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During his work in the Kalata mines, in the Ural region,
confronted by deliberate sabotage by engineers and Party cadres. It was
clear to him that these acts were a deliberate attempt to weaken the
Bolshevik régime, and that such blatant sabotage could only take place
with the approval of the highest authorities in the Ural Region.
Here is his important summary:
`Conditions were reported to be especially bad in the copper-mines of the
Ural Mountain region, at that time Russia's most promising
mineral-producing area, which had been selected for a lion's share of
the funds available for production. American mining engineers had been
engaged by the dozens for use in this area, and hundreds of American
foremen had likewise been brought over for instructional purposes in
mines and mills. Four or five American mining engineers had been
assigned to each of the large copper-mines in the Urals, and American
metallurgists as well.
`These men had all been selected carefully; they had excellent records in
the United States. But, with very few exceptions, they had proved
disappointing in the results they were obtaining in Russia. When
was given control of copper- and lead-mines, as well as
gold, he wanted to find out why these imported experts weren't producing
as they should; and in January 1931 he sent me off, together with an
American metallurgist and a Russian Communist manager, to investigate
conditions in the Ural mines, and try to find out what was wrong and how
to correct it ....
`We discovered, in the first place, that the American engineers and
metallurgists were not getting any co-operation at all; no attempt had
been made to provide them with competent interpreters .... They had
carefully surveyed the properties to which they were assigned and drawn
up recommendations for exploitation which could have been immediately
useful if applied. But these recommendations had either never been
translated into Russian or had been stuck into pigeonholes and never
brought out again ....
`The mining methods used were so obviously wrong that a first-year
engineering student could have pointed out most of their faults. Areas
too large for control were being opened up, and ore was being removed
without the proper timbering and filling. In an effort to speed up
production before suitable preparations had been completed several of
the best mines had been badly damaged, and some ore bodies were on the
verge of being lost beyond recovery ....
`I shall never forget the situation we found at Kalata. Here, in the
Northern Urals, was one of the most important copper properties in
Russia, consisting of six mines, a flotation concentrator, and a
smelter, with blast and reverberatory furnaces. Seven American mining
engineers of the first rank, drawing very large salaries, had been
assigned to this place some time before. Any one of them, if he had
been given the opportunity, could have put this property in good running
order in a few weeks.
`But at the time our commission arrived they were completely tied down by
red tape. Their recommendations were ignored; they were assigned no
particular work; they were unable to convey their ideas to Russian
engineers through ignorance of the language and lack of competent
interpreters .... Of course, they knew what was technically wrong
with the mines and mills at Kalata, and why production was a small
fraction of what it should have been with the amount of equipment and
`Our commission visited practically all the big copper-mines in the Urals
and gave them a thorough inspection ....
`(I)n spite of the deplorable conditions I have described there had been
few howls in the Soviet newspapers about ``wreckers'' in the Ural
copper-mines. This was a curious circumstance, because the Communists
were accustomed to attribute to deliberate sabotage much of the
confusion and disorder in industry at the time. But the Communists in
the Urals, who controlled the copper-mines, had kept surprisingly quiet
`In July 1931, after
had examined the report of conditions
made by our commission, he decided to send me back to Kalata as chief
engineer, to see if we couldn't do something with this big property. He
sent along with me a Russian Communist manager, who had no special
knowledge of mining, but who was given complete authority, and
apparently was instructed to allow me free rein ....
American engineers brightened up considerably when they discovered we
really had sufficient authority to cut through the red tape and give
them a chance to work. They ... went down into the mines alongside
their workmen, in the American mining tradition. Before long things
were picking up fast, and within five months production rose by 90 per
`The Communist manager was an earnest fellow; he tried hard to
understand what we were doing and how we did it. But the Russian
engineers at these mines, almost without exception, were sullen and
obstructive. They objected to every improvement we suggested. I wasn't
used to this sort of thing; the Russian engineers in gold-mines where I
had worked had never acted like this.
`However, I succeeded in getting my methods tried out in these mines,
because the Communist manager who had come with me supported every
recommendation I made. And when the methods worked the Russian
engineers finally fell into line, and seemed to get the idea ....
`At the end of five months I decided I could safely leave this property ....
Mines and plant had been thoroughly reorganized; there seemed to be no
good reason why production could not be maintained at the highly
satisfactory rate we had established.
`I drew up detailed instructions for future operations .... I
explained these things to the Russian engineers and to the Communist
manager, who was beginning to get some notion of mining. The latter
assured me that my ideas would be followed to the letter.'
, pp. 89--94.
`(I)n the spring of 1932 ... Soon after my return to Moscow
I was informed
that the copper-mines at Kalata were in very bad condition; production
had fallen even lower than it was before I had reorganized the mines in
the previous year. This report dumbfounded me; I couldn't understand
how matters could have become so bad in this short time, when they had
seemed to be going so well before I left.
asked me to go back to Kalata to see what could be done.
When I reached there I found a depressing scene. The Americans had all
finished their two-year contracts, which had not been renewed, so they
had gone home. A few months before I arrived the Communist manager
... had been removed by a commission which had been sent in from
Sverdlovsk, Communist headquarters in the Urals.
The commission had reported that
he was ignorant and inefficient, although there was nothing in his
record to show it, and had appointed the chairman of the investigating
commission to succeed him --- a curious sort of procedure.
`During my previous stay at the mines we had speeded up capacity of the
blast furnaces to seventy-eight metric tons per square metre per day;
they had now been permitted to drop back to their old output of forty to
forty-five tons. Worst of all, thousands of tons of high-grade ore had
been irretrievably lost by the introduction into two mines of methods
which I had specifically warned against during my previous visit ....
`But I now learned that almost immediately after the Russian engineers
were sent home the same Russian engineers whom I had warned about the
danger had applied this method in the remaining mines (despite his
written opposition, as the method was not universally applicable), with
the result that the mines caved in and much ore was lost beyond
`I set to work to try to recover some of the lost ground ....
`Then one day I discovered that the new manager was secretly
countermanding almost every order I gave ....
`I reported exactly what I had discovered at Kalata to
`In a short time the mine manager and some of the engineers were put on
trial for sabotage. The manager got ten years ... and the engineers
lesser terms ....
`I was satisfied at the time that there was something bigger in all this
than the little group of men at Kalata; but I naturally couldn't warn
against prominent members of his own Communist Party ....
But I was so sure that something was wrong high up in the political
administration of the Ural Mountains ....
`It seemed clear to me at the time that the selection of this commission
had their conduct at Kalata traced straight back to the Communist high
command in Sverdlovsk, whose members must be charged either with
criminal negligence or actual participation in the events which had
occurred in these mines.
`However, the chief secretary of the Communist Party in the Urals, a man
had occupied this post since 1922 ... he was
considered so powerful that he was privately described as the
``Bolshevik Viceroy of the Urals.'' ....
`(T)here was nothing to justify the reputation he appeared to have.
Under his long rule the Ural area, which is one of the richest mining
regions in Russia, and which was given almost unlimited capital for
exploitation, never produced anything like what it should have done.
`This commission at Kalata, whose members later admitted they had come
there with wrecking intentions, had been sent directly from
headquarters .... I told some of my Russian acquaintances at the
time that it seemed to me there was a lot more going on in the Urals
than had yet been revealed, and that it came from somewhere high up.
`All these incidents became clearer, so far as I was concerned, after the
conspiracy trial in January 1937, when
together with several
of his associates, confessed in open court that they had engaged in
organized sabotage of mines, railways, and other industrial enterprises
since the beginning of 1931. A few weeks after this trial ... the
chief secretary of the Party in the Urals,
who had been a
close associate of
was arrested on charges of complicity in
this same conspiracy.'
, pp. 97--101.
The opinion given here by
is worth remembering,
in his infamous 1956 Secret Report, cited him as
an example of worthy leader, `who had been a party member since 1914' and
victim of `repressions ... which were based on nothing tangible'!
Secret Report, op. cit.
, p. S32.
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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995