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To attack the tremendous prestige of Stalin, undoubtedly the greatest
military leader of the anti-fascist war, his enemies like to
refer to the `incredible mistake' that he made by not predicting the
exact date of the aggression.
in his Secret Report, stated:
`Documents ... show that by April 3, 1941
personally warned Stalin that the Germans had begun regrouping their
armed units with the intent of attacking the Soviet Union ....
`However, Stalin took no heed of these warnings.'
Secret Report, op. cit.
, pp. S36--S37.
continued by stating that Soviet military attachés in
Berlin had reported rumors according to which the attack against the
Soviet Union would take place on May 14 or June 15.
`Despite these particularly grave warnings, the necessary steps were
not taken to prepare the country properly for defense ....
`When the fascist armies had actually invaded Soviet territory and
military operations began, Moscow issued the order that the German
fire was not to be returned ....
`(A) certain German citizen crossed our border and stated that
the German armies had received orders to start the offensive against
the Soviet Union on the night of June 22 at 3 o'clock. Stalin was
informed about this immediately, but even this warning was ignored.'
, pp. 37--39.
This version is found throughout bourgeois and revisionist litterature.
for example, wrote that under `the dictatorial and
personal system that Stalin had set up ... no-one dared to
say that he had erred.'
Staline (Paris: Fayard, 1984), p. 262.
What can be said about the first day of the war?
Stalin knew perfectly well that the war would be of extreme cruelty,
that the fascists would exterminate without mercy the Soviet
Communists, and would, using unprecedented terror, reduce the Soviet
peoples to slavery.
Germany was reinforced by Europe's economic potential. Each
month, each week of peace meant a significant reinforcement of the
Soviet Union's defence.
`The political and state leaders in the country saw war coming and
exerted maximum efforts to delay the Soviet Union's entry into it.
This was a sensible and realistic policy. Its implementation required
above all a skillful conduct of diplomatic relations with the
capitalist countries, especially with the aggressors.' The army had
received strict orders to avoid `any action that the Nazi leaders
could use to exarcerbate the situation or to make a military
, p. 84.
The situation on the borders had been very tense since May 1941.
It was important to keep one's cool and to not get entangled in German
wrote about this subject:
`The state of alert in a border area is in itself an extreme
`(T)he premature alert of the troops may be just as dangerous as the
delay in giving it. Quite often there is still a long distance from
hostile policies of a neighbour-country to a real war.'
, p. 83.
had not succeeded in invading Britain, not in shaking it. But
the British Empire was still the world's leading power. Stalin knew
would do anything to avoid a war on two fronts. There
were good reasons to believe that
would do everything it could
to beat Britain before engaging the Soviet Union.
For several months, Stalin had been receiving information from Soviet
intelligence services announcing that the German aggression would
begin in one or two weeks. Much of this information was rumor spread
by Britain or the U.S., who wanted to turn the fascist wolves against
the socialist country. Each defence measure of the Soviet borders was
manipulated by the Right in the U.S. to announce an imminent attack by
the Soviet Union against Germany.
, pp. 73--74.
`The spring of 1941 was marked by a new wave of false rumours in the
Western countries about large-scale Soviet war preparations against
, p. 224.
The Anglo-American Right was pushing the fascists to fight the
Furthermore, Stalin had no guarantees as to the British or U.S.
reaction to a Nazi aggression against the Soviet Union. In May 1941,
number two in the Nazi Party, had landed in Scotland.
who ran a British radio station specialized in
propaganda broadcasts destined for Germany, noted in his book:
... stated that the object of his flight to Scotland
had been to make peace with Britain ``on any terms'', providing
that Britain would then join Germany in attacking Russia.
` ``A victory for England as the ally of the Russians,'' said
``will be a victory for the Bolsheviks. And a Bolshevik victory will
sooner or later mean Russian occupation of Germany and the rest of
Black Boomerang (London: Secker &
Warburg, 1962), pp. 59--60.
In Britain, the current to make a deal with the USSR had deep roots.
A recent event shows this once again. In early 1993, a controversy
took place in Britain with
The End of Glory.
former Minister of
intervened to state that it would have been
had made peace with Germany in Spring 1941. Nazi
Germany and Bolshevik Russia would have mutually destroyed each other
and Britain would have maintained its Empire!
De Morgen, 23 January 1993, p. 21.
Let us return to early 1941. Stalin was receiving at the time
varied information, from all over the world, announcing
an imminent German attack against Britain. When Stalin saw simultaneous
reports coming from Britain, announcing an imminent Nazi attack
against the Soviet Union, he had to ask himself: to what extent are
these British lies, whose aim is to prevent a
After the war, it was learned that German
given on February 3, 1941, had followed a
`Directive for Misinforming the Enemy'.
`Maps of England were printed in vast quantities, English interpreters
were attached to units, preparations were made for ``sealing off''
some areas along the coast of the English Channel, the Strait of Dover
and Norway. Information was spread about an imaginary ``airborne
corps'', make-believe ``rocket batteries'' were installed along the
shore ... the flood of propaganda was turned against England and
the usual diatribes against the Soviet union stopped'.
, p. 223.
All this explains Stalin's extreme caution. He was hardly the blind
depicts, but well a very lucid Communist
leader who weighed all possibilities.
`(Stalin) did say to me one day:
` ``A man is sending me very important information about the
intentions of the
Government but we have some doubts.''
`Perhaps he was speaking of
(famous Soviet spy)'.
, p. 228.
the Soviet intelligence services bear their
responsability in the erroneous prediction of the attack date.
On March 20, 1941, their leader, General
submitted to Stalin
a report containing information of vital importance: the attack would
take place between May 15 and June 15. But in his conclusions,
noted that this was probably `misinformation coming from the
English or perhaps even the German intelligence service.'
estimated that the attack would probably take place
`after (German) victory over England'.
, pp. 228--229.
On June 13, Marshal
phoned Stalin to place the troops on alert.
`We will think it over,' Stalin replied.
The next day,
Stalin told them.
`You propose carrying out mobilization, alerting the troops and moving
them to the Western borders? That means war! Do you two understand
that or not?!'
replied that, according to their intelligence services, the
mobilization of the German divisions was complete. Stalin replied:
`You can't believe everything in intelligence reports.'
At that very moment, Stalin received a phone call from
`From his replies we gathered that they talked about agriculture.
` ``That's good,'' Stalin said after listening for a while.
`N. S. Khrushchev
must have painted the prospects for a good harvest
in rosy colours.'
, p. 230.
this remark is incredible! We know that
attacked Stalin's `lack of vigilance' and
`irresponsibility'. But at the time that
Stalin were evaluating the chances of an imminent aggression, the
was discussing grain and vegetables.
The evening of June 21, a German deserter reported that the attack
would take place the next night.
called to Stalin's place:
`But perhaps the German generals sent this deserter to provoke a
conflict?', Stalin asked.
`We think the deserter is telling the truth'.
Stalin: `What are we to do?'
`A directive must immediately be given to alert all
the troops of border Districts'.
After a brief discussion, the military men drew up a text, which was
slightly modified by Stalin. Here is the essence:
`a) During the night of 21.6.41 the firing posts in the fortified areas
on the state border are to be secretly occupied;
`b) Before dawn on 22.6.41 all aircraft including army aviation are to
be dispersed among the field aerodromes, and carefully camouflaged;
`c) All units are to be alerted. Forces are to be kept dispersed and
, pp. 232--233.
The transmission to the various regions
was finished soon after midnight. It was already June 22, 1941.
wrote about the first months of the war:
`(A)fter the first severe disaster and defeat at the front, Stalin
thought that this was the end ....
`Stalin for a long time actually did not direct the military
operations and ceased to do anything whatever. He returned to active
leadership only when some members of the Political Bureau visited him'.
Secret Report, op. cit.
, p. S40.
`(T)here was an attempt to call a Central Committee plenum in October
1941, when Central Committee members from the whole country were
called to Moscow .... Stalin did not even want to meet and talk to
the Central Committee members. This fact shows how demoralized Stalin
was in the first months of the war'.
, pp. S19--S20.
adds to this:
`Drinking strong vodka, he remained drunk for almost eleven days.'
, p. 269.
Let us return to Stalin, dead drunk for the last eleven days and
demoralized for another four months.
announced to Stalin on June 22, 1941, at 3:40 in the
morning, that German planes had bombed border cities, Stalin told him
to convoke the Politburo. Its members met at 4:30.
that the German land forces had begun their offensive. Soon after
came the German declaration of war.
, pp 235--236.
Stalin understood better than anyone the savagery that the country
would have to endure. He kept a long silence.
`Stalin himself was strong-willed and no coward. It was only once
I saw him somewhat depressed. That was at the dawn of June 22, 1941,
when his belief that the war could be avoided, was shattered.'
, p. 268.
proposed that the enemy units should be attacked immediately.
Stalin told him to write up the directive, which was sent at 7:15.
But `considering the balance of forces and the situation obtaining it
proved plainly unrealistic --- and was therefore never carried out.'
, p. 236.
affirmation that Stalin had `issued the order that the
German fire was not to be returned' is clearly false.
Secret Report, op. cit.
, p. S39.
If Stalin was affected when he heard that the war broke out,
`After June 22, 1941, and throughout the war Stalin firmly governed
the country, led the armed struggle and international affairs together
with the Central Committee and the Soviet Government.'
, p. 268.
Already, on June 22, Stalin took decisions of vital importance.
testified that at 13:00 on that day, Stalin
telephoned him to say:
`Our front commanders lack combat experience and they have evidently
become somewhat confused. The Politbureau has decided to send you to
the South-Western Front as representative of the General Headquarters
of the High Command. We are also sending
to the Western Front.'
, p. 238.
The High Command was the college of military and political leaders around
the supreme leader, Stalin.
At the end of the day,
was already in Kiev. He learned upon
arrival that Stalin had given a directive to begin counter-offensive
thought the directive premature, given that the
Chiefs of Staff did not have sufficient information about what was
happening on the front. Nevertheless, on June 24,
sent the 8th
and 15th mechanized corps on the offensive. They `successfully dealt
one of their first counterblows at the enemy.'
, p. 242.
With good reason,
draws attention to the `grandiose border
battle of the initial period in the war',
which is little studied in his opinion. And with good reason.
To further his political intrigues,
painted this period as
a series of criminal errors by Stalin, who completely disorganized the
defence. But, facing the Nazi blitzkrieg, disorganization, defeats
and important losses were to a great extent inevitable. The important
fact is that, placed in very difficult circumstances, the army and its
leading cadres undertook phenomenal, determined resistance. Their
heroic fighting began to create, right from the very first days, the
conditions for the defeat of blitzkrieg warfare. All this was
possible, to a great extent, because of Stalin's energetic resistance.
Right from June 26, Stalin took the strategic decision to build
a reserve front, some 300 kilometres behind the front, to stop the
enemy should it succeed in breaking through the defences.
That very day, the Western Front was broken and the Nazis charged
toward Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia. That evening, Stalin
and told them:
`Think together and decide what can be done about the current
`All these proposals were approved by Stalin ....
`(B)uilding up a defence in depth on the approaches to Moscow,
continuously harrying the enemy and checking his advance on one
of the lines of defence, then organizing a counter-offensive, by
bringing up for this purpose troops from the Far East together with
, p. 256.
On June 29, a series of measures were taken. Stalin would announce
them to the people in his famous radio speech of July 3, 1941.
Its content reached the Soviets by its simplicity and by its
tenacious will to win. Stalin said:
`The enemy is cruel and implacable. He is out to seize our lands,
watered with our sweat, to seize our grain and oil secured by our
labor. He is out to restore the rule of landlords, to restore
tsarism, to destroy national culture and the national state existence
of the Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, Letts,
Estonians, Uzbeks, Tatars, moldavians, Georgians, Armenians,
Azerbaidjanians, and the other free peoples of the Soviet Union, to
Germanize them, to convert them into the slaves of German princes and
`Thus the issue is one of life or death for the Soviet State, for the
peoples of the U.S.S.R.; the issue is whether the peoples of the
Soviet Union shall remain free or fall into slavery ....
`Our people must know no fear in fight and must selflessly join our
patriotic war of liberation, our war against the fascist enslavers.
the great founder of our state, used to say that the chief
virtue of the Bolshevik must be courage, valor, fearlessness in
struggle, readiness to fight, together with the people, against the
enemies of the country ....
`The Red Army, Red Navy, and all citizens of the Soviet Union must
defend every inch of Soviet soil, must fight to the last drop of blood
for our towns and villages ....
`We must strengthen the Red Army's rear, subordinating all our work to
this cause. All our industries must be got to work with greater
intensity to produce more rifles, machine-guns, artillery, bullets,
shells, airplanes ....
`We must wage a ruthless fight against all disorganizers of the rear,
deserters, panic-mongers, rumor-mongers, we must exterminate spies,
diversionists, and enemy parachutists ....
`In case of forced retreat of Red Army units, all rolling stock must
be evacuated, the enemy must not be left a single engine, a single
railway car, not a single pound of grain, or a gallon of fuel ....
`In areas occupied by the enemy, guerilla units, mounted and on foot,
must be formed, diversionist groups must be organized to combat the
enemy troops, to foment guerilla warfare everywhere ....
`Forward, to our victory!'
Stalin, The German invasion of the Soviet Union. The
Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union (New York: International
Publishers, 1945), pp. 13--17.
On July 10 began the Battle of Smolensk. After the seizure of that
thought that they could charge towards Moscow,
300 kilometres further on. The Battle of Smolensk raged for two
`The battle of Smolensk played a crucial role in the initial period of
the Great Patriotic War .... According to German generals their
forces lost 250,000 officers and men ....
`As a result we gained time and were able to raise strategic reserves
and carry out defensive measures at the Moscow sector.'
, p. 275.
made the following remark:
`The Smolensk battle ... laid the basis for disrupting the
`(It was) a most valuable school for testing the fighting efficiency
of Soviet soldiers and commanders, including top commanders and the
A. M. Vasilevsky,
A Lifelong Cause (Moscow: Progress
Publishers, 1973), p. 96.
On September 30, the Nazis began their final offensive to take Moscow.
Some 450,000 inhabitants of the city, 75 per cent women, were
mobilized to build fortifications and anti-tank defences. General
troops led memorable battles in defence of the Volokolamsk
Road, immortalized in a novel of the same name by
Alexander Beck .
La chaussée de Volokolamsk
(Paris: Éditions Bordas, 1946).
Moscow was bombed by German aviation.
Panic began to seize the city's population. The Nazis
were only 80 kilometres away. Part of the administration was evacuated.
But Stalin decided to remain in Moscow. The battles became more and
more fierce and, in early November, the Nazi offensive was stopped. After
Stalin took the decision to organize the
traditional November 7 military parade on Red Square. It was a
formidable challenge to the Nazi troops camped at the gates of Moscow.
Stalin made a speech, which was broadcast to the entire country.
`(T)he enemy is before the gates of Leningrad and Moscow.
`The enemy calculated that our army would be dispersed at the very
first blow and our country forced to its knees. But the enemy wholly
miscalculated .... our country --- our whole country --- has
organized itself into a single fighting camp in order, jointly with
our army and navy, to rout the German invaders ....
`Is it possible, then, to doubt that we can and must gain victory
over the German invaders? The enemy is not as strong as some
terror-stricken would-be intellectuals picture him. The devil is not
as terrible as he is painted ....
`Comrades, Red Army and Red Navy men, commanders and political
instructors, men and women guerillas:
`The whole world is looking to you as a force capable of destroying
the brigand hordes of German invaders. The enslaved peoples of Europe
under the yoke of the German invaders are looking to you as their
liberators. A great mission of liberation has fallen to your lot.
`Be worthy of this mission! ....
`Under the banner of
--- onward to victory!'
Stalin, The twenty-fourth anniversary of the October Revolution,
The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Revolution, pp. 35--38.
On November 15, the Nazis began their second offensive against Moscow.
On November 25, some units advanced into the southern suburbs of
Moscow. But on December 5, the attack was contained. Throughout this
period, new troops coming from all over the country were able to reach
Moscow. Even at the most dramatic moments, Stalin kept his strategic
forces in reserve.
`The Army's defences were spread so thin that they threatened to
burst. It took feats of troop juggling to prevent this from
K. K. Rokossovsky,
A Soldier's Duty (Moscow: Progress
Publishers, 1985), p. 87.
After having consulted all of his commanders, Stalin decided on a
large counter-attack, which began on December 5. Some 720,000 Red
soldiers pushed back 800,000
100 to 300 kilometres.
For the first time, the `invincible' German troops were defeated,
and well. In front of Moscow, the fascists lost more than 500,000
men, 1,300 tanks, 2,500 canons, more than 15,000 motorized vehicles
and much more matériel.
army had not yet suffered such losses.
, p. 128.
Many consider the Battle of Moscow to be the real turning point of the
anti-fascist war. It took place less than six months after the
beginning of the lightning war. The unflinching will, the immense
organizational capacities and the mastery of large strategic problems
by Stalin contributed significantly.
Next: Stalin and the
Up: Stalin and the
Previous: Did Stalin poorly
Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995