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Regularly purge the Party

One of the most effective methods in the struggle against bureaucratic disintegration is the verification-purge.

In 1917, the Party had 30,000 members. In 1921, there were almost 600,000. In 1929, there were 1,500,000. In 1932, they were 2,500,000. After each massive recruitment wave, the leadership had to sort. The first verification campaign was conducted in 1921, under Lenin.  At that moment, 45 per cent of the Party members in the countryside were excluded, 25 per cent in the entire Party. It was the largest purge campaign that was ever done. One fourth of the members did not meet the most elementary criteria.

In 1929, 11 per cent of the members left the Party during a second verification campaign.

In 1933, there was a new purge. It was thought that it would last four months. In fact, it lasted two years. The Party structures, the control mechanisms and the actual control of the central leadership were so lacking that it was not even possible to plan and to effect a verification campaign. Eventually, 18 per cent of the members would be expelled.

What were the criteria for expulsion?

-- Those who were expelled were people who had once been kulaks, white officers or counter-revolutionaries.

-- Corrupt or overly ambitious people, or unrepentant bureaucrats.

-- People who rejected Party discipline and simply ignored directives of the Central Committee.

-- People who had committed crimes or sexually abused others, drunkards.

During the verification campaign of 1932--1933, the leadership remarked that not only did it have a difficult time in ensuring that its instructions were followed, but also that the Party's administration in the countryside was quite deficient. No one knew who was a member and who was not. There were 250,000 lost and stolen cards and more than 60,000 blank cards had disappeared.

At this time, the situation was so critical that the central leadership threatened to expel regional leaders who were not personally implicated in the campaign.

But the carefree attitude of regional keaders often transformed into bureaucratic interventionism: members of the base were purged without any careful political inquiry. This problem was regularly discussed at the highest level between 1933 and 1938. The January 18, 1938 issue of Pravda published a Central Committee directive, putting forth one more time this theme of Stalin's:

`Certain of our Party leaders suffer from an insufficiently attentive attitude toward people, toward party members, toward workers. What is more, they do not study the party workers, do not know how they are coming along and how they are developing, do not know their cadres at all .... And precisely because they do not take an individualized approach to the evaluation of party members and party workers they usually act aimlessly --- either praising them indiscriminately and beyond measure, or chastising them also indiscriminately and beyond measure, expelling them from the party by the thousands and tens of thousands .... But only persons who are in essence profoundly anti-party can take such an approach to party members.'


On Deficiencies in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyites  and Other Double Dealers. McNeal,  op. cit. , p. 183.

In this document, Stalin and the rest of the leadership deal with the correct means for purging the Party of undesirable elements who infiltrated the base. But the text was already outlining a completely new form of purge: the one that would clean out the Party leadership of the most bureaucratized elements. Two of Stalin's preoccupations can be found therein: an individual approach must be adopted towards all cadres and members, and one must know personally and in depth one's collaborators and subordinates. In the chapter on the anti-fascist work, we will show how Stalin himself undertook these tasks.

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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995