arch Getty & Roberta T. Manning. Cambridge University Press, 1993. p.51).

In the case of Avel Enukidze, then Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of Soviets, Ezhov had wanted to expel him. But Stalin and Molotov defended Enukidze.

After further pressure from Ezhov, he was expelled.

But then Molotov and Stalin moved for him to be re-admitted. Though the plenum agreed with Stalin and Molotov, this re-admission never happened – having been arrested, he was shot in 1937. The record shows a clear pattern here – where Stalin was set versus Ezhov. (Arch Getty & Manning; Ibid; p.54).

Even in the case of the arch-Right revisionist Bukharin, (a leading ex-Bolshevik whose prominence and past service made him especially controversial – yet especially important to deal with. Precisely just in case he did become the focus of further organised opposition) – even his execution was controversial. Stalin wanted him expelled, and not even put on trial, let alone executed.

The opposition to Stalin on this matter were: Ezhov, Budennyi, Manuilskii, Shvernik, Kosarev and Iakir (who voted to shoot Bukharin without trial); and Litvinov, Postyshev, Shiriatov, and Petrovskii (Who voted to send Bukharin to an open trial).

The Plenum voted for Stalin’s line by a majority. But the documents of agreement were altered (in Mikoian’s handwriting) and Stalin’s advice was simply ignored. (Arch Getty & Manning; Ibid; p.58).

Even a very hostile Sudoplatov, records that Stalin’s attitude was surprisingly the opposite of the conventional portrait painted of a vindictive dictatorial individual. According to Sudoplatov, Stalin preferred private rebukes rather than prosecution, for example when dealing with instances of “corruption“:

“I learnt from Malenkov’s deputy- Anna Tsukanova.. That the Central Committee did not always prosecute corruption reported by the Party Control Commission and security organs. Stalin & Malenkov preferred to reproach an errant high-ranking official rather than to prosecute him, but if the man landed in the wrong power group, then the incriminating evidence was used to demote or purge him.”

Sudoplatov; Ibid; p. 319

It can only be reasonably concluded, that Stalin was trying hard to limit the damage being done by a revisionist taking cover behind a Left-ist and zealot position.

In this situation, Lavrentii Beria was put in this sensitive and critical job. Stalin himself put Beria into this job, after Ezhov had tried to prepare a case against Beria. Beria appealed to Stalin, who appointed Beria initially as Ezhov’s Aassistant”. Beria became first deputy chairman of the USSR NKVD at the end of August 1938, having been relieved of his prior position as first secretary of the Georgian party organisation. (Amy Knight: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993; p. 87-88). On 17 November 1938, Sovnarkom and the Central Committee adopted a report issued by Beria’s investigation entitled: “On Arrests – Supervision By the Procuracy And the Conduct of Investigations”, which passed a resolution. This was a:

“Strongly worded, lengthy resolution.. (it) Completely renounced the purges. Directed at party, Procuracy and NKVD officials in the republic it was highly critical of the “gross violations of legal norms” that had been committed during arrests and investigations in particular the reliance on confessions extracted from the accused and the failure to keep records. Furthermore the resolutions stated,
‘The NKVD has gone so far in distorting the norms of the judicial process that very recently questions have arisen about giving it so called limits on the process of mass arrests”. According to the resolution, Aenemies of the people” who had penetrated the NKVD and the Procuracy were falsifying documents and arresting innocent people”. The resolution forbade these organs from continuing their policy of mass arrests and exile. Henceforth arrests were to be made only with the consent of the court or the Procurator; the noxious NKVD troikas which decided cases of the spot were to be abolished.'”

Amy Knight: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993; p. 89.

Immediately after, in the words of Amy Knight, his biographer, Beria “cleansed” the NKVD. As far as he could, he tried to only place 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. This has been labelled as a “Georgian mafia” controlled by Beria. But since the objective was to place trusted comrades in key positions, and Beria knew these people best – this derogatory term is un-justified. As Knight puts it, Beria:

“Set about “cleansing” the NKVD of undesirable elements, in other words he initiated a full-scale purge of the Ezhovites, executing or imprisoning hundreds of officials…. By early 1939 Beria had succeeded in arresting most of the top and middle level hierarchy of Ezhov’s apparatus, replacing these men with members of his Georgian group. It is possible to identify at least 12 Beria men…. appointed to key NKVD posts… Vsevold Merkulov.., Vladimir Dekanozov,… Bogdan Kobulov… Solomon Mil’shtein… Iuvelian Sumbatov-Topuridze.. Sardeon Nadaraia.”

Amy Knight: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993; p. 90-91

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

“There was a general feeling that the NKVD would eschew the excesses of the Ezhov period and people began to talk about a ‘Beria thaw’.”

Amy Knight: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993; p. 92

Many bourgeois reports and Khruschevite revisionists have labelled Beria as a man who was both a political evil and a sexual debauchee given to raping young girls. But these are dubious, as Knight herself acknowledges:

“It should be noted that the stories have been disputed by some who knew Beria. One former NKVD employee expressed strong doubts that Beria was raping young girls, noting that he was known in police circles as a man with exceptional self-control who worked extremely hard.”

Amy Knight: “Beria-Stalin’s First Lieutenant”; Princeton New Jersey 1993; p. 97.

As an enemy of both bourgeois and Khruschevite revisionists, Beria is bound to attract negative and libellous comments. But Marxist-Leninists are aware that Beria effectively cleared the NKVD of revisionist practices and revisionist personnel. His later treatment at the hands of the revisionists led by Khrushchev, who were now in power, after the death of Stalin – lends credence to the view that Beria was a Marxist-Leninist. That case has been well summarised by W.B. Bland in an article published by the Stalin Society of London UK.” (Bland: “The Doctors Case & The Death Of Stalin”; Stalin Society; London nd ca 1992. NB: soon to be placed on the web site of Alliance).

The Post-War Reshuffle That Removed Beria From Sole Control of the Secret Services – The Atomic Threat

Beria had proven himself capable of running the necessarily vigilant, but controlled secret service that a socialist state must have, faced by an imperialist combination.

However after the war, a new danger arose – the atomic bomb monopoly by the USA. It was essential to have in charge of the Russian Atomic Bomb project, someone who was an utterly reliable Bolshevik. Stalin ensured that Lavrentii Beria was given this mandate. This very serious and onerous task could not be done well with divided attention.

The future safety of the USSR critically depended upon its success. Therefore, Beria was duly relieved of his post as the sole Commissar of Internal Affairs which he had held from 1938 to December 1945. He ceased to be solely in charge of security and intelligence in the USSR and overseas – excepting for all security problems directly connected with his job as manager of the Special State Committee on Problem Number One – the creation of the atomic bomb. (Sudoplatov P, Ibid; p.315)

The secret services had already been divided into three arms in April 1943.

Probably this was likely to be because the work load was already too great to enable only one agency to entirely cover the work. Thus the former People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) was split into three arms:

1) The NKVD – still under Beria but who was now no longer responsible for state security but only for economic security:

“The NKVD under the leadership of Beria, was thereby relieved of the heavy problems of state security and became more and more an “economic’ organisation.”

B.Levytsky: “The Uses Of Terror: The Soviet State Security: 1917-1970”; London; 1971; p.160.

2) The Peoples Commissariat of State Security (NKGB) headed by Vsevolod Merkulov. He was known to be a close ally of Beria’s:

“He was one of Beria’s closest and trusted collaborators.”

B.Levytsky: “The Uses Of Terror: The Soviet State Security: 1917-1970”; London; 1971; p.141.

3) The Counter-Espionage Department of the People’s Commissariat for Defence (SMERSH) headed by Victor Abakumov.

After the war in 1946, SMERSH was abolished, and the NKVD was re-named the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and was headed by Sergey Kruglov who was later openly revisionist. The NKGB was renamed the Ministry of State Security (MGB) and remained under Abakumov.

Today most Marxist-Leninists are in agreement on the class affiliations of Beria, Kruglov, and Merkulov.

It is true that some Indian Marxist-Leninists (of Revolutionary Democracy) have recently raised questions about Beria, but these have not been to date, substantiated in print. We therefore will not deal with these purely verbal allegations.

But there still remains some significant queries about whether Abakumov was a Marxist-Leninist, or whether he was a revisionist.

We are forced to consider this matter for the correct interpretation of several later events – including the matter of Stalin’s death. Also, at least in part, the correct interpretation of the alleged Zionist Plot – hinges on this matter. We msut examine the question:

Was Victor Abakumov A Marxist-Leninist?

The Case for Abakumov Being a Marxist-Leninist:

Essentially as far as Alliance can discern, the case on behalf of Abakumov rests on two matters as follows:

i) An Alleged Friendship with Beria:

As the British Marxist-Leninist W.B. Bland views it, Beria and Abakumov were associated as close comrades. By this reasoning, Abakumov must have been a Marxist-Leninist. Bland cites the following views of historians of the Soviet secret services- Levytsky and Wolin & Slusser:

“Beria’s adversaries in the Party (i.e. the opponents of M-L-ism-Ed).. Achieved a notable victory in late 1951, with the replacement of V.S.Abakumov, an associate of Beria’s by S.P.Ignatiev a Party official, as head of the MVD”

S.Wolin & R.Slusser :”The Soviet Secret Police”; London; 1957; p.20.

“Abakumov, Beria’s intimate friend was removed from his post and replaced by S.D.Ignatiev.”

Levytsky op cit p.204

In corroboration of Bland’s point of view, it is also alleged by Sudoplatov that Abakumov was an ally of Beria (Sudoplatov; Ibid; p.324). However this view is contested by Amy Knight- who is undoubtedly the most extensive biographer of Beria (albeit a bourgeois historian), available in the English language. Knight claims that:

“Beria’s loyal deputy Merkulov was replaced by Victor Abakumov as head of the MGB late in the summer of 1946. This change was not instigated by Beria who was distressed to lose Merkulov.”

Knight Ibid; p.141.

Knight maintains that Stalin placed Abakumov in charge of the MGB. This is very possible as the pressures on Beria had to be relieved somehow. But it is most unlikely that it was done for the purpose, as Knight maintains, that Stalin wanted to:

“Limit Beria’s pervasive influence on the security organs.”

(Knight Ibid; p.141).

The pressures dictating that Beria should be freed for the work on the nuclear bomb, meant that several loop-holes had opened, for the revisionists to squeeze themselves back into the security apparatus with a view to renewing disruption. As the changes took place, several opportunities arose:

“The following months witnessed numerous changes in both the MVD and MGB as several new deputies arrived, apparently under the auspices of Abakumov and Kruglov. These changes may also have been influenced by the arrival of a new CC secretary A.A.Kuznetsov, who took over party supervision of the police. With the exception of Stepan Mamulov, a longtime Beria crony who became a deputy minister in the MVD, none of the new men were part of Beria’s “Georgian Mafia”, although most had been in the security or internal affairs organs for a long time.”

(Knight Ibid; p.141).

ii) Khrushchev ordered the execution of Abakumov

Abakumov was arrested while Stalin was still alive.

It is thus highly plausible that the arrest itself, coming under Stalin’s life time, might have been a part of the revisionist strategy or the Marxist-Leninist strategy.

However, there is no doubt that Abakumov was tried, after Stalin’s death, in Leningrad before the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court presided over by Lieutenant-Colonel E.L. Zeidin. He was charged with “committing the same crimes as Beria”, and also with having:

“Fabricated the so-called Leningrad Case’, in which many Party and Soviet officials were arrested without grounds and falsely accused of very grave state crimes”.

In Bland: “The Doctors Case & The Death Of Stalin”; Stalin Society; London nd ca 1992; p.66.

Thus Abakumov was then sentenced to death by shooting, by the revisionists. This pro-Abakumov evidence seems to Alliance fragmentary at best.

If Stalin was still alive while Abakumov was imprisoned, it suggests that Stalin did not try to obtain his release. One suspects that were Beria to be imprisoned, Stalin would have moved heaven and earth to get him out.

What evidence is there against Abakumov?

The Case Against Abakumov

i) Abakumov’s other Allegiances

In 1947, Abakumov revealed the responsibility of Malenkov for some defects in aviation production that were apparently concealed from the state. (Sudoplatov; Ibid; p.315).

Malenkov was given a party reprimand, demotion & a temporary exile to Kazakhstan and removed from the CC secretariat. However Malenkov’s duties were then taken by Aleksei A. Kuznetsov. Sudoplatov claims that: “Kuznetsov & Abakumov soon became friends.”

But if this is truly so, this must shed some doubt and suspicion upon Abakumov’s identity as a Marxist-Leninist, since Kuznetsov was well known to be a close ally of the revisionists Vosnosenky and Khrushchev. As Bland has pointed out in the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau Report no 2 (reprinted as Alliance Number 17) the Politburo of the CC of the CPSU(B):

“adopted a resolution “On the Anti-Party Actions of the Comrades Aleksey A. Kuznetsov, Mikhail I Rodionov and Pyotr S Popkov.”

Bland ML Research Bureau; Report No.2; London; nd circa 1992; p. 25

Also, as W.B.Bland had previously made clear in the now classic “Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR,” Kuznetsov was an ally of the arch-revisionists Vosnosenky and Khrushchev:

“Party leaders confide that … Vosnosensky and Kuznetsov … (were) in 1949… trying to establish a separate Communist organisation in the Russian Soviet Republic .. With headquarters in Leningrad instead of Moscow.”

C.L. Sulzberger:”The Big Thaw”; New York; 1956;

Also See Bland In “Restoration”; Wembley 1988; reprinted Alliance Number 14; p.342.

Also find Appendix 3 “The Leningrad Plot” at: http://www.virtue.nu/allianceml/

But Stalin is said to have fought for Malenkov’s reinstatement from Sudoplatov’s testimony:

“Stalin however allowed Malenkov to return to Moscow after two months & appointed him deputy prime minster. Beria in this period strongly supported Malenkov.” (Ibid).

Malenkov was a later vacillator and not a firm Marxist-Leninist. But Stalin had clearly recognised the anti-Marxist-Leninist behaviurs of Kuznetsov.

(ii) The General Zhukov Affair

Abakumov was apparently behind various attempts to destroy the career of General Zhukov, and his efforts resulted in the dismissal of Zhukov from the Bolshevik party CC. Using evidence from the imprisoned General Nivikov, Zhukov was charged with conspiracy. In these charges, Novikov had described Zhukov as being of a man of:

“Exceptional ambition” and… A man “namoured with himself”, who loved glory and honour. He was officious and would not tolerate opposition.”

Chaney, Preston: “Zhukov”; 1976; Norman Oklahoma; p. 371.

But as Zhukov’s biographer makes clear, Stalin only reluctantly agreed to an enforced and temporary retreat for Zhukov, pending full investigation saying:

“Nonetheless Comrade Zhukov, you will have to leave Moscow for a while.”

Chaney Ibid; p. 373.

Zhukov was sent to Odessa to run the Military District from June 13th to December 1947.

He was reprimanded in June 1947 for the only single objective negative fact that had emerged on him. What was this? Zhukov had in peacetime awarded an actress with a medal. He was therefore reprimanded then for:

“Improperly rewarding artists in his district. The right to reward reverted in peacetime to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.”

Chaney Ibid; p. 374.

In December 1947 Zhukov was summoned to the Central committee Plenum where he heard his charges read out. Upon hearing that no new facts were stated he refused to argue, and when he saw that the ensuing vote had expelled him from the Central Committee, he simply marched out. All other allegations, against Zhukov remained un-proven. But as Chaney says, Stalin remained unconvinced of Zhukov’s “error”:

“Despite their relentless effort to have Zhukov arrested, Beria and Abakumov failed to convince Stalin of the Marshall’s guilt. As Khrushchev told Zhukov later, Stalin said to Beria:
“I don’t believe anyone that Zhukov would agree to this. I know him well. He is a straightforward person; he is sharp and can say unpleasant things to anyone bluntly, but he will never be against the Central Committee.”
Another version was that Stalin said:
“No, I won’t arrest Zhukov. I know him well. For four years of war, I knew him better that my own self.”

Chaney Ibid; p. 375.

Thus it was Stalin who resisted the attacks on Zhukov, in which to a large extent Abakumov was involved. Naturally, others were also involved in the complex battles, and the inter-relationships become important, to attempt to systematically work out.

From 1947 General Rukhadze was placed in the Ministership of state security of Georgia, having been in the war years, the head of SMERSH in the Caucasus. According to Sudoplatov his anti-Beria inclinations were well known. (Sudoplatov; Ibid; p.321.)

He was assisted by Ryumin, who later becomes a key figure in the subsequent anti-Marxist-Leninist plots, that became known to the world at large as the “Anti-Zionist Plot” and the “Doctors’ Plot.”

We will return to Abakumov below, when we examine his testimony on the murder of Mikhoels and the Doctor’s Plot (See below).

But at least some evidence cited to this point in this report, continues to identify Abakumov as an honest Marxist-Leninist.

Given the obvious truth that the revisionists were responsible for his death, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that as Bland has it, Abakumov was an honest Marxist-Leninist.

Source

Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): Stalin

pcmle_00002

Excerpts from a talk held in the Dominican Republic on the 50th anniversary of the death of Comrade Stalin, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Labour.

During his lifetime Comrade Stalin won the admiration and affection of the working class and all the peoples of the vast Soviet Union, as well as the respect and friendship of the workers of the five continents, the fervour and enthusiasm of the communists of all countries. Of course, he elicited the hatred of the reactionaries, imperialists and bourgeois who felt deeply hurt by the colossal achievements of the Soviet Union, by the great economic, cultural, technological and scientific feats of the workers and socialist intelligentsia, by the great and resounding triumphs of the revolution and socialism, of the communists.

In this plot against Stalin by which they fought communism, the Nazi propaganda stood out for its slander and persistence, which did not let one day pass without launching its dire diatribes.

Of course, this counter-revolutionary and anti-communist hatred also characterized Trotsky and his followers.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, the voices of the “communists” who had assumed the leadership of the Soviet Party and the State were added to the chorus of the reactionaries and anti-communists of all countries who had always reviled Stalin.

From then until our day, anti-Stalinism has been the recurring voice of all the reactionaries, of the ideologues of the bourgeoisie, of the Trotskyists, revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

By attacking Stalin, they are trying to tear down the extraordinary achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union and in what had been the socialist camp; they want to minimize and even ignore the great contributions of the Red Army and the Soviet peoples in the decisive struggle against Nazism, to denigrate the Communist Party and the socialist system as totalitarian, as the negation of freedom and democracy. By attacking Stalin they are aiming at Lenin, Marx and socialism. To denigrate Stalin as bloodthirsty and a bureaucrat means to attack the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby deny the freedom of the workers and peoples, socialist democracy. To slander Stalin as being ignorant and mediocre is to refuse to recognize his great contributions to revolutionary theory, to Marxism-Leninism. To attack Stalin means to deny the necessity of the existence and struggle of the communist party, to transform it into a movement of free thinkers and anarcho-syndicalists, to remove its Leninist essence, democratic centralism.

The height of anti-Stalinism is to call Stalinists those who betrayed the revolution and socialism in the name of doing away with the “crimes of Stalin” and of making the Soviet Union a “democratic country”. The folly of the reactionaries and opportunists does not allow them to recognize that the confessed anti-Stalinists, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, destroyed brick by brick the great work of the Soviet working class and peoples, of the communists, of Lenin and Stalin.

The attacks on Stalin are of such magnitude that even a significant number of social fighters, leftists and revolutionaries have fallen victim to these slanders. Basically, they are sincere people, interested in social and national liberation, who do not know the personality and work of Stalin and therefore join the chorus of these distortions. There are also some petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who attack Stalin from supposedly “humanist” positions.

It is up to us communists to defend the revolutionary truth about Stalin, and it is our responsibility because we are his comrades, the ones who are continuing his work.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was one of the great events of humanity. The workers and peoples of the world’s largest country stood up, undertook a long revolutionary process, led by the Bolshevik Party, which led them to victory in October of 1917. This great feat of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and the intelligentsia was a complex process, full of twists and turns and advances and retreats.

The proletarian revolution that smashed the tsarist empire to pieces was inconceivable without the guidance of Marxism, which established itself as the emancipatory doctrine of the working class; without the efforts of Russian communists, mainly of Lenin by his creative application in the social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions of old Russia; without the building, existence and struggle of the Bolshevik Party; without the decisive participation of the working class and the millions of poor peasants; without the social and political mobilization of the broad masses; without the existence and fighting of the Red Army; and without the important contribution of the international working class.

Several decades of strikes and street battles; the utilization of parliamentary struggle and the participation of the communists in the Duma; the ideological and political struggle against the bourgeoisie and the tsarist autocracy; the organization of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers; the great theoretical and political debate against opportunism within the party that led to the isolation of the Menshevik theses and proposals and to the formation of the Bolshevik Party governed by democratic centralism; the fierce battles against social chauvinism and social pacifism on an international scale; the profuse and fruitful propaganda activity of the communists; the fight to win ideological and political hegemony within the Soviets; the Revolution of 1905 and its lessons; the February Revolution of 1917, its results and consequences; the great armed insurrection of October; the Brest-Litovsk peace agreements; the revolutionary civil war; the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, these constitute the most salient features and characteristics of the struggle for power of the Russian communists, organized in the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin was born in Gori, a small town close to Tbilisi, in Georgia, on December 21, 1879. His father was a shoemaker, the son of serfs, and his mother, a servant, was also the daughter of serfs.

He joined into the ranks of the party in 1898, when he was 19 years old, and since that time his life, thoughts, dreams and his intellectual and physical effort were devoted to the cause of communism, to the fight for the revolution and socialism.

Until March of 1917 when he moved to Petrograd and joined the editorship of Pravda, Stalin had been and was a tireless organizer of trade unions and the party, of demonstrations and strikes, of newspapers and magazines, a student of Marxism and the author of various documents and proposals. He had been in prison and exile, at Party congresses and conferences. He was a fighter and leader of the revolution.

The revolutionary period that began with the February Revolution was the scene of great ideological and political confrontations against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, but also against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, and also within the Party. The whole process of winning the majority of the Soviets for the policy of the Bolsheviks had in Stalin a great leader and architect. The preparation of the insurrection, the technical and military contacts and preparations and also the debate within the leadership of the Bolshevik Party found in Stalin a protagonist of the highest order; he was a great comrade of Lenin in all aspects of political work.

Stalin was part of the first Soviet government as a People’s Commissar of Nationalities; he participated actively in the revolutionary civil war as a Commissar and Commander on various fronts and showed his military and political ability in forging and consolidating the young Soviet power and strengthening the Red Army. He was one of the most outstanding leaders of the party, the government and the army.

In 1921, by decision of the party and together with Lenin he participated actively in the foundation of the Third or Communist International, which would play a great role in the organization and leadership of the revolution on the international level.

A great task that the proletarian revolution took up was the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which meant concretely the application of the line of the Party with regard to the nationalities and peoples. The “prison-house of nations” that was the tsarist empire became a community of nations, nationalities and peoples, governed by socialism, which put forward the defence and development of the national cultures and their inclusion in the building of the new society.

Having taken up these responsibilities, his dedication and selflessness in their fulfilment and his theoretical ability made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party in 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, the Political Bureau of the Party designated Stalin as the main leader of the party.

The Communist Party (Bolshevik), under the leadership of Stalin, faithful to the Leninist legacy, pushed through the New Economic Policy (NEP) during the 1920s. Amidst great difficulties, relying on the mobilization of the working class and peasantry, defeating the blockade, sabotage and resistance of the defeated reactionary classes and the force of individual capitalism that emerged in the peasant economy, it succeeded in overcoming the disastrous material, economic and social situation that Russia had been in after the Civil War, with production reduced to 14% of the pre-war period, and which was seen in widespread famine and the profusion of diseases.

In this period a bitter ideological and political battle was being waged within the party between the Bolsheviks and the so-called “‘Left’ communists,” who wanted to “export the revolution” and place the weight of the economy on the peasantry, liquidating it as an ally of the proletariat.

In 1929, the NEP was concluded and the accelerated collectivization of the countryside was begun, the great battle against the kulaks who wanted to reverse the revolutionary process in the countryside.

In 1930, the process of large-scale industrialization was pushed forward with great material efforts and supported by the mobilization of the working class. It was a great feat that required large investments and therefore limited the possibilities for the well-being of the great masses of workers and peasants. Despite this, the revolutionary fervour and enthusiasm allowed for the fulfilment and even over-fulfilment of its goals.

In the West, this was the time of the Great Depression; in the country of the Soviets it was the time of the victorious construction of socialism. The Soviet Union became the second greatest economic and commercial power in the world, after the United States. For eleven years, between 1930 and 1940, the USSR had an average growth of industrial production of 16.5%.

A good part of socialist accumulation had to be invested in the defence and security of the Soviet Union, which had to deal with the arms race to which all the capitalist countries of Europe, the USA and Japan were committed.

For 1938-39, the danger of imperialist war hung over Europe and the world. The German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese reactionaries were moving quickly to form the Axis. The Western powers headed by the Anglo-French alliance worked feverishly to conclude a pact with Germany in order to encourage it to direct its attacks against the Soviet Union, in order to liquidate the communists, wear down the Germans and enter the war under better conditions. It was a devious and cunning diplomatic game that handed over the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Soviet Union was a developing economic and military power, but its military capability was much weaker than that of Germany, France, England or the USA. It was surrounded by powerful enemies and needed material resources and time to prepare itself for the eventual war which was announced with cannons and aircraft.

The Soviet Union needed to combine international diplomacy and politics with its industrial development and military power. This circumstance forced the communists to devote a large quantity of material resources in this direction, but also to seek diplomatic alternatives that enabled its defence.

Several international meetings, endless proposals and projects were addressed to the chancelleries. The Soviet Union could not establish an alliance against Nazism since the main interest of the Western powers made the Soviet Union their target. In these circumstances and for its defence, in August 1939, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact of “non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union” was signed.

This international treaty gave the Soviet Union precious time to push forward its military industry. Utilizing large material resources and the will of the peoples, in a short time it was able to build planes, tanks, cannons, weapons and ammunition in large quantities and simultaneously it could relocate its key industries located in European Russia to the East, behind the Urals.

World War II broke out in 1939. The Germans invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium and Netherlands and utilizing “blitzkrieg” tactics, the lightening war, in few weeks they destroyed the armies of those countries and imposed puppet governments.

When it came to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans did not have the military capacity to carry out and win with the blitzkrieg; they ran into the resistance of the Red Army, the guerrillas and the great masses of workers and peasants who defended the socialist fatherland. The Red Army put up a fierce resistance and gave way to the Nazi troops, forcing them to penetrate into a vast territory, teeming with guerrillas who persistently harassed them. They could not take Leningrad much less Moscow. In Stalingrad a major battle was waged, street by street, house by house, man by man. The reds resisted and then took the initiative and defeated the German army. That was the beginning of the end of the fascist beast.

The Red Army launched the re-conquest of its territories occupied by the Nazis and advanced victoriously across the mountains and plains of Europe, contributing to the liberation of several of the countries of Eastern Europe, up to Berlin, which was taken on May 9, 1945.

This great victory of the Soviet Union was the fruit of the fortress of socialism, of the unity and will to action of the working class and peoples, of the valour of the Red Army, but it was also a consequence of the diplomatic, political and military genius of the General Staff and the leadership of the Soviet Party and Government, led by Stalin.

At the end of the war, the victory of the revolution took place in several countries of Europe, which established people’s democratic governments, and the victory of the revolution in other Asian countries. The Soviet Union emerged as a great economic and military power that won the affection and respect of workers and peoples of the world, of the patriots and democrats, of the revolutionaries and especially the communists. The Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist Party were the great protagonists in the defeat of fascism.

The Great Patriotic War meant great human and material sacrifices for the Proletarian State. The victory achieved was built upon the great spiritual heritage of socialism that protected the workers and peoples of the USSR; it was made possible by the great patriotic sentiments with which the Communist Party was able to inspire the bodies and minds of the Soviet peoples, by the deep affection of the workers for Soviet power, by the brave and courageous contribution of the communists who put all their abilities and energy into the defence of socialism. The contribution of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was more than 20 million human beings, of which slightly more than 3 million were brave members of the Bolshevik Party. The Party gave over its best men to the war, it lost invaluable political and military cadres, but it also further tempered the Bolshevik steel, and at the end of the war it had gained more than 5 million new members.

At Yalta and Tehran, at the peace negotiations, the workers and peoples of the world had a great representative, Comrade Stalin, who knew, with wisdom, prudence and composure, how to restore the rights of the peoples and countries that had been victims of the war and fascism, how to contribute to the establishment of agreements and open the way to new levels of democracy and freedom in the world.

World War II was the prelude to the national liberation of dozens of countries on the five continents, who won their independence by breaking with the old colonial order. The Soviet Union led by Stalin was always the safe and reliable rear of this great liberation movement.

In the field of the revolution, the victories achieved in Albania and other countries of Eastern Europe, in China, Korea and Vietnam, gave rise to the formation of the powerful socialist camp. A quarter of the population living on a third of the Earth’s surface were building socialism and had in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, an enlightening example and unreserved support. In the rest of the world, the working class, the peasantry, the youth and the progressive intelligentsia saw the socialist future of humanity with certainty and confidence.

On the other hand, the end of the Second World War established a new order within the capitalist sphere. The United States became the main world power and had hegemony over the capitalist countries.

There arose a new contradiction in the international sphere: one that opposed the old world of capital to the new world of socialism. The bourgeois ideologues and politicians called this the “cold war”, alluding to the antagonism of the dispute.

Once more the superiority of socialism became evident. In the Soviet Union, but also in the other countries of the socialist camp, the culture and well-being of the masses, science and technology, the social and material progress of the workers and peoples flourished. In 1949 the USSR was able to build the atomic bomb and in 1957 it launched the space race, taking the lead.

Neo-colonialism, a form of imperialist domination that emerged after the independence of the dependent nations and countries, always had a counterweight in the Soviet Union led by Stalin. The peoples of the former colonies always had a loyal friend.

Within a few years, from 1917 to the early years of the 1950s, the proletarians, led by the communists organized in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, built the dreams of a new world, the world of socialism. They built the essentials, many things were lacking, some failed, but humanity never knew a broader and truer democracy, never before were men in their multitudes able to have material and social well-being, equality among their peers. This was proletarian democracy.

It was an epic of the workers and peoples, the realization in life of the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, the gigantic effort of the communists, the serene and bold work of the leaders, Lenin and Stalin.

When we speak of Stalin we are referring to the leader, the organizer, the head, the comrade and friend, who was really one of the great builders of the new man, of the new humanity.

This understanding of Stalin cannot be conceived without discovering and learning about his extraordinary theoretical work.

From the beginning of his communist activity he correctly evaluated the role of theory in the process of organizing and making the revolution. He studied the Marxist materials that he had at hand, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the works of Plekhanov, and soon he began to familiarize himself with Lenin, by his writings and directives, his valour as organizer and head of the communists, until he saw him in person at party events. From that time on they had a great friendship affirmed in militancy and the great commonality of opinions and concerns. Stalin was also a great reader of Russian literature. He was a man of vast culture, which grew daily throughout his life.

How can one not keep in mind in the training of communists in all countries his most outstanding works: Anarchism or Socialism?, Marxism and the National Question, On the Problem of Nationalities, The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists, The Foundations of Leninism, Concerning Questions of Leninism, Trotskyism or Leninism?, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Marxism and Linguistics, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the Reports to the Congresses of the Communist Party.

Stalin was a theoretician of the revolution, a Marxist who recreated and developed revolutionary theory in order to provide answers to the problems put forward by the revolution. He was not a theoretician who speculated with knowledge to try to generate ideas and proposals. No, his theoretical work addressed burning issues that had to do with the development of the class struggle, with the problems that the party, the trade unions, the state and the revolution were facing on an international scale.

The depth of his writings is not at odds with the simple form of making them understood. Stalin is rigorous in his theoretical analysis, his positions are valid; they provide a real guide to action, as he himself pointed out referring to Marxism, but also they are simple and easy to understand.

Stalin’s detractors insist on some issues that we should analyze. All of them: the confessed reactionaries of anti-communism, the Trotskyists, the revisionists and opportunists of all shades agree principally on the following charges: intellectual mediocrity, Lenin’s testament that supposedly condemned him, the building of socialism in a single country, forced collectivization, the bureaucratization of the party and state, the liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard, the great purges, his tyrannical and bloodthirsty character, forced industrialization, his incompetence in the war, the cult of personality.

With regard to Stalin’s intellectual mediocrity, the facts, history and its vicissitudes speak emphatically. The October Revolution, the building of socialism in a large country and for the first time in the history of mankind, his skill in leading the party, the working class and the peoples of the USSR in the great feat of building a new world would not have been possible with a mediocre leader who was poor intellectually. These diatribes fall under their own weight. Trotsky, who claimed to be a great theoretician and man of culture and was one of his detractors in this area, was defeated precisely, in theory and practice, by one who, according to him, was a mediocrity.

In regard to the so-called “Lenin Testament,” a lot of nonsense has been written, such as that Trotsky was the one anointed by Lenin to replace him as head of the Party, as if those notes of Lenin had been hidden by the Central Committee. We say that Lenin’s health was very shaky in those days in which he is supposed to have written the famous “testament”, his sensitivity was weakened by the complaints of his companion. However, Lenin had the revolutionary culture, the Bolshevik training to understand that he could not have written a testament, a last will; he also knew that one leader, whatever his rank, can only give his opinions, not orders, in the collective. For these reasons one must understand these notes of Lenin as opinions; moreover, they were out of the context of the everyday life of the leadership of the Party and State and in no way were they orders to be complied with without question. On the other hand, it is completely false that these notes were hidden from the Central Committee; the latter knew about and discussed them. The results were known; Stalin was chosen the Main Leader of the Bolshevik Party and that was a correct and wise decision. History has shown these facts irrefutably. The one supposedly anointed by Lenin as leader of the Party, Trotsky, was placed by life and the revolutionary struggle in the dustbin of the counter-revolution.

The Leninist thesis of the building of socialism in one country takes into account the uneven development of capitalism and as a consequence the various stages of the class struggle. That situation made it possible to break the chain of imperialism at its weakest link, old Russia. Stalin was the one who continued this line. Relying on the workers and peasants, on the great spiritual and materials reserves of the Soviet peoples he carried out the great feat, defended the revolution and defeated the detractors of this thesis. Those who raised the impossibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union as long as the revolution did not succeed in the capitalist countries of Europe and labelled the peasants as reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries were proven to be wrong. The USSR developed and so far there has been no revolution in any of the capitalist countries in Europe.

On the forced collectivization of the countryside, Stalin’s detractors claim that “he violated the will of the peasants, destroyed the agrarian economy and eliminated the social base of the revolution made up by the medium and rich peasants, the kulaks”. The facts are diametrically opposite. The necessary carrying out of the NEP in the countryside developed the rural bourgeoisie in a natural way and stripped millions of poor farmers of the land, depriving the population of cereals. Basing itself on Marxism-Leninism and taking social reality into account, the Party proposed to bring socialism to the countryside. Relying on the millions of poor peasants, it pushed forward a great social and political movement for the formation of cooperatives, the kolkhozes; this meant the expropriation of the kulaks, in some cases people’s tribunals and drastic sanctions. International reaction spoke of repression and massacres. In reality there was a socialist revolution in the countryside, the work of millions of poor peasants who assumed their role as the protagonists in the life of the country of the Soviets. And, as we know, a revolution unleashes the initiative and achievements of the masses, but also the anger of its enemies. As a result, agriculture and livestock flourished, the Soviet Union became the largest producer of wheat, the mechanization and the modernization of agriculture reached unprecedented levels, at the forefront on the international scale.

Stalin is continually blamed for the bureaucratization that was in reality growing in the party and State. Stalin was never in his life a bureaucrat. Quite the contrary, his dynamism was always expressed in direct contact with the base of the party and with the masses; he was one of the leaders of the Soviets before the revolution. His whole life was in action.

Bureaucracy is a social phenomenon, a degeneration that arises in the bourgeois administration (remember that a good part of the Bolshevik administration had to resort to old tsarist functionaries) that penetrated into the revolutionary ranks, into the party and State. Bureaucracy was really present in the life of the Socialist State; it affected many activists and leaders. In some cases the responsibilities of power were transformed into small or large privileges that were creating a caste of bureaucrats who undermined the functioning of the party and the state administration, which separated the party from the masses.

Stalin did not promote the bureaucracy, but in reality he did not have either the ability or the experience to eliminate it. Several offensives of an ideological character aimed at eliminating it took place, precisely under Stalin’s initiative. The political education, ideological struggle, the validity of democracy in the party, the party elections were expressions of the struggle of the communists against bureaucracy. They cannot be dismissed having been useless. They achieved results; among other things they allowed for the continuation of the social and material achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ideological, political and organizational cleansing of the party and State, the isolation and expulsion of several groups of opportunists and traitors. However, in fact, they were not able to eradicate the bureaucracy and opportunism. Various opportunists and traitors evaded the ideological struggle and hid. They would return later, after the death of Stalin.

It is clear that bureaucracy is an ideological illness which is persistently reborn and which must be fought relentlessly to the end. Stalin did not promote bureaucracy; rather he was one of its victims.

The accusation made against Stalin that he was a bloody dictator and despot and refers to the ideological cleansing, to the revolutionary repression of the counter-revolutionary outbreaks in the city and countryside, to the alleged liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard.

It is necessary to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a wedding party in which everything is rosy. No, quite the contrary. A whole armed, economic campaign, a trade boycott, an ideological and political penetration by imperialism and the international bourgeoisie was orchestrated against the dictatorship of the proletariat. In opposition to the new power of the workers, from within society, the old ruling classes, overthrown by the revolution but not physically eliminated, repeatedly carried out acts of sabotage; they tried many times to organize rebellions and uprisings, using mercenaries and men and women of the people who were deceived; they based themselves on religion and the priests, on feudal traditions, on liberal elements in the administration and on some occasions they infiltrated their agents into the party and the Soviet State. Within the party itself, in the new State and in the Red Army, there appeared over and over again degenerate elements who made attacks on the dictatorship of the proletariat in theory and practice, who tried to divert the party, to assume its leadership, to organize coups d’état. Some of these elements had been, in the past, outstanding members and leaders of the party and the revolution and they tried, therefore, to take advantage of their positions to change the course of socialism.

The fight to preserve and defend the line of the Party, its ideological, political and organizational unity was bitter and persistent, because again and again, the counter-revolution grew stronger in its attacks and, during Stalin’s life, it was again and again defeated by the force of reason, by the firmness of the Bolsheviks, by the support of the base of the party and the army, by the support of the masses of workers and peasants.

In reality the Bolshevik old guard, those comrades who dreamt of and organized the Great October Revolution, were falling behind. Some fell in combat for the revolution, others were assassinated by the counterrevolution. Others paid the physical tribute of their lives. Some survived Stalin.

The old Bolsheviks, the veteran communists knew how to face their responsibilities, they learned how to solve problems and unknown issues as they arose, they were put at the head of the great feat of building socialism, and were called “old Bolsheviks” not because they were old, but because of their qualities, for their militant and permanent adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, for their quality as communist cadres and fighters.

The fight against the opportunist factions within the Party and State were real battles that mobilized the party, all its members, they were a demonstration of the proletarian firmness of Stalin and his comrades in arms; they constituted one victory after another, that guaranteed the life of the Soviet State, the building of socialism and the continuation of the revolution.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were the main chieftains of the counter-revolution, who were confronted and defeated, in theory and practice, with the material and political achievements by the political correctness of the party leadership, headed by Stalin.

The dark legend of the work camps, of the confinement, of psychiatric hospitals, of prisons overcrowded with workers and communists, of the mass executions and mass graves are nothing more than the infamous slander of the reactionaries and imperialism, of the Nazis and social democracy, of the Trotskyists and revisionists, of the opportunists. They cannot be proved by any records much less by the existence of concentration camps and mass graves. They fall under their own weight.

Much has been said about Stalin’s incompetence in leading the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality Stalin was not a soldier by training, he did not study in any academy nor could he claim mastery of the military arts, a thorough knowledge of weapons and military strategy and tactics. But it is clear that he was a proletarian revolutionary soldier who learned this art in the very course of the revolutionary civil war in the first years of Soviet power, that he was steeled as such in the difficult years of the building of socialism and that he played an outstanding role in the leadership of the Great Patriotic War, in the resistance against the Nazi invading hordes and in the great political and military offensive that drove the Red Army to take Berlin. No one has claimed that Stalin was a great Military Leader, all the revolutionaries recognize him as the leader of the Soviet proletariat and the peoples, as the political leader of the international proletariat, as a proletarian revolutionary, as a communist.

The accusations that Stalin promoted and used the whole gamut of praise and exaggerations that have been called the “cult of personality” for his prestige continue to be a part of the anti-communist arsenal.

In fact, Stalin daily received praise and recognition from his comrades and friends, from the workers and peasants who expressed them from their heart to express gratitude and recognition. There was also the praise of the opportunists who sought favours from him. The former demonstrations were sincere, a product of the generous spirit of the workers and people, the latter had a dual intention, based on facts; they tried to elevate Stalin above others, above the events and in this way to personally take advantage of this situation.

The cult of personality was in fact a defect of the first experience in the building of socialism. It began with good intentions, but finally it degenerated, it hurt Soviet power and Stalin himself. This is an incontestable fact. But to argue from there that Stalin himself encouraged these campaigns, that he became an egomaniac, a narcissist is a big lie.

Many pages and books can be written about Stalin. In fact there are thousands of publications about his life and work. There are those of his comrades and friends, but also those of his enemies and detractors. In fact the life of Stalin is the life of the first proletarian revolution itself. Stalin did not make the revolution to his measure; the revolution projected Stalin as one of its best sons and leaders.

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012

Source

Alliance Marxist-Leninist: The Cominform Documents

meeting_cominform_1949_november_hungary

THE COMINFORM DOCUMENTS

INTRODUCTION (by N. Steinmayr); For Alliance and Communist League. Published on web June 13th 1999.

The Cominform documents have been published – in their original versions in both Russian and English – in The Cominform: Minutes of the Three Conferences 1947/48/49 (edited by Giuliano Procacci, in Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Annali, 1994, Feltrinelli Editore, Milano, ISBN 88-07-99050-4).

The volume contains both the original texts (the bulk of which had never been published before) and some introductory essays and notes. This critical edition resulted from an agreement of scholarly cooperation between the Russian Centre of Conservation and Study of Records for Modern History and the Feltrinelli Foundation.

As known, nine European communist parties (from the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, France and Italy) joined the Cominform and participated at its three Conferences – respectively, in September 1947, in June 1948, and in November 1949. No other conferences were organized from 1950 until its disbanding in 1956.

The reasons of its decline may be found in the emergence of Khrushchevite revisionism and in the new changes in the international situation (namely, the Chinese revolution and the Korean war). I have selected below only a few sections from the original documents which highlight some interesting and revealing aspects, i.e., the presence of revisionist, centrist positions in the international communist movement at that time and Dimitrov’s role in Bulgarian-Yugoslav-Soviet relations.

These original sources, as well, contribute to explain – in retrospect – the origins of the revisionist degeneration that later became apparent in the international communist movement. I have numbered the various sections of the original documents I quote. The extracts are preceded by some notes that I present.

EXTRACT 1:
FROM THE REPORT BY A. A. ZHDANOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) “ON THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (25 September 1947) .

NS:
I have selected the definition of people’s democracy. In this famous report by Zhdanov, outlining the “two camps” theory, the main task of the communists appears to be the defence of peace and democracy against US-led imperialist expansionism, rather than the advance of socialism. There is no mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the main feature of the socialist society. But the crucial phrase is mentioned of the “transition to socialism”. It was this very key step that the revisionist Dimitrov would neglect in his policies for Bulgaria.

EXTRACT 2:
THE REPORT BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) “ON THE ACTIVITY OF THE BULGARIAN WORKERS’ PARTY (COMMUNISTS)” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (23 September 1947)

NS:
This emphasizes the special relationship existing between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Reference is made to the meeting which took place at Lake Bled from 30 July to 1 August 1947 between a Bulgarian delegation, headed by Dimitrov, and a Yugoslav delegation, headed by Tito. At the end of the meeting, a joint declaration was signed (on 1 August) and announced, providing for a conclusion of a treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance which they intended to sign.

In a harsh telegram sent to both governments on 12 August, Stalin criticized the initiative, both because it had been taken without prior consultations with the Soviet government and because it might feed Anglo-American opposition to a treaty signed by a country, such as Bulgaria, which would have lost the status of conquered nation won only with the entry into force of the peace treaty on 15 September 1947.

In early July, in fact, both Tito and Dimitrov had informed Moscow of their intention to imminently sign this Yugoslav-Bulgarian treaty. But Stalin, in his answer to Dimitrov on 5 July, had instructed them to wait until the peace treaty came into force. The Yugoslav-Bulgarian announcement of 1 August 1947, therefore, was a deliberate violation of Stalin’s directives.

Extract 3:
FROM THE SPEECH BY T. KOSTOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (21 JUNE 1948).

NS:
I have selected quotations relating to:
a) Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations, with particular regard to the Macedonian question (it is now stated that it was Yugoslavia which had had territorial and hegemonic pretentions in the Balkans against the USSR), and:
b) mistakes and defects in the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists), apparently corrected thanks to Soviet advice.

It must be taken into account that:

(a) during that period of time, both Dimitrov and Kostov were the two most prominent leaders in the Bulgarian party (the former held the position of Central Committee chairman, the latter was first secretary). Both of them had remained in Moscow until November 1945 and Kostov had been appointed party secretary thanks to Dimitrov’s personal intervention and backing;

(b) Kostov was replaced by Dimitrov as party general secretary at the fifth party congress in December 1948 (the post of party chairman having been abolished). Soon afterwards, Dimitrov began a discussion of “mistakes” made by Kostov, accusing him of nationalism and “intellectual individualism”. Kostov was purged from the party in March 1949 while Dimitrov died of natural causes in July.
In December Kostov and others were accused of being agents of the Anglo-Americans and having committed treason in connection with the Balkan federation proposals (aimed at making Bulgaria an appendage of Yugoslavia, thus severing links with the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies). But no blame was attached to Dimitrov in connection with these proposals, while Kostov was executed immediately after the trial (he was partly rehabilitated in 1956 and completely exonerated in 1962). Kostov’s trial can eventually be regarded as an episode in the struggle for leadership within the Bulgarian party after Dimitrov’s death.

According to J.D. Bell, in The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (1986):

“When the charges against him were read to the court, Kostov admitted that he had tried to keep the prices of certain Bulgarian goods from Soviet officials, but he pleaded innocent to the rest of the charges and repudiated his confession. Even after the final guilty verdict was pronounced, he remained unrepentant. ‘I never served English intelligence,’ he said, ‘never participated in the criminal plans of Tito and his clique . . . I have always held the Soviet Union in devotion and respect . . . Let the Bulgarian people know that I am innocent!’”
(Bell, op. cit., p. 106);

(c) It is a well-known fact that it was Dimitrov that had publicly and ardently expressed himself – at variance with Soviet positions – in favour of a Balkan federation until early 1948. (The Soviet-Yugoslav split began to emerge in March). In an interview on 17 January 1948, he expressed himself in favour of a large federation including Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and eventually Greece. The rebuke came from Pravda on 28 January and on 2 February, at the second Congress of the Fatherland Front, Dimitrov made self-criticism expressing Bulgarian acceptance of the Soviet line;

(d) new documents have recently been declassified in Yugoslav, Bulgarian and Soviet archives with regard to the meeting on 10 February 1948 between delegations from these three countries (Bulgaria being represented by Dimitrov, Kostov and Kolarov).

The meeting’s proceedings amounted to a harsh reproach by the Soviets for Dimitrov’s statement about a federation in Eastern Europe and for Tito’s attempts to send a Yugoslav division into Albania. Emphasized once more were both the incorrectness of these steps and the inadmissibility of any action taken without informing the USSR. The Yugoslav and Bulgarian delegations admitted their “mistakes”.

What resulted from the meeting was the signing on 11 February, as proposed by the Soviet side, of agreements in which an obligation was recognized for consultation on international questions to take place between the USSR and Yugoslavia and between the USSR and Bulgaria.

EXTRACT 4
FROM THE REPORT BY G. MALENKOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (23 JUNE 1948).

NS:
We discover that Moscow was not in favour of the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) even after the official Soviet/Cominform split with Yugoslavia. Its entry was regarded as “inexpedient” and, it was argued, it would have complicated Albania’s international position, since it hadn’t been admitted to the UN and since its independence was allegedly guaranteed, at that time (i.e., June 1948), by “an agreement between three Powers” reached six years before!

The reference is, in fact, made to the agreement between the governments of the USSR, USA and Great Britain, according to which on 17-18 December 1942 each of the threee powers had made a similar declaration concerning the repudiation of the Italian occupation of Albania and support for the re-establishment of its independence. But already in November and December 1946, the Council of Foreign Ministers in New York had agreed to consider Albania an associated power with regard to the application of the peace treaty with Italy and had also recognized Albania’s right to an indemnity of five million dollars, which was to be paid by Italy in respect to war damages.

Finally, in February 1947, the peace treaty with Italy was signed (and later ratified by Tirana on 24 October 1947): Albania was not one of its signatories but ranked among the victorious states. Accordingly, Italy was bound to respect Albanian independence and Albanian legal and administrative sovereignty was sanctioned over the island of Sazan.

But, indeed, the CPA’s admission to Cominform was rejected on the basis of rather preposterous justifications on the part of the Soviet representative at the second Cominform conference in 1948! And also, Albania hadn’t been admitted at the UNO due to Anglo-American opposition: by 1947 both Washington and London had established diplomatic links with all Eastern European states – except Albania (whose gold, looted by the Germans, continued to remain kept in the vaults of the Bank of England in London).

What about all the Soviet and Cominform calls for struggle against the new American imperialist and warmongering plans to enslave Europe? Particularly in the light of the consistent Marxist-Leninist policies which had been implemented in Albania since its liberation, there can be no doubt that the Albanian communists’ continued exclusion from Cominform – even after Yugoslavia’s withdrawal from the organization – was masterminded by hidden and powerful revisionists within the Soviet leadership.

From Hoxha’s memoirs, it becames crystal clear that Stalin was personally determined to support Albania’s political stands and its independence at that crucial time. For its part, the CPA immediately and unconditionally supported the Soviet and Cominform positions on Yugoslav revisionism. The 9th Plenum of its Central Committee convened between 27 and 30 June 1948, having on its agenda analyses of the three letters addressed to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (on 27 March, 4 and 22 May 1948) and the Cominform resolution on Yugoslavia. Unanimous solidarity with and support for the stands adopted by the CPSU and the Cominform against Yugoslavia were expressed. Consequently, all the agreements and conventions which had been signed with Yugoslavia – except the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Aid of July 1946 (later abrogated by Belgrade in November 1949) – were denounced by Albania. These decisions were made public on 1 July 1948 in a communiquè of the CPA’s Central Committee.

EXTRACT 5
THE REPORT BY M. A. SUSLOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) ON “THE DEFENCE OF PEACE AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WARMONGERS” AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (16 November 1949):

NS:
This emphasizes and further develops – along the positions expressed by Zhdanov two years earlier – the necessity of maintaining peace and independence as the main task of the communist and workers’ parties. However, two years had elapsed. What had happened to the “transition” correctly discussed by Zhadanov? Was the establishment of a socialist society now forgotten? What about the dictatorship of the proletariat as the indispensable transition stage towards communism?

All these political stands, which effectively dump class struggle for socialism in favour of class collaboration, became included in the final Cominform resolution on “The Defence of Peace and the Struggle against the Warmongers”. As for the other resolution on “Working-Class Unity and the Tasks of the Communist and Workers’ Parties”, this was unanimously approved on the basis on Togliatti’s report on the subject: similar revisionist and right-wing stuff calling for “peace, bread and democratic liberties”! The third approved resolution dealt with “The Communist Party of Yugoslavia in the Power of Murderers and Spies”.

Extract 6
THE SPEECH BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (17 November 1949).

NS:
Directs a sharp criticism to Kostov who now becomes the scapegoat for former Bulgarian attempts to detatch, together with Tito, the country from the anti-imperialist, democratic camp (namely, the USSR) and to prevent the consistent advancement towards socialism in Bulgaria.

As for Dimitrov’s role in preventing the transition from the first stage of the anti-fascist, democratic revolution to the second, socialist stage, see “Alliance (Marxist-Leninist), n. 12, January 1995 (“Georgii Dimitrov and the Bulgarian Communist Party”).

Kostov was to be executed in December, while Dimitrov had died in July. It was also widely known that they had both coordinated Bulgarian policies towards the USSR and Yugoslavia during the forties. According to Chervenkov, Bulgaria had been able to strengthen its socialist foundations and fight nationalistic deviations only thanks to the Soviet Communist Party and Stalin, who is referred to as the “direct teacher and leader” of the Bulgarian people. Not even a passing reference is made to Dimitrov in Chervenkov’s whole report.

EXTRACT 7:
THE SPEECH BY V. POPTOMOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (18 November 1949);

NS:
Deals with the condemnation of Yugoslav revisionism. I have only selected a few quotations referring to the Balkan federation proposals. Not even in this report is mention made to Dimitrov. In fact, the Bulgarian delegates’ speeches at the third Cominform Conference do imply Dimitrov’s serious responsabilities for right-wing errors which had occurred in the international communist movement and in Bulgaria. From these proceedings, as well, Marxist-Leninists can hardly draw the conclusion that Dimitrov had been an outstanding and consistent Communist fighter during his lifetime.

THE EXTRACTED DOCUMENTS

1. FROM THE REPORT BY A. A. ZHDANOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) “ON THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (25 September 1947) (pp. 219, 227,229,251):

“…The new democratic power in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Albania, supported by the mass of the people, has proved capable of carrying through in a very short time progressive democratic changes…a new type of state was created – the People’s Republic, in which power belongs to the people, large-scale industry, transport and the banks belong to the state, and the leding force is a bloc of all the classes of the population who work, headed by the working class. As a consequence, the peoples of these countries have not only been delivered from the clutches of imperialism, they have laid the basis for transition to the path of socialist development…The aim of this [anti-imperialist and democratic] camp is to fight against the threat of new wars and imperilalist expansion, to consolidate democracy and to uproot what remains of fascism…All the forces of the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist camp have rallied to the task of ensuring a just and democratic peace. This is the soil on which the friendly cooperation of the USSR with the democratic countries on all questions of foreign policy has grown and strengthened. These countries, and in the first place, the countries of new democracy – Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechosiovakia, Albania – which played an important part in the war of liberation against fascism, together with Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and, to some extent, Finland, which have joined the anti-fascist front, have all become in the post-war period staunch fighters for peace and democracy, for their own freedom and independence against all attempts by the USA and Britain to reverse the trend of their development and drag them back under the imperialist yoke…The Communists must be the leading force in drawing all anti-fascist, freedom-loving elements into struggle against the new American expansionist plans for subjugating Europe…A special task falls to the Communist Parties of France, Italy, Britain and other countries. They must take up the banner of defence of the national independence and sovereignty of their countries…”

2. FROM THE REPORT BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) “ON THE ACTIVITY OF THE BULGARIAN WORKERS’ PARTY (COMMUNISTS)” AT THE FIRST CONFERENCE (23 September 1947) (pp. 103):

“. . . We can regard Bulgaria’s international position as having been normalised. The basic line of our foreign policy consists in safeguarding at all costs our national independence and state sovereignty, in co-operation with all freedom-loving peoples. The fundamental principle of this policy, as Comrade Dimitrov has frequently stressed, is eternal friendship with our liberator, the great Soviet Union, fraternal alliance with the new Yugoslavia, and close collaboration with all the other Slav countries and with the other democratic peoples.

The conference held at Bled and the decisions adopted there mark the beginning of a new phase in relations between the new Bulgaria and the new Yugoslavia and signify a big step forward in establishing close rapprochement between them. Decisions were taken at Bled on co-ordinated action and common defence of peace in the Balkans.

We are going to conclude treaties of friendship and mutual aid with Yugoslavia, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland which will still further strengthen Bulgaria’s position in the world. . . .”

3. FROM THE SPEECH BY T. KOSTOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (21 JUNE 1948) (pp. 561, 563, 565, 567, 569):

“. . . Comrade KOSTOV says that the CC of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) received with amazement and alarm the news of the anti-Marxist and anti-Soviet stand of the leaders of the KPJ, because they realise that in the present international situation, which calls for cohesion of all democratic forces under the leadership of the Soviet Union, any split in the democratic camp plays in the hands of the imperialists and is a stab in the back for the forces of democracy. The Bulgarian communists have further ground for anxiety because they were moving towards closer relations with Yugoslavia, going so far as a federation, which was to have strengthened the position of democracy in both countries and facilitated their progress along the road to socialism.

The policy of the present leaders of the KPJ is leading to rupture of the line which had been marked out and advanced for rapprochement between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. . .

. . . Comrade Kostov turns to the question of Bulgaro-Yugoslav relations and, in particular, speaks about the Macedonian question. After the First World War, says Comrade Kostov, Royal Yugoslavia annexed part of Western Bulgaria which remains to this day within the frontiers of Yugoslavia. During the Balkan Wars part of Eastern Macedonia (the Pirin region) became part of Bulgaria. The population of Eastern Macedonia speak Bulgarian and are linked economically with Bulgaria.

The process of forming the Macedonians into a nation was intensified after the creation of the Macedonian People’s Republic within the Yugoslav Federation. Even today, however, this process cannot be reagrded as complete.

Proceeding from the principles of the teaching of Lenin and Stalin, and considering the national question to be a subordinated one, we proposed to the Yugoslav comrades to consider as fundamental the possibility of a closer rapprochement between our two countries which must result in the near future in the creation of a federal state. The national question, too, could find its solution within the framework of a federation. In that there would be no special obstacles to the solution of this question, because in a federation there would be no frontier between Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Until the federation was formed we undertook, on the advice of the Soviet comrades, to promote the national development of the Macedonian people. To this end a hundred teachers were invited from Yugoslav Macedonia, agreement on this being arrived at between Comrades Dimitrov and Tito at Bled. In spite of this, differences continue to exist.

The Yugoslav comrades, especially Djilas, Vukmanovic and Kolisevski, still consider that the Macedonian question should be settled separately from the creation of the federation. Anybody who does not agree with their view they accuse of Greater-Bulgarian chauvinism. They want simply to annex the Pirin region to Yugoslav Macedonia and thereby to weaken Bulgaria. . . .

. . . In the light of the current behaviour of the leaders of the KPJ it has become clear that they were never sincere when they discussed the question of federation, that in their federation Bulgaria would not have had equal rights, that, in reality, they were trying to bring it about that, by means of federation, Tito’s Yugoslavia would become hegemon of the Balkans against the USSR. Evidently, Comrade Kostov concludes, the question of federation must be put aside for the time being. . . .

. . . Comrade Kostov proceeds to describe the situation in the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) and to criticise certain mistakes made by and defects in this Party. Alongside great achievements there are, says Comrade Kostov, major defects and mistakes in the Party’s work. Inner-Party democracy does not prevail at the level it should. Criticism and self criticism have not yet become the basic driving force in the Party. The CC itself does not yet work as a firmly welded collective, and command methods in relation to the Party organisations have not yet been fully outgrown. There has been no Party Congress for 20 years: since 9 September 1944 the CC has confined itself to convening enlarged plenums and conferences.

Comrade Kostov mentions the unfavourable state of affairs in respect of the Party’s social composition. There are persons in it who ought to be merely candidates for membership. Certain Party members have in the past sabotaged government decisions on grain-procurement. Some have joined the Party with venal aims and some Party organisations are being torn apart by squabbles over the allotment of jobs. Within a short space of time the Party has increased its membership twentyfold, from 25,000 to 500,000.

Taking account of the danger inherent in excessive growth of the Party, the CC has taken measures to restrict recruiting, and at the moment recruiting is suspended until the congress takes place, when a probationary period for candidates for Party membership will be laid down.

Comrade Kostov says that he considers his Party’s line to be fundamentally correct. They have achieved serious successes, smashed the forces of reaction, strengthened the Fatherland Front and proceeded to lay the foundations of a socialist economy. A correct general line does not mean, however, says Comrade Kostov, that the Party is free from mistakes and defects. The Party has these: underestimation of the class struggle, illusions about the possibility of softening this struggle in the conditions of present-day Bulgaria, failure to have a clear notion of the roads and tempos of developoment, talk of harmoniously combining the state, co-operative and private sectors in the economy, and so on. But all these mistakes have been corrected in good time, often thanks to advice from the CC of the VKP(B) and comrade Stalin personally.

All these mistakes of ours resulted in a number of cases in slowing down the pace of our struggle and our advance. In some cases, though, we ran too far ahead, as with the formulation about complete liquidation of the antagonistic classes. . . .

. . . On behalf of the Political Bureau of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists) Comrade Kostov declares his agreement with the conclusions of Comrade Zhdanov’s report on the situation in the KPJ.”

4. FROM THE REPORT BY G. MALENKOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) AT THE SECOND CONFERENCE (23 JUNE 1948) (pp. 601, 603):

“. . . We must also, says Comrade Malenkov, tell the Information Bureau that the CC of the CP of Albania has also expressed desire that their Party join the Information Bureau. We should like to state our view on this, namely, that it must be explained to the Albanian comrades that for the present it would be inexpedient for their Party to enter the Information Bureau. Our motives for this decision are these. The independence of Albania is at present guaranteed by an agreement between three Powers, Albania has not yet been admitted to the United Nations Organisation and there can be no doubt but that joining the Information Bureau in this international situation would complicate Albania’s international position, which is delicate enough even without that. It seems to us that the Albanian comrades agree with these reasons. We think that the Albanian comrades, too, should be kept informed of the activity of the Information Bureau. . . .”

5. FROM THE REPORT BY M. A. SUSLOV (SOVIET DELEGATION) ON “THE DEFENCE OF PEACE AND THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WARMONGERS” AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (16 November 1949) (pp. 699, 701, 705):

“. . . The change in the relation of forces in the world arena in favour of the camp of peace and democracy evokes fresh outbursts of frenzied fury in the camp of imperialism and warmongering. . . .
. . . In this situation in which the danger of another war is intensifying, a great historical responsibility is imposed on the Communist and Workers’ Parties. They must use every means of struggle to ensure a firm and long-lasting peace, subordinating all their activity to this, the central task at the present time . . . .

. . . It is the duty of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in the capitalist countries to merge together the fight for national independence and the fight for peace, tirelessly to expose the anti-national, traitorous nature of the policy of the bourgeois governments, which have been turned into direct bailiffs for American imperialism, to unite and weld together all the democratic and patriotic forces of each country around the slogans of doing away with the shameful slavery to America and going over to an independent external and internal policy which corresponds to the national interests of the people. The Communist and Workers’ Parties must hold high the banner of protection of the national independence and sovereignty of their countries.

The Communist and Workers’ Parties must unite the broad masses for defence of democratic rights and liberties, tirelessly explaining to them that defence of peace is inseparably bound up with defence of the vital interests of the working class and all the working people, that the fight for peace is at the same time a fight against poverty, hunger and fascism.

Particularly important tasks face the Communist Parties of France, Italy, and Britain, West Germany and other countries whose peoples the American imperialists want to use as cannon-fodder for carrying out their aggressive plans. Their duty is to develop still more strongly the fight for peace, to frustrate the criminal designs of the Anglo-American warmongers.

To the Communist and Workers’ Parties of the people’s democracies and the Soviet Union falls the task, while opposing the imperialist warmongers and their accomplices, of further strengthening the camp of peace and socialism, for the defence of peace and the security of the peoples. . . .”

6. FROM THE SPEECH BY V. CHERVENKOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (17 November 1949) (pp. 749, 751, 753, 755, 757):

“. . . At the present time the question of the defence of peace and national independence is the decisive question for the working class and the Communist Parties.
Since the time of the first conference of the Information Bureau, says Comrade Chervenkov, our Party has achieved important successes on the consolidation of people’s democracy in Bulgaria. . . .

. . . the people’s democracy of Bulgaria has been substantially reinforced, both economically and politically, in the past two years. One of the most important factors in this reinforcement is the nation-wide and profound nature of Bulgarian-Soviet friendship, which is a most important driving force in our social development. . . .

. . . Our working people see Comrade Stalin as our direct teacher and leader. . . .

. . . ruthless struggle against any manifestations of nationalism within the CP is a direct duty, an absolutely necessary precondition, or more correctly, a component part of the fight for peace.

Comrade Chervenkov stresses that nationalism not only helps the warmongers, it is actually the ideology of the enemies of peace, the enemies of the Soviet Union, the warmongers themselves. Nationalists are direct agents of imperialism. . . .

. . . What we are dealing with is a plan by the imperialists to subvert the Communist Party from within, to implant nationalists espionage agents in the Party. . . .

. . . Comrade Chervenkov says that with the direct aid of the CC of the VKP(B) and of Comrade Stalin personally – for which the Bulgarian people will be forever grateful – Kostov, the former secretary of the Party’s CC was exposed.

What did Kostov turn out to be? A British spy. He confessed that he had been recruited by British intelligence so far back as 1942 and that since 1944 he had had links with the Tito clique.

On the orders of the Anglo-American intelligence agents in our country and in conjunction with the Tito-ites, Kostov formed in the Party and the state apparatus a group of persons, spies like himself, who sought by various ways and means, exploiting our weakness, trustfulness, and carelessness, to damage the Party and the state primarily in the economic sphere, and to prepare, with the Tito-ites’s help, to detach Bulgaria from the Soviet Union, restore capitalism, and bring Bulgaria into the camp of imperialism.

This separation of Bulgaria from the Soviet Union they proposed to bring about by using the slogan of a federation of the Southern Slavs and a Balkan Federation. Of course, says Comrade Chervenkov, Kostov’s federation of the Southern Slavs had nothing and has nothing in common with what we mean by an alliance of the Southern Slavs, since Kostov’s federation of the Southern Slavs was to have been directed against the USSR. The Kostovites wanted to unite Bulgaria with Yugoslavia, and counted on military help from the Tito-ites…

. . . Our successes, says Comrade Chervenkov, would have been very much greater but for the wrecking done by the Kostovites. They did damage mainly through distorting in practice the policy of the Party and the governrnent, thereby creating discontent among the people. They harmed us especially in the sphere of our econornic policy, in our relations with the peasants. . . .

. . . All the preparation for the coming elections to the organs of state power is proceeding under the sign of ruthless criticism of shortcomings and determined reorganisation of our work. Comrade Chervenkov says that the whole of the Party’s work is being subjected to thorough criticism, along with the work of the state apparatus and of the social and economic organs. The working people are being very vigorously involved in creative criticism of shortcomings and weaknesses.

Speaking of the Party’s immediate tasks, Comrade Chervenkov emphasises that it is first of all necessary to purge the Party, from top to bottom, of Kostovites and of all who maintain a conciliatory attitude to them. This task will be carried out. Although a Party purge has not been formally announced, purging of the Party’s ranks is going on, and after the Kostov trial this purge will be pursued still more vigorously.

It must be said, Comrade Chervenkov observes, that we exposed Kostov in good time. That we owe to the VKP(B) and Comrade Stalin.

The fight against the Kostovites, says Comrade Chervenkov, has welded our Party together as never before. Vigilance has been heightened, inner-Party democracy has been extended and strengthened, and the process of Bolshevik tempering of the Party is progressing. We realise that Kostov was not, of course, alone. Kostovites have hidden themselves in the Party. But they will not be able to go on hiding after the exposure of Kostov and his principal associates. . . .”

7. FROM THE SPEECH BY V. POPTOMOV (BULGARIAN DELEGATION) AT THE THIRD CONFERENCE (18 November 1949) (pp. 935, 937):

“. . . The Tito-ites now not only do not conceal their territorial pretentions regarding Bulgaria, they quite openly and impudently speak of their intervention to seize the Pirin district – Bulgarian Macedonia. They are negotiating with the Greek monarcho-fascists not only about strangling the national liberation movement in Greece, and not only about dividing Albania with them, but also about forming a united front against Bulgaria. . . .

. . . The task of Trajcho Kostov’s gang was, with the aid of the Tito-ites, to take all power in Bulgaria into its hands, and then to wrest it from the Soviet Union and the front of peace and democracy, and behind the screen of some sort of federation to join the country to Tito’s Yugoslavia, i.e., to make it an actual colony of American imperialism. . . .

. . . Comrade Poptomov notes that the Tito clique, which previously did all it could to prevent the realization of a South-Slav federation, is now trying to appear as a warm supporter of such a federation, trying in this way to speculate on the fraternal feelings of these two Slav peoples, trying to give the slogan of a South-Slav federation an anti-Soviet character which would help to bring about a breakaway of the South Slavs from the Soviet Union. This same speculation is being practised by the Tito-ites with the slogans about a Balkan and a Balkan-Danubian federation, in an attempt to create a bloc of the peoples of South-Eastern Europe directed against the Soviet Union. . . .”

END

Resolution of the Information Bureau Concerning the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, June 28, 1948

 

tito_usa

The Information Bureau, composed of the representatives of the Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists), Rumanian Workers’ Party, Hungarian Workers’ Party, Polish Workers’ Party, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Communist Party of France, Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the Communist Party of Italy, upon discussing the situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and announcing that the representatives of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia bad refused to attend the meeting of the Information Bureau, unanimously reached the following conclusions:

1. The Information Bureau notes that recently the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia has pursued an incorrect line on the main questions of home and foreign policy, a line which represents a departure from Marxism-Leninism. In this connection the Information Bureau approves the action of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B), which took the initiative in exposing this incorrect policy of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, particularly the incorrect policy of Comrades Tito, Kardell, Djilas and Rankovic.

2. The Information Bureau declares that the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party is pursuing an unfriendly policy toward the Soviet Union and the CPSU (B). An undignified policy of defaming Soviet military experts and discrediting the Soviet Union, has been carried out in Yugoslavia. A special regime was instituted for Soviet civilian experts in Yugoslavia, whereby. they were under surveillance of Yugoslav state security organs and were continually followed. . . .

The Information Bureau denounces this anti-Sovict attitude of the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, as being incompatible with Marxism-Leninism and only appropriate to nationalists.

3. In home policy, the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia are departing from the positions of the working class and are breaking with the Marxist theory of classes and class struggle. They deny that there is a growth of capitalist elements in their country, and consequently, a sharpening of the class struggle in the countryside. This denial is the direct result of the opportunist tenet that the class struggle does not become sharper during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism, as Marxism-Leninism teacbes, but dies down, as was affirmed by opportunists of the Bukharin type, who propagated the theory of the peaceful growing over of capitalism into socialism.

The Yugoslav leaders are pursuing an incorrect policy in the countryside by ignoring the class differentiation in the countryside and by regarding the individual peasantry as a single entity, contrary to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of classes and class struggle, contrary to the well-known Lenin thesis that small individual farming gives birth to capitalism and the bourgeoisie continually, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale. . . .

Concerning the leading role of the working class, the leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party, bv affirming that the peasantry is the ‘most stable foundation of the Yugoslav state’ are departing from the Marxist-Leninist path and are taking the path of a populist, Kulak party. Lenin taught that the proletariat as the ‘only class in contemporary society which is revolutionary to the end . . . must be the leader in the struggle of the entire people for a thorough democratic transformation, in the struggle of all working people and the exploited against the oppressors and exploiters!

The Yugoslav leaders are violating this thesis of Marxism-Leninism. . . .

4. The Information Bureau considers that the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia is revising the Marxist-Leninist teachings about the Party. . .

The Information Bureau believes that this policy of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia threatens the very existence of the Communist Party, and ultimatelv carries with it the danger of the degeneration of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.

5. The Information Bureau considers that the bureaucratic regime created inside the Party by its leaders is disastrous for the life and development of the Yugoslav Communist Party. There is no inner Party democracy, no elections, and no criticism and self-criticism in the Party. . . .

It is a completely intolerable state of affairs when the most elementary rights of members in the Yugoslav Communist Party are suppressed, when the slightest criticism of incorrect measures in the Party is brutally repressed. . . .

The Information Bureau considers that such a disgraceful, purely Turkish, terrorist regime cannot be tolerated in the Communist Party. The interests of the very existence and development of the Yugoslav Communist Party demand that an end be put to this regime.

6. The Information Bureau considers that the criticism made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (B) and Central Committees of the other Communist Parties of the mistakes of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, and who ill this way rendered fraternal assistance to the Yugoslav Communist Party, provides the Communist Party of Yugoslavia with all the conditions necessary to speedily correct the mistakes committed.

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

7. Taking into account the situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, and seeking to show the leaders of the Party the way out of this situation, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (B) and the Central Committees of other fraternal parties, suggested that the matter of the Yugoslav Communist Party should be discussed at a meeting of the Information Bureau, on the same, normal party footing as that on which the activities of other Communist Parties were discussed at the first meeting of the Information Bureau.

However, the Yugoslav leaders rejected the repeated suggestions of the fraternal Communist Parties to discuss the situation in the Yugoslav Party at a meeting of the Information Bureau. . . .

8. In view of this, the Information Bureau expresses complete agreement with the estimation of the situation in the Yugoslav Communist Partv, with the criticism of the mistakes of the Central Committee of the Party, and with the political analysis of these mistakes contained in letters from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia between March and May 1948.

The Information Bureau unanimously concludes that by their anti-Party and anti-Soviet views, incompatible with Marxism-Leninism, by their whole attitude and their refusal to attend the meeting of the Information Bureau, the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia have placed themselves in opposition to the Communist Parties affiliated to the Information Bureau, have taken the path of seceding from the united socialist front against imperialism, have taken the path of betraying the cause of international solidarity of the working people, and have taken up a position of nationalism.

The Information Bureau condemns this anti-Party policy and attitude of the Central Cominittee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

The Information Bureau considers that, in view of all this, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia has placed itself and the Yugoslav Party outside the family of the fraternal Communist Parties, outside the united Communist front and consequently outside the ranks of the Information Bureau.

[…]

The Information Bureau does not doubt that inside the Communist Party of Yugoslavia there are sufficient healthy elements, loyal to Marxism-Leninism, to the international traditions of the Yugoslav Communist Party and to the United Socialist front.

Their task is to compel their present leaders to recognize their mistakes openly and honestly and to rectify them; to break with nationalism, return to internationalism; and in every way to consolidate the united socialist front against imperialism.

Should the present leaders of the Yugoslav Communist Party prove incapable of doing this, their job is to replace them and to advance a new internationalist leadership of the Party.

The Information Bureau does not doubt that the Cominunist Party of Yugoslavia will be able to fulfill this honourable task.

Source: Royal Institute of International Affairs, The Soviet-Yugoslav Dispute (London and New York, 1948), pp. 61-70., excerpts.

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

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by Grover Furr

Introduction

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

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

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

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

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

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

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

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

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

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

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

See rydz_dont_fight.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish State Collapsed

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See new_spheres_0939.html

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Imperialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish Government In Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would have

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

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

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

Conclusion

See conclusion.html

Source

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

MolotovRibbentropStalin

by Bill Bland

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

The Reorientation of Soviet Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

The Objective Basis of Collective Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appeasement 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anglo-French-Soviet Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go very slowly with the conversations”;

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

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

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

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

Warning Shots from Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Soviet-German Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On 19 August Schulenburg replied that Molotov had agreed that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘secret additional protocol’ declared:

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

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

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

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

The Effect of the Non-Aggression Pact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who can forget Stalin’s prophetic words in 1931:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————————————————————–

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

Question 1: 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 2: 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 3: 

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

Question 3a. 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 4: 

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

Reply: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Espresso Stalinist.

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

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

Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengths of Thurston’s Work

7. Thurston’s main points are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Thurston’s introduction outlines what he calls the “standard version” (xiv) or “orthodox view” (xvi) of Stalin and the USSR in the ’30s, invoking the name of Robert Conquest — which he will then prove wrong. (Conquest, a former British Secret Service agent, is the foremost anti- communist liar about the Stalin years.) He also points out also how the present capitalist rulers of Russia have every motive to build anti-Stalinism.

9. This chapter also demonstrates that the Soviet legal system was evolving along recognizably capitalist lines in terms of its judicial process during the early ’30s. On the one hand, this contradicts the view of the Cold Warriors that the USSR was “totalitarian”, and this is Thurston’s main point: that the USSR was becoming more “liberal”, giving citizens protection against arbitrary police action, for example.

10. It reveals, however, how much the Bolsheviks relied on Western capitalist models, in the judicial system and elsewhere (education, culture, industry), for models of how to build a communist society. Here, the Bolsheviks’ view of communism was, as we can see now in hindsight, in many respects a “reformed” version of capitalist relationships. Learning from the Bolsheviks’ shortcomings as well as from their own experience, left forces within the Chinese Communist Party later challenged reliance on police and courts with reliance on the working class and poor peasants through political struggle, public trials, and an emphasis on self-criticism and being held accountable to the masses — a process that eventually reached its high point during the Cultural Revolution before it was finally defeated.

11. Chapter Two disposes of some ancient anti-Communist lies. Thurston shows there’s no evidence Stalin murdered either his second wife in 1932 or Politburo colleague Sergei Kirov in 1934. Both of these fairy-tales have been refuted by other scholars before Thurston but are still accepted without question as true by anti-Stalinists. Concerning the three big “Show Trials” of 1936-38, Thurston highlights the evidence that the basic charges against the defendants were in fact true. This was generally accepted even by keen Western observers at the time, like Joseph Davies, sent by President Roosevelt to check out the Soviet government (see his book Mission to Moscow), and confirmed long ago too by staunch anti-Communist scholars like Robert V. Daniels (see his Conscience of the Revolution, 1960).

12. Thurston shows that there was “wrecking” — industrial sabotage — in the economy under Yuri Pyatakov, whose confession to this effect is also shown to have been voluntary, not coerced (46). Even the charges against Nikolai Bukharin, main defendant in the 1938 trial, are shown to have been true in the main, as documents from Bolshevik archives prove (35-42). Thurston also states that some accusations against the defendants were “fabrications”, but he never gives any evidence to support this charge. In fact — though Thurston does not discuss this — it is quite likely that suspicions of “wrecking” were exaggerated by the recklessness built into the industrialization campaign, caused by the emphasis on “increasing productive forces” by sharpening wage differentials, privileges, and therefore class antagonisms: in short, by socialism, the mixture of communist and capitalist elements which communists since the days of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program had believed was a necessary interim stage between capitalism and a classless society.

13. Finally, Chapter Two also reaffirms that the massive arrests did not take place until after the arrests and executions in June 1937 of the military commanders led by Marshal Tukhachevsky. Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership clearly believed there was a real conspiracy, and there’s much, though not conclusive, evidence that such a conspiracy indeed existed. Chapter Three demonstrates that the Soviet government reacted in panic to the disclosure of such high-placed treason. There’s no evidence at all that Stalin was out to “terrorize the country”.

14. Nikolai Ezhov, the leader of the political police (or NKVD), was the person most directly responsible for the massive arrests and executions. Usually demonized by Cold-War historians, Ezhov was a long-time Communist with an honorable record, a worker since the age of 14, before being entrusted by the Politburo with the task of directly overseeing the repression of what all believed to be a massive counter-revolutionary plot.

15. Ezhov set high quotas for executions, which the police felt had to be met. There were many examples of police arresting and executing people either to “meet quotas” or from outright corruption. Recent research by Thurston ‘s colleagues suggests that between six and seven hundred thousand persons were executed during 1937-38. (See the article by Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov in American Historical Review, October 1993).

16. A few comments are in order here. First, the concept of “quotas” for executions appears to come from Lenin’s practice during the Civil War, although Thurston does not say so. After the Bolsheviks revolution privileged and propertied people throughout Russia opposed the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and White (anti-Communist) forces routinely executed Communists, workers who supported them, and all Jews. Under Lenin’s urging the Bolsheviks would take hostages from among the upper classes, threatening to execute them if the Whites opposed them.

17. It should be clear that such “quotas for execution” were completely inappropriate in a situation in which the Bolsheviks held state power and could confine anyone suspected of anti-Communist activity until their cases could be investigated. Such executions, whether of the guilty or, as was inevitable, of the innocent as well, serve no mass political function, as would public trials, investigations, and a concept of justice based upon the direct participation of the working class — an issue noted by Vyshinsky himself.

18. Anti-Communist “scholars” have repeatedly produced fantastically high figures for Soviet executions and jailings during the “purges”. Thurston challenges those inflated numbers with strong archival evidence. On page 137 he explicitly states that the inflated estimates are too high. On page 11 Thurston has a chart showing there were 1,196,439 camp inmates in 1937, a slight decline from the previous year (this included criminals as well as those arrested for political crimes, but does not include prison inmates). For purposes of comparison, we should note that this is much smaller than the US prison population today! While it seems clear to us now that many of those prisoners charged with political crimes (104,826, or 12.8% of the total) were not in fact guilty, that prison population is a long way from the Cold-War anti-Communist “guesstimates” of between 7 and 15 million prisoners — and some guess much higher still, 20 or 30 million!

19. Thurston shows there were, in fact, other real anti-Soviet plots in addition to the “Tukhachevsky Affair” (mass arrests and executions of military officers), including some spies within the NKVD itself. He also provides overwhelming evidence to show that the arrests targeted elite sectors — managers, specialists, intellectuals, party officials, and not “workers or poor peasants, the favored children of the new regime” (76). Naturally communists should not support unjust accusations against anyone, regardless of their class background. What this fact shows is that socialism — the continuation of capitalist relations of production and a capitalist notion of economic development — involved the continuation of class antagonisms under somewhat different forms, class antagonisms that found expression in the mass arrests and executions.

20. Thurston puts these events squarely in the context of the aftermath of the extremely violent years of 1914-21 (the beginning of World War I to the end of the very bloody Civil War) and, more immediately, of the sharpening international situation of the late ’30s, when Nazi Germany and all the imperialist countries were unmistakably bent upon surrounding and destroying the USSR.

21. However, even at that Thurston underplays the danger facing the Communist movement. On pages 34-5, he mentions the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, unchallenged by the French who wanted Hitler to rearm, so as to pit him against the USSR. He mentions the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, but not the huge military support given to Franco, leader of the Spanish fascists, by Nazi German and fascist Italy, nor the phony “neutrality” of England, France, and the USA which cut the Spanish Republic off from international aid. He mentions fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in December 1935, unchallenged by the other imperialists, but never the Japanese fascists’ seizure of Manchuria in 1931 or the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Japan and Italy (1936-37), or the Japanese invasion of China (1937). Stalin would later express the Soviet view that the other imperialists were encouraging the Germans to attack and destroy the Soviet union:

“They kept on urging the Germans to go farther and farther east: ‘You just start a war against the Bolsheviks, and all will be well'” (quoted in Alexander Werth, Russia at War, p. 39).

22. Also left out is the Nazi decimation of the German Communist Party, the largest in Europe, beginning in 1934. In 1936, when the Soviet “purges” began, German Communists were being tortured and murdered by the thousands in German concentration camps, and similar treatment was being meted out to Communists and workers in dozens of other capitalist lands — as, in fact, it still is. Little wonder that the Soviets weren’t prone to treat too kindly those it considered to be German spies and agents!

23. And Thurston repeats, time and again, what his sources show him: the Soviet government favored workers and poor peasants over all others in the population, while they were being exploited, killed, etc., in every other country in the world! Thurston’s own evidence shows that the USSR was a “dictatorship of the working class”.

24. Some police agencies treated evidence as very important, though many did not. Conditions in the labor and punishment camps, the so-called “Gulag”, Thurston argues, were bearable both before and after the period 1937 to 1938, but very bad during this period, reflecting the fact that most police, and even prisoners, were convinced those arrested during this time were traitorous conspirators who deserved the worst treatment.

25. By January 1938, Thurston shows, complaints of unjustified repression were flooding the Central Committee, and the Plenum began to demand that expulsions from the Party be reviewed for unfairness. The next month Andrei Vyshinsky, formerly the head prosecutor at the “Show Trials”, complained about conditions in the labor camps and demanded punishment of camp officials who permitted bad conditions. He also insisted that those who fabricated evidence be arrested. In fact a number of trials of such fabricators did take place this year and the next, often with great publicity.

26. The need to pay greater attention to physical evidence, as opposed to confession, was re-emphasized. By the middle of 1938 the great period of panic, mass arrests, and executions was over. Police procedures were regularized; conditions in the camps improved; many of those falsely arrested were released and exonerated. Trials of NKVD men who had tortured and framed people were held, and the NKVD purged of such people.

27. Certainly the Soviet state was justified in acting to arrest preemptively, in times of crisis, anyone suspected of treason. But there was no reason for executing people on the same flimsy basis; they could certainly have been imprisoned pending a serious review of their cases. Had this been done, many or most executions would not have taken place. What is more, well-publicized trials of those who were guilty, with evidence publicly given, would have raised political consciousness, as did the Chinese Communist Party’s public trials of landlords in the period after their seizure of power, in which peasants openly accused those who had exploited and murdered them.

28. Chapter Six, “Life in the Factories”, shows that the Stakhanovite movement was, in fact, a mass movement which gave all workers the opportunity to gain recognition for improving production and technique, rather than a cynical way of “speeding-up” the workers, as it has been described by anti-Communists. Thurston argues that, in fact, Stakhanovism gave workers more power. Workers’ views and criticisms were respected; supervisors and foremen ignored them at their peril.

29. But here too we see that “socialist” relations of production were basically a reformed version of capitalist relations of production. While acknowledging the communist, collective aspects of the Stakhanov movement, we can see in retrospect how it inevitably became associated with speed-up, given the retention of a wage system. Thurston’s book neglects this aspect of the movement.

30. Thurston quotes some American workers who had also worked in the USSR as saying that conditions of work, and the atmosphere in the factories, were better for Soviet workers in the 1930s than for workers in the US (192). But he then undercuts their view — far more informed than his own — in the next sentence, where he writes that “Soviet workers were hardly better off or freer than their American counterparts”.

31. Ironically, he has already cited evidence on page 170 that at least some Soviet workers had shorter working hours than US workers. At the time, many people thought Soviet workers were, in fact, better off than were American workers. One of them was Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s. In a passage not cited by Thurston, Reuther wrote home:

Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the “ruthless dictatorship in Russia”. I tell you … in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy… (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).

32. Thurston says nothing about free medical care, cited in many studies of and novels about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. And much of his chapter shows how Soviet workers had a tremendous amount of input and right to criticize. Thurston also doesn’t mention that millions of US workers were unemployed in the ’30s, while the Soviets had a labor shortage. He omits the fact that US workers trying to unionize for better conditions were being violently attacked, and often killed, by the police, the military, and employer-hired goons. Conditions for the working class in Europe generally were even worse, with fascist or virtually fascist regimes, all viciously anti-working class, in most countries.

33. The final chapter deals with the response of the Soviet population to World War II. Here too Thurston concludes that the Soviet regime retained much loyalty and enthusiasm among the population. Soviet soldiers fought against the Japanese in Mongolia with high morale in 1938, where their military leadership was excellent, and against Finland and then the German Wehrmacht in 1940 and 1941, where both political and military leadership was initially poor and led to larger casualties than necessary. In the opening days of WWII, the Red Army fought well, counterattacking against far superior Axis forces, often fighting to the last man, rarely surrendering unless surrounded or demoralized by huge casualties and a hopeless situation. German officers uniformly remarked that the Soviets fought far better than any Western army (215).

34. Civilian morale was generally high in June 1941, even in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland. The Polish fascist state had been racist towards Jews and Ukrainians in Eastern Poland, and therefore many of the Ukrainian population were supportive when the Soviets marched in, especially since the Soviets mainly repressed the enemies of the workers and peasants — landowners, Polish officers, and police — and did not collectivize the peasantry. But Ukrainian nationalists in Poland had already basically turned towards the Nazis, so many “Western” Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi invasion. German officers recognized that the Ukrainians in Soviet territory were very different, much more loyal to the USSR and often very hostile to the pro-Nazi West Ukrainians, as Thurston shows.

Shortcomings

35. The research reported in this book because it will help to combat anti-communism and lies against Stalin and the USSR generally during his time. However, Thurston’s work also suffers from serious shortcomings. First, while he combats many anti-Communist lies with good evidence, Thurston also makes many statements critical of the Bolsheviks without any evidence. There are many instances of this.

36. Even more serious are Thurston’s historiographical shortcomings. Not a Marxist of any kind, Thurston frames his analysis entirely in bourgeois historical terms. Therefore, Thurston’s book is valuable when, and only when, he bases his conclusions on primary source evidence. Even when he does, this evidence must be put into an historical materialist, scientific framework in order for important lessons to emerge clearly.

37. Like all the other works of the anti-Cold War researchers — called “revisionists” or “Young Turks” — who have helped to refute anti-Stalin and anti-Communist lies, this is a work of bourgeois history. These works of research take capitalism for granted, and so have a capitalist bias from the outset. Though they come up with important evidence, and often use it well, they do so from an academic perspective. They may refute egregious Cold-War lies, but they never reject anti-communism, the fundamental premise of capitalist scholarship.

38. Most important for our purposes, the “revisionists” do not ask the questions which Marxists, and all those convinced that capitalism must be overthrown, need answers to: namely, What can we learn, positively and negatively, from the history of the USSR? What were the Bolsheviksí successes? Why did these dedicated communists fail?

39. Although it can’t provide answers to the questions revolutionaries need to ask, Thurston’s work, like those of other more objective, though bourgeois, researchers, can help us if we use them according to historical materialism, the scientific method of Marxism or communism.

40. After all, to learn the correct lessons, both positive and negative, from the Bolsheviks’ experience, the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and why it eventually turned into its opposite, we need something in addition to the Marxist method of understanding history, or dialectical and historical materialism. We also need an accurate account of what, in fact, happened, not a farrago of anti-Communist lies and horror stories.

41. It is here, in refuting anti-Communist lies, as well as in discovering what did happen in reality, that Thurston’s work, and that of other honest bourgeois historians, can be very helpful. Let me give two brief examples.

1. Capitalist Relations and Class Antagonisms within the USSR:

42. Thurston shows time and again that those most likely to have been arrested and executed during the panic of 1937-38 were officials, leaders, managers, officers, and “higher- ups” in general. This fact shows that there was a considerable divorce between “leaders” and ordinary workers and other citizens. How could this be?

43. Marx recognized that “all history is the history of class struggle”. The Bolsheviks believed that everything must be subordinated to the fight for industrialization and production. After the early ’30s they used “material incentives” to reward workers and managers, developing large wage differentials and, therefore, differences in living standards among workers and between workers and managers, Party leaders and rank-and-file members, and in every other aspect of society. Believing too that productive technique was “class-neutral”, they kept capitalist production relationships in the factories and capitalist relationships of hierarchy and inequality generally in society. Women still did all the housework as well as their jobs, putting real limits on the extent — real, also — to which sexism could be fought.

44. In short, social relationships in the USSR were “reformed” capitalist relationships more than they were truly communist egalitarian relationships. This had to give rise to new class antagonisms and create resistance to the disappearance of old ones.

45. Thurston’s research can help us see that the mass arrests and executions of 1937-38, which were “concentrated among the country’s elite” (232), reflected these class antagonisms at the same time Stalin and the Soviet leadership believed they had abolished class struggle. Without these capitalist relations the “panic” of the late ’30s and, in fact, the future evolution of the Soviet Union towards, first, state capitalism and, as now, “free-market” capitalism, would not have been possible.

2. Elitist Relations within the Party:

46. In 1938 and thereafter specific cases of police corruption, neglect of evidence, frame-ups, and other negligence were publicized and those guilty punished. Many cases of rehabilitation, both of the living and of those unjustly executed, took place. Nevertheless the Bolshevik leadership under Stalin never really underwent a thorough, public self-critical review of how any injustice could have happened, in order to get to the bottom of it.

47. There is also the question of why people like Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were in important positions of power to begin with. They had demonstrated rotten politics for years. Zinoviev had quit the party in fear rather than take part in the October Revolution. Bukharin had lied many times — Thurston documents this — and had even plotted with the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin during the Civil War. (The S-R’s then plotted to overthrow Lenin, and very likely tried to kill him.) They had been expelled from the Party.

48. What was the point of handing them major leadership posts? The Bolsheviks should have trained other members to do their jobs and not relied on these particular intellectuals. Perhaps the concept of a party of “professional revolutionaries”, a “cadre” party — Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others had worked for the Party all their lives — had not yet been entirely abandoned for the better concept of a mass party of the working class.

Conclusion: Fight Capitalist Lies

49. Thurston’s work is useful in debunking anti-Communist lies. And his work is only one of a growing body of what has been called “revisionist” research on the history of the USSR. These works use the same kind of bourgeois historical methodology, rules of evidence, logic, and documentation, commonly used in less contentious fields of history, but hardly ever in the study of the communist movement.

50. For the first time, an outline of the major events in the USSR during the Stalin years is beginning to emerge, although the anti-Communist “Cold Warriors” — often joined by enthusiasts for Leon Trotsky — are still actively spreading their lies and contesting every bit of research which contradicts their preconceived ideas, what is virtually a “Cold-War Party Line”.This is exciting, and heady, material!

51. But it is for revolutionaries and workers of today to use research like Thurston’s towards this end. Neither this work nor any others like it can provide the historical materialist framework without which human history will not reveal its truths.

Revisionists’ Research on Soviet History: A Brief Bibliographical Note(Note: It is a daunting task to keep abreast of the exciting research into the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. The “revisionists”, of which Thurston is a leading representative, have split the field of bourgeois Soviet history, and there is much animosity on both sides. In addition, it’s very helpful to be able to read Russian, both in order to look at original sources, and to follow the research now being published in Russia that Getty is publishing there, for example. What follows is only a brief introduction.)

1. There are a number of strands in the “new” history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin years. The work of the late E. H. Carr, and of his successors at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, led by R. W. Davies, and represented heavily in the journal Soviet Studies (since volume 45, 1993 retitled Europe-Asia Studies); the research of Jerry Hough, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Roberta Manning, the inspiration and, in some cases, the teachers of the younger “revisionists”; and the younger cohort themselves. I will concentrate on this third group.

2. The book under review is an excellent place to begin. But, to my mind, the first and groundbreaking work of this school is John Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A much revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College, 1979, under Roberta Manning, this work is fundamental. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the “accepted” version (Conquest-Solzhenitsyn, et al. — what Thurston calls the “standard version” or “orthodox view”) of this period must be rejected, how completely dishonest their “scholarship”, how poor their use of evidence. After Thurston, begin with Getty, and a careful reading of his footnotes.

3. The year after Getty’s book was published, the revisionists achieved recognition as a distinct school within Soviet history with Sheila Fitzpatrick’s article “New Perspectives on Stalinism”, The Russian Review 45, 4 (October 1986), 357-373, which the editors published together with four criticisms by established Cold-War historians, and a reply by Fitzpatrick, “Afterword: Revisionism Revisited”. A year later the same journal published eleven responses to Fitzpatrick’s article, including five by the leading younger scholars (William Chase, J. Arch Getty, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Gábor Rittersporn, and Lynne Viola), two supportive articles (by Jerry Hough and Roberta Manning), and an explicit attack by Conquest.

4. Robert Conquest’s voluminous work is the target, acknowledged or not, of much of the research on this period of Soviet history. Getty leads off his book with a brief exposé of Conquest’s irresponsible methods (Origins, p. 5 and note 12, p.222). The work of Steven G. Wheatcroft on the size of Soviet forced labor camps and number of deaths has developed as a refutation of Conquest and those whose research resembles his, like Steven Rosefielde. This debate continues today, and was launched by Wheatcroft’s article “On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-1956”, Soviet Studies 33 (April, 1981), 265-95. Conquest’s typically weak reply, with argument “from authority”, is in Soviet Studies 34 (July 1982), 434-39.

5. Wheatcroft and Conquest continue to criticize each other’s studies vigorously. For Wheatcroft’s research, begin with what appears in Europe-Asia Studies. For example, in “The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-1945”, EAS 48 (December 1996), 1319-1353, Wheatcroft attacks the facile, anti-Communist comparison of Stalin with Hitler. The abstract reads:

     Repression and mass killings carried out by German and Soviet leaderships during the period 1930-45 differed in several respects. It appears that the German leader Adolf Hitler put to death at least five million innocent people mainly because of his antipathy towards Jews and communists. In contrast, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some one million people because he apparently believed them to be guilty of crimes against the state. He was careful about documenting these executions whereas Hitler did not bother about making any pretence at legality.

6. A few other works which base themselves on recently-published Soviet archival documents and give the lie to Conquest-type horror-stories include: Nicolas Werth, “Goulag: Les Vrais Chiffres”, L’Histoire no. 169 (Septembre, 1993), 38-51; J. Arch Getty, Gábor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”, American Historical Review 98 (December, 1993), 1017-49; R.W. Davies, “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations”, New Left Review, 214 (November-December 1995), 62-80.

7. Other works explicitly critical of Conquest include: Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right”, Village Voice, Jan. 12, 1988 (on the web at http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/vv.html). Coplon interviewed many of the foremost historians of the USSR, including many “Cold Warriors” as well as some “revisionists”; all rejected Conquest’s phony research on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, 1986), incidentally showing how Conquest was paid by Ukrainian nationalist groups which had collaborated with the Nazis.

8. Thurston was, I think, the first and (to date) the only historian of the Soviet Union to dare to attack Conquest in an academic journal: see Thurston, “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest”, Slavic Review 45 (Summer 1986), 238-244.

9. A six-part series exposing the Nazi origins of the Ukrainian famine myth while remaining critical of Soviet actions from a communist viewpoint, can be found at the Progressive Labor Party website at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/ukfam1.html; read its notes for scholarly references to that time. Another PLP series, this time in four parts, of Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990), begins at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/pbsstal1.html. These articles contain yet more references to “revisionist” scholarship, and end with a brief bibliography of suggested further readings, at http://www.plp.org/books/biblio.html. An appreciative but critical review of Getty’s Ph.D. dissertation, the basis of his 1985 book, is at http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/purges.html.

10. This should be enough for anyone interested in studying the latest critiques of the Cold-War lies about Stalin and Bolshevik history, the wars within the field of Soviet history, and the best results of bourgeois historiography, to sink their teeth into.

11. Finally: there is an important theoretical issue which I deal with briefly towards the end of my review, and which is not apparent in any of the social-historical and empirical research of the past twenty years or so. That question is: How can the method of dialectical and historical materialism be brought to bear on the “facts” as we are coming to know them, in order to draw valid conclusions from the Bolsheviks’ successes and errors, so that future communists may build upon the past without repeating its mistakes?

12. These works can help us learn something about what did happen, and help us refute anti-Communist lies. But the task of learning from the past to build towards a communist future is up to us.

Source

Bill Bland: Enver Hoxha As World Statesman

November 1945, preparing to take Tirana; from p.100

November 1945, preparing to take Tirana; from p.100

Hoxha at the Permet Congress 1944; p.64

Hoxha at the Permet Congress 1944; p.64

On Red Square podium, Novmber 1947, with J.V.Stalin & V.Molotov; p.104

On Red Square podium, Novmber 1947, with J.V.Stalin & V.Molotov; p.104

ALL IMAGES FROM “ENVER HOXHA”; Tirana

(Talk by Bill Bland to an Albanian Society meeting in 1985)

Transcribed by Comrade NS

I feel that the title of my address – “Enver Hoxha as World Statesmen” – must have caused some raised eyebrows. Whether they like their policies or not, most people would accept Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachov as world statesmen. But Enver Hoxha was the leader of a small country, the size of Wales with a population of less than three millions. Can the leader of a small country ever really be a statesman, or stateswoman, of world stature?

But it is only a few years ago that tens of thousands of people were marching through the streets of cities all over the world shouting with approval the name of Ho Chi Minh. Ho’s politics were not the same as those of Enver Hoxha, but he was the leader of a small country which inflicted on the powerful United States of America the first military defeat in its history.

Albania too has successfully resisted attempts at absorption, invasion, dismemberment and destabilisation from Greece, from Yugoslavia, from the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin, from China, from Britain and from the United States. It has constructed a planned socialist economy which is, at present, unique in the world.

How has it come about that Albania has followed, in the last forty years, such a different course of development from that of other countries of south-eastern Europe?

The cause cannot be found in any geographical or historical peculiarities of Albania. It lies in the specific character of the leadership of the political party which has been the leading force in Albanian society during these forty years. And pre-eminent in that leadership over these four decades was Enver Hoxha, who died in April at the age of 76.

Some people have expressed surprised that Hoxha’s death should have been reported with such virulent hostility by almost all our press, radio and television. But they should not be surprised.

The successful construction of a planned socialist society in Albania – a society without profit, without millionaires, without unemployment, without inflation, without taxes and with constantly rising living standards – is a threat to everything which “The Sunday Times” and the BBC hold up as “Western civilisation”.

Enver Hoxha would not have been surprised at his obituaries in the British media. When the British press praises someone who call himself a “socialist”, it is time to question the genuineness of his “socialism”. And, of course, this hostile propaganda does not have entirely the results it aims at. In the week in which these obituaries were published, the Albanian society received more applications for membership than in any month in the past twenty-five years. One miner from South Wales wrote to me:

    “Having read the newspaper reports on the death of Enver Hoxha, my experience of the press over the twelve months of the miners’ strike leads me to want to know more about Albania”.

On the other hand, some people were naturally misled by this propaganda. I received several letters which said, in effect:

    “I do not understand why, in your letter of protest to the BBC, you denied that Enver Hoxha was a ‘dictator’. Surely, the Albanian Constitution defines the Albanian state as a ‘dictatorship’”.

Indeed, it does.

But it defines the Albanian state as “the dictatorship of the working class”, not that of an individual. This simply means that the political power in Albania is in the hands of the working class, that the working class rules. Albanians do not present “the dictatorship of the working class” as the opposite of democracy. On the contrary, using the term “democracy” with its classical Greek meaning of “the rule of the common people”, they maintain that working class power is the only genuine democracy.

The Party of Labour of Albania regards Britain as a dictatorship – as a state in which political power is in reality in the hands of Big Business. But they do not imply by that term that Margaret Thatcher is a personal dictator. Nevertheless, the leader of the ruling party in Britain has somewhat more constitutional power than the leader of the ruling party in Albania: he or she is automatically Prime Minister and has the right to appoint and dismiss Ministers.

The leadership of the Party of Labour of Albania, which forms the core of the Albanian society, has always been a collective one, although Enver Hoxha was pre-eminent in that leadership. But this position of pre-eminence was the result of Hoxha’s outstanding abilities and devoted service to the working people, and the respect and love which flowed from these qualities.

Let us look more closely at the causes of Albania’s unique course of social development.

Today, the social system in Greece is very different from that in neighboring Albania. Yet in 1944 the situation in the two countries was closely similar. Both were under German occupation; both had national liberation movements led by their respective communist parties; both had right-wing spurious “nationalist” movements, supported by British gold and weapons, which fought the national liberation movements in collaboration with the Nazi forces; in both countries British troops landed, ostensibly to “help” in liberation.

It was the different reaction of the two communist parties which gave rise to the different outcome in the two countries.

The leaders of the so-called “Communist Party of Greece” signed a truce with the right-wing collaborators, placed their forces under the command of the right-wing government-in-exile and of the British Commander-in-Chief, welcomed the British troops.

The leaders of the Communist Party of Albania – today the Party of Labour – destroyed the collaborationist forces; they thanked the British troops for their “offer of help’ but insisted that they withdraw from Albanian soil. They did so.

Let us look at another facet of Albania’s unique course of development.

In 1945 the countries of Eastern Europe (except for Greece) were following the model of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin in constructing planned socialist societies based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Today only Albania continues to adhere to those principles.

Admittedly, this is not the impression one gets from the pages of “Pravda”. But like our “popular” press, this is now a newspaper which aims not at the truth, but at misleading the masses.

If one studies the specialised Soviet economic journals a very different picture emerges. The so-called “economic reforms” instituted after the death of Stalin have abandoned central economic planning; the profitability of each enterprise has become once more the motive and regulator of production.

True, these profits – as in orthodox “profit-sharing” schemes in the “West” – are shared among the whole staff of the enterprise. But they are distributed according to what is termed “responsibility in profit-making”, which means that the lion’s share goes to management. The latest statistics show that 51% of the profits go to workers (who form 96% of the personnel), while 49% go to management (who form 4% of the personnel).

The restoration of the profit motive in the Soviet Union has meant reliance on market forces, on the laws of “supply and demand”. This means, as elsewhere, that it is often more profitable to produce luxury items for the wealthy than necessities of life for the working people.

Enver Hoxha described contemporary Soviet society as essentially a capitalist society, in which the working people were exploited by a new ruling class, a new capitalist class – the enterprise directors. He noted that all the negative phenomena which are associated with capitalism have began to reappear – crises of “over-production”, inflation, redundancy, etc.

True, the Soviet economic journals do not speak of “unemployment”, only of “surplus labour”. To solve this problem a “youth employment scheme” has been established, and an official campaign that “a woman’s place is in the home”! Letters are published calling – not, of course, for “unemployment benefit”, but for “stipends” for workers who are “between jobs”.

Such development has proceeded – sometimes faster, sometimes slower – in all the formerly socialist countries of eastern Europe, except for Albania.

Whereas the Albanian constitution prohibits foreign aid and credits, the other countries are obliged not only to the Soviet Union, but to Western financial institutions. The hard currency indebtedness of Bulgaria stands at $9 billion, of Hungary at $10 billion, of Yugoslavia at $19 billion and of Poland at $26 billion (on which it cannot pay even the interest due).

Official figures show that in Poland the real wages of the workers fell between 1981 and 1984 by more than 30%.

Inflation in Poland is running at 38% a year, in Yugoslavia at 57%.

Unemployment in Yugoslavia stands at 13% of the work force (30% in the Albanian province of Kosova).

There were, of course, prominent Albanians who sought to lead Albania along this same road of, in Hoxha’s words, “capitalist degeneration”.

It was, above all, Hoxha who led the ideological struggle against the views of these individuals. These struggles are usually portrayed in our press as “personal power struggles”. There were nothing of the sort. There were in each case struggles around principle – with Hoxha standing successfully for the maintenance of independence and socialism for his country.

Whether one is a socialist or not, the question of socialism – how to attain it and how to maintain it – is a question of international importance.

Marxism-Leninism has always held that the state in capitalist countries is always – no matter what its parliamentary trappings – in reality the dictatorship of Big Business. It has always held, therefore, that this state apparatus of force will be used against any attempt to establish a socialist society, so that the working people must be prepared for revolutionary struggle. It has always held that the belief that a fundamental change in society can be attained through the ballot box alone is a dangerous illusion. This does not necessarily mean a bloody and protracted civil war – the number of people who died in the October Revolution in Russia was far less than the number killed on the roads of Manchester on a typical summer Sunday. Hoxha’s famous dictum was:

    “The more the working people are prepared for revolutionary struggle, the greater the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism”.

Most of the old communist parties, however, have rejected these fundamental tenets of Marxism-Leninism in favor of the concept of “parliamentary transition to socialism”. In Hoxha’s words, they have become “revisionists”, they have “revised” Marxism-Leninism by repudiating its fundamental core.

The leading role in the struggle against this “modern revisionism” was undoubtedly played by Enver Hoxha, who adhered all his adult life firmly to Marxist-Leninist principles. And, as I said, whether one is a socialist or not, these are questions of world importance. Hoxha’s leading role in these questions makes him, in this respect too, a world figure.

Furthermore, he was the author of a whole series of books, not only upon Albania, but on Yugoslavia, on the Soviet Union, on China, on the Middle East, and so on, which are essential reading for any serious student of world affairs.

But it is as the principal architect of Socialist Albania that Enver Hoxha’s qualities of leadership shine most clearly and obviously.

In forty years Albania has been transformed from the most backward country in Europe to an advanced industrialised state.

Where else in the world can one find no unemployment, with the right to work enshrined in the Constitution?

Where else can one find dwelling rents at 3% of income?

Where else can one find no rates, taxes or social service contributions combined with a free health service?

Where else can one find non-contributory pensions at 70% of pay, payable as young as 55 in certain occupations?

A visitor goes from Britain – with its barren industrial waste lands, with its four million unemployed, with its declining social services – to Albania to find a country which is one huge construction site, to a country whose people have well-founded confidence that each year their living standards will improve as production rises.

Some visiting newspaper reporters claim to find Albania “dull’.

They find no Soho “strip-tease” shows, no Mayfair gambling casinos, no pornographic magazines, no heroin pushers, no “pop” music. Enver Hoxha once said:

    “Our young people have no need of drugs to escape from reality”.

Perhaps these reporters find Albanian sporting events dull because one can go to a football match there and cheer for the away team without the risk of getting a knife in one’s back!

Where but in Albania one could go to the cinema for the equivalent of 15 pence?

What other country in the world with a population of less than three millions has 7 symphony orchestras and produces some 15 feature films a year?

Perhaps those who find Albania “dull” have had their cultural values corrupted!

One has only to look at pictures of Albania prior to 1939 – pictures which show its utter backwardness, its poor and illiterate working people, to understand the respect and affection which the overwhelming majority of the Albanian people held for the principal architect of their social progress – Enver Hoxha, to understand the genuine and spontaneous grief which was exhibited at his funeral.

Several monuments to Enver Hoxha are to be erected in Albania.

But the ordinary Albanian may well say – in the words of the inscription to our own Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral –

    “If you seek a monument, look around!”

I want to conclude by reading to you the translation of a poem, written the day after Enver Hoxha’s death . . . It expresses eloquently, I feel, the feelings of most Albanians.

Note From Alliance – Regrettably the text of this poem, or its name or identity of its author, is not known to us. 

Source

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Bolesław Bierut

470px-PL_Bolesław_Bierut_(1892-1956)

Bierut, Bolesław 

Born Apr. 18, 1892, near Lublin; died Mar. 12, 1956, in Moscow. Polish politician and statesman.

Beginning in 1912, Bierut took part in the revolutionary movement as a member of the left wing of the Polish Socialist Party. From December 1918 he was a member of the Communist Party of Poland (CPP); from 1915 to 1923 he was engaged in instructional guidance work in Polish workers’ cooperatives, and subsequently he held responsible posts in the CPP. Because of his revolutionary activity, Bierut underwent persecution and arrest in bourgeois Poland. During the years when the German Nazis occupied Poland, he was one of the organizers of the struggle for the national and social liberation of the Polish people. He joined the leadership of the Polish Workers’ Party, which had come into being in 1942. On Jan. 1, 1944, Bierut was elected chairman of the Krajowa Rada Narodowa (People’s National Council) and remained in this post until Feb. 4, 1947. From 1947 to 1952 he served as president of the Polish Republic and chairman of the State Council; from 1952 to 1954 he was chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Polish People’s Republic. From September 1948, Bierut was general secretary of the central committee of the Polish Worker’s Party, and from December 1948, a member of the Politburo of the central committee and chairman of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party. From March 1954 he was first secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party.

WORKS

O pariii, 2nd ed. Warsaw, 1954,

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.