The Great Purge of Stalinist Russia | Guided History
Kirov, one of Stalin's henchmen, became the head of the Leningrad entire Opposition of maintaining relations not with the GPU agent, but with a “Wrangel Officer”. Nicolaiev was presented to the reading public as connected with the . the October Revolution against the enemies at home and abroad. The enemy did not fire at Kirov personally. —Pravda, 5 December But he had worked at the RKI (a government monitoring agency) in ; his last By the Soviet Union had become, under Stalin, a state where all forms of . On 1 December Sergei Mironovich Kirov, the chief secretary of the greatest mysteries in the Soviet Union history, scholars and the public alike . discussions of the nature of the relationship between Kirov and Stalin, and of with whom they had shared years of merciless struggle against a common enemy , the.
Red Star Press Ltd. Marxists Internet Archive You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. P lease credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source. A great sorrow has befallen our Party. On December 1st, Comrade Kirov fell victim to the hand of an assassin, a scallawag sent by the class enemies. The death of Kirov is an irreparable loss, not only for us, his close friends and comrades, but also for all those who have known him in his revolutionary work, and have known him as a fighter, comrade and friend.
A man who has given all his brilliant life to the cause of the working class, to the cause of Communism, to the cause of the liberation of humanity, is dead, victim of the enemy.
Comrade Kirov was an example of Bolshevism, recognizing neither fear nor difficulties in the realizing of the great aim, fixed by the Party. His integrity, his will of iron, his astonishing qualities as an orator, inspired by the Revolution, were combined in him with such cordiality and such tenderness in his relations with his comrades and personal friends, with such warmth and modesty, all of which are traits of the true Leninist.
Zinoviev and Kamenev are no fools. They cannot but understand that the restoration of capitalism would first of all signify the total extermination of the revolutionary generation, themselves, of course, included. Consequently, there cannot be the slightest doubt here that the accusation concocted by Stalin against the Zinoviev group is fraudulent from top to bottom, both as regards the goal specified — restoration of capitalism; and as regards the means — terrorist acts.
The goal of the maneuver is quite evident: To the terrorist act of Nikolaiev, Stalin replies by redoubling the terror against the party. The thinking workers of the entire world should ask themselves with the greatest anxiety the following question: Is it possible that the Soviet power is in so difficult a position that the leading stratum is compelled to resort to such monstrous machinations in order to maintain its equilibrium? This question leads us to a second one that we have posed time and again but to which we have never received the semblance of a reply.
Why is there to be observed a process of a directly opposite character? Why have we seen during the period of the two Five Year Plans the monstrous growth of the omnipotence of the bureaucracy, which has led the party, the Soviets and the trade unions to complete submission and humiliation?
Such a conclusion would be, however, one-sided and, consequently, incorrect. In fact, why was it necessary for the bureaucracy to have complete power? So long as the overwhelming majority of the population has not yet emerged from actual want, the urge for individual appropriation and for the accumulation of goods retains a mass character, and comes into continual collision with the collectivist tendencies of the economic life. It is true that essentially this accumulation has consumption for its immediate goal; but if no vigilance is exercised, if the accumulation is permitted to exceed certain limits, it will transform itself into primitive capitalist accumulation and can result in overthrowing the Kolkhozes, and after them the trusts as well.
We are still very far from that. Were one to compute the national income per capita, especially that part of the national income that goes for consumption, the Soviet Union, despite the technological successes it has achieved, would still find itself at the tail-end of capitalist countries. The satisfaction of the essential elementary needs is always bound up with a bitter struggle of each against all, illegal appropriation, evasion of laws, cheating of the state, favoritism and thievery on a mass scale.
In this struggle, the role of controller, judge and executioner is assumed by the bureaucracy. It uses administrative pressure to compensate for the deficiency in economic power.
Indeed, the historical justification for the very existence of the bureaucracy is lodged in the fact that we are still very far removed from socialist society, in the fact that the present transitional society is full of contradictions, which in the sphere of consumption, the most immediate and vital sphere for everyone, bears a character of extreme tension and always threatens to cause an explosion in the sphere of production. The collectivization of peasant economy has tapped new and colossal sources of power for the bureaucracy.
It is precisely in rural economy that questions of consumption are bound up most intimately with questions of production. That is why collectivization has led, in the village, to the need of guarding by the severest methods of repression the property of the collectives against the peasants themselves.
This entire intense struggle does not have a clear-cut and open class character. But potentially, as regards the possibilities and dangers latent in it, it is a class struggle.
In this and in this alone rests the historical justification for the existence of the present Soviet dictatorship. The Dual Role of the Bureaucracy The Soviet bureaucracy, however, in the interests of its own domination and welfare, ruthlessly exploits its role of controller and regulator of the social contradictions and its function of waging a preventive struggle against the regeneration of classes.
It not only concentrates in its own hands the entire power but also consumes by hook and crook an enormous share of the national income. In this way it has succeeded in removing itself so far away from the masses of the population as to make it impossible any longer to permit any control whatever over its actions and its income. Certain observers and superficial critics have declared the Soviet bureaucracy to be a new ruling class.
The falsity of this definition from the Marxist standpoint has been amply clarified by us. The Soviet bureaucracy is but a reflection of the transitional stage between two systems of production and of property, between the capitalist system and the socialist system.
The role of the Soviet bureaucracy remains a dual one. This task remains historically necessary and progressive. In this task the workers of the world support the Soviet bureaucracy without closing their eyes to its national conservatism, its appropriative instincts and its spirit of caste privilege. But it is precisely these traits that are increasingly paralyzing its progressive work.
The growth of industry and the drawing of agriculture into the sphere of state planning complicate extraordinarily the tasks of the economic leadership.
An equilibrium between the various branches of production and, above all, a correct balance between national accumulation and consumption can be achieved only with the active participation of the entire toiling population in the elaboration of the plans, the necessary freedom to criticize the plans and the opportunity to fix the responsibility and to recall the bureaucracy from top to bottom.
Unrestricted domination over the economy of million people implies the inevitable accumulation of contradictions and crises. The bureaucracy extricates itself from difficulties arising from its mistakes by loading their consequences onto the shoulders of the toilers. The partial crises converge towards the general crisis that is creeping onward and that expresses itself in the fact that despite the titanic expenditure of energy by the masses and the greatest technological successes, the economic achievements keep lagging far behind, and the overwhelming majority of the population continues to lead a poverty-stricken existence.
Thus the singular position of the bureaucracy, which is the result of definite social causes, leads to an increasingly more profound and irreconcilable contradiction with the fundamental needs of Soviet economy and culture. Under these conditions, the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, although it remains a distorted expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat, translates itself into a permanent political crisis.
At the same time, this very faction raises itself above the party and even above the bureaucracy itself. It openly proclaims the purely Bonapartist principle of the infallibility of a lifetime leader. The sole virtue of a revolutionist to be recognized hereafter is fidelity to the leader.
This demoralizing slavish philosophy of the bureaucracy is carried by the agents of the CI into its foreign sections. The Two Series of Difficulties Thus, we see that in the evolution of the Soviet Union up to the present stage, we must sharply differentiate between two series of difficulties, one of which flows from the contradictions of the transitional period, aggravated by the diseases of bureaucratism. These are the fundamental difficulties from which the entire Soviet organism suffers.
These two series of difficulties are, of course, interrelated, but are not at all identical. They are in a large measure opposed to one another, and the degree of their opposition is in a process of continual growth.
Who Killed Kirov?'
The economic successes and the cultural progress of the population that were determined by the October revolution turn more and more against bureaucratic conservatism, bureaucratic license and bureaucratic rapacity. Analogous processes are to be observed in the history of the development of various ruling classes in the past.Khrushchev Lashes Out at Stalin (1956) - A Day That Shook the World
The Czarist bureaucracy aided in the development of capitalist relations only to come subsequently into conflict with the needs of bourgeois society. The domination of the Soviet bureaucracy costs the country too dearly. The progress in technology and culture, the increasingly exacting demands and the increasingly critical attitude of the people automatically turn against the bureaucracy. Thus conditions are created that clearly menace the rule of the bureaucracy, which has outlived itself.
Individual Terrorism, a Product of Bureaucratic Decay The foregoing enables us to reply to the question we posed at the beginning of the article. Is it possible that the situation in the Soviets is so bad that the governing group is forced to resort to machinations, dirty tricks and criminal amalgams which profoundly compromise it in the eyes of the world proletariat?
We can now reply with a feeling of relief that it is a question not of the difficult position of the Soviets themselves but of the position of the bureaucracy, which is growing worse within the Soviets. But it is far from being so bad as might be concluded on the basis of those acts of shameful panic by the bureaucracy. The ruling group would never have consented to connecting the terrorist crime of Nikolaiev with the Zinoviev-Kamenev group if the Stalinists had not felt the ground slipping from under their feet.
Nikolaiev is depicted by the Soviet press as a participant in a terrorist organization made up of members of the party. If the dispatch is true — and we see no reason to consider it an invention, because the bureaucracy has not confessed it with an easy heart — we have before us a new fact that must be considered of great symptomatic significance.
There is always the possibility that it was a chance shot fired by a man for personal reasons. But a terrorist act prepared beforehand and committed by order of a definite organization is, as the whole history of revolutions and counter-revolutions teaches us, inconceivable unless there exists a political atmosphere favorable to it.
The hostility to the tops in power must have been widespread and must have assumed the sharpest forms in order that a terrorist group to crystallize out within the ranks of the party youth, or more properly speaking, within its upper stratum, which is intimately connected with the lower and middle circles of the bureaucracy. Essentially not only is this fact admitted but it is stressed in the official statements.
The explanations of Radek and Co. It is true that the leaders in power have this particular time chosen only the Zinoviev group from among the generation of fathers. But this is the line of least resistance for Stalin. In repressing the compromised groups Stalin wants to discipline the bureaucratic ranks which are disintegrating and which have lost their internal cohesion. When a bureaucracy comes into contradiction with the necessities of development, and with the consciousness of the class that has raised it to power, it begins to decompose and to lose faith in itself.
The function of the leadership is concentrated in the hands of an ever narrowing circle. The others work by inertia, negligently; they think more of their personal affairs, they express themselves disdainfully within their own circles about the high authorities, they harbor liberal thoughts, and they grumble. Thus they indubitably undermine among their own youth the confidence in and the respect for the official leaders.
If at the same time discontent is spreading within the masses of the people, for which the means of proper expression and an outlet are lacking, but which isolates the bureaucracy as a whole; if the youth itself feels that it is spurned, oppressed and deprived of the chance for independent development, the atmosphere for terroristic groupings is created.
Hypothetically, but with complete verisimilitude, we can reestablish, from what has been said, the role of the Zinoviev group. What depths of infamous stupidity are reached by the statement that it might have had any direct or indirect connection with the bloody deed of Smolny, with its preparation, and its political justification!
Zinoviev and Kamenev returned to the party with the firm intention of winning the confidence of those at the top and rising again into their ranks.
But the general condition of the lower and middle bureaucracy with which they were joined prevented them from realizing their intentions. The general secretary did not remain ignorant, indeed, of all this. Could Stalin have chosen a better victim than this group when the shots at Smolny impelled him to teach the vacillating and decomposing bureaucracy a lesson?
Marxism, Terrorism and Bureaucracy The negative attitude of Marxism towards the tactic of individual terror is known to every worker able to read and write. A great deal has been written on this question.
I take the liberty of quoting here from an article of mine published inin German, in the Austrian periodical Kampf. In this article I wrote: In any case such turmoil can only be of short duration; the capitalist state is not founded upon ministers and cannot be destroyed with them.
The classes it serves will always find new men, the mechanism remains whole and continues its work. If it is enough to arm oneself with a revolver to reach the goal, what need is there for the strivings of the class struggle?
If people in high positions can be intimidated by the noise of an explosion, what need is there then for a party? The subjective motivations of Nikolaiev and his partisans are a matter of indifference to us. Hell itself is paved with the best of intentions. Should terrorism of the Nikolaiev type spread, it could, aided by new, unfavorable conditions, render service only to the Fascist counter-revolution.
Only political fakers who bank on imbeciles would endeavor to link Nikolaiev with the Left Opposition, even if only in the guise of the Zinoviev group as it existed in — The terrorist organization of the Communist youth was fostered not by the Left Opposition but by the bureaucracy, by its internal corruption.
Individual terrorism is in its very essence bureaucratism turned inside out. For Marxists this law was not discovered yesterday. Bureaucratism has no confidence in the masses, and endeavors to substitute itself for the masses. Terrorism works in the same manner; it seeks to make the masses happy without asking their participation.
The Stalinist bureaucracy has created a vile leader-cult, attributing to leaders divine qualities. The Nikolaievs imagine that all that is necessary is to remove a few leaders by means of a revolver in order for history to take another course. Communist terrorists, as an ideological grouping, are of the same flesh and blood as the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Bureaucratic Centrism, the Cause of the Collapse of the CI By dealing this blow to the Zinoviev group Stalin, as we said, aimed at consolidating the ranks of the bureaucracy. But that is only one aspect of the matter. There is another, and no less important, side: Using the Zinovievist group as a footstool, Stalin is aiming to strike a blow at Trotskyism. And cost what it may, he must strike that blow. As regards the USSR, the role of the bureaucracy, as has already been said, is a dual one: It is otherwise in the sphere of the international working class movement, where not a trace remains of this dualism; here the Stalinist bureaucracy plays a disorganizing, demoralizing and fatal role from beginning to end.
Irrefutable evidence of this is the history of the Communist International CI during the last eleven years. We have made a study of this history in a series of writings.
- The Death of Kirov
- On the Kirov Assassination
To our analysis there has not come a single word in answer from the Stalinists. Generally speaking, they do not care to learn their own history. They have not a single book, nor a single article which makes an attempt to draw the balance of the policies of the CI in China, India, England, Germany, Austria and Spain during events of world-wide scope and importance.
No attempt has been made to explain why, under conditions of capitalist decay and of an entire series of revolutionary situations, the CI, during the last 11 years, has known nothing save shameful defeats, political disgrace and the atomization of its organization.
Finally, why has it not dared during the past seven years to convoke a single world congress? What were the fruits of the Anglo-Russian Committee? What has become of the celebrated Peasants' International? Each of these questions is bound up with a definite zigzag in the policies of the CI, each of these zigzags has ended in an inevitable catastrophe. The chain of these catastrophes makes up the history of the Stalinist CI.
Its most recent zigzag, particularly in France, is a deplorable and fatal opportunist convulsion. It is obvious that such a chain of mistakes, confusion and crimes can be the result not of individual or fortuitous causes, but rather of general causes.
These causes are lodged in the social and ideological qualities of the Stalinist bureaucracy as the leading stratum. Bureaucratic Centrism brought the Comintern to collapse. The Third International, like the Second, is doomed.
Great Purge - Wikipedia
No force can any longer save it. Fundamentally, the Stalinist ruling group has given up the CI a long time ago. Nothing will come of it anyhow. There is no need whatever to give the lie to this calumny of the world proletariat, especially after the recent events in Spain and Austria.
As for the leaders of the communist parties abroad, Lenin as early as warned Zinoviev and Bukharin by letter: Lenin liked to call a spade a spade. As a necessary corollary to this, the political level of the leadership has fallen below zero. The hopes based on the world proletarian revolution it has swapped for hopes in the League of Nations.
Stalin is already reconciled to all this. But it is impossible for him to become reconciled to the regeneration of the world revolutionary movement under an independent banner. Criticism of reformism may be renounced; blocs may be concluded with Radicals; the workers may be poisoned with the venom of nationalism and pacifism; but under no condition is it permissible for the international proletarian vanguard to obtain the opportunity to verify freely and critically the ideas of Leninism through its own experience and to juxtapose Stalinism and so-called Trotskyism in the broad light of day.
The starting point for each new zigzag was Trotskyism. And now that the terrorist blow of Nikolaiev is posing anew before the bureaucracy those very important political questions that it used to consider as solved once for all, it is trying once again to find, by means of the Zinoviev group, the culprit in the guise of Trotskyism, which is — as is very well known — the vanguard of the bourgeois counter-revolution, the ally of Fascism and so on.
Within the USSR, the bureaucracy has succeeded in establishing this version to the extent that the masses are deprived of the possibility of verifying things for themselves, and those who know the truth are reduced to silence. Precisely out of this stifled condition of the party there has originated the monstrous phenomenon of terrorism within the party. But danger is approaching stealthily; it has already drawn near, arriving from without, from the international arena.
The vile calumnies that paid journalists, without honor or conscience, continue to repeat even now in the rags of the CI, are provoking ever increasing indignation in the very ranks of the communist parties and are at the same time isolating the sections of the CI from broad strata of the workers. This prospect, let us repeat, no longer frightens Moscow. But another danger exists that is beginning to weigh like a nightmare on the Stalinist faction.
The growing influence of the unfalsified ideas of Leninism in the working class movement of Europe and America cannot long remain a mystery to the workers in the USSR It is possible to keep quiet, even if this is not easy, about the participation of the former Communist League of America in the Minneapolis strike; it is possible although difficult to maintain silence about the merger of the League with the American Workers Party; but when the confluence of events will take on a broader sweep and the revolutionary Marxists, the Leninists, will take a leading part therein, it will no longer be possible to keep quiet about these facts.
The enormous danger that flows from this for the Stalinist faction is obvious. The Stalinists are blind and deaf to the perspectives of the world proletarian movement, but they have a very keen nose for the dangers that menace their prestige, their interests, and their bureaucratic privileges. It is one thing to crush the revolutionary Marxist grouping by the sheer weight of the bureaucratic apparatus during a period of revolutionary ebb, fatigue, disillusion and disintegration of the masses; it is another thing to free the world proletarian vanguard from the Stalinist quack-substitute for Bolshevism by the force of Marxist criticism.
But that is precisely why — that is exactly the way we have expressed it more than once in conversations and letters — the Stalinist tops cannot passively await the victory of Leninism. Referring to the protracted methods of the inquest, and to the extremely ambiguous tenor of the first communications from the Kremlin, the IS suggested in the postscript the following possibility: The circular letter of the International Secretariat is dated December 10 and has undoubtedly circulated the world over.
When the first dispatch appeared in which Nikolaiev was said to have been a member of the Leningrad Opposition inthere was no further room for doubt. The new campaign against Zinoviev and Kamenev was not long in following. The December 25 issue of the Temps which I received two or three days later contained in a telegraphic dispatch from Moscow the following item: What must be the character of the next blow?
This question has not been definitely decided, perhaps not even within the most intimate circle of the conspirators Stalin-Yagoda-Yaroslavsky and Co. That largely depends upon the subsequent development of events.