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The rectification

On November 11, 1938, Stalin and Molotov  signed a clear decision, putting an end to the excesses that took place during the purges.

`The general operations --- to crush and destroy enemy elements --- conducted by the NKVD in 1937--1938, during which investigation and hearing procedures were simplified, showed numerous and grave defects in the work of the NKVD and prosecutor. Furthermore, enemies of the people and foreign secret service spies penetrated the NKVD, both at the local and central level. They tried by all means to disrupt investigations. Agents consciously deformed Soviet laws, conducted massive and unjustified arrests and, at the same time, protected their acolytes, particularly those who had infiltrated the NKVD.

`The completely unacceptable defects observed in the work of the NKVD and prosecutors were only possible because enemies of the people had infiltrated themselves in the NKVD and prosecutor offices, used every possible method to separate the work of the NKVD and prosecutors from the Party organs, to avoid Party control and leadership and to facilitate for themselves and for their acolytes the continuation of their anti-Soviet activities.

`The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) resolves:

`1. To prohibit the NKVD and prosecutors from conducting any massive arrest or deportation operation ....

`The CPC and the CC of the CPSU(b) warn all NKVD and prosecutor office employees that the slightest deviation from Soviet laws and from Party and Government directives by any employee, whoever that person might be, will result in severe legal proceedings.

`V. Molotov,  J. Stalin.'


Nouvelles de Moscou 26 (30 June 1992), p. 15.

There is still much controversy about the number of people that were affected by the Great Purge. This subject has been a favorite topic for propaganda. According to Rittersporn,  in 1937--1938, during the `Great Purge', there were 278,818 expulsions from the Party. This number was much smaller than during the preceding years. In 1933, there were 854,330 expulsions; in 1934, there were 342,294, and in 1935 the number was 281,872. In 1936, there were 95,145.


Rittersporn,  op. cit. , p. 12.

However, we should underscore that this purge was completely different from the previous periods. The `Great Purge' focused mainly on cadres. During the preceding years, elements that had nothing to do with Communism, common criminals, drunkards and undisciplined elements constituted the majority of the expelled.

According to Getty,  from November 1936 to March 1939, there were fewer than 180,000 expulsions from the Party.


Getty,  op. cit. , p. 176.

This number takes into account reintegrated individuals.

Even before the 1938 Plenum, there were 53,700 appeals against expulsions. In August 1938, there were 101,233 appeals. At that time, out of a total of 154,933 appeals, the Party committees had already examined 85,273, of which 54 per cent were readmitted.


Ibid. , p. 190.

No other information could better give the lie to the statement that the purge was blind terror and without appeal, organized by an irrational dictator.

Conquest  claims that there were 7 to 9 million arrests in 1937--1938. At that time, the number of industrial workers was less than 8 million. This number, Conquest  `bases this on the memoirs of ex-prisoners who assert that between 4 and 5.5 per cent of the Soviet population were incarcerated or deported during those years'.


Rittersporn,  op. cit. , p. 12.

These figures are sheer fantasy, invented by enemies of socialism who were firmly committed to harming the régime by all means. Their `estimates' are based on no serious sources.

`Lacking evidence, all estimates are equally worthless, and it is hard to disagree with Brzezinski's  observation that it is impossible to make any estimates without erring in the hundreds of thousands or even millions.'


Getty,  op. cit. , pp. 257--258, n. 16.

We would now like to address the Gulag and the more general problem of the number of imprisoned and dead in the corrective work camps, the word Gulag meaning Principal Administration of the camps.

Armed with the science of statistics and extrapolation, Robert Conquest  makes brilliant calculations: 5 million interned in the Gulag at the beginning of 1934; more than 7 million arrested during the 1937--1938 purges, that makes 12 million; from this number one million executed and two million dead of different causes during those two years. That makes exactly 9 million politically detained in 1939 `not counting the common law'.


Conquest's  figures and those that refute his claims all come from Nicolas Werth,  `Goulag: les vrais chiffres', op. cit. . See also Getty,  Rittersporn  and Zemskov, op. cit. . 

Now, given the size of the repression, Conquest  starts to count cadavers. Between 1939 and 1953, there was an average annual mortality `of around 10 per cent'. But, during all these years, the number of detained remained stable, around 8 million. That means that during those years, 12 million persons were assassinated in the Gulag by Stalinism.

The Medvedez brothers, those `Communists' of the Bukharin--Gorbachev  school,  essentially confirmed those revealing figures.

There were `12 to 13 million people thought to have been in concentration camps during Stalin's time'. Under Khrushchev,  who reawoke hopes for `democratization', things went much better, of course: in the Gulag, there were only some 2 million common law criminals left.


Roy A. Medvedev  and Zhores A. Medvedev,  Khrushchev:  The Years in Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), p. 19.

Up to now, no problem. Everything was going just fine for our anti-Communists. Their word was taken for granted.

Then the USSR split up and Gorbachev's  disciples were able to grab the Soviet archives. In 1990, the Soviet historians Zemskov and  Dugin  published the unedited statistics for the Gulag. They contain the arrivals and departures, right down to the last person.

Unexpected consequence: These accounting books made it possible to remove Conquest's  scientific mask.

In 1934, Conquest  counted 5 million political detainees. In fact there were between 127,000 and 170,000. The exact number of all detained in the work camps, political and common law combined, was 510,307. The political prisoners formed only 25 to 35 per cent of the detainees. To the approximately 150,000 detainees, Conquest  added 4,850,000. Small detail!

Annually, Conquest  estimated an average of 8 million detainees in the camps. And Medvedev  12 to 13 million. In fact, the number of political detainees oscillated between a minimum of 127,000 in 1934 and a maximum of 500,000 during the two war years, 1941 and 1942. The real figures were therefore multiplied by a factor of between 16 and 26. When the average number of detainees was somewhere between 236,000 and 315,000 political detainees, Conquest  `invented' 7,700,000 extra! Marginal statistical error, of course. Our school books, our newspapers, do not give the real figure of around 272,000, but the horror of 8,000,000!

Conquest,  the fraud, claims that in 1937--1938, during the Great Purge, the camps swelled by 7 million `politicals' and there were in addition 1 million executions and 2 million other deaths. In fact, from 1936 to 1939, the number of detained in the camps increased by 477,789 persons (passing from 839,406 to 1,317,195). A falsification factor of 14. In two years, there were 115,922 deaths, not 2,000,000. For the 116,000 dead of various causes, Conquest  adds 1,884,000 `victims of Stalinism'.

Gorbachev's  ideologue, Medvedev,  refers to 12 to 13 million in the camps; under the liberal Khrushchev,  there remained 2 million, all common law. In fact, during Stalin's time, in 1951, the year of the greatest number of detained in the Gulag, there were 1,948,158 common law prisoners, as many as during Khrushchev's  time. The real number of political prisoners was then 579,878. Most of these `politicals' had been Nazi collaborators: 334,538 had been convicted for treason.

According to Conquest,  between 1939 and 1953, there was, in the work camps, a 10 per cent death rate per year, some 12 million `victims of Stalinism'. An average of 855,000 dead per year. In fact, the real figure in peace time was 49,000. Conquest  invented a figure of 806,000 deaths per year. During the four years of the war, when Nazi barbarity was imposing unbearable conditions on all Soviets, the average number of deaths was 194,000. Hence, in four years, the Nazis caused an excess of 580,000 deaths, for which, of course, Stalin is responsible.

Werth,  who denounces Conquest's  falsifications, still does his best to maintain as much as possible the myth of Stalinist `crimes'.

`In fourteen years (1934--1947), 1 million deaths were registered in the work camps alone.' So Werth  also blames socialism for the 580,000 extra deaths caused by the Nazis!

Let us return to the purge itself.

One of the best-known slanders claims that the purge was intended to eliminate the `Old Bolshevik Guard'. Even a vicious enemy of Bolshevism like Brzezinski  can take up the same line.


Zbigniew Brzezinski,  The Grand Failure (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989), p. 89.

In 1934, there were 182,600 `Old Bolsheviks' in the Party, i.e. members who joined in 1920 at the latest. In 1939, there were 125,000. The great majority, 69 per cent, were still in the Party. There was during those five years a drop of 57,000 individuals, i.e. 31 per cent. Some died of natural causes, others were expelled, others were executed. It is clear that if `Old Bolsheviks' fell during the Purge, it was not because they were `Old Bolsheviks', but because of their political behavior.


Ibid. , p. 176.

We conclude with the words of Professor J. Arch Getty  who, at the end of his remarkable book, Origins of the Great Purges, writes:

`The evidence suggests that the Ezhovshchina  --- which is what most people really mean by the ``Great Purges'' --- should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy's stamping out dissent and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovshchina  was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy. The entrenched officeholders were destroyed from above and below in a chaotic wave of voluntarism and revolutionary puritanism.'


Ibid. , p. 206.

next up previous contents index
Next: The Western bourgeoisie Up: The Great Purge Previous: The 1937--1938 Purge

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995