Category Archives: Racism

Lessons of People’s War in Spain 1936-1939

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Progressive Labor, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Oct.-Nov. 1974), 106-116.

The Spanish Civil War was the opening act of the Second World War in Europe. It was the military and political proving ground both for European Fascism, and for class-collaborationist policies that the old communist movement never outlived.

In one important respect, however, the Spanish War differed from the major conflict which was to follow. In Spain, the major capitalist powers united–despite their contradictions with one another–against the threat of proletarian revolution, a threat made real by the Asturias revolt of 1934. When the World War came, the lines were not drawn, as the imperialists had wished, with Hitler’s Germany attacking the Soviet Union, with active or “neutral” support from the “democracies.” Instead, the imperialists fought among themselves, leaving the Soviet workers to destroy Hitler virtually by themselves.

The History of the Civil war has long preoccupied red-baiters of all sorts, seeking to vilify Spanish communists, the Communist International, and Stalin. Anti-communist writers have produced almost as many pages of lies about the struggle in Spain as about the October Revolution. This article will be a brief attempt to exhume some of the lessons for the working class that have been buried under this mass of filth.

We will see that study of the war has practical value for communists of today on a number of points. We will see that the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and the Comintern provided the only effective leadership–political and military–in the struggle against Fascism in Spain. The PCE, unlike all the groups of “left” creeps beloved of anti-communist writers from Orwell to Chomsky, was able to organize hundreds of thousands of working people into a powerful military force, despite the enormous material difficulties and their own weaknesses.

As for the errors of the PCE, they confirm major points of PL’s line: (I) communists lose when they abandon the struggle for workers’ dictatorship; (II) fighting fascism is critical for worker’s victory; (III) nationalism and alliances with bosses are disastrous; (IV) “unity” with various phony left groups–Anarchists and Trotskyites–is as fatal as “unity” with bosses.

The Spanish Republic

Spain was and is a minor capitalist power, largely agricultural, with major portions of its industry controlled from abroad. In the ’30s, industry was concentrated along the northern coast in Asturias and the Basque provinces (mainly mining) and in Catalonia on the east coast (light industry). The principal foreign owners were English, French, Belgian, Canadian and U.S. capitalists. The Catholic Church was a large land owner, and the Jesuits owned or controlled major banks, railways, mines, and factories.(1)

The Spanish Republic was established in 1931 when King Alfonso XIII decided to “suspend the use of (his) Royal Prerogatives” and leave the country.(2) Weakened and discredited by many years of colonial war against the Riffs in Morocco (costing over $800 million), and in the throes of the world economic depression, the monarchy was no longer a viable form of bourgeois rule, and was superceded first by a bourgeois republic and then by Fascism.

The Republic established universal suffrage (both sexes), promulgated a skimpy land reform, expanded public education, and reduced the prerogatives of the Army and the Catholic Church. The Catalan and Basque provinces were granted limited independence, and the Barcelona municipal government was reorganized as the Catalan Government, called the “Generalitat.”(3)

In 1932, General Sanjurjo led a small group of monarchists, landowners, clericalists and army officers in a coup against the Republic, but lacking support from the major forces of the ruling class, it failed. In the elections of November, 1933, however, the forces of the Right made substantial gains. The largest party in the Cortes (parliament) was the Rightist catholic party, CEDA, but the first government was formed as a coalition of Center parties, which halted or reversed many of the earlier reforms and amnestied Sanjurjo.(4)

In October, 1934, when a new government was formed with ministers from the CEDA, the Socialists and Communists of the UGT labor federation saw this as the onset of Fascism, and called a general strike in Madrid. The Socialist leadership of the UGT went underground, the large Anarchist-led labor federation (CNT) abstained, and the strike was short-lived. In Catalonia, the Generalitat declared independence from the central government, but the Anarchists again abstained and the rebellion was brief.

In Asturias, however, well-organized Socialist, Communist and Anarchist miners cooperated in a full-scale insurrection–in one place, declaring a Soviet Republic. The government called in the Foreign Legion and Moorish Regulares, commanded by Generals Goded and Franco. Franco, who had made his reputation in command of the Legion in the Moroccan wars, was selected for this similar job by multimillionaire Juan March, of whom we will hear more later.(5)

After bitter fighting, the rising was ruthlessly suppressed. As many as 3,000 workers were killed, mostly slaughtered after they surrendered. 30,000 prisoners were taken.(6)

The Rebellion in Asturias was a turning point in Spanish politics. Unlike the periodic rebellions of the Anarchists, it was sufficiently extensive and well-organized to show that working class revolution in Spain was a possibility to be reckoned with. The bosses learned this lesson well, but, for the most part, the Left did not, a failure which would lead to many future errors.

For the next elections of February, 1936, the parties of the Left formed a so-called “Popular Front” slate. The strategy of the Popular Front was developed at the 7th Congress of the Communist International, the idea being that in view of the dangers of Fascism and imperialist war, communists should form an alliance with Social-Democrats and some bourgeois elements to preserve bourgeois democracy and peace. This program was taken to include attempts to form united Socialist-Communist parties and, in some cases, communist participation in bourgeois governments. Thus the Popular Front was an alliance which included not only the rank-and-file, but also the class-collaborationist leadership of the Social-Democratic parties, and which supported the “good” liberal bosses against the “bad” Fascist ones. This line was made explicit by G. Dimitroff in his otherwise guarded exposition of the Popular Front strategy at the 7th Congress. Dimitroff claimed that those comrades who linked Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to Fascism were guilty of a “stereotyped approach” to the united front:

“One must indeed be a confirmed addict of the use of hackneyed schemes not to see that the most reactionary circles of American finance capital, which are attacking Roosevelt, represent first and foremost the very force which is stimulating and organizing the Fascist movement in the United States.”(7)

However, as subsequent events in Spain and elsewhere were to demonstrate, ruling class differences over Fascism versus bourgeois democracy were merely temporary and tactical. The very same bosses try to ensure their rule with “democracy” at one place or time and Fascism at another. We will see below how English, French and U.S. bosses, to which the Spanish Republic appealed for aid, helped their friendly local Fascists instead. We will also see how the utterly futile attempts of the Spanish communists to get ruling class support eventually cost them the war. The minimum condition for support was, of course, abandoning the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact the PCE agitated against workers’ rule and repudiated it as an immediate goal. This was a line not only for public consumption, but one around which they recruited and organized the party’s base. Thus when the treachery, incompetence and defeatism of the Republican government became absolutely unbearable, the PCE was willing and able to force some of the worst offenders from the government, but not to take power and lead the struggle through a workers’ government.

The Fascist Rising

In the February elections, the Popular Front won a major electoral victory, obtaining 278 seats in the Cortes, while the Right took only 134. The parties of the Center practically ceased to exist. Even Francisco Cambo, biggest capitalist in Catalonia, lost his seat.

The elections were not even completed before planning for another right-wing coup began, this time on a large scale. Franco urged the caretaker Prime Minister to declare a state of war and keep the Popular Front from taking office. His request was refused on the grounds that granting it would provoke a revolution.(8)

With this refusal, Franco began to plot in earnest, together with a number of generals, including Sanjurjo and Mola (both to die within the year under mysterious circumstances, thus incidentally assuring Franco’s ascendancy in the Fascist camp.)

Among others, the plotters included representatives of the feuding monarchist factions, the CEDA, and, through them, various financiers.(9)  Juan March, who reportedly contributed $15,000,000 to the coup,(10)  had left the country for France, but kept in contact with the plotters through his envoy, the Bishop of the Catholic Mission in France.(11) Francisco Cambo also left the country, having deposited the principal assets of his Catalan financial empire in Buenos Aires.(12) Cambo was apparently not directly involved in the coup, but supported it after the fact.(13)  The plotters were assured in advance of German and Italian financial support in exchange for metal ores.(14)

The tiny Falange Espanola, the “official” Fascist party of Spain, took part in the plot and together with the Carlists (monarchists) of Navarre, provided the whole of the minuscule popular support on which the plotters could count. The Falange was supported in its early days by Juan March, the Bank of Vizcaya (partly controlled by the Jesuits), various Basque industrialists and Bourbon monarchists.(15) After the rising, it was transformed into Franco’s party.(16)

Rumors of the plot were widespread. On July 13, PCE deputy Jose Diaz accused the Right in the Cortes: “You cannot deny that you are plotting, that you are preparing a coup.”(17) The same day, PCE spokeswoman Dolores Ibarurri (“La Pasionaria”) spoke in Asturias:

“Asturianos! Be vigilant. Reaction is even now in arms. If they dare attempt to rise, you will know what to do. Retrieve your arms now, from where you have hidden them–and keep your powder dry.”(18)

A good aspect of the PCE actions shown here was their reliance on workers to combat Fascism, but here and for the entire war, their outlook was largely defensive. Not: “let’s go kill the plotters and establish socialism,” but “let’s get them if they try anything.”

On the 16th of July, Franco flew in a British plane from his quasi-exile in the Canary Islands to Mallorca in the Mediterranean. On the plane with him was a certain Captain Pollard, agent of the British Secret Service. Pollard got the British Consul to intercede with the Republican authorities when the plane was seized for lack of papers. It was released.(19)

On the next afternoon, the Fascist rising began in Morocco. Hearing of the events in Morocco, the trade unions and parties of the Left demanded that the workers be armed by the government. In most areas, they were not, but many rebellious garrisons on the mainland were subdued by workers with arms taken from police and army units. At the end of this first phase of the rebellion, two-thirds of the territory of Spain and three-fourths of its population were held by the Republic. The main forces of the Fascists were the Foreign Legion and the Moorish Regulares of the Army of Africa in Morocco, but they could not cross the straits to Spain since the sailors of the fleet had arrested their officers and prevented them from joining the revolt. To get Franco out of this difficulty, Hitler sent the first substantial military aid, 20 transport planes to bring the Army of Africa to Spain. At its peak, German aid to Franco would stand at about 6,000 specialized troops of the Condor Legion, mainly tankmen, pilots, artillerymen and advisors, plus a large amount of material. The maximum size of the Italian forces was about 100,000 troops, with enormous quantities of material.(20) The European “democracies” chipped in with a “non-intervention” policy which began by refusal to sell arms to the Republic and worked up to a naval blockade in conjunction with Germany and Italy.

In May, 1937, the U.S. Neutrality Act became law, supplementing the informal efforts of the State Department to prevent arms sales to Spain.(21) In the first days of the fighting, Vacuum Oil refused to honor a contract to fuel Republican ships in Tangiers, and Texaco diverted five tankers of gasoline bound for the Republic to the Fascists.(22) The State Department tried to prevent the sale of aircraft to the Republic by Mexico.(23)  During the war, Texaco delivered at least 1,866,000 metric tons of petroleum products to Franco. Ford, General Motors and Studebaker sold a total of 12,000 trucks to Franco, as compared to 1,700 from Italy and 1,800 from Germany. Neither fuel nor trucks were sold to the Republic.(24)

U.S. companies also sold arms to the Fascists by first shipping them to Nazi Germany, from which they were transshipped to Spain. In 1938, Dupont-owned Atlas Powder Company sent 60,000 aerial bombs to Germany in this fashion, all marked “For transshipment to an undisclosed destination.”(25) In April, 1938, Roosevelt publicly admitted that the bombs falling on Republican cities were American-made. “It is all perfectly legal,” he said.(26)

Apart from the naval “non-intervention” patrol, Britain confined her aid to Franco to ammunition deliveries through Gibraltar and intelligence reports on Russian aid to the Republic, plus various commercial deals.(27)

For their part, the Popular Front government of France made its contribution to Fascism in a number of ways other than “non-intervention.” After selling the Republic a small quantity of obsolete aircraft, they closed the border to arms and volunteers. Volunteers for the Republic caught in France were imprisoned, but the largely communist-led underground organizations got many over the border. Large quantities of Soviet arms and arms purchased by the Comintern were held on French soil. After the fall of Catalonia, Republican refugees were treated to the best in ruling class hospitality–concentration camps.

Aid to the Republic from the Soviet Union began arriving in Spain in October, 1936, barely in time for a detachment of Soviet tanks to help in the defense of Madrid. The total number of Soviet personnel in Spain at any one time probably never totaled 700.(28) Soviet arms shipments were limited after the closing of the French border by the necessity to run the gauntlet of Italian submarines and aircraft and the “non-intervention” patrol–and also by the desire to avoid a world war, a desire unrealized in the event. According to Franco sources, 53 merchant ships were sunk, 324 captured and 1,000 detained at sea for carrying arms to the Republic. Not all of these were carrying Soviet war material, of course, but among the Soviet ships known sunk were the Komsomol, the Timiriazev, and the Blagoev.(29)

The general effect of foreign intervention of all sorts was that the Republic almost never fought with parity of arms, and typically faced odds in material and men of 3 or 4 to one.(30)

Communists Organize For Victory

After being transported from Morocco by Hitler’s planes, the Army of Africa advanced rapidly north through the open country of central Spain, pushing back the poorly armed and inexperienced militias of the Popular Front. As the militias retreated toward Madrid, however, resistance stiffened. The PCE urged the Republican government, headed by “left” Socialist fatmouth Francisco Largo Caballero, to organize fortification of the city. His reply: “Spaniards might fight from behind trees, but never from trenches.”(31)  Minister of War as well as Prime Minister, Largo displayed his dazzling incompetence only during specified hours; he would sign papers only between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M., and left orders not to be disturbed after 10:00 P.M.!(32) On November 6, the government formalized its abdication of responsibility for defense of the capital and moved to Valencia. All the ministers except the communists left with Largo Caballero, taking even the records of the Ministry of War.(33) On the 9th, as fierce fighting raged in the city, Largo sent a messenger to Madrid for the silverware he had left behind, but received only the reply that “we who have remained in Madrid are still eating.”(34)

Largo had left the defense of the capital to Miaja, an incompetent Republican general of doubtful loyalty, and to a Defense Junta of trade union and Popular Front representatives. Fortunately, Soviet General Goriev, nominally Miaja’s advisor, was on hand to handle the military planning of the defense.(35)

The even more important political side of the mobilization of the city’s population was led by the PCE. At the start of the rebellion, La Pasionaria’s broadcasts and speeches called for the resolute defense of Madrid: “They shall not pass!” “Madrid will be the tomb of Fascism!” Since then, the PCE had organized to make this a reality. Their famous Fifth Regiment had recruited over 60,000 militiamen (half PCE members), which soon became the backbone of the People’s Army. Modeled on the Soviet Red Army of Russian civil war days, the 5thRegiment had a system of political commissars responsible for the political understanding of the troops and commanders, and who acted as commanders themselves when the need arose. Tens of thousands of workers were trained in the Regiment, including the soon to be famous commanders Lister (a quarryman), Modesto (a woodcutter) and El Campesino (“The Peasant”). Barracks, commissary, and training schools were organized, as well as committees to look after families of recruits. Discipline came hard and a special company was organized as an example. The commissar of the 5th Regiment described this company to a journalist:

“We called it the “Steel Company” and made stringent requirements. To join this company a man must know something of arms, must have good health and must be guaranteed by some group as a determined anti-fascist. For this company we established special slogans designed to create an iron unity. ‘Never leave a comrade, wounded or dead, in the hands of the enemy’ was one of these. ‘If my comrade advances or retreats without orders, I have the right to shoot him’, was another.

How Madrid laughed at that. The Spaniard is such an individualist that nobody will accept such discipline, they said. Then our first Steel Company–mostly Communists and metalworkers–paraded through the city: it made a sensation. After that we created twenty-eight such companies of picked men, besides the ordinary muster of our regular Fifth Regiment militia.”(36)

Partly because of the seriousness and effectiveness with which the communists organized the militias, membership in the PCE, JSU (United Socialist Youth) and the PSUC (United Socialist Party of Catalonia, also affiliated with the Comintern) soared: from 30,000 at the beginning of the war to 200,000 at the end of 1936 to 1,000,000 by June, 1937.(37)

Foreign volunteers recruited largely by communist parties were organized into communist-led International Brigades. About 40,000 served in the Brigades, as many as 17,000 at any one time.(38) Like the Fifth Regiment, the Internationals were famous for their discipline and courage. Hemingway described the hill in Teruel defended by the German exiles of the Thaelmann Brigade as “a position that they sold as dearly as any position was sold in any war.”(39) The Internationals played a significant role in the early days of the fighting when troops with any sort of training were scarce, and fought well throughout. Their recruitment was an act of internationalism enormously appreciated by the Spanish workers. In the later part of the war, many Spaniards were recruited to the Brigades. Foreigners were withdrawn in 1938 in a vain effort to secure League of Nations action against German and Italian intervention. By that time, however, there were many crack units in the People’s Army.

As Fascist troops approached Madrid, Communists assumed the functions of the departed civil servants; radio, leaflets and banners urged the workers of Madrid to dig trenches and build barricades. Workers’ districts were organized block by block; 5th Regiment leaflets gave advice on battling tanks and house-to-house fighting.(40)

On November 7th, Franco’s troops, expecting an easy victory, assaulted the city from the west, southwest, and northwest, but were repulsed by the hard-pressed militias, particularly the Fifthh Regiment, in hand-to-hand fighting. For the 8th, the defenders prepared for renewed attacks, which they knew would come throughout the University City. The Fascist forces intentionally avoided attacking through the working-class districts “heavily seeded with Communist workers.”(41)

Resistance was furious in the University, with workers and Fascist troops occupying different floors of the same building. In some places rifles were so scarce that workers waited under cover until those with arms had been shot, then rushed out to pick up the guns and fight on.(42) In the afternoon, the vanguard of the recently constituted 11th International Brigade marched up the Gran Via, singing the Internationale. Crowds cheered the volunteers of the Edgar Andre (Belgian), Dombrowski (Polish) and Commune de Paris (French) battalions, shouting “United Proletarian Brothers,” the motto of the Asturias revolt of 1934. Many believed the Brigades to be Russian and gave vivas for “los russos.”

By nightfall, the much-needed machine guns of the Edgar Andres were in positions in the Hall of Philosophy in the University, and other brigades were distributed to vital points. Twice on the next day the Moroccan Tabors broke through militia lines at the Toledo and Princes Bridges, but were driven back with heavy losses.(43)  In the evening, the Internationals outflanked the Moroccans in the Casa de Campo, driving them back with enormous losses.(44)

From November 8th to the 15th, nine militia units came from other areas to aid Madrid. One, the 3,000-man Anarchist column from the Aragon Front, deserves mention for its example of Anarchist military organization. The column was led by Buenaventura Durruti, whose demands for an independent section of the front “so that their achievements could not then be claimed by other units” were supported by the Anarchist Minister of Justice.(45) 

The Anarchists were given a sector in the University City, with artillery and air support, but refused to attack. The next day, the Fascists attacked and the Anarchists broke and ran, abandoning a key bridge and positions in the University. Counterattacks by exhausted militiamen and Internationals regained some of the lost territory; lines thus established were to remain the same until the end of the war. Ashamed of the performance of his men, Durruti tried to persuade them not to leave Madrid but was shot and killed by one of them.(46)

Aragon and Catalonia: Anarchists and Trotskyites Play at Revolution

The Trotskyite POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification) was formed in October, 1935 by the fusion of two sects led by renegades from the PCE. Their activities were largely confined to Catalonia. Until their suppression in May, 1937, the POUM acted as an adjunct to the Anarchist Federation of Iberia (FAI) and the labor federation (CNT) which the FAI led. Vitriolic in their attacks on “Stalinists,”(47) the POUM merely offered friendly advice to the Anarchists, who held “similar ideas concerning hopes and perspectives on the revolution.”(48)

After the Fascist rising, the FAI-CNT was the strongest political force in Catalonia, dominating the Anti-Fascist Militias committee. This Committee held the real power in Barcelona for the first year of the war, although the Generalitat continued to have some influence in the countryside.(49)

Under Anarchist leadership, workers’ committees took over the factories in Barcelona and established agricultural collectives in rural areas, in some cases by force.(50) A number of foreign-owned plants were not confiscated; 87 British enterprises were protected by agreement with the British Consulate.(51)

Sources sympathetic to the Anarchists claim that their industrial experiments were successful, particularly in the arms industries,(52) and were sabotaged by the lack of credit from the central government. Conflicts with the central government did exist, but a more accurate explanation of the causes of industrial failures in Catalonia is given by Abad de Santillan, Anarchist member of the Militias Committee:

“We have not organized the economic apparatus which we had planned. We have been satisfied with throwing out the proprietors from the factories and putting ourselves in them, as committees of control. There has been no attempt at connections, there has been no coordination of the economy in due form. We have worked without plans and without real knowledge of what we were doing.”(53)

Abad de Santillan thought that this situation was improving at the end of 1936, but noted that 15,000-20,000 workers were still collecting wages without working.(54) The fact is that the individualistic and muddle-headed FAIists were incapable of giving the leadership that would have enabled the working class to organize industry effectively.

After the defeat of the Fascist rising in Barcelona, Anarchists and POUMists organized militias which “fought” on the Aragon front. Their military accomplishments were truly amazing: they made a demonstration in the direction of Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon, and settled in to trade occasional shots with the Fascists. New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews was told by a POUM militiaman from the “Lenin” Division at Huesca that

“We used to play football with the Fascists down there on the plain. They were good fellows. They invited us to spend the weekend in Saragossa and Jaca, and promised they’d let us come back.”(55)

Huesca had been virtually surrounded by the inactive Catalan militias for 11 months when a major attempt was made to capture the city by newly-organized People’s Army forces.(56) The lull had been put to better use than football games by the Fascists, who had built substantial fortifications. The attack failed.(57)

Internationals relieving Anarchist troops on the Ebro Riber a year after the beginning of the war found no fortifications, and positions a full two kilometers from Fascist lines.(58) Exactly two casualties had been admitted to the nearby military hospital in the previous three months.(59) Anarchist militias had elevated chaos into a political principle. A leaflet distributed in Aragon stated that:

“We do not recognize military formations because this is the negation of Anarchism. Winning the war does not mean winning the revolution. Technology and strategy are important in the present war, not discipline which presupposes a negation of the personality.”(60)

If in nothing else, Durruti was certainly right when he lamented that “War is made by soldiers, not by Anarchists.”(61)

The Internationals also found a peasant population embittered against Republican forces by the Anarchist seizures. The commissar of the Lincoln Brigade found one farmer incredulous that he was offered money for food instead of worthless script.(62) The sullen attitudes of the Aragon farmers contrasted markedly with the enthusiastic support that had met the People’s Army forces outside Anarchist-controlled areas.(63)

On the Fascist side, the Aragon front was very weakly held: a Franco historian says that the Fascists were able to remove forces from that front to attack Madrid.(64) POUMists and their defenders have excused their criminal footdragging by the lack of arms for POUM and FAI-CNT forces, claiming that communists withheld Soviet material from Aragon.(65) Orwell, for example, explains their failure to attack, despite the desires of the rank-and-file militiamen, by the lack of artillery and maps, the difficult terrain, and the fact that there was only one machine gun for every fifty men.(66) With the same material difficulties–including one machine gun per fifty men–the communist-led 35th Division forced the Ebro River in July, 1938, advanced 25 kilometers, captured 4 towns and 2500 prisoners.(67)  The POUM leaders’ attitude is amply summed up by a remark Orwell quotes from his POUM commander Georges Kopp: “This is not war, it is comic opera with an occasional death.”(68) As we have seen, things weren’t so comic on the Madrid front.

Still, it must be said that the material shortages on the Aragon front do have a sinister explanation–but not the one the red-baiters offer. After the war, FAIist Abad de Santillan obliged us with a frank confession:

“If all the leaders of the Libertarian (anarchist) organizations had ever seriously resolved to send all their armament, their war material and their best men to the front–the war would easily have been over in a few months�We can no longer conceal the fact that while, at the front itself, we had by 30,000 rifles (and perhaps as many as 24 batteries, 200 heavy guns), in the rear, in the power of the organizations, we had an additional 60,000 rifles with more ammunition than was ever in the proximity of the enemy.”(69)

The intended purpose of these arms the anarchists kept from the front was combat with the other parties after the victory over Franco,(70) although the occasion never arose.

In fact, the opportunity for the supreme act of treachery did not come to the POUM or the Catalan Anarchists, but to Corp Commander Cipriano Mera, the highest ranking Anarchist officer in Spain. Mera’s contribution to Fascism came in 1939, when General Casado ran a coup against the Republican government to prevent further resistance to the Fascists. Communist commanders led their troops against Casado to put down the coup, but Mera brought his troops to Casado’s support and the PCE troops were defeated.(71)

The Trots Lose Their Playground

In Catalonia in late ’36 and early ’37, the disorganization of production, inflation, lack of serious prosecution of the war, and growth of the communist parties (PCE and PUSC) combined to weaken and discredit the POUM and the FAI. Faced with the clear failure of their utopian theories, the Anarchist movement began to disintegrate. In September, ’36, the FAI-CNT compromised their grotesquely anti-political principles and entered the Catalan Generalitat, along with the PUSC and Catalan Nationalist parties, with one delegate from the POUM.(72) Attacking the “Stalinists” for their advocacy of the Popular Front, the POUM was only too happy to be included in this one. Their incredibly sophistical defense of this action was that the “petty bourgeoisie” was collaborating with them, rather than vice-versa!(73)

In March, 1937, the central government ordered the confiscation of arms from the political parties(74); in Barcelona, measures were taken to curb the numerous street murders by the “uncontrollables”–thugs who had attached themselves to the FAI(75) — and to disband the militia “police.” The CNT and POUM declined to surrender arms or submit to the draft.(76)

Numerically insignificant, unable to build a base among workers and discredited by their “sheer inefficiency and incompetence all along the line,”(77)  the political bankruptcy of the POUM was complete. Dropping any pretense of fighting the Fascists, the POUM decided for an all-out battle against the communists instead.

On May 3, 1937, Catalan police chief Rodriguez Sala and the Generalitat representative for the Telephone Exchange went to the Exchange�s censorship department to complain of anarchist interference with government phone calls. Anarchist militiamen, who had held the exchange since the start of the war, fired from an upper floor. Brief fighting ensued, which was stopped by an FAI leader. Rumors of a “provocation” spread among CNT members and barricades were erected throughout the city. As sporadic fighting began between CNT and PUSC members, POUM leaders proposed to FAI-CNT leaders that communists be expelled from the government and “Stalinist” influence be eliminated in Catalonia once and for all.(78) The POUM was turned down flat.(79) Supported only by a small Anarchist group called the “Friends of Durriti” and a section of the Libertarian Youth, the POUM called for the overthrow of the Generalitat and the establishment of a Revolutionary Junta. Anarchist leaders attempted to secure truce in the barricade fighting and eventually did so, after several false starts. The arrival of 4,000 Assault Guards from Valencia assured that it would continue. Total casualties were reported as 400 killed, 1,000 wounded.(80)

In the central government, the PCE demanded the suppression of the POUM for these crimes. Largo Caballero refused, but this was the last straw even for members of his own party. Largo was ousted and Socialist Juan Negrin became Prime Minister. The POUM was suppressed, and about 40 POUMists arrested. Treacherous POUM leader Andres Nin was apparently executed by Soviet agents, small retribution for the deaths in Barcelona.(81) Other POUMists were held for trial on charges of espionage, treason, fomenting the fighting in Barcelona, and removing troops under their command from the front to Barcelona. At the trial, the POUMists denied they had helped to provoke the fighting, conveniently “forgetting” the articles in their own newspaper, La Batalla.(82) They even denied commanding the troops that had left the front at Heusca, some of them forced to return to the lines by the threat of bombing their buses.(83)  POUM “political secretary” Julian Gorkin was able to “remember” that La Batalla had reprinted a Fascist leaflet attacking the government which had been dropped over the lines. When Don Jose Gomis Soler, the public prosecutor, asked Gorkin why the source of the fascist leaflet was referred to in the tiniest type below the proclamation, Gorkin laughingly said: “This is a mere typographical matter.”(84)

The accused were found innocent of espionage and treason; all except one were found guilty of the other charges and sentenced to various terms.

Were the POUM Leaders Franco’s Agents?

The POUM leaders were accused by the PCE of being in the pay of Franco, and some of the incidents reported above indicate why this was plausible and widely believed in Republican Spain.(85)  Plainly, the POUM earned their money, even if they didn’t collect it.

On May 11, 5 days after the fighting began, Faupel, Hitler’s ambassador to Franco, wrote:

“Concerning the disorders in Barcelona, Franco has told me that the street fighting was provoked by his agents. Nicholas Franco has confirmed this report, informing me that they have a total of 13 agents in Barcelona. Some time ago one of them had reported that the tension between Anarchists and Communists in Barcelona was so great that it could well end in street fighting. The Generalissimo told me that at first he doubted this agent’s reports, but later they were confirmed by other agents. Ordinarily he didn’t intend to take advantage of the possibility until military operations had been established in Catalonia. But since the Reds had recently attacked Teruel to aid the Government of Euzcadi (the Basque provinces), he thought the time was right for the outbreak of disorders in Barcelona. In fact, a few days after he had received the order, the agent in question with three or four of this men, succeeded in provoking shooting in the streets which later led to the desired results.”(86)

Soon after the May fighting, a number of Franco agents were caught in Barcelona, and implicated Nin–perhaps for their own reasons.(87)

Some Catalan Anarchists openly expressed their Fascist sympathies. After the war, Abad de Santillan had praise for Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Fascist Falange Espanola:

“Despite the difference which separated us, we can understand this “spiritual kinship” with Jose Antonio, who after all was a fighter and a patriot in search of solutions for his country�Spaniards of his stature, patriots such as he are not dangerous. They are not the enemy. As for changing the destiny of Spain, there had been, before July, 1936, diverse attempts to align with us. If an accord had been tactically feasible, it would have been according to the desires of his father, Primo de Rivera (dictator of Spain under the monarchy).”(88)

Such are the political degenerates lionized by phony leftists who attack and slander communists.

What the Communists Did Wrong–Racism

Throughout the war, Franco relied on troops recruited and conscripted in Spanish (and French) Morocco. Perhaps 100,000 Moors fought for the Fascists.(89)  The Fascists encouraged every sort of atrocity on the part of the Moors, playing on the racism of the Republicans with great success. Fascist General Quiepo de Llano broadcast revolting descriptions of the rapes to be committed by Moorish troops should they capture Madrid.(90) Republican propaganda repeated and embroidered this racist trash. Posters in Madrid depicted Moorish soldiers as “thick-lipped, hideously grinning, powerful turbaned figures attacking defenseless white women and bayoneting white children.”(91)

Republican Minister of Foreign Affairs Alvarez del Vayo characterized Moors as “immune from all political propaganda of a democratic nature.”(92)  The facts are the exact opposite. Representatives of the Riffs of Morocco, who had fought a long war for independence in the teens and twenties, offered to organize against Franco in return for independence from Spain. The Republican government turned them down flat, fearing French reaction to an independence movement adjoining their own colonies in Africa, and hoping to use Morocco for bargaining with other capitalist powers. A Catalan delegation of Communists and Anarchists supported the Moroccan request, but got nowhere.(93)

The PCE never made a public fight over this crucial issue, which should not only have been a matter of principle, but which could have produced a powerful and proven ally in the struggle against Franco. Nor did the PCE combat racism in any other way. Instead, they promoted it! La Pasionaria repeated the filth of Radio Seville, accusing the Fascists of lack of patriotism for urging the Moors to rape Spanish women:

�Peasant girls violated by legionaries, mercenaries, and Moors, who have been tempted from their African villages by the promise of a “good time,” bear witness to this “patriotism” of the fascist murderers.(94)

PCE promotion of racism was far more than a lost opportunity for militant allies in Morocco (and the Spanish mainland); it was an error that contributed to all sorts of weaknesses of line and strategic failures. French bosses were right to fear that an independent Spanish Morocco would ignite independence struggles in the neighboring French colonies. This would have been an excellent development for the Republic, drawing off French and British aid to Franco. A determined struggle against racism would have dealt a major blow to the many nationalist divisions in the Republic. These divisions constituted an enormously important weakness, contributing to Anarchist predominance in Catalonia, where the war was finally lost.

The development of a class understanding of racism and capitalism’s need for it might have force the communist movement world-wide to abandon their wrong line on the nature of Fascism and capitalist rule. In other words, understanding the role of racism under capitalism leads to understanding the necessity for workers’ power; as well as making it possible to fight for it. A key strategy for organizing the struggle for socialism is to unite with and rely on the most oppressed–and the most militant–working people. In the long colonial wars, the Moors had shown themselves to be just that.

Finally, fighting racism in Spain could have helped develop a better line in other countries when their volunteers returned. As it was, the Internationals absorbed the prevailing racist atmosphere and took that home. British volunteers actually called the Moors “niggers.”(95)

Guerrilla War

The racist failure to aid the Moors to rise in Franco’s rear is paralleled by the Republic’s failure to develop partisan warfare in Fascist-held Spain. Stalin (among others) had urged Largo Caballero to organize partisans in December, 1936,(96)  but the policy was rejected on the grounds of lack of trained cadre and arms.(97)

If the PCE had understood that the war must be won by relying on the workers and peasants of Spain and Morocco, rather than waiting for help from foreign capitalists, it would have been obvious that organizing guerrillas in Fascist areas was necessary and possible. Guerrillas had operated successfully in Spain since the Napoleonic Wars, and large numbers of leftist sympathizers were in Franco-held areas. Disaffection with the Fascist regime was enormous behind the lines. In May, 1938, Franco described 40% of the population in the areas he controlled as “unreliable.”(98)  Nevertheless, guerrilla operations in the war were largely limited to Soviet-organized commando and intelligence operations, and a great opportunity to expand and win People’s War in Spain was lost.

Socialism: The Only Way to Win

Despite the importance of the previous points, the key to victory in the civil war was the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, not as a vague objective for the far-off future, but the immediate program to put into effect. There can be no doubt that the opportunity for taking power existed: the PCE and PUSC were the real organizers of the war against Fascism, and could have united the working class even more completely around worker’s dictatorship than around “a new type of parliamentary-democratic republic”(99) –a fig-leaf for bourgeois rule.

The effect of not taking power was to leave it in the hands of bosses’ agents who sabotaged the struggle against Franco. “Socialist” Largo Caballero was more than an incompetent egomaniac–he went so far as to bargain with the British and French to exclude the communists and Soviet aircraft.(100)  His successor in the Ministry of War, “Socialist” Indalecio Prieto, went around telling everyone who would listen that the Republic was bound to lose, and did virtually nothing to oppose a successful Fascist drive to cut the Republic in two in March, 1938.(101) Instead of taking power, the PCE organized an enormous demonstration in Barcelona, demanding that Prieto be ousted (which he was). But purging the government of such criminals after they have done irreparable damage cannot win. It is merely a defensive strategy to stave off defeat a little longer.

In contrast, the Bolsheviks of 1917 used the self-exposure of the Social-Democrats in the government to show that only workers’ rule can accomplish what the working class needs–and they took power.

Instead of this revolutionary policy, the republic, supported by the PCE, mounted military offensives not to win, but to hold out and impress the capitalist “democracies.” Like the NLF’s Tet offensive, the Ebro offensive in July, 1938, had no real chance of defeating the enemy militarily. Like the Tet offensive, it was aimed at achieving a favorable position in negotiations with the enemy; the Republic hoped to exploit the developing contradictions of England, France, and the U.S. with the Fascist powers by showing that the Republic was still an anti-Fascist force to be reckoned with.(102)  Thus, a main element of Popular Front strategy was to rely on the very bosses who were supporting Franco, and the strategy worked no better in Spain that it did in Vietnam. The bosses can be relied on for racism, murder and exploitation, but not for help! The only alternative is to rely on the workers, and that means fighting for workers’ power. Spain shows clearly what relying on the bosses means, since 400,000 people–apart from those dead in the fighting–were slaughtered after the Republic fell.(103)

The policy of attempting to exploit contradictions among the imperialists was also followed by the Soviet Union during the Spanish War, despite the fact that the “democracies” were busy inciting Hitler to wipe out workers’ power in Russia. During the thirties, the Soviet government tried to concoct alliances for the forthcoming war with almost every combination of European powers, finally signing a pact with Hitler himself. Even though the imperialists were finally unable to overcome their rivalries and unite against the Soviet Union, Soviet workers were left to defeat the Nazis virtually alone.(104)

Thus, the clear lesson of Spain and the larger conflict which was to follow is that workers have absolutely nothing to gain from alliances with bosses. We must rely on our own strength, fight racism and settle for nothing short of workers’ power and socialism. If we learn this lesson and put it into practice, the struggles and sacrifices of Spanish workers, though representing a temporary defeat, will contribute to final victory over capitalism and put into practice the motto of Asturias: “UNITE PROLETARIAN BROTHERS!”


1. Frank Jellinek, The Civil War in Spain, London, 1938, Chaps I, II, IV.

2. Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, New York, 1961, p. 19.

  1.  Ibid., Chapters III, IV, V, VI, VII.
  2.  Ibid., Chapters VII, VIII.

5. Arthur Landis, Spain! The Unfinished Revolution, Baldwin Park, Cal., 1972, p. 58. Cited as “Landis.”

6. Thomas, pp. 80-5

7. G. Dimitroff, United Front Against Fascism, New York, 1937, p. 100.

8. Thomas, p. 96.

  1.  Ibid., p. 96.

10. G. Jackson, The Spanish Republic and Civil War, 1931-1939, Princeton, 1965, p. 417.

11. Jellinek, p. 285

  1.  Ibid., p. 75.

13. Richard Robinson, The Origins of Franco’s Spain, Pittsburg, 1970, p. 291.

14. Jellinek, p. 279.

15. Stanley Payne, Falange, Stanford; 1961, p. 45.

16. Jackson, pp. 356-8.

17. D. Ibarurri, They Shall Not Pass, New York, 1966, p. 185.

18. Quoted in Landis, p. 136.

  1.  Ibid., p. 105.

20. Jackson, p. 333.

21. Landis, p. 205.

  1.  Ibid.

23. Ibid., p. 207.

  1.  Ibid., p. 208.
  2.  Ibid.
  3.  Ibid.

27. German Charge d’Affairs in Fascist Spain, quoted ibid., p. 239.

28. Stanley Payne, The Spanish Revolution, New York, 1970, p. 324. Cited as “Payne.”

29. Landis, p. 243.

30. Arthur Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, New York, 1967, passim. Cited as “Landis, ALB.”

31. Landis, p. 246.

  1.  Ibid., p. 247.

33. Thomas, p. 319.

34. Quoted in Landis, p. 269.

35. Burnett Bolloten, The Grand Camouflage, New York, 1961, p. 239.

36. Anna Louise Strong, Spain in Arms, 1937, New York, 1937, pp. 42-3.

37. P. Broue & E. Temime, The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain, Cambridge, Mass., 1970, p. 229.

38. Landis, p. 252.

39. Quoted in Landis ALB, p. 376.

40. Landis, p. 262.

41. Quoted in ibid., p. 259.

  1.  Ibid., p. 267.
  2.  Ibid., pp. 268-9.
  3.  Ibid., p. 370.
  4.  Ibid., p. 273.
  5.  Ibid., pp. 275-6.

47. The Spanish Revolution, (POUM English-language newspaper), 2/3/37.

  1.  Ibid., 3/31/37.

49. Broue and Temime, pp. 130-3; Thomas, 187-92.

50. Quoted in Landis, p. 324. The source is J. Petro, Anarchist Minister in the Republic Government.

51. Payne, p. 246.

52. G. Brennan, The Spanish Labyrinth, Cambridge, U.K., 1943, p. 321.

53. Abad de Santillan, After the Revolution, New York, 1937, p. 122.

54. Ibid, p. 134.

55. Quoted in H.L. Matthews, Two Wars and More to Come, New York, 1938, p. 294.

  1.  Ibid., Thomas, p. 443.

57. Matthews, p. 295.

58. Landis ALB, pp. 252-6.

  1.  Ibid.

60. Quoted in Ibarurri, p. 285.

61. Quoted in Landis, p. 323.

62. Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, New York, 1953, p. 175.

  1.  Ibid.

64. M. Anzar, Historia Militar de la Guerra de Espania (1930-1939), Madrid, 1958; quoted in Landis, p. 320.

65. The Spanish Revolution, 2/17/37.

66. G. Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, New York, 1952, pp. 32-5.

67. Landis, p. 331; the battle is described in Landis ALB, p. 517ff.

68. Orwell, p. 32.

69. Abad de Santillan, Porque Perdimos la Guerra, Buenos Aires, 1940, pp. 67-8; quoted in Landis, p. 321.

  1.  Ibid.

71. Thomas, pp. 586-603.

72. Landis, p. 337.

73. The Spanish Revolution, 11/4/36.

74. Payne, p. 294.

  1.  Ibid.
  2.  Ibid.

77. F. Borkenau, quogted in Landis, p. 320.

78. Julian Gorkin (POUM leader), Nota sobre las Jornadas de Mayo de 1937, unpublished MS in Hoover Institute; cited in Payne, p. 297.

  1.  Ibid.

80. Thomas, pp. 424-9.

  1.  Ibid., pp. 452-5.

82. “The Treason Trial of the POUM,” World News and Views, vol. 18 (1938), #50, pp. 1143-4.

83. Ibarurri, p. 286.

84. E. Rolfe, in The Daily Worker, 12 Oct., ’38.

85. Claude Bowers (U.S. Ambassador to the Spanish Republic), My Mission to Spain, New York, 1954, p. 356.

86. Quoted in Ibarurri, p. 282.

87. Thomas pp. 454ff, 568; relevant documents are reprinted in The Communist International, vol. 16 (1939), p. 165ff.

88. Abad de Santillan, Porque Perdimos la Guerra, as quoted in Landis, p. 312.

89. Barton Whaley, Guerrillas in the Spanish Civil War, Detroit, 1969, p. 40.

90. Thomas, p. 181.

91. Whaley, p. 42.

92. Quoted ibid., p. 39.

93. Whaley, passim; Payne 270-2.

94. D. Ibarruri, Speeches and Articles, 1936-1938, New York, 1938, p. 130.

95. Whaley, p. 42.

  1.  Ibid., p. 15
  2.  Ibid., p. 13.

98. Jackson, p. 429.

99. D. Ibarruri, “The Time Has Come to Create a Single Party of the Proletariat in Spain,” Communist International, vol. 14 (1937), #9, p. 651.

100. Payne, pp. 270-2.

101. Landis, p. 372; Landis ALB, p. 401ff.

102. Jackson, p. 454.

103. Landis, p. 405. Executions were still taking place in 1944 (ibid.)

104. In the Battle of Stalingrad, military and political turning point of World War II, the Red Army destroyed 113 Fascist divisions, two and one half times the German forces facing the Normandy invasion. (See, for example, G. Deborin, Secrets of the Second World War, Moscow, 1971, pp. 100, 163). While the Soviet workers were making enormous sacrifices to destroy the German armies, the capitalist “allies” were delaying a second front, fooling around with minor operations in North Africa and Sicily for public relations. When the second front was finally launched in Normandy, a year and a half after the Stalingrad victory, one main motive was simply fear of communist revolution in Europe (with Soviet army support), which would have denied the imperialists any slice of the European pie. Omar Bradley, commander of the U.S. troops in Europe, put this point with some frankness after the war:

To avoid chaos on the continent it would have been necessary for us to move such forces as we had, cross the Channel at one, move on into Germany, disarm its troops and seize control of the nation. (quoted in Deborin, P. 161)

In the final reckoning, the Red Army destroyed 507 German divisions, plus 100 of her allies’, as against 176 on all other fronts (Deborin, p. 269). U.S. and British aid to the Soviet Union provided only 1.9% of the guns, 8.3% of the planes and 10.5% of the tanks used by the Red Army, many of them of very inferior quality, plus some food and a quantity of trucks (Deborin, pp. 130-3, A. Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945, New York, 1964, pp. 575-7). No significant aid reached the Soviet Union in time for Stalingrad.

American Party of Labor on John Brown


Taken from the A.P.L. Facebook page.

On the morning of December 2nd, 1859, abolitionist fighter John Brown was hanged. One of the leaders of the left-wing abolitionist movement and participant in the Underground Railroad, Brown came to realize that the institution of slavery could not be ended by peaceful means, and that such oppression had to be fought with force. He formed a militia of black and white people dedicated to striking against slaveholders in the hopes of sparking a slave uprising and insurrection to overthrow slavery in the United States.

In 1855-56, Brown organized successful armed struggles against slaveowners and pro-slavery militias in Bleeding Kansas. He planned to create a Free Republic in the Allegheny Mountains as a base for the fight against slavery, even composing a draft provisional constitution. Brown and 18 of his men raided a federal armory in Harper’s Ferry on Oct. 16, 1859, meaning to use the weapons to arm slaves, but the raid failed. Brown’s men were almost completely annihilated by U.S. Marines commanded by Robert E. Lee, as well as pro-slavery farmers and militiamen. Two of Brown’s sons were killed and Brown himself was wounded and captured.

In his speech to the court at his trial and sentencing, John Brown spoke these powerful words:

“Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), — had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends – either father, mother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class – and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment. […] Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.”

After his trial and execution, John Brown went down in history as a martyr and a fighter for liberation. Brown’s rebellion immediately preceded the American Civil War of 1861-65, and was one of the first open challenges to slavery.

John Brown’s legacy lies with millions of people who have given their lives to struggle against human bondage, against crushing systems of stratification, and against the gravest crimes of exploitation.

Labour Party (EMEP): Current Developments and the Kurdish Question


April 2006


Different Paths in the Kurdish Movement

The US invasion of Iraq has had, among other things, a profound effect on the Kurdish question itself. New alignments, new developments and dissociations are evident and three years after the invasion, there is a need to summarise new factors in this century-old ‘big game’.

Of course, one has to remember that the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination is, under all conditions, valid.

The US invasion created such conditions that, the Kurdish people who were under enormous state terrorism in all ‘parts’ of historical Kurdistan (historical Kurdistan is divided amongst  four states today; Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and this makes the Kurdish question unique) started to think that the USA, after all, could be a force of ‘liberation’ for them. This thinking was fomented by the feudal Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan (Barzani and Talabani), while it created an upheaval in Turkish Kurdistan.

This upheaval is important in many ways. First, Turkish Kurdistan is advanced in comparison to other sections; capitalism has penetrated deeply into this area. Also, about 15 million Kurds live in this section; while the total number of Kurds in all sections is around 22 million.

Under these conditions, it is only natural that the first modern nationalist Kurdish movement, PKK (Kongra-Gel), has taken root in the Turkish section. This modern, socialism-inspired movement radically differs from feudal leaderships in other sections; in essence it does not rely on feudal relations, but dismantles them.

Ocalan’s Capture

The PKK, which is a force supported by millions of Kurds, is extremely cautious towards US imperialism; though its stance softens when it comes to Europe. This caution, together with the influence they command, resulted in a de facto situation in which the PKK is perceived by Washington as a ‘primary threat’ to US’ Kurdish policy. Thus, the leader of the movement, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured by the CIA and MOSSAD, and promptly given to the Turkish state. Ocalan is still a captive in Imrali, an island-jail in which he is the only prisoner.

The capture of Ocalan did not result in a weakening of the national liberation movement; rather, the movement changed policies and tactics. We can say that today, despite serious problems, the PKK movement still is the authority in Turkish Kurdistan; and also is actively struggling for influence in other parts; especially in Iranian Kurdistan.

The historical motive of all feudal Kurdish leaderships was ‘trying to find allies outside the region’ to gain the upper hand against Turks, Arabs and Persians in the region. This outside ally has been imperialist powers like Britain, France and the USA. Though the Kurds have always been deceived by the imperialists and left in the middle of hostile governments, they opted for cooperation with the US again in the Iraq war. Because of historical distrust, we can safely say that the Iraqi Kurds are extremely cautious while dealing with the Americans, and the feudal leadership has had to convince the people of ‘good American interests’. This distrust continues today. The PKK has refused this historical ‘tactic’. This movement, in essence, tried to help form a united Turkish-Kurdish front against the Turkish bourgeoisie. One of the founders of the PKK, Kemal Pir, is Turkish, by the way.

Feeding from this positive legacy, the captured leader of the PKK, Ocalan, has taken a very important stance vis-a-vis the American invasion. Ocalan has repeatedly said from prison that, an ‘independent Kurdistan’ under the wings of Americans will not be independent at all; rather, this would be a second Israel in the region, fomenting hatred amongst the peoples and in the end, bring great harm to Kurds. Though Ocalan has great authority, the ‘new player’ in the region, USA, is trying to use the Kurdish question in its own interests. Thus, while the Kurdistan government in Iraq strengthens, we see riots and revolts of Kurds against the reactionary Syrian and Iranian authorities. There have been major uprisings in both Syrian and Iranian Kurdistan over the last two years.

An Anti-PKK PKK ?

In Turkish Kurdistan, the ‘key’ to all Kurdistan, we see different developments. The US and its ally, the Turkish government, is actively trying to divide the PKK and create a ‘harmless’ PKK out of its ashes. The most important development in this sense was, Ocalan’s brother, Osman Ocalan. Osman Ocalan quit the PKK two years ago, declared that USA was a ‘democratic imperialist’ force and formed his own organisation under the wings of Barzani and the US army. This attempt to divide the PKK was thwarted, but new attempts may happen. Also, the forces of Barzani are undertaking serious political activity in Turkish Kurdistan, mainly through their own, young legal party, HAK-PAR.

Today, the dissociation in the Kurdish movement is also shaping in relation to the natural and definite dissociation of the Kurdish ‘upper classes’ and ‘lower classes’ from each other. It is evident that the pro-imperialist stances are related to the ‘upper classes, the Kurdish bourgeoisie and feudal forces, while criticism of these stances and attempts to create an alternative position are related to the ‘lower classes’, the Kurdish labourers.

US imperialism tries to use the Kurdish problem as a ‘wild card’ to tie Turkey further to its regional policies. But also, it tries to form a political dissociation among Kurds and create ‘its own’ Kurdish movement.

The European Union policies, in essence, are not different. These two main forces are exploiting the Kurdish problem in their rivalry over the Middle East. One side, with its ‘Greater Middle East Project’, is exploiting the issue actively. The other side uses ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ rhetoric to expand its influence among Kurds.

US policies are found to be ‘encouraging’ by the Kurdish reactionary circles and they are trying to create new opportunities for their class interests. After 1980 and during the rise of the PKK, the bourgeois-land owner-feudal lords have been ‘erased’ from the political processes; but now they are again on the rise, on the basis of an anti-PKK stance. This tendency , for the first time in many years, again puts itself openly in the political arena.

The dissociation in the Kurdish movement can be transformed to opportunity by the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. As practice shows, the identities of dissociaters (revolutionary, anti-imperialist or reactionary, pro-imperialist) are much more evident today. The exposition of this lackey politics will be a positive development for Kurds and also other peoples in the region.

Taylan Bilgiç

There is nowhere left to escape from the Kurdish problem! The policies of the last 80 years have collapsed. Nobody believes the nonsensical thesis and claims such as: ‘There are no Kurds; they are in fact mountain Turks. Kurdish is not a language; it is only a dialect of Turkish’. The glaze of the supposedly scientific works like the ‘Sun Language Theory’ (claiming all present languages are derived from Turkish) and the ‘Turkish History Thesis’ (claiming that Turks are the origin of all human races) developed after 1925 in order to rivet these assertions have worn off, they have broken down. The policies of creating one nation, Turkification, melting all the other peoples and cultures into one pot have been condemned and defeated by the realities of life. Now it has had to be accepted that there is such a language as Kurdish! Even if it is for show only and even if it is limited to a few minutes a week, there are state radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish, along with other forbidden languages such as Arabic, Circassian and the Zaza language. Kurds are loudly demanding the expansion of the Kurdish broadcast to private radios and television channels as well as the right to education in their mother tongue. In spite of the various pressures and prohibitions, Kurdish language courses have been opened in Batman, Urfa, Van, Diyarbakır (Kurdish provinces in the East and Southeast regions of the country) and lately in Istanbul. Kurds as a people are demanding that urgent steps be taken in terms of their rights to language, culture, identity and politics.

It is obvious that the reactionary denial policies of assimilation carried out through the use of violence cannot continue. Struggling and not cowering in fear despite all the pain, massacres and the great price paid both physically and morally, caused by the inhumane policies executed throughout the decades; the Kurdish people, resisting for their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights, are insistent on their demands. The resistance waged by the Kurdish people in spite of all their suffering from cruelty, historical injustice and all the destructions, has united with the common struggle of the workers, labourers and intellectuals of all nationalities and peoples of Turkey to compel the forces in denial and pro-assimilation to retreat.

However, the ruling classes do not want to accept the Kurds as a people or recognise their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights. The national demands of Kurds do not have the guarantee of laws as yet. The Kurdish question and the demand for the rights of the Kurdish people are still considered as ‘separatist’ and within the framework of ‘terror’ and are responded to with violence. The ruling classes try to say that the Kurdish question can solved by a few small improvements. They try to make it seem as though the Kurdish question has been solved by the campaign by ‘democratisation’ and by the legal regulations within the framework of the Copenhagen Criteria through the process of membership in the European Union, which have been put on paper but still not put into practise. The government wants to make a show by the release of the four Democratic Party (DEP) MPs who were arrested ten years ago and put into prison as a result of a raid on Parliament. It has tried to make it seem as if this was an important phase in the democratisation process, but it did not take long for the falsity of this show to become apparent and for the government to exhibit its genuine character. The former MPs became the targets of the government and the military because of the speeches they made in the demonstrations. Lawsuits were filed against them once again. The meeting planned for Diyarbakir for September 1, International Peace Day, was banned on completely pathetic grounds.

Furthermore, operations are continuing in the region. The people there are being targeted for attacks on the grounds that they are ‘assisting and abetting’ terrorists. The demands of the KONGRA-GEL (the successor to the PKK) for a cease-fire, the taking of democratic steps, providing the opportunity for the armed guerrillas to socialise in everyday life but with the necessary guarantees, are rejected on the pretext that; ‘No negotiations will be held with the terrorists’. Attacks are continuing and the people of the region are being mistreated. There is no end to the claims of torture, and arrests and imprisonments are not decreasing. New Kurdish political detainees and prisoners are daily added to those already in prison. Provocative operations are carried out in the Kurdish provinces such as Diyarbakir, Van and Tunceli and the mayors elected by the people, as in Diyarbakir, are being targeted for attack and being made victims of political lynching.

The thousands of villages that have been forcefully evacuated, the nature that has been destroyed and the tens of thousands of Kurdish peasants who have been mistreated as a result of the policies of violence carried out for years continue to struggle with great difficulties. No steps are being taken to compensate them for all the massacres experienced, the thousands of murders by ‘perpetrators unknown’ and all the violations in the fields of human rights and freedoms. Believing that steps taken in this direction will result in a ‘rise’ in the consciousness of the Kurdish people and that hence new demands will be immediately brought to the agenda, policies of violence are insisted on. The policy of denial is being continued by military precautions and the systematic use of violence. The demands of the sections wanting to return to their villages are not being met. The wronged villagers hesitate to return as they do not believe that they will be able to lead safe and secure lives in their villages.

It is still forbidden for political parties to broadcast in Kurdish, to publish and distribute leaflets and brochures in Kurdish and for the political party administrators to deliver speeches in Kurdish. Lawsuits are filed against political party administrators for having greeted the people in Kurdish in demonstrations and various activities and they are often penalised. Besides the other antidemocratic practices, obstructions and pressures, the representation of the Kurdish people in parliament is prevented by the 10% election quota. The system of ‘rural guardianship’ continues to be enforced along with the military operations and the piling of military forces in the region. Instead of recognizing the Kurds as a people in their own right, meeting their national, economic and political demands and carrying out the necessities for an equal and free environment; the ruling forces and the government think that by hoodwinking the people with a few Kurdish language courses, a few minutes of Kurdish broadcasting every week and a few other crumbs thrown here and there, it will be possible to convince the people that Turkey has become democratised and that the Kurdish question has disappeared. On the other hand, those who are not convinced will be made the targets of violence as ‘terrorists’ by these forces.

The ruling classes do not want to understand that unless the Kurdish labouring people do not freely determine their own destiny and take their place in the course of history as a free nation, the Kurdish question will continue to be a fundamental one and neither acts of violence nor an approach of ‘we crushed them and that is the end to them’ will solve the problem.

Imperialism, the Collaborator Government and the Kurdish Question

The Justice and Development (AKP) government currently in power cannot overlook the Kurdish issue. The AKP has talked about democratisation and entering the European Union (EU) as a fundamental policy and claims that it will be able to solve all Turkey’s deeply rooted problems since the day it came to power. This places it under a great burden in terms of the Kurdish question and the Kurdish people. Stating that: ‘If you act as if there is no Kurdish problem, then there won’t be such a problem’, the Prime Minister has had to swallow his words and come face to face with solving the problem ‘in some way or another’. However the government thinks that it will solve the problem with the attitude we have pointed out above. At this stage, claiming that ‘There is no Kurdish problem’ has ceased to have any worth or plausibility. Certainly nobody believes this any longer. In place of this approach, in the region where the Kurds predominate the AKP is trying to dish out a new kind of relation similar to the one the USA has entered into with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (YNK) [in Iraq]. This plan, in which the members of parliament who are Kurdish, religious sectarian and owners of capital of the AKP will also take part, has been established in order to divide the KONGRA-GEL.

Now the government is being dragged behind the US. The pro-denial and pro-assimilation forces which are being dragged behind the plan of using of the Kurdish question as a ‘trump-card’, as a continuation of the Iraqi occupation, are becoming partners with the ‘reformed’ and reactionary forces and are establishing a Kurdish political party under the protection of the US. The plan, which aims at the division, neutralisation and liquidation of the KONGRA-GEL or at least its reduction to a marginal level; is to create a Kurdish movement following the same political line as Talabani-Barzani in Iraq. The AKP government is at quits with the plan of the USA.

Though it may seem as if the rulers of the EU, the USA and Turkey are proposing different solutions to the Kurdish question, their moves actually fit into one another. As in the attempt to divide and liquidate the KONGRA-GEL, it seems that there is, at least at present, an agreement on the orientation of the party to be established by Osman Ocalan (Abdullah Ocalan’s brother).

Dividing the democratic Kurdish movement over the KONGRA-GEL, a division shaped by US pressure, aims to strengthen the reactionary, nationalist, feudal Kurdish alternative. The imperialist centres are acting very rapidly in trying to have the feudal-bourgeois collaborator circles form a power which will then be gradually presented as the representatives of the Kurdish people,. It is evident that the reactionary forces of Turkey are totally mobilizing for this initiative to be effective. The weakening of KONGRA-GEL is being seen as the hegemony of the political line of Talabani-Barzani and Osman Ocalan in the region.

This division in KONGRA-GEL is different from the problems, separations or divisions experienced previously. Using the present conjuncture of forces in the region, the imperialists and the reactionary forces of Turkey have made a crucial move in seizing a collaborator section within the Kurdish movement, which has not acceded to cooperating with imperialism. With this move, the US has succeeded in maintaining, through Osman Ocalan’s PWD, a similar position in Turkey to what it had previously obtained in Iraqi Kurdistan through the PDK and YNK administrators. The US has now found a Kurdish representative in Turkey which it will be operating through. The US has taken advantage of the ideological weaknesses of KONGRA-GEL, its delay in taking a definite and clear stand towards the US intervention to the Middle East and its occupation of Iraq and its hesitant attitude toward imperialism. The US is using this as an opportunity to open a breach and is now widening it. 

The AKP has fastened itself to the helm of the US and is now aiming at reaching a solution to the Kurdish question within the framework of this plan. The inclination is to form a ‘Kurdish Platform’, a sort of Kurdish AKP in which Osman Ocalan and his supporters, the big landowners, the tribal chiefs, the representatives of Kurdish nationalist currents and even some of the AKP MPs will participate in some way or other. The EU is also playing this game. The EU is trying to manipulate the democratic longings of the people and the ‘interest’ demonstrated towards the EU and its policies by the Kurdish liberal bourgeois. In the future the EU hopes to increase its influence among the legal Kurdish politicians. 

The Imperialists and the reactionaries in Turkey want to solve the problem of ‘representation’ in relation to the Kurdish question by using the Kurdish Platform as the ‘representative’ of the Kurdish people. KONGRA-GEL is being eliminated from this process. The same tactic is being used against the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DEHAP), which is regarded as a supporter of the same political line. For these reasons, to evaluate this latest division within KONGRA-GEL over Osman Ocalan as being in the same category as previous divisions within the organization would be incomplete and even more importantly would be a major mistake.

In this sense, the DEHAP line is also at a crossroads. The interviews held with Osman Ocalan and his statements in the newspapers and on television recently also indicate this fact. The names of the former Democracy Party (DEP) deputies and certain Kurdish politicians are being mentioned and as well as their readiness to be included in this plan. Under these circumstances, DEHAP will either go forward as an anti-imperialist, anti-US Kurdish democratic movement, or if it hesitates it will fall into the trap of this operation. Its progress along its current political orientation will mean taking its place among the front ranks of not only the struggle for the democratisation of Turkey but also the struggle against US hegemony in the Middle East and against the Greater Middle East Project as a tool of this hegemony. Otherwise it will become just another ordinary Kurdish nationalist movement.

DEHAP advancing along the same platform as the Kurdish and Turkish labourers, with the labour and democratic forces, is significant in terms of the democratic movement and its future in Turkey. A DEHAP acting in this direction will also bring the collaborator “Kurdish Platform” being hatched up to nought.

The Party of Labour (EMEP) and the Kurdish Question

All the labour and democratic forces in Turkey are faced with an important duty of rendering the alliance between imperialism, the reactionary forces of Turkey and Talabani-Barzani-Osman Ocalan unsuccessful. EMEP, as the party of the working class and labourers of all nations in Turkey, will continue with all its efforts for the Kurdish workers and labourers to overcome this danger. Attaching great importance to acting together with DEHAP against this reactionary plot and to struggle, our Party will carry on its struggle with all its organisations, both in the Kurdish region and all over Turkey. It is necessary in this period to be strengthened and united around an anti-imperialist political line. Our party, which established an election front with DEHAP in both the general elections of November 3, 2002 and the latest local elections, will carry on its fight for the advancement of the struggle of all the people of Turkey, whether Kurdish, Turkish or any other nationality, against imperialism and the collaborator reactionary forces of Turkey.

On the other hand, the dark contra-guerrillas, the drug related forces, and the military and paramilitary forces have started to become active again. These developments are also being manipulated to cause panic among the people, to provoke divisions and to incite an oppositional attitude towards the Kurdish democratic movement which is refusing to collaborate. These kinds of provocative initiatives have been brought to the agenda in Van, Diyarbakir, Tunceli and other Kurdish provinces. Our Party will be even more careful to warn the people in the face of the explosions and assassination plots by unidentified forces and in condemning initiatives of this kind.

Again this period in the region is clarifying the demands of the workers and the labourers. It is to be expected that the big landowners, the tribal forces and the despots, who have been left motionless due to the hegemony of the Kurdish movement, will become reactivated and make new moves to regain their previous prestige and privileges. The AKP handing out ‘small bribes’ to the labourers of the region, who are in the claws of unemployment and poverty, are among such moves. The demands of the agricultural sections will become even more fervent. It is to be expected that developments similar to those in Maras and Diyarbakir (two Kurdish provinces in which the poor sections of the Kurdish people partially united to demand land from the big landowners) will take place in other provinces. Taking into consideration that the landowners and the tribal forces will go into action, it will be necessary to take more advanced steps for the organisation of the class struggle in the Kurdish villages. Considering that unemployment and poverty are prevalent in the Kurdish regions, putting forward demands particular to these regions will play an important role in unifying the people and repulsing the attacks.

What is at the head of the agenda in this particular period is to carry forward the anti-imperialist attitude of the Kurdish people and to spoil the games of the feudal nationalist forces. In addition, one of the most important duties of our Party is to develop the struggle in order for the Kurdish workers and labourers to intervene in this process and to stand up to the attacks and resist with their own demands the attacks of the bourgeoisie as well as all other kinds of attacks.

The Current and Urgent Demands of the Kurdish People

A general political amnesty and a cease-fire must be declared and the Kurdish question must be solved as a democratic and political problem. All the mistreatment of the people of the region stemming from the Kurdish question must cease and they must be compensated for their damages. Industry, agriculture and stockbreeding must be supported. The Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP) must be rearranged to the benefit of the people and it must be put to their service. All the enterprises within the scope of privatisation must be removed from such a plan, all the workplaces that have been privatised and closed down must be reopened and work must be provided for the unemployed. The right to education in the mother tongue must be recognized and chairs for the Kurdish language must be opened at the universities. Publishing and broadcasting in Kurdish must be backed up and all relevant bans must be abolished. The system of the rural guard (which completely serve to inform on the Kurdish people) must be eradicated and all special organisations in the region, including the special teams, must be dissolved. A commission to investigate the murders by ‘unknown perpetrators’ must be established and those responsible must be judged and punished. The September 12 Constitution, acting as an cover for the Political Parties Act, the 10% election quota and all other antidemocratic laws must be annulled and the Kurdish people must achieve an equal and free status.


Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey: The Kurdish Movement’s Direction of Development


September 1999

The Turkish bourgeoisie’s war threat to Syria with the support of US imperialism, the driving of the PKK leaders out of Syria, and the bringing of A. Ocalan to Turkey through an international operation – all these events have inflamed discussions about the Kurdish question both in Turkey and in the international arena. Although it is not the first time it appeared on the agenda, the question which arises now is: ‘What will happen next?’ Besides their declarations about the ‘importance of co-operation against terrorism’, the leaders of the US, the EU countries, Russia, the Arab and Balkan states expressed their views that ‘Turkey should utilise this opportunity to recognise the cultural rights of the Kurds’. It was obvious that all were concerned about their own bourgeois imperialist interests and objectives, and that they were making plans as to how and to what extent they could benefit from this question.

The ruling classes of Turkey have chosen to use the ‘Apo operation’ (Apo is the nickname for Abdullah Ocalan) as an instrument to conceal the Kurdish question and the country’s social problems. The authorities, including the Military General Council, the President and government officials, claimed that there is no such thing as a Kurdish question, and intensified propaganda about the ‘elimination of terror’. Military and police attacks have been intensified and the state of emergency has been spread over the whole of Turkey.

Following Ocalan’s flight from Syria with the intervention of US imperialism and his arrival in Rome, the Turkish authorities sought to create a ‘national mobilisation’ with the propaganda that Italy and Germany as well as Syria and Greece ‘support separatist terrorism’. Chauvinist and reactionary propaganda was designed to promote reactionary prejudices amongst the most backward sections of the working people and to cover up the attacks and repression on the Kurds. The collaborator bourgeoisie and the top officials of the dictatorship too knew well that the ‘Apo operation’ would in no way keep the Kurdish question out of the agenda.

Nevertheless, this operation was a military and political success. Thus, it could be used as an efficient instrument of propaganda about the power and the greatness of the state both within the country and internationally. They tried to use this fully for their objectives such as the consolidation of the bourgeois influence and control over the masses, the postponing or denial of the demands of the working people through repressive means, and the implementation of economic policies in favour of international capital and the collaborating monopolist bourgeoisie. The collaborating ruling classes have mobilised all reactionary forces. They also mobilised every means with the aim of strengthening the policy of denial of the existence of the Kurdish nation and their rights under the new conditions and on the basis of their supposed success.

The Military General Council have bullied neighbouring countries; repeated once again the demagogy of a ‘single state, single nation, single language under a single flag’; and declared its determination ‘not to allow’ any development opposed to this. All the institutions of the system and its political and military forces have been brought to bear in this aggressive campaign.

One of the objectives of the collaborating reactionary forces has been the hindrance of the development of the Kurdish movement, which is one of the reasons of the economic and political dilemma and instability, into an advantage in favour of the reactionary forces. This was in line with the plans of US imperialism for the Middle East and the Caucasus and the role it has given to Turkey as its imperialist subcontractor. The line followed by the Kurdish bourgeois reformist movement and the line of struggle which considered the Kurdish popular masses as logistic support has led to a setback and tiredness in the Kurdish movement since 1992. This has facilitated the implementation of the policies of the ruling classes.

The PKK has deliberately identified itself with the Kurdish people and movement, and on behalf of them it called Western imperialist states to ‘intervene to solve the question’. While the propaganda about ‘Turkey’s gates could only be opened by Washington’ and the obligation of the intervention of ‘civilised Europe’ raised the Kurdish people’s expectations from the imperialists, it has orientated towards a line which is increasingly tied to policies of big Western states in the name of diplomacy.

Ocalan’s arrival at Rome and his application for political asylum was presented by the PKK and the Kurdish liberal reformist circles as the Kurds ‘entrance into the EU from Rome before Turkey’. Imperialist reactionary forces were esteemed as civilised democrats. With all this they revealed their trust in and expectations from the imperialists who are the most dangerous and the main enemy of the oppressed peoples. In this sense ‘diplomacy’ was everything now. The phrase ‘let’s become diplomats’ has been turned into a slogan by these circles. Ocalan was going to lead these diplomatic activities; relations with the US and the EU countries were going to be improved; Turkey was going to be forced through their influence; and a ‘political solution’ was going to be ensured. This is one of the most important tendencies in the Kurdish movement.

The Kurdish question was no longer ‘an internal question’ of Turkey. Although the collaborating bourgeoisie and state officials claimed ‘not to let anybody intervene in our internal affairs’, it was inevitable that slavery or struggle for liberation of a nation in a region where there is intense imperialist rivalry and in capitalist imperialist conditions was going to turn into an international question. The reasons for this is not only the fact that the conciliatory rulers of Turkey deny the existence of the Kurdish nation, their rights and the Kurdish question; and that the governments of the western imperialist countries’ recognition of the question and the possibility of its solution within the system. Also the existence of the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as Turkey is one of the objective factors for the expansion of this question to a regional and international dimension. Among other factors are the ‘migrant status’ of the Kurds in Europe; and the fact that the Kurdish question could have a role in the imperialist fight for hegemony over the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

The question which direction will the development of the Kurdish movement take is directly linked with the Kurdish social reality. The level that capitalist development has reached in Turkey and Turkey-Kurdistan, and the synchronous development of capital accumulation and poverty in opposite directions make the struggle inevitable between the bourgeoisie and reactionary forces and the proletariat and the working people as opposite forces. Objective developments and the sharpening contradictions give rise to this struggle in the form of antagonistic contradictions between the two opposite classes. An opposition line to the reformist, conciliatory and collaborating line within the Kurdish movement is becoming more and more clear. Amongst the Kurdish working people, mainly the most advanced sections of the workers, the tendency to take up the question of national liberation together with political and economic demands, and to establish a firmer unity with the Turkish workers and working people against the attacks of capital.

This tendency has to be strengthened further for a democratic and popular solution of the Kurdish question. This is possible. The most advanced sections of Kurdish workers and working people have begun to organise in and around a revolutionary working class party. Tiredness, hopelessness and setbacks caused by a certain understanding of the struggle of the parties and organisations in the Kurdish movement, like the PKK and HADEP, which do not pay attention to the daily economic and political demands of the working masses and which do not bother to develop the mass movement, is being replaced by the tendency to struggle and the determination of advancing the movement of the Kurdish working people who understand through their political experience that the problem can be solved through unity of all working people from all nationalities of Turkey and on the basis of a struggle against the dictatorship and imperialism. It is possible that reformism and ‘terrorism’ whose aims and targets have become blurred and whose implementers do not count who they are serving with it could continue to co-exist by feeding each other. Nevertheless, what we are going through is a process where the differentiation of what is revolutionary from the conciliatory and reformist will accelerate.

The fact that the Kurdish bourgeois reformist and liberal circles opening the door to the imperialist bourgeoisie in the name of ‘diplomacy’, and that the imperialist states use this unsolved question as an instrument of pressure on their servants in the region poses a serious threat to the present and the future of the Kurdish movement.

Fortunately, Kurdish workers and working people have learnt much from the developments of the last 15-20 years and from the experiences of the struggle. Apart from the long past, they also take into account the experiences of Kurdish uprisings since the foundation of the Turkish Republic. They have seen in practice the inevitability of the peoples’ united struggle against the provocations, attacks and colonial oppression of the collaborating bourgeoisie and of the imperialists. The advanced sections of Kurdish working people have become mature enough to understand that national, political and economic rights can only be obtained through a line of struggle independent from the bourgeoisie and the reactionary forces.

This is the basis and the guarantee for the development of the movement in a revolutionary direction. The Kurdish question is not a new question; it has not come on to the international agenda for the first time; and it is not directly related to the PKK’s existence or non-existence. For almost a century the Kurdish people have been demanding their national rights through a struggle with ebbs and flows and interruptions. The fact that the Kurdish people is increasingly getting rid of being a divided and closed society strengthens the mass basis of their demand for national liberation and ensures the growth of the forces of the struggle. Also, the conditions have become ripe for the Kurdish working people to draw a thick demarcation line from the bourgeoisie and the reactionary forces. This is the main direction of the development. The Kurds can obtain their national liberation with the success of the struggle of the Kurdish workers and working people – hand in hand with the Turkish workers. This is the direction of the development in the movement of the Kurdish working people.

From: ‘The Voice of Revolution’, International Bulletin of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey, TDKP.


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


by Grover Furr


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

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

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

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

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

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

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

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

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

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

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

See rydz_dont_fight.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

The Polish State Collapsed

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See new_spheres_0939.html

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Imperialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish Government In Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would have

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

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

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


See conclusion.html


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


Grover Furr
Montclair State University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montclair State University


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

6. Carsten, “New ‘Evidence’,” p. 273.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19. N.A. Series T-78, Roll No. 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mikhail Tukhachevsky on Communists and the Jews

“Also in the camp [Ingolstadt] was a Russian officer, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, son of tsarist nobility, who also made repeated attempts to escape and with whom, according to a fellow prisoner, de Gaulle shared a cell for a time. Tukhachevsky played mournful airs on his violin, spouted nihilist beliefs and inveighed against Jews as dogs who ‘spread their fleas throughout the world.’”

– Jonathan Fenby, “The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved,” page 68.

“– You are an anti-semite, then, I said to him. Why?

— The Jews brought us Christianity. That’s reason enough to hate them. But then they are a low race. I don’t even speak of the dangers they create in my country. You cannot understand that, you French, for you equality is a dogma. The Jew is a dog, son of a dog, which spreads his fleas in every land. It is he who has done the most to inoculate us with the plague of civilization, and who would like to give us his morality also, the morality of money, of capital.

— You are now a socialist, then?

— A socialist? Not at all! What a need you have for classifying! Besides the great socialists are Jews and socialist doctrine is a branch of universal Christianity. … No, I detest socialists, Jews and Christians.”

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

V.I. Lenin on Anti-Semitism


“Anti-Semitism means spreading enmity towards the Jews. When the accursed tsarist monarchy was living its last days it tried to incite ignorant workers and peasants against the Jews. The tsarist police, in alliance with the landowners and the capitalists, organised pogroms against the Jews. The landowners and capitalists tried to divert the hatred of the workers and peasants who were tortured by want against the Jews. In other countries, too, we often see the capitalists fomenting hatred against the Jews in order to blind the workers, to divert their attention from the real enemy of the working people, capital. Hatred towards the Jews persists only in those countries where slavery to the landowners and capitalists has created abysmal ignorance among the workers and peasants. Only the most ignorant and downtrodden people can believe the lies and slander that are spread about the Jews. This is a survival of ancient feudal times, when the priests burned heretics at the stake, when the peasants lived in slavery, and when the people were crushed and inarticulate. This ancient, feudal ignorance is passing away; the eyes of the people are being opened.

It is not the Jews who are the enemies of the working people. The enemies of the workers are the capitalists of all countries. Among the Jews there are working people, and they form the majority. They are our brothers, who, like us, are oppressed by capital; they are our comrades in the struggle for socialism. Among the Jews there are kulaks, exploiters and capitalists, just as there are among the Russians, and among people of all nations. The capitalists strive to sow and foment hatred between workers of different faiths, different nations and different races. Those who do not work are kept in power by the power and strength of capital. Rich Jews, like rich Russians, and the rich in all countries, are in alliance to oppress, crush, rob and disunite the workers.

Shame on accursed tsarism which tortured and persecuted the Jews. Shame on those who foment hatred towards the Jews, who foment hatred towards other nations.

Long live the fraternal trust and fighting alliance of the workers of all nations in the struggle to overthrow capital.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “Anti-Jewish Pogroms”

Grover Furr: Israeli Rule over Palestinians is Fascist

Apartheid South Africa - Apartheid Israel (1)

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

To the editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alex Callinicos on the Function of the Apartheid System


“The function of the apartheid system, consolidated by the Nationalist Party, which has been in power since 1948, is simple. The factories, mines, farms, offices and homes of white South Africans require a huge pool of cheap black labour in order to provide the settlers with their privileges and the multinationals operating in the country with their profits. Yet a permanent urban black working class would be an explosive threat to the system. So the apartheid system serves to prevent such a working class from forming. In theory, all blacks are temporary residents in the cities, which are reserved for the whites. They are required under the pass laws always to carry documents certifying their right to be in the city. Should a black lose his job he can be deported back to the rural area to which he ‘belongs’ even if he has lived all his life in the city.

Hand in hand with the immigrant labour system goes the denial to all blacks of trade union rights. Strikes by black workers are illegal, and their unions go Unrecognised by the employer or the state. The system of job reservation guarantees that skilled jobs will go to whites alone. The white trade unions, enjoying huge wage differentials out of all proportion to the work they do (mainly supervising the blacks who actually do the work), are less a section of the working class than a parasitic excrescence dependent on the white capitalists for their privileges.

The result can be seen in Soweto. 86 per cent of homes in Soweto have no electricity; 93 per cent no shower or bath; 97 per cent no hot water. 54 per cent of the township’s one million residents are unemployed. The average black family income in South Africa is 73 rand; yet the poverty datum level – the minimum income compatible with bare subsistence – is 120 rand a month.”

 – Alex Callinicos, “The Soweto Uprising: South Africa’s Black Townships Have Finally Exploded”

John Reed on the Black Question In the United States


Reed: In America there live ten million Negroes who are concentrated mainly in the South. In recent years however many thousands of them have moved to the North. The Negroes in the North are employed in industry while in the South the majority are farm labourers or small farmers. The position of the Negroes is terrible, particularly in the Southern states. Paragraph 16 of the Constitution of the United States grants the Negroes full civil rights. Nevertheless most Southern states deny the Negroes these rights. In other states, where by law the Negroes possess the right to vote, they are killed if they dare to exercise this right.

Negroes are not allowed to travel in the same railway carriages as whites, visit the same saloons and restaurants, or live in the same districts. There exist special, and worse, schools for Negroes and similarly special churches. This separation of the Negroes is called the ‘Jim Crow system’, and the clergy in the Southern churches preach about paradise on the ‘Jim Crow system’. Negroes are used as unskilled workers in industry. Until recently they were excluded from most of the unions that belong to the American Federation of Labour. The IWW of course organised the Negroes, the old Socialist Party however undertook no serious attempt to organise them. In some states the Negroes were not accepted into the party at all, in others they were separated off into special sections, and in general the party statutes banned the use of Party resources for propaganda among Negroes.

In the South the Negro has no rights at all and does not even enjoy the protection of the law. Usually one can kill Negroes without being punished. One terrible white institution is the lynching of Negroes. This happens in the following manner., The Negro is covered with oil and strung up on a telegraph pole. The whole of the town, men, women and children, run up to watch the show and take home a piece of the clothing or the skin of the Negro they have tortured to death ‘as a souvenir’.

I have too little time to explain the historical background to the Negro question in the United States. The descendants of the slave population, who were liberated during the Civil War, when politically and economically they were still completely underdeveloped, were later given full political rights in order to unleash a bitter class struggle in the South which was intended to hold up Southern capitalism until the capitalists in the North were able to bring together all the country’s resources into their own. possession.

Until recently the Negroes did not show any aggressive class consciousness at all. The first awakening of the Negroes took place after the Spanish-American War, in which the black troops had fought with extraordinary courage and from which they returned with the feeling that as men they were equal to the white troops. Until then the only movement that existed among the Negroes was a semi-philanthropic educational association led by Booker T. Washington and supported by the white capitalists. This movement found its expression in the organisation of schools in which the Negroes were brought up to be good servants of industry. As intellectual nourishment they were presented with the good advice to resign themselves to the fate of an oppressed people. During the Spanish War an aggressive reform movement arose among the Negroes which demanded social and political equality with the whites. With the beginning of the European war half a million Negroes who had joined the US Army were sent to France, where they were billeted with French troop detachments and suddenly made the discovery that they were treated as equals socially and in every other respect. The American General Staff approached the French High Command and asked them to forbid Negroes to visit places used by whites and to treat them as second-class people. After the war the Negroes, many of whom had received medals for bravery from the English and French governments, returned to their Southern villages where they were subjected to lynch law because they dared to wear their uniforms and their decorations on the street.

At the same time a strong movement arose among the Negroes who had stayed behind. Thousands of them moved to the North, began to work in the war industries and came into contact with the surging current of the labour movement. High as they were, their wage rates trailed behind the incredible increases in the prices of the most important necessities. Moreover the Negroes were outraged by the way all their strength was sucked out and the terrible exertions demanded by the work much more than were the white workers who had grown used to the terrible exploitation in the course of many years.

The Negroes went on strike alongside the white workers and quickly joined the industrial proletariat. They proved very ready to accept revolutionary propaganda. At that time the newspaper Messenger was founded, published by a young Negro, the socialist Randolf, and pursuing revolutionary propagandist aims. This paper united socialist propaganda with an appeal to the racial consciousness of the Negroes and with the call to organise self-defence against the brutal attacks of the whites. At the same time the paper insisted on the closest links with the white workers, regardless of the fact that the latter often took part in Negro-baiting, and emphasised that the enmity between the white and black races was supported by the capitalists in their own interests.

The return of the army from the front threw many millions of white workers on to the labour market all at once. The result was unemployment, and the demobilised soldiers’ impatience took such threatening proportions that the employers were forced to tell the soldiers that their jobs had been taken by Negroes in order thus to incite the whites to massacre the Negroes. The first of these outbreaks took place in Washington, where civil servants from the administration returning from the war found their jobs occupied by Negroes. The civil servants were in the main Southerners. They organised a night attack on the Negro district in order to terrorise the Negroes into giving up their jobs. To everybody’s amazement the Negroes came on to the streets fully armed. A fight developed and the Negroes fought so well that for every dead Negro there were three dead whites. Another revolt which lasted several days and left many dead on both sides broke out a few months later in Chicago. Later still a massacre took place in Omaha. In all these fights the Negroes showed for the first time in history that they are armed and splendidly organised and are not at all afraid of the whites. The results of the Negroes’ resistance were first of all a belated intervention by the government and secondly the acceptance of Negroes into the unions of the American Federation of Labour.

Racial consciousness grew among the Negroes themselves. At present there is among the Negroes a section which preaches the armed uprising of the Negroes against the whites. The Negroes who returned home from the war have set up associations everywhere for self-defence and to fight against the white supporters of lynch law. The circulation of the Messenger is growing constantly. At present it sells 180,000 copies monthly. At the same time, socialist ideas have taken root and are spreading rapidly among the Negroes employed in industry.

If we consider the Negroes as an enslaved and oppressed people, then they pose us with two tasks: on the one hand a strong racial movement and on the other a strong proletarian workers’ movement, whose class consciousness is quickly growing. The Negroes do not pose the demand of national independence. A movement that aims for a separate national existence, like for instance the ‘back to Africa’ movement that could be observed a few years ago, is never successful among the Negroes. They hold themselves above all to be Americans, they feel at home in the United States. That simplifies the tasks of the communists considerably.

The only correct policy for the American Communists towards the Negroes is to regard them above all as workers. The agricultural workers and the small farmers of the South pose, despite the backwardness of the Negroes, the same tasks as those we have in respect to the white rural proletariat. Communist propaganda can be carried out among the Negroes who are employed as industrial workers in the North. In both parts of the country we must strive to organise Negroes in the same unions as the whites. This is the best and quickest way to root out racial prejudice and awaken class solidarity.

The Communists must not stand aloof from the Negro movement which demands their social and political equality and at the moment, at a time of the rapid growth of racial consciousness, is spreading rapidly among Negroes. The Communists must use this movement to expose the lie of bourgeois equality and emphasise the necessity of the social revolution which will not only liberate all workers from servitude but is also the only way to free the enslaved Negro people.

 – John Reed, quoted in “Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International, Fourth Session July 25”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, Abraham 

Born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Ky.; died Apr. 15, 1865, in Washington, D.C. American statesman. The son of a farmer.

Lincoln was a descendant of the earliest American settlers. He worked during his youth as a day laborer on surrounding farms; he was also a flatboatman, rail-splitter, surveyor, and postal employee. At the same time he strove to educate himself. In 1836 he passed the bar examination and became a lawyer. Fairness and incorruptibility, a sharp mind, and brilliant oratorical abilities led to his rapid rise. From 1834 to 1841, Lincoln was a member of the legislative assembly of the state of Illinois. From 1847 to 1849 he was a member of the House of Representatives. During the annexationist US war against Mexico in 1846–48, Lincoln introduced into Congress a resolution calling for cessation of the war. In 1854 he was one of the organizers of the Republican Party. Lincoln’s activities reflected the interests of progressive circles of the bourgeoisie of the Northern states and of the petite bourgeoisie throughout the country. He advocated the broadening of the civil and political rights of the people and favored granting suffrage to women.

Lincoln was a resolute foe of slavery and advocated liberation of the slaves. He opposed efforts to spread slavery to the whole USA. However, Lincoln believed that the issue of slavery lay within the competence of the individual states and that the federal government had no right to control it. In 1860, Lincoln was elected president of the USA. Despite his moderate stand on slavery, his election was a signal for the slaveholding Southern states to secede from the Union; it set off the Civil War of 1861–65.

During the first stage of this war, Lincoln considered the goal to be the crushing of the rebel slaveholders and the restoration of a unified country. K. Marx and F. Engels criticized Lincoln for his foot-dragging and inconsistencies on the question of abolishing slavery, which reflected the hesitations of the bourgeoisie. They pointed to the need to conduct a revolutionary kind of war. Under pressure of the masses and of the Radical Republicans, who represented the most revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie, Lincoln changed his position in the course of the war and instituted a series of increasingly revolutionary measures. In May 1862 the Homestead Act was adopted. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation signified the complete evolution of Lincoln’s political views. He had gone from a policy of territorial containment of slavery to the areas where it was already established to a new course involving the abolition of slavery. In 1864, Lincoln was elected to a second term. The shift by Lincoln’s government to revolutionary-style warfare led to the military destruction of the slaveholder forces and the abolition of slavery throughout the USA. On Apr. 14, 1865, Lincoln was mortally wounded by the actor J. Booth, who was an agent of the slaveholders and their allies in the Northern states. The murder of Lincoln was not only an act of vengeance on the part of reactionaries. It was also an attempt to deprive the opponents of slavery of their outstanding leader at a time when, with the war at an end, Reconstruction had become the leading political issue. This was to be a period of new and harsh exacerbation of the struggle for the rights of the Negroes.

Lincoln is a national hero of the American people, the bearer of the revolutionary traditions that are followed by all progressive people in the USA in the struggle against reaction and for the interests of the people.


Complete Works, vols. 1–12. Edited by J. Nicolay and J. Hay. New York, 1905.


Ivanov, R. F. A. Linkol’n i grazhdanskaia voina v SShA. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, D. B. A. Linkol’n—velikii grazhdanin Ameriki. Moscow, 1960.
Sandburg, C. Linkol’n. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Nicolay, J., and J. Hay. A. Lincoln: A History, vols. 1–10. [New York] 1917.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bill Bland: The Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Organization


The ‘Nation of Islam’ arose indirectly out of an organisation called the ‘Moorish Science Organisation’, established in Newark, New Jersey, USA, in 1913, by one Timothy Drew, who had been born in North Carolina in 1886. Drew changed his name to ‘Noble Drew Ali’. (Clifton E. Marsh: ‘From Black Muslims to Muslims: The Resurrection, Transformation and Change of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in America: 1930-1995’; Lanham (USA); 1996; p. 29).

‘Noble Ali Drew’s ideas were published in a 64-page booklet which he titled the ‘Holy Koran’.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 31).

This proclaimed that ‘Noble Drew Ali’ was:

“. . . a prophet ordained to carry the message of Islam to people of African descent in America”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 31).

and that black Americans were in fact

“. . . Moors, whose ancestors had come from Morocco”,

(Clifton E. March: ibid.; p. 31).


“. . . part of a far-flung Moorish Nation that had somehow made its way to North America”.

(Theodore Draper: ‘The Rediscovery of Black Nationalism’; London; 1971; p. 70-71).

Drew also

” . . . identified white people with the embodiment of evil in scripture, which is Satan”.

(Imam Wallace D. Muhammad: Interview, 25 July 1979, in: Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 41).

and taught that there was

” . . . a ‘natural’ conflict between Islam and Christianity. This conflict would ultimately be resolved through the Battle of Armageddon, which he defined as a religious war between Muslims and Christians”.

(Clifton E. March: op. cit.; p. 38).

In March 1929 ‘Noble Drew Ali’ was

” . . . arrested and charged with murder,”

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 35).


” . . . released on bond, he died a few weeks later, mysteriously”.

(Theodore Draper: op. cit.; p 71).


In July 1930,

“. . . a stranger suddenly appeared in Detroit Wallace D. Fard”.

(Theodore Draper: ibid.; p. 73).

Fard was

” . . . a door-to-door pedlar who claimed that he had been ‘sent by God’ and professed to have come from Mecca”,

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

He claimed:

“to be ‘Noble Drew Ali’ reincarnated”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 37).

Those members of the ‘Moorish Science Organisation’

“who believed Master Fard Muhammad’s reincarnation”,

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 35).

broke away to

” . . . set up a temple in Detroit”,

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

and establish

“. . . what came to be known as the ‘Nation of Islam”‘.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 35).

otherwise known as the ‘Black Muslims’.


In early 1934,

“. . . Fard disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared”.

(Theodore Draper: op. cit.; p. 76).

He was succeeded as leader of the ‘Nation of Islam’ by Robert Poole, a former car worker, the son of a Baptist minister, who had been born in Sandersville, Georgia, in October 1897. (Charles Van Doren (Ed.): ‘Webster’s American Biographies’; Springfield (USA); 1974; p. 749).

Poole had moved to Detroit in 1923 and had eventually become

” . . . Fard’s chief lieutenant”.

(Walter D. Abilla: ‘The Black Muslims in America: An Introduction to the Theory of Commitment’; Nairobi; 1977; p. 5).


” . . . Chief Minister of Islam”,

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 39).

As Poole

“. . . rose in the movement, he took the name of ‘Elijah Muhammad”.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).


“moved operations”.

(Theodore Draper: op. cit.; p. 76)

“… to Chicago which he made his Permanent base of operations”.

(Theodore Draper: op cit.; p.76).


Elijah Muhammad

“. . . gave the sect a proper organisation”,

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28),

and a mythology which taught that:

“whites were devils created by an evil wizard Yakub”.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28),

and proclaimed

“the superiority of the black man over the white”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

Under Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, the ‘Nation’ advocated

“. . . complete separation for Negroes, and strongly opposed racial integration”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).


“. . . that the United States government should give the ‘Nation of Islam’ several states to create a separate nation”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 71).

“to include only blacks”.

(Walter D. Abilla: op. cit.; p. 15).

Membership of the ‘Nation’ was

” . . . secret”,

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

but in 1965 was

“. . . variously estimated at between 50,000 and 250,000”

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

Its headquarters, the ‘Temple of Islam’, were:

“.. . a 19-room mansion in Chicago, the residence of Elijah Muhammad”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

Under Elijah Muhammad, the ‘Nation’:

“demanded that members rid themselves of their ‘slave’ names,”

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 40).

and in their place adopt

” . . . either Arabic names or use their first with an ‘X’ (hence ‘Malcolm X’). When more than one person has the same first name, the successive ones call themselves ‘2X’, ‘3X’ and so on”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

Members of the sect were:

” . . . forbidden extra-marital sexual relations; the use of alcohol, tobacco and narcotics; gambling, dancing, movies and television; and lying, stealing, discourtesy, insubordination to civil authority (except on religious grounds) and dirty homes and habits. Also prohibited are the eating of pork, hair-dyeing, and excessive make-up for women”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

Women were accorded

” . a subordinate role to men”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 72).

Male members were:

” . . . organised on a para-military basis and receive training in judo and karate”.

(‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’, Volume 15; p. 20,690).

This small army of male followers was:

” . . known as the ‘Fruit of Islam”‘.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

The ‘Nation’

“. . . established schools’,

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

and a ‘University of Islam’, providing education for students in grades 4 to 12. Later, the university was known as the ‘Clara Muhammad School’, after Elijah Muhammad’s wife. (Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 43).

Under Elijah Muhammad, thrift and accumulation were:

” . . . articles of faith”.

(Walter D. Abilla: op. cit.; p. 16),

and he put forward a:

” . . . self-help philosophy”.

(Clifton E Marsh: op. cit.; p. 109).

On the basis of members’ contributions, he

“. . . established many businesses, restaurants and cleaners, and sold bean pies, whiting fish”. (Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. op. cit)

Every member was

” . . . expected to ‘buy black’, that is to trade with his own kind”.

(Walter D. Abilla: op. cit.; p. 86),

particularly with enterprises owned by the ‘Nation’. As a result, Elijah Muhammad became

” . . . admired for building the black dollar, encouraging black
people to patronise black businesses”.

(‘Independent’, 26 July 1997; p. 22),

but was criticised from the Left

“for advocating a kind of black capitalism”.

(Matthias Gardell: ‘In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam’; Durham (USA); 1996; p. 321).

These enterprises gave employment or petty bourgeois status to many members of the ‘Nation of Islam’, thus binding them to the ‘Nation’ by economic as well as religious bonds. However.

” . . . the financial empire was tied tightly to the Messenger personally”.

(Natthias Gardell: ibid.; p. 110).

that is, to Elijah Muhammad. By the 1970s, his assets had grown to constitute

” . . . an empire worth $40 million”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 4).

and his family became known as

” . . . the ‘Royal Family’ among members of the organisation”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 69),

By the 1970s, the ‘Nation of Islam’ had grown to

” . . . approximately one million members”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 68).


Upon Elijah Muhammad’s death in February 1975, he was succeeded by his son Wallace D. Muhammad, who had been born in Detroit in October 1933. (Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 13, 67. 69).

Wallace had previously been excommunicated several times by his father, according to Wallace

“. . . always on the same charge. I was not accepting the God image given to Fard Muhammad”

(Wallace D. Muhammad: Interview in Chicago, 25 July 1979, in; Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 67-68).

Wallace changed the name of the ‘Nation of Islam’ to the ‘World Community of Al-Islam in the West’ (WCIW), and his own name to Warith Deen Muhammed. (Clifton E Marsh: 115, 102).

More important, he began

“. . . to turn the sect towards orthodox Islam”.

(‘Times’ Magazine, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

Thus, the WCIW practised:

” . . . the devotional duties of the pillars of Islam (testimony, prayer, fasting , alms and pilgrimages)”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 72).

Wallace also

“. . . rejected his father’s racist teachings”.

(‘Times’, Magazine, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

and abandoned

“the notion of African Americans as a separate nation”,

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 112),

and with it the demand for a separate state within the United States, (Matthias Gardell: ibid.; p. 112),

Members were now instructed:

” . . . to honour the American flag and . . . to vote”.

(Clifton E, Marsh: ibid.; p. 71).

Black Americans were now called by the WCIW:

“Bilalians. Bilal was an Ethiopian Muslim who was born circa AD 600,”

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 70).


“…. . the ‘Muhammad Speaks’ newspaper was renamed the ‘Bilalian News “‘.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 70).

Furthermore, he:

“began dismantling the . . . economic enterprises”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 115),

built up under his father’s regime.

These changes

” . . . enabled the ‘World Community of Al-Islam in the West’ to be accepted by the Islamic World Community and also to be accepted by the United States government”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: ibid.; p. 77).

In the spring of 1980, Wallace changed the name of the ‘World Community of Al-Islam in the West’ to

“the ‘American Muslim Mission”‘

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 115).

and in late 1987 he dropped this name,

” . . . dissolving the entire organisation, urging the former membership to affiliate with any local mosque”.

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 113),


Some members of the former ‘Nation of Islam’ were strongly opposed to the changes introduced by Wallace Muhammad. The movement of resistance was headed by Louis X, who had been born Louis Walcott in May 1933 and had become

“… a calypso singer known as ‘Calypso Gene”‘.

(‘Independent’ Magazine, 26 July 1997; p. 25),

Walcott had

“become a follower of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad”,

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 96).

in February 1955.

Louis X had written:

“. . . and starred in a play called ‘The Trial’. One of the songs he wrote for the play became the ‘Nation of Islam’s anthem ‘The White Man’s Heaven is the Black Man’s Hell”‘.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).

Because of his opposition to Wallace Muhammad’s changes, in November 1977
Louis X

” . . . was excommunicated from the ‘World Community of Al-Islam in the West’

(Introduction: Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 108).


Taking the name ‘Louis Farrakhan’, Louis X now announced

” . . . his intention to re-establish the ‘Nation of Islam’ ‘on the platform of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad”‘.

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 123),


” . . . not only took over as undisputed head of the ‘Nation of Islam’, but also moved into Elijah Muhammad’s mansion, the house in which he still lives, in a posh neighborhood of Chicago much favoured by doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 11, 2 April 1995; p. 25).

In this

“fortress-like mansion”,

(‘Independent on Sunday’, 8 October 1995; p. 19).


“lives in considerable luxury”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 11, 2 April 1995; p. 25).

Under Farrakhan, the new weekly newspaper of the ‘Nation of Islam’ is called:

‘The Final Call”‘.

(‘Independent’, 36 July 1997; p. 22),

The membership of the revived ‘Nation’ is predominantly

“. . . young; up to 80% of a typical congregation is between the ages of 17 and 35; The membership is predominantly male”.

(Walter D. Abilla: op. cit.; p. 1).

Today the ‘Nation’ owns:

” . . . about 120 mosques across the country”.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 28).


Under Farrakhan’s leadership, the ‘Nation of Islam’ continued

“. . . the self-help policy of the Hon. Elijah Mohammad”,

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 109).


“. . . pay a mandatory tithe, which he (Farrakhan — Ed.) has used to create a network of small businesses, and to fund a long-planned venture into farming”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, I April 1994; p. 13).

so that the ‘Nation’ has again become

” . a rapidly growing business empire”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 4).

The ‘Nation’, which:

“. . . has its own line of skin and hair care products, set up a soap-selling business with a multi-million dollar loan from Colonel Gadafy of Libya”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, I April 1994; p 13).

while its clinic in Washington DC

” . . . promises a miracle cure for AIDS”.

(‘Times”, 3 February 1996; p. 30).

On the positive side, the ‘Nation of Islam’

“. . . are respected for their practical programmes to reduce crime and drugs. . . . They go on to estates where the police can do nothing, and close down the drug peddlers”.

(‘Independent’ Magazine, 26 July 1997; p. 26).

This reputation has been turned to financial advantage. Security firms affiliated to the ‘Nation’

” . . . have won lucrative government contracts policing hardened housing estates”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, 1 April 1994; p. 13).

The ‘Nation of Islam’ Security Agency,

” . . . is manned by members of the ‘Fruit, was formed in 1990″.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 4).


“. . . acts as security guard for hire by other prominent black figures”,

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 4).


“. . . has won government contracts worth millions of dollars to police crime-wracked housing estates”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 8, 7 August 1994; p. 4).

“Some of the grants were as much as $50,000 per month”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 129).


“. . . aims to establish a black media empire of broadcasting and entertainment interests, with the ‘Nation’s newspaper, ‘The Final Call’, as its foundation”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, 1 April 1994; p. 13).

Farrakhan himself

“. . . can be seen on 95 TV stations throughout the country and can be heard on 43 radio stations throughout the United States”.

(Clifton E. Marsh: op. cit.; p. 91).

Right-wing Political Views

Not surprisingly, Tony Robson, of the anti-fascist magazine ‘Searchlight’, says of the ‘Nation’:

“They are extreme right-wingers — the religious input is minimal”.

(Tony Robson, in: ‘Times’ ‘Life and Times’ Supplement, 3 August 1992;p. 4).

Farrakhan’s political views are indeed close to those of right-wing Republicans. Like them he

“denounces sex and violence in popular culture, and preaches ‘family values”‘.

(‘Times’, 3 February 1996; p. 30).

Under his leadership, the ‘Nation’

“. . . rejects the American welfare system”.

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 319).

and denounces it in particular:

“for ‘subsidising single mothers”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, 1 April 1994; p. 13).


” . . approves of harsh penal codes adopted by countries such as Saudi Arabia”,

(‘Sunday Times’. Section 10, 2 April 1995; p. 25).

and wants

” . . to prohibit marriage between different races”.

(‘Independent on Sunday”, Section 11, 12 November 1995; p. 3).

and demands the death penalty for

“interracial sex”.

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 337).

Political Abstention

Continuing the abstentionist policies pursued under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, members of Farrakhan’s ‘Nation of Islam’

“do not take part in any election”.

(Walter D. Abilla: op. cit.; p. 15).


The discrimination against women practised under Elijah Muhammad has been accentuated under Louis Farrakhan. Men

” . . . are designated as the ‘maintainers of women and children”‘.

(‘Independent on Sunday’, Section 11, 20 October 1997; p. 3).

and women

. . . cover themselves from head to toe and sit in segregated areas during services”.

(‘Independent on Sunday’, Section 11, 20 October 1997; p. 3).

‘Nation of Islam’ rallies

“. . . are often of men only, and when they are mixed it is common for the women, wearing regulation long-sleeved white robes to cover their flesh, to be asked to vacate their seats for men”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement. 1 April 1994; p. 13),

Since January 1994,

. . . Farrakhan has barred women from speeches in public buildings in New York, Boston and Washington”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement. 1 April 1994; p. 13),

In March 1994,

“. . . Farrakhan cancelled a speech at the Texas Southern University rather than admit women. Farrakhan had billed the April 11 address as a man-to-man discussion of issues involving black men, But the state university said the speech could not go ahead without the women”

(‘Guardian’ Supplement. 1 April 1994; p. 13),

In October 1995,

” . . . several hundred thousand black men attended a rally in Washington DC . . . organised by Louis Farrakhan”.

(‘Keesing’s Record of World Events;’, Volume 41; p. 40,765).

This event,

” . . . named the ‘Million Men March’,

(‘Keesing’s Record of World Events;’ Volume 41; p. 40,765).

was one:

” . . . from which women had been excluded”.

(‘Independent on Sunday’, Section 11; 20 October 1996; p. 3),


Under Farrakhan, the ‘Nation of Islam’ has revived the racism of Elijah Muhammad. In her autobiography, Sonsyrea Tate describes the racist ideas about white people she received as a ‘Nation of Islam’ child in Washington:

“I’d learned that they were wicked, that they smelled like wet dogs when it rained, and that, in general, they had unsanitary habits, such as picking up food and eating it after they dropped it on the floor — and not wearing underclothes. I thought I might start itching if one of them sat next to me”.

(Sonsyrea Tate: ‘Little X: Growing up in the Nation of Islam’, San Francisco; 1997; p. 131).


” . . . goes round saying that whites are inferior”‘,

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 2 April 1885; p. 25).

Indeed, the ‘Nation’s propaganda on whites is

“. . a mirror image of what the Ku Klux Klan is saying”,

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 2 April 1995; p 25).

about black people.

Under Farrakhan, the ‘Nation’ has revived the demand for:

“the withdrawal of Negroes into a separate black nation”.

(George Breitman: ‘Malcolm X: The Man and his Ideas’, in: Malik Miah (Ed.): ‘The Assassination of Malcolm X’; London; 1968; p. 42).

and one of Farrakhan’s principal aims is:

“to establish an independent black Islamic state”.

(Matthias Gardell: op. cit.; p. 327).

In Britain in 1987,

“. . . the ‘National Front’ announced a campaign to promote Farrakhan’s ideas. Posters went up: Louis Farrakhan speaks for his nation. We speak for ours”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 2 April 1995; p 25).

“The promotion of racial separatism by the NoI has unfortunately found common ground with the likes of the ‘National Front’ in Britain. An editorial in ‘Nationalism Today’ in 1988 praised Mr. Farrakhan for his contribution to ‘the fight against multiracialism’, adding: We are ready and willing to work with those of other races who wish to maintain their separateness and identity”‘.

(‘Times’, Supplement, 3 August 1992; p. 4),

In the mid-1980s, the ‘Nation of Islam’

“. . . admitted to dealings with a former leader of the Californian Ku Klux Klan, Tom Metcalfe, now in gaol for a racist murder”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9; 7 August 1994; p. 5).


Apart from anti-white racism, the ‘Nation of Islam’ under Farrakhan indulges in virulent anti-Semitism. Since the mid-1980s,

“the targets for the ‘Nation’s political fulminations have been the Jews”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 65).

In 1991,

” . . . the ‘Nation of Islam’ published ‘The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews’ . . . which accused Jews of being ‘key operatives’ in the African slave trade”.

(‘Times’ Magazine, 3 February 1996; p. 31),

In 1985, Farrakhan told a black audience:

“I have a difficulty with Jewish people. . . . They are not the chosen people of God. . . . The black people of America and the Western hemisphere are God’s chosen people”.

(‘Times’ ‘Life and Times’ Supplement, 2 August 1992; p. 4).

Robson affirms that

“Farrakhan is notoriously anti-Semitic”.

(‘Times’ ‘Life and Times’ Supplement, 2 August 1992; p. 4).

Indeed, Farrakhan is on record as saying that Jews

” . . are ‘bloodsuckers’ who have become rich on the sweat and toil of blacks. Judaism is a ‘gutter religion’; the Holocaust was nothing compared to the historical oppression of American blacks”.

(‘Independent on Sunday’, 8 October 1995; p. 19).

In July 1998, Donu Kogbara wrote:

“The anti-Semitism displayed by Louis Farrakhan…… the Nation of Islam’s black American leader, is despicable”.

(‘Sunday Times’, 5 July 1998; p. 5),

and refers to

” . . . his obsession with racial separation — apartheid by another name”.

(‘Sunday Times’, 5 July 1998; p. 5).

Mainly as a result of representations by Jewish organisations Farrakhan

” . . . has been banned from Britain since 1988″.

(‘Times’ ‘Life and Times’ Supplement, 3 August 1992; p. 4).

The ban

” . . . also prohibits all broadcasts of his image and likeness”.

(‘Guardian’ ‘The Editor’, 4 July 1998; p. 4).

In November 1993, Khalid Muhammad, a leading member of the ‘Nation of Islam”‘, referred to Jews

“. . . as ‘Christ-killers’, alleging that they controlled the global financial system. . . ‘It’s that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hook-nosed, bagel-eating, lox-eating Johnny-come-lately”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement, 1 April 1994; p. 13).

He accused the

” . . . Jews of being ‘bloodsuckers’ on the black community, questioned the Holocaust and called for the killing of all whites in South Africa”.

(‘Keesing’s Record of World Events’, Volume 40; p. 39,854).

Following widespread complaints about the speech, in February 1994 Farrakhan demoted Khalid Muhammad”; (‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 4).

Nevertheless, Farrakhan

“is still very close to Khalid”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9. 7 August 1994; p. 4).

since he

” . . . uses Khalid Muhammad as a stalking horse”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p. 5).


Chip Berlet, of ‘Political Research Associates’, says:

“Many of the key elements of a fascist political movement are present in the NoI, including theories of racial superiority, organic leadership and the appropriateness of authoritarian measures”.

(‘Sunday Times’, Section 9, 7 August 1994; p 5).

The ‘Nation of Islam’ has revived the ‘Fruit of Islam’ as its uniformed storm troopers, which are run along military lines. (‘Independent’ Magazine, 26 July 1997; p. 25).

It is composed of

” . . . shaven-headed men, all of whom are identically attired, from the tips of their shiny black shoes, to their zip-up black bomber jackets. crisp white cotton shirts and trade-mark red bow-ties”.

(‘Independent’, 26 July 1997; p. 20).

‘Fruit’ members

“take martial arts classes”,

(‘Independent’, 26 July 1997; p. 22).


” . . frisk the queues to ‘Nation’ rallies, stand with Farrakhan on stage, and act as sentries at his home”.

(‘Guardian’ Supplement. 1 April 1994; p. 13).

After he had left the ‘Nation’, Malcolm X told a press conference:

“I know for a fact that there is a conspiracy between . . . the Muslims and the Lincoln Rockwell Nazis and also the Ku Klux Klan”.

(Matthias Gardell: op, cit.; p. 273).

Indeed, John X Ali

” . . . arranged for American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell to speak at the 1962 Saviour’s Day celebration in Chicago”.

(Matthias Gardell: ibid.; p. 273).


In Britain, the ‘Nation of Islam’

“began informally in 1986”.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 25).


“the first mosque was set up in Brixton”,

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 25).

Today it has

” . . . three mosques, in south, north and east London”.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 25).

Together with:

” a study group working towards a mosque in North London”,

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 26).

The ‘Nation’s London headquarters are situated

“in Goldhawk Road”.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 22).

and it owns

“a shop on Harlesden High Street”.

(‘Independent’, 26 July 1997; p. 26).

Since its foundation,

“It . . . it has grown tenfold . . to 2,500 (half-male, half-female)”.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 22-23).

Jamaican-born Hugh Chester Jones, now known as ‘Leo Muhammad’, is Farrakhan’s

“mouthpiece in London”.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 20).

where there is published

” . . . a new locally produced magazine called ‘Signs of the Times”‘.

(‘Independent’, Section 11, 26 July 1997; p. 22).



William B. Bland for the Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau



Challenging Capitalism and Patriarchy: An Interview with bell hooks


THIRD WORLD VIEWPOINT: You have written extensively on feminist issues and on racial oppression in America, and your analyses are always thoughtful and incisive but, in terms of being an intellectual in the elitist sense of the word, does it bother you that the masses of African American women and men may, perhaps, not get a chance to know who bell hooks is; may not be reading your material that has so much to say about the struggles that they are engaged in?

BELL HOOKS: I think that I am a lucky person in that I get a lot of feedback from those “masses.” I think that we have such stereotypical notions of working people. There are a lot of Black working people who read and, in fact, 20 years ago, long before white feminists were receiving my work and applauding it, I counted on that basic Black population, particularly Black women who went to the library and checked out my books and wrote to me. My concern is to enlarge that audience, particularly to reach young Black people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are the reading population but who are least likely, maybe, to hear of a bell hooks.

Part of my desire to do that has led me to go to magazines that ordinarily I might not be that engaged with politically, I want Black people to know that there are insurgent Black intellectual voices that are addressing our needs as a people who must have renewed liberation struggle.

Let us talk about the concept of patriarchy about which you write and talk a lot. Patriarchy is a notion of society being dominated by men. Clearly, patriarchy also existed before there was capitalism. Do you believe that the overthrow of capitalism has within it the seeds for ending patriarchy and thus the oppression of women?

I think that what we see globally is that there have been incredible struggles to combat capitalism that haven’t resulted in an end to patriarchy at all. I also think that when we study ancient societies that were not capitalist we see hierarchical systems that privileged maleness in the way that modern patriarchy does. I think we will never destroy patriarchy without questioning, critiquing, and challenging capitalism, and I don’t think challenging capitalism alone will mean a better world for women.

How do you combine the struggle against patriarchy and against capitalism?

I think that strategically, we have to start on all fronts. For example, I’m very concerned that there are not more Black women deeply committed to anti-capitalist politics. But one would have to understand the role that gender oppression plays in encouraging young Black females to think that they don’t need to study about capitalism. That they don’t need to read men who were my teachers like Walter Rodney, and Nkrumah, and Amilcar Cabral.

I think that as a girl who grew up in a patriarchal, working-class, Black, southern household there was a convergence of those issues of class and gender. I was acutely aware of my class, and I was acutely aware of the limitations imposed on me by gender. I wouldn’t be the committed worker for freedom that I am today had I not begun to oppose that gendered notion of learning that suggests that politics is the realm of males and that political thinking about anti-racist struggle and colonialism is for men.

I’m very much in favor of the kind of education for critical consciousness that says: Let’s not look at these thing separately. Let’s look at how they converge so that when we begin to take a stand against them, we can take that kind of strategic stance that allows us to be self-determining as a people struggling in a revolutionary way on all fronts.

In terms of your own political development, would you say that your analysis is informed by a Marxist critique of capitalist society?

Absolutely. I think Marxist thought–the work of people like Gramsci–is very crucial to educating ourselves for political consciousness. That doesn’t mean we have to take the sexism or the racism that comes out of those thinkers and disregard it. It means that we extract the resources from their thought that can be useful to us in struggle. A class rooted analysis is where I begin in all my work. The fact is that it was bourgeois white feminism that I was reacting against when I stood in my first women’s studies classes and said, “Black women have always worked.” It was a class-biased challenge to the structure of feminism.

So you would encourage women to get organizationally involved in the struggle against the capitalist system and against gender oppression?

Absolutely. In my newest book, Killing Rage: Ending Racism, one of the big issues I deal with is the degree to which capitalism is being presented as the answer. When people focus on the white mass media’s obsession with Louis Farrakhan, they think the media hate Farrakhan so much. But they don’t hate Farrakhan. They love him. One of the reasons why they love him is that he’s totally pro-capitalist. There is a tremendous overlap in the values of a Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and the values of the white, Christian right. Part of it is their pro-capitalism, their patriarchy, and their whole-hearted support of homophobia.

Farrakhan’s pro-capitalism encourages a kind of false consciousness in Black life. For example, you have a Rapper like Ice T in his new book, The Ice Opinions, making an astute class analysis when he says that “People live in the ghetto not because they’re Black, but because they’re poor.” But then he goes on to offer capitalism as a solution. This means that he has a total gap in his understanding if he imagines that becoming rich within this society–individual wealth–is somehow a way to redeem Black life. The only hope for us to redeem the material lives of Black people is a call for the redistribution of wealth and resources which is not only a critique of capitalism, but an incredible challenge to capitalism.

You bemoan the fact that you don’t see enough women playing leading roles in political organizations–on the left, in particular. But, in terms of the possibilities of women on the left organizing independently from a feminist perspective, it would seem to me that a number of reasons might be offered to explain this, one of them being that Black men, even though they are sexist, are not perceived to be in control of the levers of power in this society, so that it becomes problematic for Black women in terms of organizing separately as Black women?

I would disagree that my political standpoint begins with feminism. My political standpoint begins with the notion of Black self-determination. In order for me to engage in a revolutionary struggle for collective Black self-determination, I have to engage feminism because that becomes the vehicle by which I project myself as a female into the heart of the struggle, but the heart of the struggle does not begin with feminism. It begins with an understanding of domination and with a critique of domination in all its forms. I think it is, in fact, a danger to think of the starting point as being feminism.

I think we need a much more sophisticated vision of what it means to have a radical political consciousness. That is why I stress so much the need for African Americans to take on a political language of colonialism.We owe such a great debt to people like CLR James and the great thinkers in the African Diaspora who have encouraged us to frame our issues in a larger political context that looks at imperialism and colonialism and our place as Africans in the Diaspora so that class becomes a central factor.

In terms of the need for consciousness of Black women and men to be raised about the issues of gender, what kind of program do you think should be addressed?

I think we equally need Black men to be feminist teachers educating for critical consciousness. I’m actually for a more communal division of labor. If we have a community where people seem to be more hip about gender, but not very hip about class, then I think that we need to strategically go for that framework of understanding which is missing, rather than to assume that one framework should always be centered on.

I believe that Black women are very susceptible to bourgeois hedonistic consumerism because women are so much the targets of mass media. So, clearly, a lot of critical thinking about materialism in our lives is crucial to engaging Black women in revolutionary struggle. So that class, again, comes up and we haven’t had enough Black women leaders.
But the point is, we need to also know how some of these women, many of whom came from bourgeois families, began to acquire a more revolutionary consciousness–if, indeed, they have acquired that consciousness. It’s also easier, a lot of times, for Black women to talk about gender and ignore class because many of us are non-divesting of our support of capitalism and our longing for luxury. I think that it’s one thing to enjoy the good life and to enjoy beauty and things, and another thing to feel like you’re willing to support the killing of other people in other countries so that you can have your fine car and other luxuries.

You have, in effect, through your answers explained the difference between your politics, and, let us say, white feminist politics.

Well, I would say “some white feminist politics,” because I can think of revolutionary feminists who are white. We don’t hear much from revolutionary feminists who are white because they’re not serving the bourgeois agenda of the status quo. They’re a small minority, but they are there and they are useful allies in the struggle. So I try not to use those monolithic terms anymore that I used in the beginning with Ain’t I A Woman because I was 19-years-old when I was writing that book and it reflected a certain degree of political naivete. I am now much more acutely aware of the need for us not to lump all white feminist thinkers together because there are a small group of revolutionary women who are activists in struggle and are more deeply our allies than the mainstream white feminists we hear so much about.

So we should put to rest the notion that feminism is about pitting men against women?

In Feminist Theory, From Margin to Center I said that if you think of feminism as a movement to end sexism and sexist oppression, there is nothing about men in there. To me, a woman can’t be a feminist just because she is a woman. She is a feminist because she begins to divest herself of sexist ways of thinking and revolutionizes her consciousness. The same is true for the male comrade in struggle.

One would think, as in the case of racism, that it’s more in the interest of the woman to develop a feminist consciousness, but that’s the only way in which I think that women have a greater claim to feminism than men. I feel sad that we have allowed these knee-jerk feminists who want to act like it’s a struggle against men…but again that’s the least politically developed strand of feminism. That is the strand of feminism that people most hear about, not the kind of revolutionary feminism that says, patriarchy is life threatening to Black men. When we look at the Black men who are killing each other–who think that their dick is a gun, and a gun is a dick–those men need a critique of that notion of patriarchal masculinity to save their lives. Feminism as a political movement has to specifically address the needs of men in their struggle to revolutionize their consciousness.

In your first book Ain’t I A Woman you took Amiri Baraka to task for his sexist views and his sexist politics. As a result of more outspokenness by you and others, do you see a change developing in the Black community among Black men?

I think that we certainly have seen tremendous changes in Black males. But one of the difficulties is that Black, gay men–I’m thinking particularly of Essex Hemphill, Joseph Bean, and Marlon Riggs–who have been at the forefront of critiquing sexism are not looked on as leaders, as they should be, in our community. When a Marlon Riggs makes a film like Tongues Untied, where he talks about the place of silence in the construction of Black masculinity (he keeps repeating that line, “Silence is my weapon, silence is my shield”), he’s not just talking about gay men who use silence. When we look at Black men, in general, in intimate and personal relations, we see the inability to communicate feelings, emotions, in relation to the people they care about, as a problem. I can’t think of anything that a straight Black man has made that tries to speak to that need of Black men to break through the wall of silence, and to speak about the range of issues that affects their lives as deeply as Marlon in Tongues Untied. And yet, again, even though it has been on PBS, a lot of Black people will see “gay,” and they won’t go any further with it. That’s tragic because gays have so much to offer.

Is the Black community any more homophobic than the white community?

The rhetoric of nationalism is totally homophobic, and to the degree that contemporary Black people are engaged in escapist, non-political, non-revolutionary fantasies of nationalism and the patriarchal family, we are more aggressively homophobic than the larger culture where there are a lot of white liberals and leftists who are not interested in nationalism.

In terms of where we are in the 1990s, are you optimistic? Do you see on the horizon the seeds of a future regeneration of Black, political radicalism?

I see a hunger, especially among Black youth, for more sophisticated answers. Unfortunately, right now, it’s narrow nationalism, narrow forms of Afrocentrism, that are mostly addressing that hunger. Our leading people buy into utopian fantasies of liberation, when in fact our liberation should come from a concrete struggle in the workforce, no fantasies about ancient Africa, and kings and queens. Not that we don’t need to know about ancient Africa to address the biases of Western education.

People forget that the militant struggles of the 1960s were profoundly anti-capitalist. Even Martin Luther King reached a point, before his death, in A Testament of Hope, when he was saying we must be anti-militarist; we must critique capitalism. That has somehow gotten lost in the mix, and I think that this embracing of capitalist ethic of liberal individualism has done more to diffuse Black people’s capacity to struggle for freedom, than any other factor.

On the other hand, when I go to give a talk and there are many more Black men than ever before. There are many more Black people, so it says to me that there is also a burgeoning group of Black people who are ready to educate for critical consciousness, in a more powerful, revolutionary way. The question will be: how many of us will rise as insurgent, revolutionary, Black intellectuals, to be the teachers, and to be the leaders, and to be the people who make certain sacrifices to bring certain insights. We have to think of political insight as a resource that we bring to our diverse Black communities and to our lives.

You are also a cultural critic. There are a lot of Black movies out now–do you think these films are addressing the needs of Black people at this time?

I was told, for example, by a lot of Black people, “Oh, you must see Sankofa,” Haile Gerima’s film. Then I saw that film and I thought, this script of slavery comes right out of Gone with the Wind. It has moments where it affirms Black self-determination, but it’s so sentimental when it comes to gender. We have the sacrificing Black mother who, truly, has a revolutionary consciousness and is not going to go chasing after some retrograde, self-hating mulatto son in the way we see that Black woman doing. It’s kind of sad that this is our vision of a film that begins to address our issues because, once again, it’s on such a banal level.

I think it is worth discussing how useful are fictional narratives of slavery to us in a culture where people don’t know their actual history. I’m much more interested in students reading and knowing the speeches and text of Malcolm X, the person, than going to see that garbled, crossover, colonized version of Spike Lee’s. Until people have concretely studied the teachings of a Malcolm X or a Martin Luther King, it’s dangerous to have fiction become the primary learning point.

I guess there’s still a very strong nationalist hold over us…

That’s a good point. I think nationalism is a non-progressive world vision right now. I think that nationalism is different from Black self-determination because, of course, any vision of Black self-determination that is rooted in a class analysis and a critique of sexism unites us with the struggles of, not only Black people, globally, for liberation, but all oppressed people.

I think that nationalism has undermined revolutionary Black struggle. It’s no accident that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were destroyed at those moments of their political careers when they had begun to critique nationalism as a platform of organization; and where, in fact, they replace nationalism with a critique of imperialism; which then, unites us with the liberation struggles of so many people on the planet. If we don’t have that kind of global perspective about our social realities, we will never be able to re-envision a revolutionary movement for Black self-determination that is non-exclusive, and doesn’t assume some kind of patriarchal nationhood. Many of our African nations have failed precisely because they lacked a revolutionary vision for social change that worked, and not because they didn’t have a nation. So, Black Americans must be very, very cautious in embracing the notion of a nation as the redemptive location. The redemptive location lies in our radical politics and the strategies by which we implement those radical politics–not with the formation of a nation.


Thoughts on the George Zimmerman Verdict


“Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.”

 ― Syreeta McFadden

I am deeply saddened and enraged beyond words at the news that Zimmerman has been acquitted of all charges and has therefore gotten away with murder, or rather a lynching. I am far too upset to give any kind of detailed analysis or statement. All I can say is this: mark my words, there will be hell to pay for this soon enough.

This song means so much to me. It brings tears to my eyes. I’ve listened to it so many times during times like these over the years.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.