Thus Spake Kaganovich
Feliks Chuyev's book
'Tak govoril Kaganovich' (Moscow, 1992), from which excerpts are given below, is
a slim companion volume to his 'Sto sorok besed s Molotovym' which was discussed
in the previous issue of this journal. The work, based on recorded interviews
with L.M. Kaganovich, gives a number of insights into some of the vexed
questions of the Stalin epoch. Care is required in taking this as a
source-material for this period. These reminiscences are no substitute for the
archival materials which are becoming available in the former Soviet Union. It
needs to be borne in mind, moreover, that the strength of Feliks Chuyev lies in
his being a poet, raconteur and literary figure rather than as a trained
historian of this period. It is to be hoped that the translation and publication
of these pages may interest some publisher to bring out this volume in full. It
is appropriate that we publish this on the 60th Anniversary of the Moscow
Underground which was named originally after L.M. Kaganovich.
Stalin's Struggle Against Trotsky and Bukharin was One of Principle
Stalin carried out a
principled struggle against Trotsky and Bukharin. Rut there were many whose
psychology was such that they supported him not for his ideas but due to
Perhaps there was
misreporting in the organs of the NKVD.
Exactly, this is what I
would like to tell you, was it possible to check every detail? Not that we were
scared of anyone or were only bothered about our own lives... no... the reality
of those times was such. If you are told that XYZ is an enemy, would you defend
him? Can you afford to go against your conscience? This was indeed a most
complicated question. Where we were sure of the person's innocence we defended
him. In fact, I also went by this principle.
It was only 20 years after
the revolution after all, the white officers, kulaks and the Nepmen were all
Do you think that
there could have been a counter-revolutionary sabotage in this 1930s?
Of course there was such a
threat - Kaganovich emphatically exclaims - not only this there were also
instances of terrorism.
Is it true that during
his last days Stalin had become terribly suspicious of things?
I think that after such
experiences perhaps... though we did not see much change, but saw that he has
become serious. Earlier he was not such a serious person, that is during the
time of Lenin and then afterwards. He went through quite hard times.
After Lenin, initially,
when he took over people started attacking him. It was hard, this fight with
Trotsky. Later even his so-called friends like Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky did not
spare him. Evidently he had a lot of enemies and those who did not like him.
All this must have
hardened him. It was impossible to remain unaffected.
Things on the
international front were also not quite easy. And in the face of all that he had
to lead the country exuding confidence as well! Indeed this was a lot for a
single person! The Fifth Column was at our doorstep. Without destroying them we
could not have won the war. The Germans would have beaten us to pulp.
Russia would have slipped
back many centuries as happened after the Tartar invasion. This is what the
people should try and understand. Of course, a person is bound to change and
then there were mistakes. The main thing is that we not only won the war but
Stalin also left our country a power to reckon with. Despite the destruction
brought by the war our socialist country was resurrected from the ruins. This
was a result of the efforts of the people, the heroic workers, but without
effective leadership this heroism would have gone to waste. Just think how our
country rose to such heights, competing militarily even with America. So one
must keep all this in mind. How? Who was the driving force for all this? Who did
all the work? Seeing all these achievements one could go into raptures.
Decision To Make the "Secret Speech" was Taken By Khrushchev Alone
I think it was after the
elections, or even earlier... the entire Presidium of the Central Committee
collected in the lobby of the Congress Hall. Some were sitting, some could only
stand as the room was small. They were given red books.
One should speak at the
Congress, said Khrushchev. Rut we had agreed at the Plenum of the Central
Committee, we said, to coolly work out the Resolution after the Congress. The
Congress was already over. We all spoke quietly without any dissidence. It
should be now, said Khrushchev. We went through the Report but reading it
properly was simply not possible because of lack of time. We had come out for a
15 minute break from the Congress, it was kept waiting. We went for the meeting
of Pospelov's committee.
Khrushchev later on
wrongly stated: 'It was proposed that I should make a Report'. Nobody proposed
his name, he himself expressed the desire to do so. Molotov, Voroshilov and I
did object. Not to say that we very vehemently objected as it was not really
possible. The fact is that the meeting was still on. Khrushchev wrongly wrote
that only Kaganovich, Molotov and Voroshilov differed. Maybe it was our fault
that we did not strongly oppose him. We did not want to split the Congress. All
three of us spoke and I had more actively opposed than the others. Believe me,
this is how things were.
Lenin's Notion of Socialism
Yes, Lenin had said
socialism means liquidation of classes. All workers and farmers would together
become workers of the state socialist economy. All this is contained in 'State
and Revolution'. If one interprets Lenin's concept of socialism as a cooperative
then this is what Lenin had to say about this: in the present Soviet state with
the working class at the helm of affairs and where industrial enterprises, banks
and the railways are under the joint ownership of the state and society, where
the classes are breaking up and cooperatives are developing, this is all one
needs for the construction of socialism. All this will make socialism a
possibility though this is still not socialism.
That means it is necessary
to destroy classes. It is important that state enterprises become state
Socialist enterprises in order to have a workers' state. To realize the
socialist dream it is necessary to have state land along with cooperatives. This
was Lenin's idea.
If only cooperatives are
made, then it will only be populist socialism and not genuine socialism. So you
see this is a very serious question theoretically. On decodifying Lenin's
understanding of socialism in detail, one would realise that, yes, we have a
Soviet workers' state, workers' and farmers' state, and not just a people's
state. The latter would include all kinds of people, traders, speculators etc.,
are these people for socialism? Of course not.
Stalin or Kirov
At the time of the 17th
Congress of the Party there was great euphoria because of the First Five-Year
Plan. In fact for this reason this Congress was named the 'Congress of the
Victories' by the people. Molotov's, Stalin's and, if I am not being immodest,
my presentation was also very well received by the participants. Today the
critics make an all-out effort to discredit the 17th Congress. They also
concocted the story that 300 delegates voted against Stalin. I suppose that this
kind of gossip was necessary so that one could say that Stalin later took
revenge for this. They also generated the false story that Kaganovich, at the
behest of the presidium of the Congress, interfered with work of the Counting
Committee to misreport the votes against Stalin.
And what did Molotov tell
you about Bukharin?
His opinion was that
in the year 1918 Bukharin supported the arrest of Lenin.
I shall tell you, said
L.M. Kaganovich, that the Left SRs, who were against the Brest Peace treaty were
together with the 'Left' Communists. The leader of the latter was Bukharin. The
Socialist Revolutionaries told Bukharin that Lenin's arrest would solve the
purpose of breaking up the Brest peace treaty. The idea was that Lenin might
later on be resurrected but the treaty would have fallen apart. Thereafter they
wanted to assign the work to Pyatakov.
There are documents which
were published in the newspapers which prove all of this. In one of the Regional
Conferences Bukharin himself narrated this story when he was in the Central
Committee and fighting the Trotskyites. When confronted with accusations later
on and to justify himself he said: "Well, I only told you this!"
Bukharin was then
supporting the Left SRs?
Of course, they proposed
Lenin's arrest. The 'Left' Communists published Bukharin's explanation in
'Pravda'. Bukharin not only did not refute the statement, but did not even
inform the CC.
Till the year 1924, not a
word passed Bukharin's lips about this story, that the 'Left' SRs proposed
Lenin's arrest to the Communists. See what blasphemy! I don't know whether
Molotov told you or not that amongst ourselves we called Bukharin a cunning fox.
Bukharin in my opinion was a double-faced man. He was unreliable. A lot can be
said about him and then there were contradictions too. Stalin affectionately
called him 'Bukharchik'. We also related well to him. But when he once again
went to the right and started lashing out at the Party, and organised his own
rightist followers, we all opposed him. This should be underlined. Today people
would like to juxtapose Stalin the cruel man, with Bukharin the kind,
affectionate person, in order to rake up unpleasantness.
What is being written
today is that if only they had paid heed to Bukharin there would have been no
collectivisation or its victims.
Exactly, today the
'democrats' are using him as a shield and support as the symbol of kulak
restoration: Chayanov, Kondratiev and Bukharin. Chayanov and Kondratiev openly
supported the kulaks and stood for kulak cooperatives. Nobody talks about all
this. It is wrong to say that Chayanov was a theoretician of the cooperatives,
he was a propagator of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois cooperatives. The fact is
that Bukharin shielded them as communists and marxists.
Stalin Held Firm at the Time of the Nazi Invasion
A question about 22nd
June, 1941. Was Stalin confused? It is said that he did not meet anyone?
It is all lies. We were
with him. At night while Molotov was meeting Schulenberg we were there at
Stalin's place. He immediately handed over the responsibilities. I was given -
Transport, and Mikoyan - Supplies. And transport was ready! To carry 15-20
million people, the factories... it was not a joke. Stalin was working all the
while. Of course, he was surprised. He had thought that he would be able to
avert the invasion for some more time as the crisis in Anglo-American relations
would deepen. I do not think that this was a miscalculation. It was impossible
to provoke us. Perhaps Stalin was over-careful. At that time there was no
alternative. At first I thought that perhaps Stalin's idea at the start of the
war was to overcome the crisis diplomatically. Molotov said 'No'. This was war
and nothing could have been done.
Hitler was not able to
out-smart Stalin. Despite all logic Hitler did not end the war with the British
but attacked us. Hitler acted as an imperialist. Only they attack first. We
never attacked first. Our socialist system stood the test of time and we won the
Khrushchev had Supported Trotsky
But for supporting
Khrushchev you will be blamed.
Yes, you are right. I was
the one who pushed him up as I thought him to be a capable person. But he had
been a Trotskyist. I informed Stalin that he had been a Trotskyist. I told this
to Stalin when Khrushchev was elected a member of the Moscow Committee. Stalin
asked: 'How is he now?' I replied: 'He is fighting against the Trotskyists,
genuinely, actively'. Stalin then asked me to support him on behalf of the CC at
We heard of this
episode differently. It seems Khrushchev had said that Kaganovich wanted to
destroy his career when he was pushed for the Moscow Committee. You at the last
moment reportedly pointed out to Stalin that Khrushchev had been a Trotskyist,
to which Stalin replied that he already knew about it.
Really, is it so?
Yes, that is how the
story is told.
I told you how it exactly
happened. Khrushchev came to me during the conference in tears and asked me
whether he should speak or not. I told him that I would consult Stalin. Stalin
suggested that he should speak, narrate, everything, and later on I was supposed
to speak and express trust in him on behalf of the CC.
Learning To Trade
The Market: Buying and
But it is the workers'
state that we have and the power is in their hands. Slowly we can bring
everything under control: factories, plants, the railways, we have all. A year
later at the 11th Congress, in March, 1922, Lenin had said that for one year we
retreated, now it is the time to move ahead. That is to say that along with NEP
trade, we should develop our state co-operatives. We will be able to give a
hitting blow to private enterprise only if state and co-operative trade, if our
factories come of age and give the required production levels, that is if their
production is of a higher level than the private ones. 'Who will win'. So that
is the basic question today. It is therefore important for the Communists to
learn the techniques of trade, to be able to outsmart our competitors. We need
to produce consumer articles like matchboxes, nails etc. for our people. The
struggle now is 'who will win'. This is possible as the power is in the hands of
the workers: banks, railways etc. - everything - all this is necessary for
Now they are saying that
Lenin's concept of NEP is the concept of socialism. This is not true. The very
posing of the question explains this, and Lenin said that the struggle is
between capitalist elements and us. In his last address in 1922 at the Moscow
Soviet and the 11th Congress, Lenin had emphasized that capitalism with us has
gone to the world, but we need to be careful. I am confident that the Russia of
NEP will be transformed into socialist Russia. It is enough to say the NEP
Russia was not considered socialist by him. And now it is being said that Lenin
considered NEP Russia as already socialist. This is absurd and foolish. There
were communists who said that NEP is the end of us, that NEP will lead us to
capitalism and that Lenin was only consoling them. I well remember that there
were people who cried while Lenin spoke at the Comintern Congress. They thought
that all was over. Our strength could have been judged by the fact that Lenin
said: 'So, friends, we have already accumulated 20 million roubles of gold to
buy equipment for our industry.' How poor we were!
I remember, many people
left the Party at the time of NEP. They said that now the working class must
fight as under capitalism. The Workers' Opposition was organised which was
headed by Shlyapnikov, Kollontai and Medvedeyev. They did not leave the Party.
Instead Lenin took Shlyapnikov as a Candidate Member of the C.C. I am talking
about their platform, their position. Their position was that we are heading for
capitalism and that there would not be any socialism.
Trotsky's position was
that without the intervention of Western Europe no socialism could be built. The
world revolution has failed and we do not have the capital to re-establish
industry. Krasin took the position of Struve after Lenin's death. Struve was of
the opinion that we should learn from the capitalists.
The position of Stalin and
the Stalinists was that we should depend on our resources. It would be difficult
for the people but nevertheless we should be strict. If the capitalists want to
help they would - we will not give in. We rallied round on this point. This is
what I would like to say through my reminiscences which are of an ideological
nature. One should not simply hurl words: that we are already having capitalism,
that we have socialism, to hell with it! The Marxist-Leninists must seriously
think over all this.
Dialogue with Enemies
Perhaps our progress
slumped as the Party, the dictatorship of the proletariat became weak?
The issue of the
dictatorship of the proletariat is a very complicated issue. What it was with
us, when it started to weaken... There were personal reasons also. As you know,
every person has his own nature. And sometimes the general is identified with
the personal. It is, of course, a blatant lie that Stalin did not distinguish
between personal and political power or interchanged the two. Without power it
is impossible to implement the processes of the struggle for socialism. Of
course, he did commit mistakes and indulged in extremes. The will was to do big
things, the possibilities also were great and on top of that the power was
Jews Were His Opponents
expressed surprise, he was a Bolshevik. Lenin had a beautiful phrase of which I
was very proud that there are proportionately more revolutionaries amongst the
Jews than in other nationalities.
And that is how it is.
Yes, now about Lenin you
cannot under any circumstance say that he was an anti-semite.
And, Stalin, what can
be said about him?
I will tell you something
about Stalin. There are Stalin's statements on this question that anti-semitism
is criminally punishable. He was not an anti-semite. But life is such a paradox
that all his opponents were Jews. Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky... what could he do
if all his enemies were Jews?
Then he was very
scrupulous and careful by nature on political and nationality matters.
Cross-Examination of Bukharin in the Politbureau
Since the days of his
youth at the gymnasium, Stalin asks him: 'What was your underground name?' He
'Blokha' [flea]. Stalin looks at the court and says 'Blokha!'
Bukharin's character has been developed at the cost of servile caricaturisation
of another part, this is a kind of theft.
Why, was he
Of course not. But he did
everything to destroy Stalin, this is for sure.
Is this true?
Yes, there was his
confrontation with Kulikov. He was a Moscovite. At the meeting of the
Politbureau members, Kulikov addressed Bukharin: 'You remember, Nikolai
Ivanovich, how you took me by the arm and we walked along the Vozdvizhenka, and
I said to you: 'Why are you wasting your time there, when it is time to act and
simply talk.' Bukharin inquires 'but where are your people? Who would act?'
'Well, people could be found.' 'And why don't you act yourself? Participate in
'I never said that'
shouted Bukharin. How do you deny this when you wanted the surnames
of the persons I had listed - said Kulikov who was a member of the Moscow
Committee, Secretary of the Regional Committee, a tanner by trade and very
Sergo [Ordzhonikidze] asks
Bukharin whether he had said this or not.
Yes, answered Bukharin.
How could you?!
I thought that Sergo was
about to hit him.
I asked Kaganovich
whether he was present during all of this.
Yes, of course.
Which year was it?
Perhaps 1933 or 1934 or
1935. Sergo was still alive. Bukharin was arrested in 1938.
The Trial was already in
He only sat for awhile...
Slepkov was cross-examined during the trial: 'Did Bukharin send you to the
Northern Caucasus?' - 'Yes'. 'What tasks did he give you? - 'The task was to
find out the mood of the Kazakhs, and the residents of the Kuban and the Don
whether they were prepared for something or not?' Once again they asked
Bukharin: 'Did you say this to him?' He hesitated and said 'Yes'.
Once again Sergo sprang
up: 'Is it really possible that you might have said this?' - 'Then I was opposed
to all the politicians of the CC, but today - no.
I asked Kaganovich
whether Stalin was present in these proceedings.
Of course, he, as well as
all members of the Politbureau were present. Voroshilov was there. Molotov
chaired the meeting.
Rykov's proceedings were
arranged with Chernov.
And was not this
Kulikov already arrested? Yagoda might have cooked up something.
Look, a cross-examination
was arranged to see the truth in Kulikov's utterances. We were convinced about
Kulikov perished after
I wonder whether it
was worth executing them. They should have been removed front all posts, and
sentenced to an unknown life in some provincial town.
See, my dear, the
situation of capitalist encirclement was very complicated. There were the
supporters of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Rykov. Each one of these could have headed
separate governments. Out of the opponents of Stalin three states could have
Trotsky was sent away.
Bukharin could also have been.
Those were difficult and
complicated times. This only shows Stalin's patience, that he carried along with
Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev uptil 1927. Kamenev in those days had organised a
parallel rally: 'Down with the Government, Down with Stalin!' Then he was
dropped from the Politbureau, he was a member of the P.B. until 1927. How
forbearing Stalin was! There were times when Kirov and Kamenev wanted to drop
Trotsky from the Politbureau and Stalin was defending him.
It is said that you
shot people even for ideas.
Not for ideas. Why for
ideas at all? But who would believe that these old, experienced conspirators,
using the experience of Bolshevik conspiracy and cooperation, underground
organisation would not get together to form an organisation.
They did form an
organisation. Tomsky and Zinoviev did get together. They met at their dacha.
And what about the Ryutin Platform - these were not ideas. These people
organised an uprising against the Soviet state and they could have headed a
The entire method of
Lenin's struggle against the bourgeoisie could have been used against us. They
had their people everywhere, in the army and elsewhere. They had formed
organisations spread out in chains. Bukharin used to meet Kamenev and others and
talk over the matters of the CC. How could one let this happen freely? People
ask how could they possibly get in touch with foreign governments? Well, they
saw themselves an independent underground government. Trotsky being a good
organiser could have led the revolt.
They were all in contact
with each other. One would show restraint and the other would say everything. We
already knew that this was a strong, organised group, such opponents who could
organise terrorist activities and even kill.
It is also said that
Stalin held discussions with Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev: 'If they confess
they would be pardonned, or their children and their wives would be shot.' They
were told all this?
They themselves asked for
a meeting. I know that Zinoviev and Kamenev met Stalin, Voroshilov was also
present. Kamenev and Zinoviev had requested mercy. They were already arrested,
still Stalin met them. Stalin asked them to admit their guilt. They said that
they were guilty. It was clear that they would never forgive Stalin for
cornering them like this.
There were rumours
that he promised them their lives.
This I do not know. I
doubt that there was such a conversation. Stalin immediately understood that
Kamenev and Zinoviev were against the October Revolution. Trotsky was a
Menshevik and he did not believe in socialist revolution. Rykov also was against
the revolution and refused to be part of Lenin's government. Bukharin knew that
the SRs wanted to have Lenin arrested and still chose to keep silent.
With such people around
him Stalin could not have possibly waited for such a time when these people
would have caught him by the neck and like they did to Robespierre annihilated
him. Robespierre was eliminated because he awaited a reconciliation with his
opponents. Those who had applauded him were today shouting: 'To the Guillotine!'
If Robespierre had not been there, with all his ferocity, feudalism would not
have been uprooted. He was a despot, as they say, the Trotsky of the French
If things are analysed
legally one may draw different conclusions. But if one keeps the larger
historical consequences in view then one can say that Stalin acted decisively
and strongly. Stalin was a man of great historical will and if we can speak
bluntly, so was Lenin. We did still arrest communists. In 1907 we were together
with the Mensheviks in the Stockholm Party congress and already by 1918 we
arrested them and shot them. Not everybody can understand this revolution where
you have to destroy your own comrades and relatives. Each revolution they say
devours its own children. Nothing of the sort! Lenin saw beyond all this, he
defended Martov, and even allowed him to leave. The rest, of course, did not...
The Menshevik Trukhanov at
the 7th Congress of the All-Russian Soviets in 1920 spoke of Lenin's
dictatorship in politics and deeds. Lenin spoke against him and said workers'
dictatorship did not mean the dictatorship of an individual. With our kind of
situation with peasant reserves and with capitalists all around us we had to
stand up and preserve our state.
Humane Socialism - Sweet Candy
The resolutions of the
28th Congress of the Party are false, shameful words about an authoritarian
state, it is all that the West had said about us in the course of 70 years.
Their propaganda was that we had a totalitarian regime, slavery of sorts... It
is shameful... As Stalin has said: We have a workers' and farmers' state and
Soviet power. But as a result of tragedies, wars and the necessity to fight and
having to apply force and violence it became a habit and then it all turned into
distortions. Our workers' state became distorted. Bureaucratic distortions crept
It would be right to state
that violence entered our system as a habit and in itself became law. This was a
mistake and distortion. Socialism itself is not violent, it is very humane. In
fact, to say that socialism is humane is to say the obvious. But for socialism
to remain democratic and humane it is necessary to have it without classes. But
the road to socialism cannot be humane, because it is a journey full of struggle
and strife. Any struggle means bloodshed and violence. And the road to socialism
is through class struggle with its enemies.
Dictator From the Party
I don't think that the
Presidential system in our country is in principle very right. Earlier we had
Soviet power and now it is President's power...
And if we were to have
a strong person as Stalin?
Stalin would not have gone
in for military dictatorship.
He himself was a
But he was a dictator from
the Party. There is a great difference. Dictator on behalf of the Party.
Stalin during his last
years, says Kaganovich, made wrong assessments of people. People like
Khrushchev, Malenkov and Beria came closer to him. Molotov and Kaganovich were
not so close to him in his last days. Stalin probably thought that Molotov and
Kaganovich may like to take over after him... he was preparing for his exit
On whom could he
probably depend - Khrushchev or Beria?
Stalin did push us
(Molotov and Kaganovich) aside and did not assess us properly, much as it would
sound strange, we were both very strong contenders. It is a pity, that he made a
mistake. Due to this Khrushchev and a kind of liberal politics came up. Had one
of us come to power, the story would have been different. Yes, Stalin did not
properly understand our politics.
You missed the moment.
I said this to Molotov also. At the time of the activity of the 'Anti-Party
Group' you could well have taken power. You had the authority and backing of the
A majority of the
Presidium. But we were unorganised. We were also not a fraction.
No, Nikita was able to
outsmart you all?
What do you mean
out-smarted us, he was a rogue of the highest order. And we were simply busy
with parliamentarism, that was our fault.
But you had control
over everything, you could have removed him. He could have sat in one of the
Well, we were unorganised,
we were not meeting people secretly, not hob-nobbing. That was our shortcoming.
the Russian by Ranjana Saxena