MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | Grover Furr

Notes Part one

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1 Leon Trotsky's version of Soviet history preceded Khrushchev's, and has dovetailed into it as a kind of "left" version of the latter, though little credited outside Trotskyist circles. Both Khrushchevite and Trotskyist accounts portray Stalin in an extremely negative light; the word "demonize" would scarcely be an exaggeration. On Trotsky, see McNeal.

2 The widespread use of the term "terror" to characterize the period of Soviet history from roughly mid-1937 to 1939-40 can be attributed to an uncritical acceptance of Robert Conquest's highly tendentious and unreliable 1973 work The Great Terror. The term is both inaccurate and polemical. See Robert W. Thurston, "Fear and Belief in the USSR's 'Great Terror': Respose To Arrest, 1935-1939." Slavic Review 45 (1986), 213-234. Thurston responded to, and critiqued, Conquest's attempt to defend the term in "On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest." Slavic Review 45 (1986), 238-244. See also Thurston, "Social Dimensions of Stalinist Rule: Humor and Terror in the USSR, 1935-1941." Journal of Social History 24, No. 3 (1991) 541-562; Life and Terror Ch. 5, 137-163.

3 Marxist-Leninist political thought rejects capitalist "representative democracy" as essentially a smokescreen for elite control. Many non-Marxist political thinkers agree. For one example, see Lewis H. Lapham (editor of Harper's Magazine), "Lights, Camera, Democracy! On the conventions of a make-believe republic," Harper's Magazine, August 1996, 33-38.

4 Quoted by Yuri Zhukov, "Zhupel Stalina," Komsomolskaia Pravda Nov. 5 2002. Prof. Getty confirmed this in an email to me.

5 The Party's name was changed to Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952.

6 Yenukidze, an old revolutionary, fellow Georgian, and friend of Stalin's, had long occupied a high position in the Soviet government and never been associated with any of the Opposition groups of the '20s. At this time he was also in charge of the Kremlin Guard. Within a few months he was one of the first to be exposed as a member of the plan for a "palace coup" against the Stalin leadership. Zhukov (KP 14 Nov. 02) notes that this must have been especially upsetting to Stalin.

7 Part II, Chapter 3, Article 9 of The Soviet Constitution of 1924, the one in force at this time, gave urban dwellers a far greater influence in society -- one Soviet delegate to 25,000 city and town voters, and one delegate to 125,000 country voters. This was in conformity to the far greater degree of support for socialism among workers, and with the Marxist concept of the state as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

8 This is actually not a law but a "decision of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars" -- i.e. of the legislative and executive branches of government. The fact that it is commonly called a "law" even in scholarship simply shows that most of those who refer to it have not actually read it at all. It is printed in Tragediia Sovetskoy Derevni. Kollektivizatsiia I Raskulachivanie. Documenty I Materialy. 1927-1939. Tom 3. Konets 1930-1933 (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001), No. 160, pp. 453-4, and in Sobranie zakonov i rasporiazhenii Raboche-Krest'ianskogo Pravitel'stva SSSR, chast' I, 1932, pp. 583-584.. My thanks to Dr. G·bor T. Rittersporn for this last citation.

9 To build up the economy as quickly as possible after the devastation of the Civil War and subsequent famine, the Bolsheviks permitted capitalism to flourish and encouraged profit-seeking businessmen, though under government scrutiny. This was called the New Economic Policy.

10 Stalin, "Report to 17th P.C.," 704, 705, 706, 716, 728, 733, 752, 753, 754, 756, 758.

11 This is not widely known, nor its significance understood. Our view of Stalin has been largely shaped by those who hated him (McNeal 87). Stalin had been an excellent student at the seminary in Tblisi, Georgia, to which his mother had sent him. Devoting his life from his teenage years to the working-class revolutionary movement, he had never had the opportunity for higher education. But he was highly intelligent, and a voracious reader whose learning ranged from philosophy to technical subjects like metallurgy. Contemporary records attest to his attention to details and thorough knowledge of many technical areas. A Russian scholar who has studied Stalin's library gives impressive figures: 20,000 volumes at Stalin's dacha after the war; many of the 5,500 taken to the Institute of Marxism-Leninism after his death are annotated and underlined. (Ilizarov). Roy Medvedev, who hates Stalin, grudgingly admits Stalin's considerable reading. (Medevedev, "Lichnaia")

     Many of the people whom he picked as his closest associates reflected this same dedication to self-improvement. Sergei Kirov, Leningrad Party leader and close ally of Stalin's who was assassinated in 1934, was noted for his wide reading in literature. (Kirilina 175). "When Kirov was killed, experts from the investigation photographed everything that could aid the investigation including the top of Kirov's work desk. To the right lay H¸tte's engineering manual, on the left a pile of scientific and technical journals, the top title of which was 'Combustile Shale.' Wide indeed was the sphere of interests of this party worker -- as Stalin's was." (Mukhin Ubiystvo 625)

     In 1924 Lavrenty Beria, fresh from several years of very dangerous underground revolutionary work, some of it as a Bolshevik infiltrator in violent anti-communist Caucasian nationalist groups, wrote his Party autobiography. His purpose in listing his deeds -- he had been awarded the rank of general at the age of 20 -- was to plead, not for a cushy job, as most "Old Bolsheviks" demanded and usually got, but to be allowed to return to his engineering studies, so he could make a contribution to the building of a communist society. (Beria: Konets Kar'ery, 320-325)

12 Thurston, Chapters 2 through 4, is the best single summary, as of the early '90s, of the evidence concerning the Moscow Trials. This article will not deal directly with these trials, the trial and execution of Marshal Tukhachevsky and other top-ranking military leaders in June 1937, or the interrelationship among all the anti-Soviet conspiracies alleged in them. As documents from the Soviet archives make clear, Stalin and other top Soviet leaders were convinced that the conspiracies existed, and the charges at the Moscow Trials, plus those against the military leaders, were, at least in large part, accurate.

13 Getty notes that CC members pointedly refused to respond to Zhdanov's speech, putting the Chair, Andreev, into confusion ("Excesses"124). Zhukov places less emphasis on this, as Eikhe and other First Secretaries did reply at the next session, while emphasizing the struggle against "enemies." (Inoy 345)

14 For the Resolution, see Zhukov, Inoy 362-3; Stalin, Zakliuchitel'noe. Like the resolution (which remains unpublished), Stalin's speech touches only very briefly on the subject of "enemies," and even then to warn the CC against "beating" everyone who had once been a Trotskyist. Stalin insists that there are "remarkable people" among former Trotskyists, specifically naming Feliks Dzerzhinsky.

15 This volume (Genrikh IAgoda ) consists mainly of investigators' interrogations of Yagoda and a few of his associates, and Yagoda's confessions of involvement in the conspiracy to carry out a coup against the Soviet government; Trotsky's leadership of the conspiracy; and, in general, all that Yagoda confessed to in the 1938 Trial. There is no indication that these confessions were other than genuine. The volume's editors deny that any of the facts cited in the interrogations are accurate, and declare the interrogations themselves "falsified." But they do not give any evidence that this is the case. Jansen and Petrov, p. 226 n. 9, though very anti-Stalin, cite this volume as evidence and without comment. Furthermore, there is good evidence that this was so in fact -- that these conspiracies did exist, that the confessions given at the public trials were genuine rather than coerced, and that the major charges against the defendants were true. Another large volume of primary documents published in 2004 contains a great many NKVD reports of conspiracies and texts of interrogations (see Lubianka B). The most plausible explanation for the existence of all this evidence is that some of it, at least, is true.

16 Called the klubok, or "tangle," by the NKVD investigators at the time and by Russian historians today.

17 No transcript of the June 1937 Plenum has ever been published. Some authors have claimed that no transcript was kept. However, Zhukov quotes extensively from some archival transcript unavailable to others.

18 The order for setting up a "troika" in Eikhe's Western Siberian region exists. Eikhe's request has not been found, but he must have made such a request, either in writing or orally. See Zhukov, "Repressii" 23, n. 60; Getty, "Excesses" 127, n. 64.

19 Getty, Excesses 131-134 discusses some statistics about this. See Order No.00447.

20 The sample ballot is reproduced in Zhukov; Inoy, 6th illustration.

21 As late as February 1, 1956, less than four weeks before his "Secret Speech" to the XX Party Congress, Khrushchev was still referring to Yezhov as "undoubtedly not to blame, an honest man." Reabilitatsia: Kak Eto Bylo. Mart 1953-Febral' 1956 (Moscow, 2000), p. 308.

22 His resignation was not formally accepted until November 25, 1938; see Lubianka B Nos. 344 and 364.

23 Khrushchev requested "to execute 20,000 people", Zhukov, KP 3 Dec. 02. Yakovlev's criticism of Khrushchev's massive expulsions is quoted above. Eikhe was arrested in October 1938, tried, convicted, and executed in February 1940. According to Khrushchev, Eikhe repudiated his confession, saying he had given it after being beaten (i.e. tortured). Zhukov's analysis suggests that the real reason for Eikhe's fate may have been his leading role in the mass executions of 1937-38. See Jansen and Petrov, 91-2. The Politburo and January 1938 Plenum began to attack party secretaries who victimized rank-and-file members (Getty, Origins 187-8). The full record of Eikhe's investigation and trial is still classified. A desire to deflect attention and blame away from himself and his fellow First Secretaries of the time is one of the bases of Khrushchev's lies in his "secret speech."

24 Getty ("Excesses" 132) cites evidence that 236,000 executions were authorized by "Moscow," meaning the Stalin leadership, but that over 160% of that number, or 387,000 people, were in fact executed by local authorities.

25 At the 1938 Moscow Trial Yagoda confessed to involvement in the plot for a coup d'Ètat against the Soviet government, to the murders of Maxim Gorky and his son, and other heinous crimes, but vigorously rejected the prosecution's accusation that he was guilty of espionage. The fact that the charge of espionage was still raised over a year after Yagoda had been arrested shows, at least, that the Soviet government thought he might have given such information to a foreign enemy (Germany, Japan, Poland). As the head of the Ministry of the Interior, including the secret police and border police, Yagoda would have been able to do incalculable harm to Soviet security if he had given information to foreign governments

26 Thurston has the best discussion in English of this in Life and Terror 128 ff.

 


Additional Notes

 

Note on Yuri Zhukov's work:

To date there has been one extended scholarly attack on Zhukov's thesis -- that by Prof. Irina V. Pavlova, "1937: Vybory kak mistifikatsiia, terror kak real'nost'," Voprosy Istorii 10, 2003 19-36. Pavlova is a strident anti-communist of the "totalitarianism" school whose ideological hostility to communism undermines her historical research. For example, she has lied about Getty's research in order to try to discredit him. Pavlova is writing propaganda, not history.

Pavlova refers only to Zhukov's articles in KP; she wrote it before the publication of Inoy Stalin. Pavlova's criticism relies on the assumption that the Moscow Trials and that of Tukhachevskii et al. were frame-ups, and the whole constitutional and electoral campaigns a deliberate "cover" for this repression.

Pavlova also asserts that, because the Supreme Soviet did not have real political power in 1936, contested elections for it would not have given it any power either. If by "power" Pavlova means the ability to unseat the Bolshevik Party from its dominant position in the USSR and to undo socialism, she is undoubtedly right: surely Stalin had no intention of allowing a counter-revolution through constitutional means. Nor is this permitted in any bourgeois democratic country. But if she means "power" to influence state policies and exert pressure, within limits, on the specific social policies and on the Bolshevik Party itself -- that is, the kind of powers determined by elections in bourgeois democracies -- then she cannot possibly be right.

Note on Iuri Mukhin, Ubiystvo Stalina i Beriia:

This book of Mukhin's is often dismissed by those unsympathetic to his conclusions on the grounds that he has made remarks that can be construed as anti-semitic. It should be noted that Mukhin makes remarks opposing anti-semitism in this same book. This paper does not draw upon any of the passages in which anti-semitic statements can be alleged.

Mukhin has also taken eccentric positions on some subjects not dealt with in this book. I do not draw upon any of those works either.

The same thing could, and should, be said when anti-communist scholars are cited -- the fact of their anti-communist prejudices does not mean that they cannot, on occasion, have some valuable insights. And, of course, anti-communism is normally closely aligned with anti-semitism. Neither a communist nor Jewish, Mukhin shows some hostility to both, but is neither a conventional anti-communist nor a conventional anti-semite.

Mukhin's analysis of primary and secondary sources is often very sharp, and I use, and cite, it where I find it helpful. Naturally, citation of those of Mukhin's analyses that the author thinks are useful does not imply agreement to parts of his analysis which are not cited. Nor is Mukhin responsible for any use I have made of his research..

I have checked every reference made by Mukhin and all other scholars cited here, except in the case of primary sources available only to those who work in the archives.


Bibliography

(I have included URLs to online versions of the texts cited whenever I have been able to locate them -- GF.)

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Beria, Lavrentii. Speech, at Stalin's funeral. At <http://leader.h1.ru/beria.htm>. Mukhin cites the original published version in Komsomolskaya Pravda, No. 59, 1953, pp. 1-3 (Ubiystvo, 282). I have not been able to see this version, but the passages Mukhin quotes from it are identical to the on-line version cited here). Cited as "Beria, Speech."

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