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Did Stalin poorly prepare the anti-fascist war?

When Khrushchev  seized power, he completely inverted the Party's line. To do this, he denigrated Stalin and his Marxist-Leninist   politics. In a series of incredible slanders, he even denied Stalin's lead in preparing for and undertaking the anti-fascist war.

So Khrushchev  claimed that in the years 1936--1941, Stalin poorly prepared the country for war. Here are his statements.

`Stalin put forward the thesis that the tragedy ... was the result of the result of the ``unexpected'' attack of the Germans against the Soviet Union. But, comrades, this is completely untrue. As soon as Hitler  came to power in Germany he assigned to himself the task of liquidating Communism ....

`Many facts from the prewar period clearly showed that Hitler  was going all out to begin a war against the Soviet state ....

`Had our industry been mobilized properly and in time to supply the Army with the necessary matériel, our wartime losses would have been decidedly smaller ....

`(O)ur Army was badly armed ....

`Soviet science and technology produced excellent models of tanks and artillery peoces before the war. But mass production of all this was not organized'.


Khrushchev,  Secret Report, pp. S36, S38.

That the participants in the Twentieth Congress could listen to these slanders without indignant protests coming from every part says a lot about the political degeneration that had already taken place. In the room, there were dozens of marshals and generals who knew to what extent those statements were ridiculous. At the time, they did not say anything. Their narrow professionalism, their exclusive militarism, their refusal of political struggle within the Army, their refusal of the ideological and political leadership of the Party over the Army: these factors all brought them closer to Khrushchev's  revisionism. Zhukov,  Vasilevsky,  Rokossovsky,  all great military leaders, never accepted the necessity of the Army Purge in 1937--1938. Nor did they understand the political implications of Bukharin's  trial. Hence they supported Khrushchev  when he replaced Marxism-Leninism   with theses taken from the Mensheviks, the Trotskyists  and the Bukharinists.  There is the explanation for the marshals' silence over Khrushchev's  lies about the Second World War. They refuted these lies later on in their memoirs, when there were no longer any political implications and when these questions had only become academic.

In his 1970 Memoirs, Zhukov  correctly underscored, against Khrushchev's  allegations, that the real defence policy began with Stalin's decision to industrialize in 1928.

`We could have put off a steep rise in the heavy industry for some five or seven years and given the people more consumer goods, and sooner. Our people had earned this right a thousand times. This path to development was highly attractive.'


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 107.

Stalin prepared the defence of the Soviet Union by having more than 9,000 factories built between 1928 and 1941 and by making the strategic decision to set up to the East a powerful industrial base.


Ibid. , p. 137.

With respect to the industrialization policy, Zhukov  gave tribute to the `wisdom and acumen of the Party line, finally indicated by history'.


Ibid. , pp. 107.

In 1921, in almost all areas of military production, they had to start from nothing. During the years of the First and Second Five Year Plans, the Party had planned that the war industries would grow faster than other branches of industry.


Ibid. , p. 138.

Here are the significant numbers for the first two plans.

The annual production of tanks for 1930 was 740 units. It rose to 2,271 units in 1938.


Ibid. , p. 139.

For the same period, annual plane construction rose from 860 to 5,500 units.


Ibid. , p. 140.

During the Third Five-Year Plan, between 1938 and 1940, industrial production increased 13 per cent annually, but defence industry production rose by 39 per cent.


La grande guerre nationale, op. cit. , p. 33.

The breathing space offered by the Germano-Soviet Pact was used by Stalin to push military production to the hilt. Zhukov  testified:

`Experienced Party workers and prominent experts were assigned to large defence enterprises as CC Party organizers, to help the plants have everything needed and ensure attainment of targets. I must say that Stalin himself worked much with defence enterprises --- he was personally acquainted with dozens of directors, Party leaders, and chief engineers; he often met with them, demanding fulfilment of plans with a persistence typical of him.'


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 191.

The military deliveries that took place between January 1, 1939 and June 22, 1941 are impressive.

Artillery received 92,578 units, including 29,637 canons and 52,407 mortars. New mortars, 82mm and 120mm, were introduced just before the war.


Zhukov,  op. cit. , pp. 198--199. La grande guerre nationale, op. cit. , p. 33.

The Air Force received 17,745 fighter aircraft, including 3,719 new models. In the area of aviation:

`The measures taken between 1939 and 1941 created the conditions necessary to quickly obtain during the war quantitative and qualitative superiority'.


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 201. La grande guerre nationale, op. cit. , p. 33.

The Red Army received more that 7,000 tanks. In 1940, production of the medium-size T-34 tank and heavy KV tank, superior to the German tanks, began. There were already 1,851 produced when war broke out.


Zhukov,  op. cit. , pp. 197. La grande guerre nationale, op. cit. , p. 33.

Referring to these achievements, as if to express his disdain for Khrushchev's  accusations, Zhukov  made a telling self-criticism:

`Recalling what we military leaders demanded of industry in the very last months of peace, I can see that we did not always take full stock of the country's real economic possibilities.'


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 192.

The actual military preparation was also pushed to the hilt by Stalin. The military confrontations in May--August 1939 with Japan and in December 1939--March 1940 with Finland were directly linked with the anti-fascist resistance. These combat experiences were carefully analyzed to strengthen the Red Army's weaknesses.

In March 1940, a Central Committee meeting examined the operations against Finland. Zhukov  related:

`Discussions were sharp. The system of combat training and educating troops was strongly criticized.'


Ibid. , p. 180.

In May, Zhukov  paid a visit to Stalin:

` ``Now that you have this combat experience,'' Stalin said, ``take upon yourself the command of the Kiev Military District and use this experience for training the troops.'' '


Ibid. , p. 170.

For Stalin, Kiev was of significant military importance. He expected that the main attack in the German attack would focus on Kiev.

`Stalin was convinced that in the war against the Soviet Union the Nazis would first try to seize the Ukraine and the Donets Coal Basin in order to deprive the country of its most important economic regions and lay hands on the Ukrainian grain, Donets coal and, later, Caucasian oil. During the discussion of the operational plan in the spring of 1941, Stalin said: ``Nazi Germany will not be able to wage a major lengthy war without those vital resources.'' '


Ibid. , p. 211.

In summer and fall 1940, Zhukov  made his troops undergo intense combat preparation. He noted that he had with him capable young officers and generals. He made them learn the lessons resulting from German operations against France.


Ibid. , p. 173.

From December 23, 1940 to January 13, 1941, all leading officers were brought together for a large conference. At the center of debates: the future war with Germany. The experience that the fascists had accumulated with large tank corps was carefully examined. The day after the conference, a great operational and strategic exercise took place on a map. Stalin attended. Zhukov  wrote:

`The strategic situation was based on probable developments in the western frontier zone in the event of a German attack on the Soviet Union.'


Ibid. , p. 184.

Zhukov  led the German aggression, Pavlov  the Soviet resistance. Zhukov  noted:

`The game abounded in dramatic situations for the eastern side. They proved to be in many ways similar to what really happened after June 22, 1941, when fascist Germany attacked the Soviet Union'. Pavlov  had lost the war against the Nazis. Stalin rebuked him in no uncertain terms:

`The officer commanding a district must be an expert in the art of war and he must be able to find correct solutions in any conditions, which is what you failed to do in this game.'


Ibid. , pp. 185--186.

Building of fortified sectors along the new Western border began in 1940. By the beginning of the war, 2,500 cement installations had been built. There were 140,000 men working on them every day.

`Stalin was also pushing us with that work', wrote Zhukov. 


Ibid. , p. 213.

The Eighteenth Congress of the Party, February 15--20, 1941, dealt entirely with preparing industry and transportion for the war. Delegates coming from all over the Soviet Union elected a number of extra military members to the Central Committee.


Zhiline,  op. cit. , p. 212. Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 209.

Early in March 1941, Timoshenko  and Zhukov  asked Stalin to call up the infantry reservists. Stalin refused, not wanting to give the Germans a pretext for provoking war. Finally, late in March, he accepted to call up 800,000 reservists, who were sent to the borders.


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 196.

In April, the Chiefs of Staff informed Stalin that the troops from the Baltic, Byelorussia, Kiev and Odessa Military Regions would not be sufficient to push back the attack. Stalin decided to advance 28 border divisions, grouped into four armies, and insisted on the importance of not provoking the Nazis.


Ibid. , 217--218.

On May 5, 1941, in the Kremlin Great Palace, Stalin spoke to officers coming out of the military academies. His main theme: `the Germans are wrong in thinking that it's an ideal, invincible army.'


Ibid. , p. 225.

All these facts allow one to refute the standard slanders against Stalin:

`He prepared the army for the offensive, but not for the defensive'; `He believed in the Germano-Soviet Pact and in Hitler,  his accomplice'; `He did not believe that there would be a war with the Nazis'. The purpose of these slanders is to denigrate the historic achievements of the Communists and, consequently, to increase the prestige of their opponents, the Nazis.

Zhukov,  who played a crucial rôle in Khrushchev's  seizure of power between 1953 and 1957, still insisted, in his Memoirs, on giving the lie to Khrushchev's  Secret Report. He concluded as follows about the country's preparation for war:

`It seems to me that the country's defence was managed correctly in its basic and principal features and orientations. For many years everything possible or almost everything was done in the economic and social aspects. As to the period between 1939 and the middle of 1941, the people and Party exerted particular effort to strengthen defence.

`Our highly developed industry, the kolkhoz system, universal literacy, the unity of nations, the strength of the socialist state, the people's great patriotism, the Party leadership which was ready to unite the front and rear in one whole --- this was the splendid foundation of our immense country's defensive capacity, the underlying cause of the great victory we won in the fight against fascism. The fact that in spite of enormous difficulties and losses during the four years of the war, Soviet industry turned out a collosal amount of armaments --- almost 490 thousand guns and mortars, over 102 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns, over 137 thousand military aircraft --- shows that the foundations of the economy from the military, the defence standpoint, were laid correctly and firmly.'


Ibid. , p. 226.

`In basic matters --- matters which in the end decide a country's fate in war and determine whether it is to be victory or defeat --- the Party and the people prepared their Motherland for defence.'


Ibid. , p. 227.

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Next: The day of Up: Stalin and the Previous: The Germano-Soviet Pact

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995