History of the Hungarian People’s Republic PART 1: Horthy’s Hungary


Introduction

This article series presents a short history of the founding of the Hungarian People’s Republic: the establishing of a Socialist system in Hungary. We will explore the conditions in Hungary before socialism, and then the events which led to Socialism being victorious. Hungary had many national peculiarities which make this investigation interesting, it is also a notable example of a relatively peaceful socialist transformation. It was still a communist revolution, but a relatively peaceful one. We will explore how that was possible, what the results of the socialist system were, and what challenges it had to face.

HUNGARY IN THE EARLY 1900s

After suffering a crushing defeat in WWI, Hungary had become one of many stagnant little Eastern European fascist dictatorships. The country had lost 2/3 of its territory in the war, was economically under developed, dependent on the West, and still semi-feudal. Hungary was technically still a monarchy, though it had no monarch anymore. The fascist dictator Horthy was serving as a Regent, i.e. a leader in the absence of a king. Hungarian society was ruled by the landed-aristocracy, medieval nobility, clergy and to a lesser extent the rising capitalist class. Most wealth in the country was in the hands of the Catholic church.

As economist Doreen Warriner stated, Hungary, like most Eastern European countries, was already a fascist dictatorship before the Nazis:

“…the outstanding fact about eastern Europe as a whole, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, was that it was Fascist-ruled. The regimes headed by Horthy, Boris, Beck Stojadinovic and Antonescu were not the creation of Nazism on the contrary, they had come to power long before… as a result of the victory of internal reaction in the nineteen-twenties… Western powers… openly aided Horthy in the

Hungarian counter-revolution… The popular parties were crushed out of existence by extremes of oppression in Horthy’s White Terror in 1920… Western powers did not protest… so long as the dictatorships were anti-Soviet, it did not matter if they were also anti-democratic.” (Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe, p. ix)

The ideological climate of Hungary was dominated by nationalism and religion. Anti-semitism was widespread. Catholicism was the largest religion, but there was also a substantial Calvinist and Lutheran minority.

“Up to 1918 the desire for national independence… had been a progressive force. But when national independence had been achieved… [east European] dictatorships exploited the national grievances to build up their own power” (Warriner, p. x)

In the case of Hungary, this was particularly easy because Hungary had suffered so much in WWI and lost so much of its territory. This particular form of nationalist rhetoric was also particularly reactionary, because similar to nazism in Germany, it centered around starting a new war where Hungary could restore itself to the status of a great imperialist power, like it used to be.

“In Hungary is the strongest, the most pervasive nationalisn in all Europe. In the chauvinism sweepstakes the Hungarians beat even the Poles.” (John Gunther, Inside Europe, p. 425)

James D. Evans calls nationalism in Hungary “a veritable obsession” (That Blue Danube, London, 1935, p. 127) and European correspondent for the Overseas News Agency and the New York Post, Leigh White wrote that “the Magyar [Hungarian-MLT] curse is chauvinism … it is simply a dementia” (The Long Balkan Night, p. 15).

Leftist, democratic and communist parties were illegal in Horthyist Fascist Hungary. There was a parliament though, and several parties existed which were used by Horthy to fool the people and maintain a facade of democracy. The social-democratic party was the only legal supposedly “left” party in the country. It was allowed to function in the 20s and early 30s if it agreed to collaborate with Horthy, and not try to organize strikes or resistance.

“The Social Democratic Party… [had] its wings… clipped by a previous formal agreement with [Horthy’s prime minister] Bethlen under which the Social Democrats would abstain from rural politics and undertake to keep the trade-unions out of the political sphere.” (Kovrig, The Hungarian People’s Republic, p. 32)

“…Bethlen managed a deal with the socialists in December 1921, by which they… accepted limits on trade union activity…” (Stone, Hungary: A Short History, p. 279)

Theoretically the trade-unions existed, but their activity was strictly limited. The Horthy government specifically demanded that the Social-Democrats and trade-unionists not organize in the countryside, because the vast majority of the population were peasants. So, although trade-unions existed, the vast majority of people could not join them, and while technically there was a parliament, the vast majority of people couldn’t vote either.

“…Hungary was… dominated by estate owners, magnates of the Esterhazy-Karolyi class in the Upper House or gentry with middling-sized estates, who occupied most parliamentary seats. This was a gentlemen’s parliament…” (Stone, pp. 145-146)

Wilfred Burchett pointed out that at the best time during Horthy’s rule “in Hungary less than 30 per cent of the population had the right to vote…” (Burchett, People’s Democracies). Norman Stone says the same in his book Hungary: A Short History “The suffrage… widened to 27 percent…” (p. 279)


While some parties were allowed to function under these restrictions, the Communist Party and any genuinely democratic or leftist parties were banned outright. Still, the Communist Party tried to organize underground despite the persecution.

“The traditional political climate in Hungary had been anything but favorable to the Communists… The penalties were so severe, and the skill shown by the Hungarian security police in ferreting out Communist organizers… was so great as to discourage all but the most determined from seeking Communist ties.” (Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary, p. 27)

The Communists were labeled enemies of the fatherland, enemies of god and as jews. The Church controlled the education system, so the limited schooling that people received was virulently nationalistic, chauvinistic and religious. Jews were frequently lynched, treated as second class citizens and excluded from political and academic life, so large numbers of them joined unferground leftist democratic movements including the communist party. Thus the accusation that communists were all jews was very much a self-fulfilling propechy: the communists were part of the few who accepted the jews, and both jews and communists were persecuted by the state. I will discuss this in more detail later.


Warriner describes the situation of Hungary very aptly in the following way:

“With political oppression economic stagnation went hand in hand… Hungary… [was] mainly agricultural, with the bulk of the population on the land as small peasant farmers or landless labourers. Industry developed very slowly. The greater part of industrial and financial capital was owned by foreign interests.“ (Warriner, p. xi)

“…the standard of living, measured in manufactured goods, was very low, and during the ‘thirties was falling. For this widespread poverty the only remedy would have been industrialisation. But to this the obstacles were shortage of capital, and the lack of an internal market due to the poverty of the peasants. Foreign capital did not relieve the shortage, because it was invested only in the raw materials needed by the West… Peasant poverty therefore created a vicious circle, with no way out. It was not a transient thing, which could be expected to disappear with gradual economic advance, for within the existing set-up there could be no such thing as a gradual economic advance. The dictatorship… existed to prevent it, to protect the interests of the foreign investors, and their local capitalists and landowners, who both had vested interests in stagnation. The ruling class was a paralytic network of interests resisting change, topped off by a… dictator, and banked up on nationalism.” (Warriner, pp. xii-xiii)

“What eastern Europe primarily needed was the industrial revolution, and without the shift in the European balance of power resulting from Soviet victory it would never have come. Western Europe, so far as it was interested in eastern Europe at all, was interested in keeping it backward, as a source of cheap food and cheap labour…” (Warriner, pp. xiii-xiv)

ANTI-SEMITISM IN HORTHY’S HUNGARY

“The two social categories branded as ‘destructive’ since the 1919 counter-revolution, namely Jewry and the industrial working class… were treated as outcasts, or at best as second-class citizens, with painful consequences…” (Ignotus, Hungary, pp. 165-166)

“…universities were ruled by right-wing student organizations called fraternal societies… They received semi-official support from the government and were given preference among those applying for state scholarships. The patrons of the fraternal societies, the so-called domini (usually outstanding right-wing public figures) lent them a helping hand after graduation… Neither the semi-official mentors nor the domini objected… when at the beginning of the academic year, the fraternal societies launched noisy and brutal ‘Jew-beatings’… to scare off the Jewish students already admitted in limited numbers to the universities.” (Szász, Volunteers for gallows, p. 32)

Historian Kovrig wrote about Hungarian anti-semitism:

“[A]nti-Semitism remained as a latent and disintegrative force.” (Kovrig, p. 27)

However, as a reactionary Hungarian emigre, Kovrig naturally turns everything upside down. He doesn’t think that jewish workers, peasants and intellectuals were radicalized because they were oppressed second class citizens. Instead he blames anti-semitism on the jews, implying that if only the jews had submitted to oppression and not struggled for rights, then there wouldn’t be anti-semitism against them (p. 26). It is the old self fulfilling prophecy. Jews joined leftist parties because those are only places that welcomed them, and they fought for their rights. The reactionaries then turn around and say ‘the leftists are all jews’ and ‘jews are a bunch of troublemakers and revolutionists’.

Even the British conservative anti-communist historian David Pryce-Jones admits that:

“Jews had often become revolutionaries in the hopes of changing their status in a country of traditional anti-semitism.” (The Hungarian Revolution, p. 36)

“In… Hungary… the virulently racist, anti-Semitic prejudices of the population, fanned and incited by the prewar, semifascist regimes, drove Jewish workers and intellectuals to the communists, the only party that had put up an uncompromising fight against the preparers of the Holocaust.” (Hodos, Show Trials, p. 149)

“The record of Horthy’s Hungary was besmirched by anti-Semitic legislation… [the first Hungarian nazi] law was passed at the end of 1938, limiting Jewish employment…” (Stone, p. 300)

You can tell Stone (who was an adviser for Margaret Thatcher) was being very generous to Horthy. In fact there were anti-jewish laws much earlier then 1938.

“it is undeniable that many citizens of Budapest are fiercely anti-Semitic” (Gunther, Behind the curtain, p. 183)

“The feeble support for the Communist movement in Hungary [in the 20s and 30s] was closely linked to the rise of anti-Semitism in interwar Hungary and the popular perception of the Communist Party as a Jewish organization… a “Jewish conspiracy” in the eyes of many. The Party leadership was very much aware of the persistence of anti-Semitism in Hungarian society” (Apor, The Invisible Shining, p. 36)

HUNGARY JOINS THE AXIS

Hungary joined WWII on the axis side for three main reasons: its close historical and economic ties with Germany, Hungary’s own Fascist system with similar goals to Germany, and because of the Treaty of Trianon. That was the treaty after WWI where Hungary had been reduced to less then 30% of its size. The explicit goal for Hungary in the war, was to try recreate its lost empire. Hungarian forces invaded the USSR together with Germany. Fascism had ramped up in Hungary throughout the 30s but now it reached yet a new level. The Horthy government also participated in the holocaust:

“…familiar features of Nazi terror rule set in… the Yellow Star on Jews and ‘Jewish houses’, while from the provinces practically the whole of Jewry (including Christians of Jewish origin, in some cases even gentiles of ‘mixed blood’) was deported for ‘final solution’… Parliament, purged of [even pseudo] leftist parties and anti-Nazi conservatives… political dissenters, including well-known journalists, capitalists, and trade-unionists as well as politicians proper, were deported en masse.” (Ignotus, p.189)

“Adolf Eichmann arrived on 19 March with a detachment of thirty-two Gestapo ‘specialists’, and [prime minister] Sztojay approved an immediate plan to send 100,000 Jews for ‘labour’ – in fact, to Auschwitz… measures against Jews: the yellow star, prohibitions on buying food in short supply, freezing of bank accounts, closure of shops… By the end of April ghettoisation went ahead, starting with Kassa and going through the rest of the country… then the deportations got going, on 15 May.” (Stone, p. 319)

“Then Eichmann turned his attention to Budapest, where since May 170,000 Jews were concentrated in 1,900 ‘yellow star’ apartment houses, while 120,000 lived illegally in Christian households. On 25 June a curfew was imposed on the ghetto Jews, and they were unable to receive guests; and the deportations were to start on 6 July.” (Stone, p. 321)

However, as the war went on, it became clearer and clearer that the Soviet Union was winning. It became necessary for the Hungarian rulers: the imperialists, clergy, nobility and capitalists to start thinking of options of how to get out of this war, which they were losing.


“At the time, the ruling circles feared that if they supported the nazis to the very end, the power of the Hungarian landlords and capitalists would also be eliminated after the German invaders had been driven out. They not only had to realize that the defeat of Germany was unavoidable, but also had to recognize that their hopes of peace, based on a compromise between the British and Americans on the one hand, and the Germans on the other, were false. The very last moment came when the Horthyite leading circles, who had often been deceived and humiliated by Hitler’s government and the German general staff, could still take the step of assisting Hungary to join the anti-Hitler coalition. The only way to do this was to ask the Soviet Union without delay for an armistice [and switch sides]…”
(Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962, p. 14)

Germany’s defeat was certain, so it was best to abandon the Axis and surrender. That way, the Horthy government hoped it could save itself. Horthy calculated that he could join the Allies, and not be destroyed by them. However, he hesitated to make an armistice, because he was hoping that he could surrender to the Anglo-American troops, instead of surrendering to the Soviet troops. The rule of the capitalists and Horthy, would be better protected if it were the Western troops that occupied Hungary, and not the Soviets.

“The key idea was to get Hungary into a ‘neutral’ position, fighting Bolshevik Russia, but not the English and Americans it wanted to befriend… the political ruling class was… concerned… with saving its own skin. Its project… included the preservation of… [the] undemocratic system, an attachment to the revisionist vision… and a move over to the Allies but without calling a halt to the war with Russia…” (Molnar, A concise history of Hungary, pp. 287-288)

“When the Red Army began its operations in Hungary, three German and three Hungarian armies were stationed in the area of the Carpathian Ukraine, North Transylvania and in the region east of the Tisza. Two German army groups joined their front to the south… The German general staff had at their disposal bigger military forces in [this] area… than in both the West European and Italian theatres of war. This explains why the Horthy clique hoped that, with German assistance, they could hold back the Red Army until the arrival of the Anglo-American forces, and that was why they hesitated until the last minute to ask for an armistice.” (Nemes, pp. 15-16)

At the same time, the anti-fascists, led mainly by the communists, were organizing themselves to rise up and fight the Nazis:

“The German occupation… created a new situation for the working class movement. The legal working class movement ceased to exist… After a common platform had been hammered out, the Hungarian Front, a united organization of anti-fascist resistance, was formed in May 1944 – The Front comprised communists, social democrats, smallholders, and the National Peasant Party as well as the Dual Cross Alliance, an organization representing the anti-German wing of the ruling class.”
(Borsányi & Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary, p. 97)


It was possible for Hungary to change sides, and turn their army against the Nazis:

“The combined strength of the Hungarian forces in the theatre of war totaled about 450,000 men. This represented a significant force… The Hungarian general staff had another quarter of a million armed troops in Budapest and other districts available to disarm the German invaders. [The anti-fascist resistance movement] The Hungarian Front was ready to provide all assistance to this end.” (Nemes, p. 16)

However, the Horthyists wanted to avoid a conflict between them and the Germans, wanted to delay the arrival of the Red Army and hoped that the British and American forces would come to Hungary first.

“The new offensive of the Red Army started on 6 October 1944 and the Soviet troops began their campaign to liberate Hungary… the Communist Party urged an immediate cease-fire and castigated those who were hesitating and delaying its conclusion… It appealed to Hungarian soldiers: “Join forces with the Red Army in the struggle against fascist barbarism!”” (Nemes, p. 17)

“On the initiative of the Communist Party, the Hungarian Front issued an appeal to the officers of the army: “Our criminally irresponsible government… is delaying… the only decision which could save our country and our national army from complete destruction. This decision is: an immediate armistice with the Red Army and armed struggle against the German invaders.” …It called upon the officers of the garrisons to supply arms, ammunition and explosives to the workers and peasants and the anti-German intelligentsia, and assist them in their struggle. “There is no time for further hesitation and long preparations. Act now!”” (Nemes, pp. 17-18)

The Communists were adamant that it was necessary to arm the workers to prevent a Nazi coup, as the Nazis would undoubtedly take over the Hungarian government, if they suspected that Hungary might want to switch sides. The Horthy government refused to arm the workers, and was more concerned with trying to split the anti-fascist resistance movement and have communists and leftists removed from it (Nemes, p. 18).


THE NAZIS TAKE OVER: SZALASI’S COUP

On October 15th Horthy announced his cease-fire with the Soviet troops. Immediately, he was arrested by the Nazis and the government was taken over by them:

“Within a few hours he was deposed and taken prisoner by the Germans. In his place ex-Major Szalasi, the leader of the most extreme Nazi Party, the ‘Hungarists’ or ‘Arrow-cross Fascists’, was appointed ‘Leader of the Nation’. All points of strategic importance in the capital, including the vital broadcasting centre, were occupied by the Gestapo and other German formations.” (Ignotus, p.190)

“By the evening all stations and the radio were in German or Arrow Cross hands, and at 5.30 a.m. on 16 October Veesenmayer came to the Castle to take Horthy and the others to Gestapo headquarters… There he abdicated… to give Szalasi authority to form a government.” (Stone, p. 341)

This was a strategic move on Horthy’s part:

“…the Hitlerite general staff were able to make their preparations for the Arrow Cross coup, and they concentrated about three divisions of German forces in the area of Budapest… At noon on 15 October, Horthy announced the cease-fire over the radio, after first informing the Germans of the step he was about to take. He also made this fact known in his proclamation: “I informed the local representative of the German Reich that we were concluding a preliminary cease-fire with our enemies.” The Hungarian Front had not been informed in advance of the announcement of the cease-fire, whereas the Germans had been given prior notice.” (Nemes, pp. 21-22)

The Hungarian military had not been given instructions about what to do in this situation. They had not been given instructions to unite with the Red Army and turn against the Germans. However, the Germans who knew the situation before hand, had ordered the Hungarian Commanders to not obey any instructions without first asking the German command. Horthy was not genuinely switching sides, to unite with the Soviets against the Germans. He was merely making a statement of armistice, thus giving him some credibility in the eyes of the Allies, but in practice not fighting the Germans. The Hungarian army stayed firmly under German control and had not been made ready to fight against Germany.

As a result of Horthy’s sabotage of the anti-fascist resistance, of his refusal to give weapons to the workers, of his opportunist maneuvering, the Arrow-Cross Nazi Coup, which had been prepared well before hand, took place. In order to delay the Red Army, and thus to protect power of the capitalists and nobility, Horthy was willing to unleash the Hungarian Nazi Party, the Arrow-Cross, on the Hungarian people.

“The Germans… persuaded Horthy to withdraw his proclamation and resign as head of state in favour of Ferenc Szalasi, the Arrow Cross leader. On the demand of the Germans, Horthy issued a statement on 16 October that declared his proclamation of the previous day to be null and void, and called on the Hungarian army to continue the war against the Soviet Union… Horthy and his associates pulled out, but they did so leaving the country, without any resistance, in the hands of the German invaders and their Arrow Cross agents.” (Nemes, p. 22)


THE RULE OF THE ARROW-CROSS

The rule of Szalazi was the worst time in Hungarian history. There were daily mass killings and the remaining jews were hunted down, rounded up and put into cattlewagons that would take them to Germany — to their death. As the Nazis’ time was running out, the Arrow-Cross began simply killing all the jews they could find, right then and there, without bothering to try to transport them to Gas Chambers. It was truly senseless, because the war was already almost over. Nazi forces were in full retreat, to escape the advancing Red Army. Only those who were completely blinded by Nazi propaganda, still thought they could turn things around and win the war. It was in these conditions that Szalasi’s Arrow-Cross Party took over, it was the last ditch effort by the most fanatical reactionaries to cling to power, before their total defeat.

“Violent anti-Semitic propaganda issued from the radio, inciting pogroms… When the siege began, the Arrow Cross were still murdering about fifty Jews every night, and in early January three Jewish hospitals were ransacked: 17,000 Jews were killed in this period. Just before the Red Army arrived, the militia had picked up children in the Jewish orphanages in Pest and Buda and were deterred from shooting them only because they themselves now had to flee.” (Stone, p. 345)

“While the German regular army dismantled and transported westward all that was movable in factories and trade-combines, the armed Arrow Cross gangs were roving the streets and knocking up households at will with demands for jewelry, cash, and lives. As winter set in, with ice-floats blocking the Danube, and the people of Budapest shivering in cellars beneath the thunder of Soviet gunfire and Allied air raids, the Hungarian Nazis took their final toll in blood and property, no longer bothering themselves about deportation when railway waggons were not available, but shooting their victims on the spot… The hunt was directed against political dissenters and jews… by the end of the war some two-thirds of Hungary’s Jewish population (practising and converted), including some 40% of those in Budapest, were exterminated. On the whole territory which during the war was supposed to be run by Hungarians, about 600,000 Jews lost their lives. The Nazis left behind a wholly devastated country…” (Ignotus, p.191)

The guns of the Red Army could already be heard, and despite all the lies and propaganda against communism that Hungarians were subjected to, despite the reactionary medieval ideology that they had been submerged in for centuries, people knew that nothing could be as bad as the Arrow-Cross. Even many anti-communist historians agree that Hungarians anxiously waited for the Red Army to liberate them, save them from the Arrow-Cross and finally bring peace again.

“Szalasi’s Arrow Cross government was to have a reign of terror which brought anarchy, destruction and almost civil war to the country. The more outrageous the behavior of the fascists, the more the Red army was looked upon locally as a liberating force. Throughout Hungary, ordinary people came to wait eagerly for the Russians… Few people waited more eagerly then the Jews, for whom this was a desperate life-and death matter.” (Pryce-Jones, p.15)

“For the next weeks, as the Russians closed the ring around Budapest, the Arrow Cross fascists roamed the city in bands looking for Jews or Communists. They shot them on the spot, or sometimes hanged them. Inhabitants became used to hurrying past street-corner murders, and averting their eyes in case they were accused of helping subversives.” (Pryce-Jones, p. 16)

THE HUNGARIAN PARTISAN MOVEMENT

“the Communists were the earliest and most effective fighters against the Nazi invaders and oppressors; it was the Communists, as a rule, who initiated and led military and political action; it was they who were hounded most mercilessly by the Fascists… it was they who imparted discipline and organization to the scattered patriotic forces.” (Gunther, p. 36)

“Directly after the Arrow Cross coup, the Communist Party issued another appeal to the Hungarian people… It again emphasized… all-out national resistance against the German invaders and their Arrow Cross accomplices… it asked every member of Hungarian society: Where do you belong, to the nazi front or the Hungarian Front? Whoever belongs to the Hungarian Front “acts and organizes the national resistance”.” (Nemes, p. 25)

“Before… 15 October… the Communist Party was the only party in Hungary that organized armed resistance. The Budapest action guards… already operated. On 6 October one of these groups, the Marot group, blew up the statue of Gyula Gombos, regarded as a symbol of Hungarian fascism… German motor vehicles and guns were destroyed, railway tracks around Budapest were repeatedly blown up, hand-grenade and sub-machine-gun attacks were launched against German and Arrow Cross headquarters and guards, and communication lines were damaged…. They encouraged resistance and increased the feeling of uncertainty within the Arrow Cross camp and power apparatus, thus speeding up their collapse.” (Nemes, p. 25)

“After 15 October larger Communist partisan groups of from 30 to 80 members were formed in the outlying districts of Budapest. During their activity they contacted the anti-nazi officers of several Hungarian military units and with their help acquired arms… Among the suburban groups the armed activities of the Ujpest and Kobanya-Kispest partisans were significant. They killed nearly one hundred Arrow Cross and SS members.” (Nemes, pp. 25-26)

“The partisan units and the small resistance groups that came from the Soviet Union or were formed at home together caused a total of over 3,000 casualties — dead, wounded and prisoners — to the fascist troops and their auxiliary detachments… Compared to the Soviet, French and Yugoslav partisan struggles, or the uprising in Slovakia, the partisan movement in Hungary was of modest dimensions. Nevertheless, its significance went far beyond its direct military impact, because it encouraged the growth of other forms of national resistance. ” (Nemes, p. 27)

“With the support of the other parties of the Hungarian Front, a broader front emerged early in November, with the formation of a joint body named the Liberation Committee of the Hungarian National Uprising.” (Nemes, p. 29)

“The appeal of the Young Communist League appeared at the end of October announcing the reorganization of the League and its action programme… It designated the main tasks of the League to organize and mobilize armed troops of working-class youth and to increase their participation in the national resistance, together with other youth organizations… Communist students at the Gyorffy College established contact with anti-nazi groups of students at two other colleges and at the Universities of Technology and Economics… these formed a joint organization called the Freedom Front of Hungarian Students, and their anti-nazi propaganda activities were particularly successful.

The Young Communist League also initiated a broad youth coalition that was formed in November under the name of the Freedom Front of Hungarian Youth. It consisted of the Young Communist League, the Freedom front of Hungarian Students and a peasant party youth group… Some representatives of the religious youth organizations also joined the developing anti-nazi youth front. Within the framework of this front was organized the Gorgey battalion consisting of 100 to 120 students and young workers…” (Nemes, pp. 30-31)

There was an attempt to organize a general national uprising, together with partisans and those units of the Hungarian army who wanted to fight the Nazis, but unfortunately the leaders of the uprising were caught by the Gestapo. “They were court-martialled in December and executed by the Arrow Cross forces… they gave their lives for the national liberation.” (Nemes, p. 31)

The Hungarian anti-fascist heroes, led by the Communists and other patriotic forces believed in the approaching victory. They knew that the dark days of Nazi occupation and fascism were coming to an end. The insane terrorism of the Arrow Cross would finally stop. The anti-fascist heroes fought fearlessly to win peace and a new better life for their country.




SOURCES:

Doreen Warriner, Revolution in Eastern Europe

John Gunther, Inside Europe

John Gunter, Behind the curtain

Evans, That Blue Danube

White, The Long Balkan Night

Kovrig Bennett, The Hungarian People’s Republic

Norman Stone, Hungary: A Short History

Zinner, The Revolution in Hungary

Paul Ignotus, Hungary

Béla Szász, Volunteers for gallows

David Pryce-Jones, The Hungarian Revolution

Hodos, Show Trials

Apor, The Invisible Shining

Dezső Nemes, History of the Revolutionary Workers Movement in Hungary: 1944-1962

Molnar, A concise history of Hungary

György Borsányi and János Kende, The History of the Working Class Movement in Hungary

Wilfred G. Burchett, Peoples’ Democracies

FEW WORDS ABOUT MY SOURCES:

Almost all my sources are established “respectable” anti-communist/pro-capitalist mainstream historians. The only exception is that I cite 2 books by Hungarian communist historians: one by Nemes and the other by Borsányi & Kende. Burchett is also a journalist with communist sympathies.

The facts I present here can be considered very reliable, because they are confirmed both by pro-communist and anti-communist sources. I chose to cite mostly anti-communist historians, since they obviously have no bias to lie on behalf of communism. This way the information should be acceptable to non-communists.

That said, capitalist historians are dishonest and biased against communism, so I typically don’t recommend any of them. The only non-communist book on this topic I can recommend is “Revolution in Eastern Europe” by Doreen Warriner, it is both objective and well researched, with lots of empirical data. The other non-communist history books are extremely flawed, I had to verify everything I quoted from them from multiple sources and make sure it was true.

Nemes, Borsányi & Kende are not perfect either, they are kadarist revisionists. I agree with the facts I quoted from them, but not necessary with everything they might say.

At the end of this series I will probably discuss the research process and the sources in detail.

The Myth that Stalin banned Hamlet

There is a widespread but baseless myth that ‘Stalin banned Hamlet’ in the USSR.

Shakespeare researcher Michelle Assay writes about it in “What Did Hamlet (Not) Do to Offend Stalin?” published in Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, 35, 2017.

THE MYTH IS SPREAD EVERYWHERE, EVEN BY ‘RESPECTED’ SCHOLARS

Assay writes:

“there is no official documentation that could provide a factual backbone for his so-called Hamlet ban.” (p. 1)

However, anti-communist propagandists have never needed sources or fact:

“Yet it has become received wisdom that Stalin not only hated Hamlet and its hero but accordingly banned any production in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s animus towards Hamlet features in almost every study dealing with Shakespeare and Soviet political/cultural life. The myth of the ban in fact takes various shapes: at best it is nuanced by such modifiers as “tacit” or “virtual”; at its worst the myth takes the form of highly exaggerated claims, which usually disregard the historical facts, including actual productions of Hamlet during Stalin era.” (p. 1)

The myth was spread even in so-called academically ‘respectable’ publications:

“Here are two examples from quite respectable publications: “Theatrical performances of Hamlet were subsequently [to Mikhail Chekhov’s 1924-5 production] banned until after Stalin’s death in 1953”, and “[in the 1940s] the play [Hamlet] had not been produced in the Soviet Union since Nikolai Akimov’s zany version of 1932.”Such statements can quickly be disproved. They disregard not only the provincial productions of Hamlet in the 1940s (for instance two in Belorussia directed by Valeri [also known as Valerian] Bebutov, one in 1941 at the Voronezh State Dramatic Theatre, and one in 1946 at the Iakub Kolas Theatre in Vitebsk) but also Sergei Radlov’s rather wellknown 1938 staging, which due to its great success toured widely beyond Leningrad and Moscow, as far as the Urals, Sochi and Belorussia, to almost unanimously positive reviews… More ideologically motivated are over-exaggerations of the kind found in Solomon Volkov’s widely debated concoction of Shostakovich’s supposed memoirs.” (p. 1)

HOW WAS THE MYTH INVENTED?

Assay suggests that the myth could have originated from Stalin’s statement (real or invented) that during WWII the nation needed an active optimistic hero, and not someone as passive and tragic as Hamlet. But as Assay writes, Hamlet was still performed during this period: “this in itself does not imply the complete absence of Hamlet… from the Soviet stage.” (p. 2)

Assay cites Dimitri Urnov’s article “How did Stalin ban Hamlet?” where Urnov suggests that the myth could have originated from the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet from 1940, which was never completed. But “Urnov, however, goes on to argue – convincingly – that the production of Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre was halted not by Stalin but rather by many unfortunate circumstances and much internal tension within the Theatre itself.” (p. 3)


“There was at least one other contributing factor to the longevity of the myth of Hamlet and Stalin: the Hamlet fever that took over Soviet theatres following Stalin’s death” (p. 8)

However, this fever is hard to pinpoint. There had never been a Hamlet ban—Hamlet had simply been continuously produced. So when exactly did the fever begin? It is clear that Hamlet’s popularity increased over time and in the late 60s there was even a film. It seems clear that in the late 40s and early 50s there were other large projects and other topics which received most attention.


IN REALITY SHAKESPEARE AND HAMLET WERE CELEBRATED IN THE USSR

Assay writes that in reality Hamlet and Shakespeare plays were not only performed but:

“Bearing the seal of approval of Marx, Engels and Lenin, Shakespeare was indeed an attractive subject for schools and research institutes and provided “an ideal classic to reach the widest strata of readers and audiences and thus to bridge the gap which had frequently developed between modern art and the people.”” (p. 6)


In the late 40s when the Cold War intensified, the USSR became more and more critical of western capitalist propaganda in the form of culture. About this, Assay writes that Shakespeare was never under attack, only capitalist methods of Shakespeare criticism. Shakespeare’s works were translated and printed:

“During this critical period, it was not Shakespeare but supposed Western-style attitudes towards his scholarship that came under attack, including works of Mikhail Morozov that were deemed to be under Western influence… It was not the subject matter or the mere fact of writing about a foreign author that came under criticism, but Morozov’s [bourgeois] approach to Shakespeare scholarship… Following these attacks, and while politically correct “Soviet Shakespearology” was being supplanted by commentaries by Pushkin and Vissarion Belinski, there were also translations, often reprinted in anthologies.” (p. 7)


WHY THE MYTH WAS CREATED

Assay is a bourgeois scholar writing for a bourgeois publication. They only hint that there were political motives behind creating this myth—this fabrication—without delving any deeper into it.

Of course western academia used every opportunity to invent lies about the USSR, Stalin and Communism, including this totally non-existent ‘Hamlet ban’.

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 7: The Civil War

“To the front”

When the Finnish revolution and civil war began on midnight between 26-27 of January 1918, the country had already been in a revolutionary situation for months. The February revolution of 1917 had dismantled the Tsarist police and created a serious power vacuum in the country. A people’s militia had been created to carry out police duties, but the militia was not a typical police force at all and consisted largely of ordinary workers.

The conditions of the working class, poor tenant-farmers and household servants were very bad. They worked anywhere from 10 hours per day, 16 hours per day, or in the case of household servants basically an unlimited amount of hours. Unemployment was also high and famine was a serious danger. One quarter of the population were at an imminent risk of starvation.

The socialists won elections in 1916 but in 1917 the government was disbanded by the Russian Empire. There was also no municipal democracy: in municipal elections people with more property had more votes. The ordinary people lived in terrible conditions and didn’t have many peaceful ways of trying to improve their situation.

When the Tsarist police and other repressive institutions collapsed, the Finnish workers began strongly demanding an 8 hour working day, reasonable wages, food at decent prices and equal suffrage. Household servants began demanding the right to organize, and tenant-farmers began demanding land reform. There were massive demonstrations, protests and strikes.

The rich capitalists, aristocrats and politicians tried to use the police to suppress the people, but the new police – the people’s militia – didn’t always obey the rich. It often sided with the people.

Finland didn’t have its own military so in order to repress the people, the capitalists needed to create a military. That is why the White Guard was created. The White Guard carried out violent and brutal attacks against protestors and striking workers and peasants. To protect themselves, the workers and peasants created their own Red Guards, which were unarmed at first.

In December 1917 the Socialists began a General Strike demanding an 8 hour working day, democracy, end to the repression, food for the starving and other similar demands. This strike caused the Finnish state to completely collapse. Red Guards, who had only a small number of rifles, spontaneously occupied most government buildings and important locations. Power was in the hands of the people.

However, the capitalists and right-wing politicians managed to trick the people. They promised that the socialists could form a government if they just ended the General Strike. The socialists accepted and ended the strike, but it was all a lie. The capitalists and right-wing politicians now refused to allow the socialists to form a government, and they refused to grant any of the people’s demands, although some workplaces were forced to accept an 8 hour work day.

Already for months, the Finnish capitalists, right-wing politicians and aristocrats had been building a secret White Army in the region of Ostrobothnia. They had stockpiled massive amounts of weapons and ammunition which they had received from Germany and Sweden. They had hidden large amounts of food, and created a secret network of White Guard agents, disguised as volunteer fire-departments, forest offices and under other kinds of cover. They had received hundreds of non-commissioned officers from Germany, who were now training White troops in Ostrobothnia.

It was absolutely necessary for the capitalists to have total control inside Finland. The militia was unreliable, and they couldn’t tolerate the existence of the Red Guards. They also couldn’t keep the people from protesting or going on strike. Of course, they categorically refused to grant the people’s justified demands – instead they were going to rely on violent repression.

The situation had become more and more revolutionary, but the December General Strike was a turning point. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia in October, which demonstrated that a workers’ revolution was possible. The December General Strike showed to the Finnish capitalists, exactly how precarious their situation was if the workers decided to rise up and take power. Therefore, the capitalists massively speeded-up their military preparations. They needed to create a strong army, attack the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and install a military dictatorship or a monarchist dictatorship.


THE WHITE ASSAULT: The declaration of war


The war began with an assault by the White Army, North from most of the big population centers. The Whites had previously withdrawn the senate and most capitalist politicians to their new secret capital in Vaasa. This became the seat of the White government.

The Whites began their assault under the pretext of trying to liberate Finland from Russia. This might seem very strange. After all, Finland had already been given independence by the Soviet Russian government, and the Russian police, the Russian governor general and other Russian authority inside Finland had been totally dismantled. So how could they claim they were defending themselves from the Russians?

The fact is, there were still some Russian troops inside Finland. This is because Finland did not have its own military, and the Russian Empire had been worried that Germany might invade Finland. WWI was still going at this point.

The remaining Russian troops inside Finland were not stable fighting units. During the last days of the Russian Tsarist Empire and the Russian Provisional Government, the army had completely collapsed. Soldiers had started to leave their barrackses and go home. The soldiers had supported the February revolution and killed their monarchist officers. In Finland, the capitalists had tried to use Russian troops against demonstrators but the troops didn’t obey. Sometimes the soldiers defended the workers and peasants who were demonstrating. These troops were not in Finland to occupy or oppress the people, in fact, they refused to do so.

British historian Upton says the Russian soldiers: “had neither the will nor the ability to retain control in Finland.” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 272)

“It was quite clear that the presence of the Russians was to be temporary, and that the defense of Petrograd was the sole reason for their remaining.” (Upton, p. 249)

The Whites accused the socialists of wanting the Russians to stay, so they could use them for their own purposes but historian Upton completely debunks this:

“Not the slightest hint had been given that the party wanted the Russians to stay…” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 249)

The Finnish capitalists themselves had often tried to use Russian soldiers against Finnish workers, but socialists never had any intention of doing so. The social-democrats were anyway not in favor of violence, and didn’t speak Russian.

Furthermore, the military had absolutely collapsed, most units were barely held together and the Russian army couldn’t have oppressed Finland even if they had wanted to. On top of that, the Soviet Russian leader V. I. Lenin, had promised that the troops would be gradually withdrawn from Finland. The only thing holding this back was the war. Soviet Russia was intending to stop its participation in WWI and immediately when a peace treaty could be signed between Soviet Russia and Germany, the troops would begin to be withdrawn.

In reality, already for months troops had been returning home even without orders. Lenin also ordered the military to not interfere in Finnish affairs, not that the soldiers would’ve wanted to anyway. Consistently when the Finnish capitalists had asked Russian soldiers to attack demonstrators and thus interfere, the soldiers had refused.

In short, there were Russian troops in Finland, but they were confined to their barrackses and were not in fighting condition. This is why, when the Whites attacked the soldiers, they defeated them easily. The soldiers were not interested in fighting or prepared for it.

“Their Russian opponents were mostly demoralized, isolated… without any obvious cause to fight for, and mostly taken by surprise” (Upton, p. 272)

The Soviet-German peace treaty was signed on March 3, 1918, about a month after the Finnish civil war started. The Whites were in a hurry. If they wanted to pretend that the civil war was a “national war” against Russia, and not a class war against the Red Guards, then they had to attack right away before the Russian troops were pulled out.

“Mannerheim ordered the war to begin with the disarming of Russian soldiers in Southern Ostrobothnia … small number of Russian barracks thinly spread out, were not in any condition for battle, so a surprise attack guaranteed an easy victory and a large amount of weapons and supplies. The intention was that the early success would inspire the whites, boost moral, instill a sense confidence…

The Russian soldiers posed no threat, had been ordered to not get involved in Finnish affairs, and were waiting to be pulled from the country after a peace had been made between Germany and Russia. So why did Mannerheim choose to attack them? To get weapons, boost morale etc. but there was a more important reason:

“The goal of targeting the Russian soldiers was to make the war a seem like a national war against Russians. Mannerheim’s secret order of 25. of January… said to attack the Russian soldiers on 28 [of January]… [source: Erinnerungen, p. 171] Around the same time, though not right away, the working class movement concluded that revolution was unavoidable…” (Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918, p. 148)

In white guard propaganda the war was presented as a “national war” against Russian tyranny. But this was a lie. Soviet Russia had given Finland independence and had agreed with the Finnish government that the remaining Russian troops would be pulled after Russia signs a peace treaty with Germany. The white guards screamed that Russia had no reason to fear a German intervention, although Russia was still at war with Germany. In fact, the whites themselves would arrange a German intervention into Finland.

The real target of the white attack were not the Russian soldiers, that was demonstrated by the war itself. The real target was the Finnish working class.

“There was no need of war to remove the Russian soldiers; they would have removed themselves in a little while.” (Upton, p. 272)

To give some perspective, according to historians such as Paasivirta (Suomi vuonna 1918, p. 206) only 1000-4000 Russians participated in the fighting. The exact number is not known, but it is small, and without question most of these soldiers were only acting in self-defence and trying to retreat to Soviet-Russia. The Soviet Russian government allowed volunteers to help the Finnish reds, but the Soviet government had its own war to fight and was not in a position to send troops. They gave the Finnish reds rifles and bullets, and also significant amounts of food.

The White war effort was not a war of independence, the capitalists themselves had a very mixed relationship with the independence movement (most of them were not committed to it) while the Russian Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists had supported Finnish independence much more strongly.

The White commander Mannerheim himself actually admitted that the real target of the war, were the Reds, who he calls huligans and bandits:

“The peasant army of independent Finland under my command does not wage war against Russia, but has risen to protect freedom and the legal government and to ruthlessly defeat the huligan and bandit forces, that publicly threaten the country’s legal order and property.” (Mannerheim quoted in S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918, p. 56)

“…Mannerheim himself proved that foundational claim of bourgeois propaganda, that supposedly a national liberation war had started in Finland, to be a lie, and admitted the class character of the war…” (Holodkovski, p.166)

The White government also told Sweden, that they were fighting a civil war and not a war with Russia. However, the Whites also wanted to deny that this was a class-war and instead claimed that the Reds were criminals and huligans:


“The Swedish government was told: The struggle which is now in progress in Finland is not a class war… but is a collision between, on the one side a legal social order… and on the other side plain terrorist activity… criminal gangs, which have initiated violence against all human and divine rights…” (Upton, p. 311)

“Mannerheim told the Swedish minister that… “the Reds have begun a rebellion…”” (Upton, p. 311)

Lastly, although the Russian troops did not want to fight, and were told to not interfere in Finnish affairs, and although the actual war was in fact fought between White Guards and Red Guards, and not between Finland and Russia, its worth mentioning that at times Russian soldiers still tried to defend themselves from the Whites. The Whites then tried to use this as proof of Russian aggression. The Whites executed their Russian prisoners and carried out mass killings and massacres against Russians, although reactionary monarchist Russian officers actually worked together with the Whites. Mannerheim himself had been a Czarist officer whose job it was to oppress Finland and other nations in the Russian Empire. Mannerheim did not speak Finnish, and had no ties with the Finnish people and he also had a soldier assistant who only spoke Russian. These were the aristocratic and militarist “independence warriors” who claimed they were not fighting a class war, but a “national war”.


THE WORKERS’ REVOLUTION

The Finnish social-democratic party was controlled by a center-left faction which had not been very keen on revolution. The party had decided by a narrow margin, to not carry out a revolution during the December General Strike. They had agreed to end the strike, in hopes of being able to form a government and carry out peaceful reforms. However now the socialists realized that the whites had secrelty built a massive army, were passing dictatorial laws and were preparing for a war to crush the workers, destroy the Red Guard, and strip the people of all their rights. The socialists saw the whites were being mobilized. The Reds finally began to make hasty preparations, 2 days before the white assault.

The working class itself was very militant, much more militant then the social-democrat politicians. The trade-union and the Red Guard were also quite revolutionary. The party had a very small right-wing faction, which opposed the revolution and immediately went into hiding when the revolution started. This right-wing group led by Väinö Tanner, later collaborated with the whites and the German invaders. The party also had a leftist revolutionary faction, but the biggest group were the center-leftists. The center-left was not keen to start a revolution, but when the civil war was imminent, they realized they needed to act, they needed to defend themselves, and they couldn’t simply abandon the workers to be slaughtered by the Whites. They started a revolution:

“The social-democratic party committee, the central command of the workers’ militia and the central command of the red guard published a declaration on 26. of January that an executive committee has been created as the highest revolutionary authority.” (Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa, s.54)

“The… declaration alerted the masses that the bourgeoisie has begun an armed attack against the working class movement to strip away those democratic rights, which it only recently won in the revolutionary struggle of the general strike” (Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918, p. 98)

“…the Workers’ executive committee gave the worker guards orders to prepare for occupying all government buildings and strategic locations.“ (Holodkovski, p. 175)

“The orders stated that mobilization of the worker guards was to be begun on the 26. of January at midnight and to be completed in three days. Worker guards were to be given special lists of people, who were to be arrested and transported to locations where guards were responsible for their safety and good treatment. After the order to begin the revolution is given, the parliament, the university, regional governments, highest government organs and banks are to be taken over under the supervision of persons appointed as worker guard comissars. The central command had the right to seize for itself those buildings and locations it saw fit as well as transportation and telephone. [Source: “Красный архив” (“Red archive”), 1940, vol. 2 (99), pp. 34, 35]” (Holodkovski, p. 175)

“Bourgeois newspapers were to be closed down.” (Hyvönen, p. 98)

“On the 27. of January the [more moderate] Workers’ guard and [the more militant] Red guard were merged, taking the name the Red guard.

The executive committee considered serious resistance by the white guards a possibility and gave the Red guard central command the following order: the Red guard has, if necessary the right to use armed force against those members of the white guard who attempt armed resistance. Those members of the white guard who surrender without resistance, must be disarmed. Their commanders must be arrested and transported to the militia building… the imprisoned or wounded must not be treated brutally or inhumanely… any weapons and large amounts of food must be confiscated and listed, signed by the owner of the supplies or two wittnesses. [Source: H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina, II, pp. 34-35]“ (Holodkovski, pp. 175-176)

“Throughout the country corresponding messages were sent to [Red guard] regional commands… At 11 o’clock at night on January 27. Red guard detachments began to occupy locations mentioned in the orders of the previous day in the capital of Finland. A red lantern and red flag appeared in the tower of the workers’ club as a signal that the revolution had begun.” (Holodkovski, p. 176)

“…Helsinki was quickly taken under red control without a fight. By the end of January the most important cities of Southern Finland were under the control of the reds… A declaration of revolution to the people of Finland was published in The Worker on 28. of January, which stated that the working masses have taken state power in their hands. At the same time it encouraged all the working class organizations and [red] guards [and militias] to fulfill their revolutionary duty, everyone according to their ability.” (Koskinen, p. 54)

The following examples are from a Southern municipality:

“The command decided on 4. of February to announce that all weapons and ammunition were to be brought to the Red guard within 24 hours of the announcement… The confiscations happened without incident and e.g. in the manor of Vaanila Nyberg’s flying column was served pancakes and jam. [A local man] testified… that [the Red Guard leader] Nyberg was quiet and polite when conducting the gun search…” (Koskinen p. 62)

“The Red guard of Koikkala-Vaanila carried out gun confiscations with the help of 17 men and 6 horses in the villages of Koikkala, Hongisto, Röylä, Paksalo, Mynterlä, Vaanila and Lehmijärvi.” (Koskinen p. 62)

“The confiscations began on 4. of February. Aleksander Stick said he took part in the confiscations of weapons in at least 25 houses. They took the shotguns and browning rifles, which were taken to the workers’ club… on 5. of February… property owning farmers brought their guns voluntarily. But they were unusable as the owners had left parts of them at their homes.

The telephone centers were taken under control. In Koski-Suittila the watchman at the “phone-central” was to make sure the manager mrs. Åström only allowed calls to the food-authority, the doctor or drugstore. Other calls were not allowed. Elderly men worked as watchmen…

Travel without permit was not allowed. Permits were given by the local command. At [the train] station guards inspected those traveling by railway.” (Koskinen p. 62)

The workers’ executive committee stated in their declaration to the Finnish people:

“The great moment of the Finnish working class revolution has arrived. Today the working people of the country’s capital have bravely defeated the sinister den of oligarchy, that started a dangerous war against its own people… Members of the criminal senate prepared in the capital disgusting plans to have Finns spill the blood of their brother Finns, and a treacherous attack against the organized working class of Finland. In doing this they made themselves guilty in such brazen treason as to request foreign monarchist governments to send murderer troops to slaughter the Finnish people. Thus the entire freedom and life our our nation was in great danger… [the workers must] rise to save themselves and the whole nation from that destruction and misery… The senate has committed countless crimes to steal for itself that state power which belongs to the people. Apparently the main plot was that the senate wished to crush the working class movement with bloodshed, shackle all attempts at democracy and bury the poor people’s hopes for change in the slumber of death.” (“To the working people of Finland”, quoted in Holodkovski, p. 177)

So the revolution began. The Reds were still poorly organized and poorly armed compared to the whites and the whites also managed to steal most of the state’s funds to their new capital. The Reds occupied government buildings and infrastructure, organized control of public transport and created a system where travel was only allowed if one had a permit. This was to prevent spying, smuggling etc. The Reds tried to monitor the telephone centers to prevent spies from listening on calls, and to allow the scarce telephone to be used only for important calls. The Reds spent a lot of time confiscating weapons from local landlords, rich peasants and capitalists. The Reds easily took control (often practically without resistance) in all the southern areas, and in the bigger population centers in other regions of the country too.

The right-wing counter-revolutionary faction of Väinö Tanner split from the social-democrat majority and stayed in hiding throughout the civil war. At the end of the war these traitors collaborated with the Whites and invading Germans. The centrists united with the revolutionary left-wing faction of the social-democrats to support self-defence by workers, and to protect democracy from a capitalist military-monarchist dictatorship which the whites were building.


FIGHTING THE WAR

“In armed struggle the Finnish working class movement was forced to operate in unfamiliar circumstances. It was clearly visible in the formation and arming of the red guards and especially in directing the battles. A newly arising class, such as our working class was, could naturally never compete in the realm of military expertise with the ruling classes, who in that realm held all the experience. Officers are always serving the prevailing system, dependent on it and grown attached to it… The most populous and important region, Southern-Finland, ending up under working class control, made it possible for the reds to aim their attack towards the North, which the whites had chosen as their base area… But in order for the war effort to have been directed correctly, the red leadership would have needed to know the laws of revolutionary war. However, the revolutionary leadership of the red troops did not know them, and this was evident since the very beginning of the war effort.

Initially the reds quite correctly began advancing towards the North, but even so it wasn’t done with as much energy and determination as it could have. For example the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad ended under white control due to the slow start of the red advance. When after stopping at Vilppula, the reds didn’t immediately make serious attempts to breach North, the whites were able to fortify this section of the railway under their control. Poor understanding of the character of a revolutionary war was also demonstrated by the fact that immediate firm actions were not taken to raise the red guards of the North to battle, and after the red guards of the North had suffered defeat, there weren’t serious attempts to organize them into a partisan movement behind white lines.

In preparation for the victory of the Russian October revolution the Bolsheviks always had the clear and determined goal to secure the military victory over their opponent. After the path of armed struggle had been chosen, every party organization prepared for an armed rising… When societal forces are being driven to an armed conflict, all other issues depend on this conflict; all other action must be subordinated to serve the armed effort in such a situation. — In this sense it is justified to criticize the actions of the Finnish social-democratic party. The party was late in preparing for the struggle and thus when the situation arose, couldn’t provide the necessary leadership to the most important struggle, that of the workers’ and tenant-farmers’ red guard. Important administrative actions and fulfilling the goals of the revolution could only lead to results if victory had first been insured in the war effort.

The early portion of the war resulted in the whites capturing Northern-Finland and the reds Southern-Finland. A front emerged accross the country from West to East. From Merikarvia through Ikaalinen, Virrat, Ruovesi, Vilppula, Jämsä, Mäntyharju, Savitaipale and Vuoksenniska all the way to Lake Lagoda. The military initiative shifted to the red guard in late February. In early March a general offensive was being planned, the goal of which was to capture the Haapamäki—Pieksämäki railroad. Clear signs of fatigue began to show among white troops. The peasant troops who had been forcibly conscripted or recruited through lies or bribery, now began to understand the nature of their war against the Finnish workers and tenant-farmers. Furthermore the monarchist agitation of the white officers and bourgeois newspapers helped to expose the real goals of the whites. Most of all, Spring was approaching and peasants were getting restless about neglecting their farms.” (Hyvönen, pp.117-119)

At the beginning of the war, both sides were still recruiting more troops. The Whites began forced conscription in their territory, while the Reds organized volunteers. Both tried to quickly throw forces at the front. The Reds still lacked weapons, but were able to mobilize ten thousand armed troops very quickly. During the course of the war, the size of both armies increased to 80,000 each.

The war can be understood in three phases: The formation of the front, the Red General Offensive, and the White General Offensive.

During the first phase, both sides rushed forwards. The Reds tried to advance North as fast as possible, and the Whites tried to run towards the South. Both sides thus tried to get more territory. This was important for controlling strategic locations and resources. It was particularly important to control railways, which played a huge role in the war. There were no tanks, and practically no cars. Resources and reinforcements were transported on rails, and armored trains were used in battle. I will discuss individual battles or series of battles in detail in further videos, but here I will give a brief overview of the war as a whole.

The first battle of the war was waged in Lyly, a village North of the city of Tampere on February 2nd. The frontline can be separated into three parts: the Northern Front, which formed North of Tampere, the Eastern front North of Vyborg, and the center front basically between them. It was convenient for the Whites that while population centers like Oulu, Varkaus and others were all taken over by workers, they were inside the White territory and far away from the Red territory in the South. The Whites could then go from town to town, and eliminate the Reds there.

The Reds were a bit too slow to advance forward and thus gave Whites an unnecessary advantage. The Reds also lacked the necessary military skills and military discipline, to carry out a massive general offensive. As I described in the article about the structure of the Red Guard army, the units were too decentralized to coordinate massive attacks. They could hold their own against the Whites, and defend successfully even though the Whites had superior weaponry and professional officers. But the Reds had a difficult time trying to attack.

However, it was understood that remaining on the defensive mean the death of any revolution, so the Reds correctly understood the importance of taking the initiative and attacking. The second period of the war was the Red General Offensive which lasted from the end of February to the middle of March. Fierce battles were fought during this time, but the Reds did not succeed in destroying the Whites.

However, time was not on the side of the Whites. They didn’t control industrial centers and would eventually run out of resources. Also as spring approached, the soldiers conscripted by the Whites wanted to go work on their farms. This might have been necessary in any case, as the Whites would otherwise start running out of food. The Reds could fight a long war and be completely fine, but the Whites couldn’t. The Whites were thus in a hurry to launch their own general offensive, and it had to succeed, otherwise they were ruined.

The Whites only won the war, because of the following reason: they agreed that Germany should invade Finland in the South and attack the Reds in the rear. In exchange, the Whites would turn Finland into a German protectorate with a German king. Finland would sign a highly exploitative trade agreement with Germany, and Germany would dominate Finland politically and economically.

Because of the German invasion the Reds had to split their forces. There was chaotic fighting in the rear against the rapidly advancing Germans, while also trying to hold the front in the North. The Whites on the other hand were able to concentrate their troops on an attack in the North, against Tampere. This was the most important battle of the war, and had massive casualties on both sides, and caused massive destruction in the city. The victory in Tampere and the German invasion in the South gave the Whites the initiative, and they were able to keep their attack rolling from then on. This lasted through March to the beginning of May.

During the final phase of the battle Mannerheim gave his notorious declaration to the people of Tampere:

“To the citizens and troops of Tampere! Resistance is futile. Raise a white flag and surrender. Enough citizen’s blood has been shed. Unlike the reds we don’t kill our prisoners. Send your representatives with a white flag. MANNERHEIM”



This was a complete lie. After the battle in Tampere the Whites carried out a mass extermination and slaughtered prisoners of war and civilians. This became a trend, and they carried massacres and atrocities after most victories. This is why practically every town in Finland, even smaller ones, have mass graves, and monuments to victims of the Whites. They continued mass killings after the war in the White Terror.


Mannerheim’s lie “we dont kill prisoners unlike the reds” was even more gross, because not only did the whites arrange mass killings of prisoners and civillians all the time, but the reds on the other hand practically never did. The red government never ordered any mass executions. The small amount of white prisoners or capitalist civillians who were killed, were killed by reckless undisciplined elements who disobeyd orders. This happened against the orders of the reds. On the other hand, Mannerheim in his notorious “weapon in hand”-order, instructed to treat all red guard prisoners as traitors, and the punishment for treason is the death sentence. For this reason the White Terror killed more then 30,000 people while the so-called “red terror” killed only around 1000 people. And this remarkably low number includes violence by random criminals and thieves, which was falsely blamed on the reds. The number also includes executions which the reds carried out against criminals and murderers who had infiltrated inside the red guard. Red guard members who committed crimes or violence against civilians were punished, sometimes with death. But for the Whites slaughtering civilians was policy, and those who criticized it were attacked.

As the Whites and Germans advanced, the Reds began moving East to escape to Soviet Russia. There they founded the Communist Party, and made plans to continue the struggle against the White dictatorship.

WHY DID THE REDS LOSE THE WAR?

I will start with the least important reasons, and end with the most important.

The Reds were militarily inexperienced, but this is somewhat unavoidable as the workers and poor peasants necessarily have less officers and career soldiers in their ranks. The ruling classes always foster a reactionary military. This situation was made more difficult because Finland hadn’t had a military since 1901. This meant that only very few members of the population had military training: practically only those who had served in the Tsarist military. Obviously the vast majority of Tsarist officers were far-right reactionaries, such as Mannerheim. Some had gone to Germany as “jägers” to be trained by the German Imperial army, but majority of these were right-wingers and wealthier people too. The police also had some training with weapons, but obviously most police officers were also rightists. This meant that the Reds had an exceptionally serious lack of military training. The situation was more favorable for the Bolsheviks as the October Revolution took place during WWI. The workers and peasants had been conscripted by the Tsar, and had been fighting the war for years and thus were already quite battle hardened and capable soldiers. Still, this difficulty wouldn’t have been insurmountable.

The Reds also had a serious tendency towards indecisiveness, softness, a reformistic and legalistic attitude and style of work. This is because they came from a reformistic background and had been under the influence of the reformist and opportunist 2nd international. The Finnish Reds were not rotted to the core by this opportunism, and in fact they overcame it. However, it caused problems and challenges. I’ve discussed the Reds military difficulties and softness in detail in part 6.

As a consequence of their softness and reformistic attitude, the Reds focused a lot on carrying out the policies which they promised: land reform, job programs, democracy, social welfare etc. but this was premature. They should’ve focused 100% of their efforts towards winnig the war. The Red government represented the highest point of Finnish society, it was truly the most humane, most free, most progressive and enlightened government that this land has ever had. However, it was tragically destroyed because they lost the war. The people’s dream was drowned in blood by the White butchers and their German masters.

The Finnish revolution began in the most difficult circumstances. The Bolsheviks were able to carry out their revolution at an opportune time, and only had to fight the civil war later. The Finnish revolution began as a civil war. This meant that organizing the government, the economy and everything else had to be done during the chaos of war. An exceptionally difficult task. The Reds also had to learn how to fight, how to lead an army, how to build an army, as the war was already raging. The Reds had not learned revolutionary skills before hand, everything had to be learned in the fighting itself. However, they were up to the task. They were learning. The Red Guard became a quite strong and capable fighting force, and if the war had lasted longer, if the Reds had had more time, they would’ve become truly skilled revolutionaries and they would’ve won.

The Finnish Reds were not familiar with Leninism other then superficially. They couldn’t read Russian and did not have a Leninist vanguard party. Their party was of the old social-democrat type, althought it was a leftist social-democrat party, and not a counter-revolutionary one. While the Leninists were conscious revolutionaries, the Finnish Reds were still somewhat groping in the dark. They had a revolutionary heart, but lacked the necessary knowledge and experience.

It is universally acknowledged these days that the revolution should’ve been started during the December 1917 General Strike. The workers were able to take power easily, they surprised the capitalists and the capitalists were not able to respond. It was a devastating mistake to end the strike and return to “normal” life. It gave the capitalists the opportunity to build up their army, make a deal with Germany, and launch the civil war at a time that was suitable for the Whites but unfavorable for the Reds. This is biggest mistake the Finnish Reds made, while their biggest deficiency was their unfamiliarity with Leninism.

However, despite all these difficulties, mistakes and problems, the Reds were becoming more experienced, were moving closer to Leninism and would’ve been able to rectify all the mistakes if not for the German invasion. The Whites needed Germany, and they would not have been able to fight a protracted war. However, the German invasion would probably not have happened if the Reds had taken power in December 1917. The German invasion would also possibly not have happened, if Leon Trotsky had not sabotaged the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. Kuusinen wrote:

“I forgot to mention a third cause of the defeat of our revolution in 1918: this was the well known theatrical gesture made by Comrade Trotsky at the first Peace negotiations with the representatives of the German Government at Brest-Litovsk (January/Februarv). The peace conditions proposed at that time by the German government were much more favourable than those dictated later, both for Soviet Russia and for the Finnish workers’ government. Before Comrade Trotsky left for Brest-Litovsk for the last time (at the end of January), Comrade Lenin told him that he should sign the peace treaty at once…

Had peace come about between Germany and Russia at that time, then it is highly probable that the German government would have sent no troops to Finland. This conclusion of ours is based upon the memoirs of German generals, published after the war.

But on 10th February, Comrade Trotsky refused to accept the conditions of peace offered by the Germans. A valuable month passed before the peace treaty was accepted, and during this time Soviet Russia was obliged to abandon Reval and other cities at our (Finland’s) back to the Germans. And during the same time the German troops struck their blow at us.” (O. W. Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October””)



THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT LEADERSHIP IN THE REVOLUTION

Y. Sirola, O. W. Kuusinen & K. M. Evä


Around the time of the revolution, the social-democrat leadership began taking its first steps towards Bolshevization. Leaders such as Kuusinen and Sirola began studying the ideology of Leninism for the first time.

“Those leaders of the Finnish working class movement who later became founders of the Finnish communist party, began to gradually distance themselves from traditional parliamentary tactics and more and more adopt a firm revolutionary stance. This was aided by the experience of Soviet-Russia and becoming more closely familiar with Lenin’s ideas. At the end of 1917 Sirola began with the help of a Finnish-Russian dictionary, to read Lenin’s text “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?”[source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, p.225]“ (Holodkovski, p. 150)

“On 12. of January he published in “The Worker” his article titled “Will the situation develop to a revolution?” [Kehittyykö tilanne vallankumouseksi?], where he stressed especially those questions which were important for supporters of revolution: pointed out Marx’s words that ending up on the defensive, is the death of an uprising, thought it essential to follow Danton’s slogan “Courage, courage and once more courage”, and explained how important it was for the bolsheviks to win the support of the peasantry. [source: E. Salomaa, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti, pp.226-227]

A strong desire to look into Lenin’s works had also arisen in Kuusinen after he had met Lenin and discussed with him shortly before the October revolution. [Source: U. Vikström, Torpeedo, p. 50] For Kuusinen also, the problem was that he didn’t speak Russian. Kuusinen only began studying Lenin’s book “The State and Revolution”, which is of special importance in taking a correct Marxist stance on the bourgeois state and for understanding the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, during the final period of the Finnish revolutionary government, and therefore this theoretical study couldn’t influence the revolutionary government’s policy.” (Holodkovski, p. 150)

It became evident that a Leninist party of the Bolshevik type was essential for a successful revolution but the Finnish socialists were lagging in behind in this regard, still influenced by the reformist trend of Kautsky and the 2nd international. Both Kuusinen and Sirola would later write their own criticisms of the SDP’s reformism from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. The most well known is “The Finnish Revolution: A Self-Criticism” by Kuusinen.

SOURCES:

Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918

Mannerheim, Erinnerungen

Paasivirta, Suomi vuonna 1918

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa

S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918

Esa Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

“Красный архив”, 1940, vol. 2

H. Soikkanen, Kansalaissota dokumentteina

Kuusinen, “A Misleading Description of the “German October”

Salomaa*, Yrjö Sirola sosialistinen humanisti

Vikström, Torpeedo



*Salomaa was a communist who became a big revisionist eurocommunist especially since the 1960s. The history books he wrote are still mostly good and correct, and had to follow the party line more or less. However, after de-stalinization he used every opportunity to falsely attack Stalin in his books.

Khrushchev’s Dishonest Attack on the “Stalin Cult” (And the Role of Leaders in History)

Why did Khrushchev attack the “Cult of Personality”?

In 1956 the Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev launched his attack on Stalin, the so-called “De-stalinization” and attack against the “Cult of the Individual”:

“It is of paramount importance to re-establish and to strengthen in every way the Leninist principle of collective leadership… The Central Committee… vigorously condemns the cult of the individual as being alien to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism”.
(Khrushchev, Report to the Central Committee, 20th Congress of the CPSU).

“…the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person”.
(Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)

Khrushchev attacked the cult of personality in order:
-to hijack the already existing criticism of cult-like behavior.*
-to attack his rivals by labeling them “Stalinists”
-to rehabilitate Tito
-to justify changes to policy and revision of theory

*for instance, according to Hungarian anti-communist historian Balázs Apor, there was already significant criticism of the ‘cult of personality’ before Khrushchev’s rise to power, but this criticism was never targeted against Stalin. (Source: Apor, The Invisible Shining)

Khrushchev’s project was accepted to the degree that it was, because it was legitimate to criticize the personality cult, though Khrushchev himself did it for false reasons.

Stalin Opposed the Cult of Personality

Khrushchev claimed Stalin orchestrated the Cult of Personality. But in reality Stalin always opposed it:

“I must say in all conscience, comrades, that I do not deserve a good half of the flattering things that have been said here about me…”
(J. V. Stalin, Reply to the Greetings of the Workers of the Chief Railway Workshops in Tiflis)

“You speak of your devotion to me… I would advise you to discard the ‘principle’ of devotion to persons. It is not the Bolshevik way. Be devoted to the working class, its Party, its state. That is a fine and useful thing. But do not confuse it with devotion to persons, this vain and useless bauble of weak-minded intellectuals.”
(J. V. Stalin, Letter to Comrade Shatunovsky, August 1930)

“The times have passed when leaders were regarded as the only makers of history, while the workers and peasants were not taken into account. The destinies of nations and of states are now determined, not only by leaders, but primarily and mainly by the vast masses of the working people. The workers and the peasants, who without fuss and noise are building factories and mills, constructing mines and railways, building collective farms and state farms, creating all the values of life, feeding and clothing the whole worldt hey are the real heroes and the creators of the new life.” (J.V. Stalin, Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Congress of Collective Farm Shock Brigadiers)

“I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Stories of the Childhood of Stalin’. The book abounds with a mass of inexactitudes of fact, of alterations, of exaggerations and off unmerited praise… the important thing resides it the fact that the book has a tendency to engrave on the minds of Soviet children (and people in general) the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes. This is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory. I suggest we burn this book”.
(J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)

Stalin never accepted being equated with Lenin. He was only a continuer of Lenin’s work, a supporter of Lenin’s program:

“Robins: …throughout Russia I have found the names Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, linked together.
Stalin: That, too, is an exaggeration. How can I be compared to Lenin?”
(J. V. Stalin, Talk With Colonel Robins, May 13 1933)

”MOLOTOV (. . . stated that he is and will always he a faithful disciple of Stalin.)
STALIN (interrupting Molotov): This is nonsense. I have no students at all. We are all students of the great Lenin.”
(Unpublished Speech by Stalin at the Plenum of the Central Committee, CPSU October 16, 1952)

Who really promoted the personality Cult?

Radek

The Cult of Personality was dishonestly fostered by Stalin’s enemies, by traitors who used it to promote their own careers or used it to hide their anti-Leninist positions. A good example of this was the Trotskyist Radek:

“The first issue of ‘Pravda;’ for 1934 carried a huge two-page article by Radek, heaping orgiastic praise on Stalin. The former Trotskyite, who had led the opposition to Stalin for many years, now called him ‘Lenin’s best pupil, the model of the Leninist Party, bone of its bone, blood of its blood’… He ‘is as far-sighted as Lenin’, and so on and on. This seems to have been the first large article in the press specifically devoted to the adulation of Stalin” (R. Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 148).

Mikoyan

On the occasion of the celebration of Stalin’s fiftieth birthday in December 1929, Anastas Mikoyan accompanied his congratulations with the demand “that we, meeting the rightful demand of the masses, begin finally to work on his biography and make it available to the Party and to all working people in our country”. (‘Izvestia’, 21 December 1929, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,;164).

Ten years later, on the occasion of Stalin’s sixtieth birthday in December 1939, Mikoyan was still urging the creation of a “scientific biography” (‘Pravda’, 21 December 1939, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,.; p. 158) of Stalin.

An official biography was finally published in 1948. Khrushchev’s crony Mikoyan had been calling for such a biography for 20 years. But what did Khrushchev say in his ‘secret speech’? Khrushchev claimed that the book was created on Stalin’s instructions:

“One of the most chararacteristic examples of Stalin’s self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his ‘Short Biography’. This book is an example of the most dissolute flattery”. (Khrushchev, “The Secret Speech” in The Crimes Of The Stalin Era, Special Report To The 20th Congress Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union, p. 554)

Grover Furr citing L.V. Maksimenkov points out that Stalin’s only involvement in the writing of his 1948 biography, was that Stalin diminished his own role. (Khrushchev Lied, pp. 117-121)

Ezhov

The right-wing opportunist and anti-Stalin traitor Ezhov was also a major builder of the “cult” around Stalin. Ezhov even demanded that the name of Moscow be changed to “Stalinodar” or “Gift of Stalin”. However, Stalin succeeded in preventing this from taking place:

“Ezhov commanded his subjects to create a project of renaming Moscow to Stalinodar (translated as “Stalin’s gift”)… But Ezhov didn’t take into account that Stalin hated plain flattery. He dismissed the suggestion as “foolish.”… There are accounts that Moscow was subject to another renaming campaign after WWII, (but Stalin refused the suggestion again)”
https://www.rbth.com/history/332610-why-bolsheviks-never-renamed-moscow

According to Sarah Davies in The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships: Stalin and the Eastern Bloc “On 20 May 1936, Stalin raised an item ‘On renaming towns etc.’ as a result of which the Politburo agreed to ban from 1 June 1936 the renaming of towns, small towns, district centres and railway stations.” (p. 41)

Khrushchev

However, the biggest architect of the “cult” was Khrushchev himself:

“It was Khrushchev who introduced the term ‘vozhd’ (‘leader’, corresponding to the German word ‘Fuhrer’).”
(Bland, THE ‘CULT OF THE INDIVIDUAL’ (1934-52))

At the Moscow Party Conference in January 1932, Khrushchev finished his speech by saying:

“The Moscow Bolsheviks, rallied around the Leninist Central Committee as never before, and around the ‘vozhd’ of our Party, Comrade Stalin, are cheerfully and confidently marching toward new victories in the battles for socialism, for world proletarian revolution”. (‘Rabochaya Moskva’, 26 January 1932, cited in: L. Pistrak: ‘The Grand Tactician: Khrushchev’s Rise to Power’; London; 1961; p. 159).

At the 17th Party Conference in January 1934 it was Khrushchev, and Khrushchev alone, who called Stalin “vozhd of genius”. (XVII s’ezd Vsesoiuznoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (B.); p, 145, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 160).

In August 1936, during the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial, Khrushchev, in his capacity as Moscow Party Secretary, said:

“Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all men. . . . our wise ‘vozhd’, Comrade Stalin! Thou, Comrade Stalin, hast raised the great banner of Marxism-Leninism high over the entire world and carried it forward. We assure thee, Comrade Stalin, that the Moscow Bolshevik organisation — the faithful supporter of the Stalinist Central Committee — will increase Stalinist vigilance still more, will extirpate the Trotskyite-Zinovievite remnants, and close the ranks of the Party and non-Party Bolsheviks even more around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin”. (‘Pravda’, 23 August 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid,; p. 162).

At the Eighth All-Union Congress of Soviets in November 1936 it was again Khrushchev who proposed that the new Soviet Constitution, which was before the Congress for approval, should be called the ‘Stalinist Constitution’ because “it was written from beginning to end by Comrade Stalin himself”. (‘Pravda’, 30 November 1936, cited in: L. Pistrak: ibid.; p. 161).

“It has to be noted that Vyacheslav Molotov and Andrey Zhdanov did not mention any special role by Stalin in the drafting of the Constitution.” (Bland)

Why did the opportunists promote the Cult?

They did it to hide their own revisionism, to promote their own careers by trying to attach themselves to Stalin. Radek and Ezhov were conspiring against Stalin but they could never have defeated him openly. Radek and Ezhov pretended to be good loyal communists, when in fact they were not.

One might ask, “isn’t it counter-productive to foster this kind of hero-worship of Stalin, if one’s goal is to overthrow him?”. One might think it is counter-productive, yet that’s exactly what Khrushchev did successfully. Khrushchev promoted the cult more then anyone else, and used it to promote himself. But in the end he blamed the cult entirely on Stalin (who never even supported it) and Khrushchev then presented himself as some kind of great ‘democrat’ who fought against the cult!

Stalin knew that the cult was at least partially supported by traitors and opportunists, and he fought against it. He always gave credit to others, to the masses, to the party, and reminded people that the “great-man” theory of history is idealist.

The German writer Lion Feuchtwanger wrote:

“It is manifestly irksome to Stalin to be worshipped as he is, and from time to time he makes fun of it… Of all the men I know who have power, Stalin is the most unpretentious. I spoke frankly to him about the vulgar and excessive cult made of him, and he replied with equal candour… He thinks it is possible even that ‘wreckers’ may be behind it in an attempt to discredit him”.
(L. Feuchtwanger, Moscow 1937, pp. 93, 94-95)

The Finnish revisionist Arvo Tuominen wrote about a certain incident at a new years’ party in 1935. At this party Stalin parodied those who tried to suck up to him. He said:

“Comrades! I want to propose a toast to our patriarch, life and sun, liberator of nations, architect of socialism (he rattled off all the appelations applied to him in those days), Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this evening”.
(A. Tuominen, Bells of the Kremlin, p. 162).

Definition of “Cult of Personality”

In his attack against the “cult of Stalin” Khrushchev doesn’t treat the issue scientifically or in a marxist way at all. He never properly defines what the “Cult of Personality” even is. Khrushchev was not a theoretician, and did not understand what the role of individuals in history is. For Khrushchev, the “cult” was something vague like people singing songs about Stalin, naming cities after him, carrying pictures of him, and generally voicing their admiration and support for Stalin.

However, there is nothing inherently “cultish” or bad in admiring someone who legitimately has achieved something great. It only becomes a “cult” when the person in question is treated as an infallible god, and when people don’t simply respect his wise opinion, but uncritically accept everything without even thinking with their own brains.

Khrushchev never gave an exact explanation like this. Once again, Stalin had the correct position:

“Decisions of individuals are, always, or nearly always, one-sided decisions… In every collective body, there are people whose opinion must be reckoned with… From the experience of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual persons without being tested and corrected collectively, approximately 90 are one-sided…”
(J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)

A cult of personality promotes the idealist “great-man” theory of history. Stalin correctly said:

“the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes… is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory.”
(J. V. Stalin, Letter on Publications for Children Directed to the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Youth)

The “great-man” theory is a remnant of bourgeois society and bourgeois ideology. To avoid this mistake, many Marxists today totally underestimate and disregard the importance of individuals and leaders. However, individuals and leaders do matter. It is not an irrelevant issue whether Stalin or Trotsky becomes the party leader, it is actually a very important issue.

“Marxism does not deny at all the role played by outstanding individuals or that history is made by people. But great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will find themselves in the situation of Don Quixote… With us personages of the greatest authority are reduced to nonentities, become mere ciphers, as soon as the masses of the workers lose confidence in them”.
(J. V. Stalin, An Interview with the German Author Emil Ludwig)

To become a revolutionary leader, a person must win the support of the masses and correctly understand objective conditions.

Individuals always represent classes and tendencies. Stalin represented the proletarian political line, and thus relied on marxist theory and the support of the workers. Khrushchev represented a bourgeois line, the line which he pursued ended up restoring capitalism. Building socialism – a new superior type of system – requires a scientific theory and class consciousness. It is not easy to overthrow capitalism and the centuries of habits from class society. However, Marxist-Leninist theory provides the necessary answers for this work. In hindsight we can clearly see the erroneous policies and wrong positions introduced by the Khrushchevites, and avoid them in the future.


Soviet Science in the Lenin-Stalin era (work in progress)

THIS PAGE IS STILL VERY INCOMPLETE.

IT WILL BE UPDATED, RE-STRUCTURED AND IMPROVED OVER TIME.

K. A. TIMIRYAZEV (1843-1920) (Botanist, Physiologist, Darwinist)

Timiriazev brought Darwinism to Russia and was a true communist and a true scientist. He was among the first ones to oppose social-darwinism and the reactionary malthusian aspects of vulgar darwinism.
The Life Of The Plant by K. A. Timiryazev

The Baltic Deputy (1936) A very good movie inspired by the life of Timiryazev.

MICHURINIST BIOLOGY, MODERN CREATIVE DARWINISM
(often called ‘Lysenkoism’)

Before the October Revolution Ivan Michurin lived in economic difficulties which hindered his scientific research. He still created countless new plant varieties and American corporations tried to hire him. However, he did not want to leave his homeland. After the revolution his scientific work began on a bigger scale. He developed a truly materialist concept of heredity and had a deep and creative understanding of Darwin’s discoveries. Afterwards he was attacked by the capitalists, aristocratic scientists and out-of-touch dogmatists.

Michurin (1948) A nice Soviet film about the life and career of I. V. Michurin. Click the CC button for subtitles.

I. V. MICHURIN (botanist, plant-breeder)

Trofim Lysenko developed many scientific theories and concepts which became highly useful. His early research on vernalization and the theory of phasic development were recognized by the scientific community. Lysenko developed and applied the discoveries of Michurin. He opposed all idealism, dogmatism and separation of theory from practice. For Lysenko, practice was always the criterion of truth.

Lysenko came into conflict with snob-scientists who did not want to focus on real life problems. Lysenko came into conflict with the supporters of mendelian genetics (so-called ‘orthodox genetics’ invented by the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel). For this reason Lysenko is attacked today. His critics claim that “Lysenko did not believe in genes”. However, this is a falsehood. Lysenko disagreed with the mendelists’ idealist definition of genes. For the mendelists, heredity (genes) were totally separate and isolated from the organism, they could not be influenced or altered by changes to the organism or to its living conditions. The genes were conceptualized as indestructible – even immortal – by mendelists such as August Weismann. Lysenko could not agree with these idealist, metaphysical and mystical notions.

For Lysenko, heredity was a more complicated interaction between the chromosomes and the DNA, the entire organism, and its environment. The heredity of an organism cannot be reduced to isolated genes, and these genes cannot be seen as unchanging. Lysenko produced significant discoveries. He helped reduce effects of plant-disease, contributed significantly to preventing famine during WWII, demonstrated the harmful effects of inbreeding in agriculture, combated social-darwinism and other distortions of darwinism.

Lysenko disagreed with the idea that animals evolve purely individualistically. He said that mutual aid of animals of the same species living in the same group or herd, is just as important (if not more important) then competition. Lysenko’s view was shared by the great Darwinist Timiriazev, but it is considered heretical by western “neo-darwinists”.

Lysenko also disagreed with the notion invented by western mendelist Thomas Morgan, that evolution and heredity are completely random. Lysenko said there must be reasons and laws governing evolution, mainly environmental factors, and heredity must also be influenced by the environment. Lysenko said that if heredity was completely random, we could never breed any plants or animals. His opinion was shared by Michurin who famously said: “We cannot simply wait for favors from nature, we have to wrest them from her”. Michurin meant that agriculturists must use scientific methods to breed new plants, instead of merely waiting for results from the supposedly random processes. For all these reasons Lysenko was attacked by his opponents.

Lysenko strongly opposed using western inbred corn, because it was unsuitable to Soviet conditions, unsustainable and risky. He was proven correct when Khrushchev’s attempt to use western inbred corn in the USSR failed completely. Western farming methods have been shown to be risky, prone to pests without constant use of massive amounts of poisons, and ecologically unsustainable.

Later I will write a full article about Lysenko (with sources) and debunk many of the myths about him.

T. D. LYSENKO (agrobiologist)

Land In Bloom by V. Safonov (pdf) (archive) (An excellent and entertaining history of biological sciences from before Darwin to Soviet Science. Recommended reading)

“LYSENKO, VIEWS OF NATURE AND SOCIETY –
REDUCTIONIST BIOLOGY AS A KHRUSCHEVITE REVISIONIST WEAPON”
(book by Alliance ML. This book has a lot of good information and debunks many lies about Lysenko. It is one of the better books available on the topic. However, the book also makes many mistakes, relies on bad, unreliable capitalist sources, and in particular gets the section on Lepishinskaya entirely wrong – and only due to relying on bad sources!)

I.V. Michurin – the great transformer of nature by A. N. Bakharev (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

The philosophical significance of the theoretical legacy of I.V. Michurin by A. A. Rubashevsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Fly-lovers and human-haters by Prof. A. N. Studitski (Russian) (English)

Works of Lysenko:
Agrobiology: essays on problems of genetics, plant breeding and seed growing
Soviet Biology: Report to the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1948)
New Developments in the Science of Biological Species (1951)

Works of Michurin:
The results of sixty years of work (1949) (text) (archive) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Principles and methods of work (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Breeding new cultivated varieties of fruit trees and shrubs from seeds (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Selected Works of Michurin (English) (Russian)

Works of Luther Burbank: (An American plant-breeder, who was widely respected in the USSR)
Luther Burbank (biography) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Luther Burbank. Wilbur Hall. Harvest of life (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Selected Works of L. Burbank (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Others:
Academician N. F. Kashchenko is an outstanding Michurinist biologist (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Memories of N.F. Kashchenko (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
M. V. Ritov. Selected works (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
The Green laboratory by B. Dizhur (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

OLGA LEPESHINSKAYA (microbiologist)

O. Lepeshinskaya was a michurinist biologist who studied the development of cells. She demonstrated how cells developed during their lives, and how living matter organized itself.

There is an article on Lepeshinskaya in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

A. N. STUDITSKY (medical biologist)

Studitsky particularly studied regeneration and wound-healing. He applied michurinist teachings to his work and demonstrated their validity in practice: he successfully regenerated muscles from minced tissues, and managed to re-grow completely healthy avian bones from small fragments.

Studitsky’s achievements are impressive but they’ve been acknowledged even by modern-day capitalist researchers, for example:

Relationship Between the Tissue and Epimorphic Regeneration of Muscles, Carlson
The Regeneration of Skeletal Muscle – A Review, Carlson
Types of Morphogenetic Phenomena in Vertebrate Regenerating Systems, Carlson

ALEXANDER OPARIN (biochemist)

A. Oparin was a biochemist who studied the origins of life from non-living matter.

There is an article on Oparin in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

ISAAK PREZENT (biologist, philosopher)

Prezent was one of the most important michurinist philosophers of science.

И. В. Мичурин и его учение, Презент, Исаак Израилевич [I. V. Michurin and his doctrine, Isaak Prezent]

IVAN GLUSHCHENKO (biologist)

Doctor of Agriculture Science; Professor; Director, Laboratory of Plant Genetics, Institute of Genetics, USSR Academy of Science, since 1939; member, All Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1956. Order of Red Banner of Labor; two Stalin Prizes, 1943, 1950. Member of the Communist Party since 1938.

NIKOLAI IVANOVICH NUZHDIN (biologist)

Graduated from the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute in 1929, employee of the Institute of Genetics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR since 1935. Received the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1945). In 1949-1952 he headed the Department of Zoology at the K. A. Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in Moscow.

MARK BORISOVICH MITIN (philosopher, philosopher of science)

Mitin was a michurinist philosopher. He studied philosophy at the Institute of Red Professors in 1925-1929, became a member of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1919. From 1944 to 1950 he served on the editorial board of the journal Bolshevik. In 1939 he was elected to the Central Committee and as the director of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CPSU Central Committee.

Mitin spearheaded the campaign against Deborin’s idealism in the 1930s.

DONAT ALEKSANDROVICH DOLGUSHIN (biologist)

Agrobiologist and selectionist. Doctor of Agriculture Science since 1936; full member, All-Union Lenin Academy, of Agriculture Science, since 1948. Stalin Prize, 1941; Order of Red Banner of Labor.

VSEVOLOD NIKOLAEVICH STOLETOV (biologist)

NIKOLAY VASILYEVICH TURBIN (biologist)

OTHERS:

The political economy of hybrid corn (a critique of hybrid corn) by Jean-Pierre Berlan & R.C. Lewontin. The authors follow mendelism, but this is a good article.
The commoditization of science (a critique of profit-motive in science) by Richard Levins & Richard Lewontin. The authors follow mendelism, but this is a good article. [Audio version]
Stalin’s Environmentalism by Stephen Brain. This is a bourgeois article but it demonstrates the environmental protection (of forests in particular) in the Stalin era.

GEOLOGY AND PHYSICS

VASILY DOKUCHAEV (soil scientist)

V. Dokuchaev lived before the Soviet Union, however his work was continued by Soviet scientists. The weakening quality of soil in the Russian Empire and resulting famines inspired Dokuchaev to create modern Soil Science. He had to struggle against the Tsarist authorities. His work was continued and further developed by Soviet scientists, particularly Vasily R. Williams.

Tchernozéme (terre noire) de la Russie d’Europe (Dokuchaev’s famous work Russian Chernozem in French)
Short scientific review of Proffessor Dokuchaev’s and his pupil’s collection of soils, exposed in Chicago, in the year 1893

VASILY R. WILLIAMS (soil scientist)

P. A. TUTKOVSKY (Geologist)

Pavel Apollonovich Tutkovsky (biography) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Autobiography of P. A. Tutkovsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Bibliography of P. A. Tutkovsky (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Works of P. A. Tutkovsky:
Fossil deserts of the northern hemisphere (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geological research along the Kiev-Kovel railway under construction (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Volyn excursion guide (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geographical reasons for the invasions of the barbarians (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Natural distribution of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Amber in the Volyn province (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Who didn’t like the landscapes of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Coast of the Lva River (Geographical and geological description) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
The oldest mining industry in Volyn (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Glossary of geological terminology (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Landscapes of Ukraine (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Caucasian beauty Azalea (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Geological outline of Vladimir-Volynsky, Kovelsky and Ovruchsky districts of Volyn province (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)
Southwestern edge. Popular natural history and geographical essays (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

PHYSICS

A. I. Kitaigorodsky (physicist)
Grigory Aleksandrovich Gamburtsev (geophysicist, seismologist)

CHEMISTRY

VLADIMIR VERNADSKY (mineralogist, geochemist)

V. Vernadsky, one of the founders of geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and radiogeology. He invented the concept of the ecological biosphere (though he wasn’t the first to coin the word itself). He is most noted for his 1926 book The Biosphere and was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1943.

There is an article on Vernadsky in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

Other important Soviet chemists include Alexander Nesmeyanov (chemist), Nikolay Dimitrievich Zelinsky (chemist), Alexander Vinogradov (geochemist)

ASTRONOMY

Soviet astronomy defended the theory of cosmic evolution, that planets, stars and galaxies were not supernaturally created in their current form but evolved from other forms and such evolution is still going on. Soviet astronomy defended the position that life is not unique to planet Earth but instead any planet with suitable conditions can produce life, and the Earth is not the only such planet. Important Soviet astronomers include:

Victor Ambartsumyan (astrophysicist)
Vasiliy Grigorievich Fesenkov (astrophysicist)
Georgi Shain (astronomer)
Boris Kukarkin (astronomer)
Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov (astrobiologist, “the father of astrobotany”)
Norair Sisakyan (biochemist, one of the founders of astrobiology)
Otto Schmidt (astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician)

PHYSIOLOGY

IVAN PAVLOV (physiologist, psychologist)

I. Pavlov was one of the founders of modern psychology, focusing particularly on classical conditioning. His study of physiology was also further developed for disease prevention and other medical purposes by Soviet scientists, for example Alexander Speransky (pathologist), Nikolay Nikolayevich Anichkov (pathologist) and Anatoliy Ivanov-Smolensky (Psychiatrist, pathophysiologist).

Academician Ivan Pavlov (1949) A nice Soviet film about Pavlov’s life and work.

Biography of Ivan Pavlov
Selected works of Pavlov
Pavlov, Lectures on conditioned reflexes
Pavlov, Psychopathology and Psychiatry
Pavlov And His School on The Theory Of Conditioned Reflexes

There is an article on Pavlov in In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

OTHERS:

In The World Of Soviet Science by Oleg Pisarzhevsky

Istoriia Akademii nauk SSSR [History of the USSR Academy of Sciences] (in Russian)

История черной металлургии в СССР [History of ferrous metallurgy in the USSR] Volume 1, by S. G. Strumilin (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

«Наука и жизнь» . [“Science and life”] no. 5 (1953) (in Russian, but auto-translate works pretty well)

Contents:

Kachalov – Basic economic law of socialism

The successes of Soviet science:

V. Venikov – Simulation of electrical systems.
V. Dogel – In the world of protozoa.
V. Orekhovich – Conversion of proteins into organisms
L. Masevich – The origin of Stars…
M. Nikolskaya – Insects against insects.
N. I. Nikitin – Lumber Chemistry.
A. Fedorov – In the new China by the paths of Michurin.
L. Solsviev – Increasing the fat content of milk.

Development of I.P. Pavlov’s ideas:

P. Frolov – Hygiene of mental labor…

Science and production:

V. A. Kolesov – 10 norms per shift!

Science and technology news:

S. Samoilov – Gas generator diesel locomotive
V. Zheleznov – Ftivazid
P. Kholopov – Catalog of Professor Kharadze
I. V. Yakushkin, M. Edelstein – Pre-harvest beet feeding

Our homeland:

G. Ushakov – On untouched land

Criticism and bibliography:

N. Shcherbinovsky – Creators of soil science

Art in socialist Hungary

This article contains some basic information about Socialist Realism and politically progressive art in Hungary. I will try to update this as I research more.

MUSIC

The most famous pre-revolutionary music composer was Franz Liszt (1811-1886) who represents perhaps the peak of bourgeois-revolutionary music in Hungary. Liszt was a romantic composer who contributed significantly to the development of music through his masterful piano playing, through his compositions and by helping other composers. He contributed significantly to music criticism through his articles and books (most famous being his book about the life and work of Chopin). Liszt was sympathetic to revolutionary ideas, was deeply concerned about the life of the ordinary working people, and supported the democratic and national liberation movements. He tried to create a Hungarian national style in classical music. As his inspiration in this venture he used the verbunkos, a style of dance music used in military recruitments in Hungary.

An important composer of the early 20th century was Béla Bartók (1881-1945), whose work (such as his symphonic poem “Kossuth” about the 1848 revolution) was progressive and supported national liberation. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919) Bartók was a member of the Musical Directorate. After the revolution was crushed he toured abroad and considered emigration. “Everything is being ruined here”, he wrote in an autobiographical work. He finally emigrated after Hungary joined WWII on the side of the Nazis.

Right from the beginning Bartók had been inspired by Liszt to create a Hungarian national music and his “Kossuth” is in this style. However, after serious research into Hungarian folk music he realized that although the verbunkos are genuinely Hungarian, they are not really folk music. After conducting serious research among the masses he began using and popularizing folk musical motifs collected from the peasants of Hungary and neighboring countries.

However, due to periods of marginalization and isolation from the people (which he deeply regretted), and foreign emigration, part of Bartók’s work suffered from negative bourgeois influences. He lived during the period when capitalism entered its imperialist stage, and the bourgeois system suffered a serious decline in quality of art which has continued ever since. Bartók’s early goal had been to unite the folk music of the masses with elements from contemporary academic music. He abandoned this project as impossible, and was disturbed by the deepening crisis of bourgeois music.

Bartók’s idea of uniting mass music with classical music had been absolutely correct. However, he didn’t realize that what the contemporary academia considered ‘classical music’ was really decadent capitalist music, which was decaying more and more, and abandoning all principles of art, and all principles of classical music. He understood this only instinctively.

Bartók was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century with great artistic achievements. Though Bartók was not a communist he was an ardent anti-fascist and often worked with communists, for example with the writer Béla Balázs. Bartók was a patriot who defended Hungarian independence, and an internationalist. A telling example of Bartók’s internationalism is that he collected thousands of folk songs originally in Hungary, but eventually expanded his research to Slovak, Romanian, Ukrainian, Turkish and other folk songs, even using them in his compositions. A deep and critical Marxist analysis of Bartók’s work was written by Chao Feng (Bartók and Chinese Music Culture).

According to Finnish marxist music critic Ilpo Saunio among the first to discover the importance of Bartók was communist composer Béla Reinitz. According to Saunio Reinitz himself was “one of the most important proletarian composers of the early 20s” (Saunio, Sisko, veli, kuulet kummat soitot, p. 101). In 1919 Reinitz worked together with Bartók and was the kommissar for music and theatre affairs in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. He was forced to escape Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Republic. In emigration he composed various works, including communist songs (such as the hilarious satire “Der Revoluzzer” and the anti-war “Der müde Soldat”). After returning to Hungary he composed works based on the great revolutionary poets Sándor Petőfi, Endre Ady and Attila József.

Influential Socialist Realist composers include Endre Székely and Ferenc Szabó. Especially Szabó’s work was of excellent quality, but he lost influence after de-stalinization and the rise of revisionism.

In the realm of popular music and musical entertainment Folk Ensembles were created, such as the Honvéd military Ensemble, the Radio Folk Ensemble, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and Rajkó Ensemble, Gypsy Orchestra of the League of Young Communists.

LITERATURE

Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) was a legendary patriotic poet and revolutionary. He was a key leader in the 1848 revolution and is the National Poet of Hungary.

The most important pre-revolutionary Hungarian poet of the 20th century was Endre Ady (1877-1919) who wrote democratic, patriotic and anti-imperialist poetry.

Another significant poet was Attila József (1905-1937). He joined the Communist Party in 1930 and was persecuted by the fascist government. The life of the great proletarian poet ended tragically, as he had long suffered with mental illness (probably Schizophrenia) and committed suicide in 1937. Particularly in the early 30s József developed Socialist Realism. Some of his later poems show signs of his suicidal mood and mental degradation, dealing with topics of madness and premonitions of his own death.

It must be noted that Attila József committed some political mistakes (idealistic tendencies), which were caused or made worse by his mental suffering. Despite this he was always held in very high regard by the Hungarian Communist government. Attila József was awarded a posthumous Kossuth Prize in 1948. In 1950 the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic created the Attila József Prize which was awarded to Hungarian writers of excellent quality.

Zsigmond Móricz (1879-1942) was Hungary’s greatest fiction author of the 20th century. He was a narodnik who wrote Critical Realism. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he worked for several communist newspapers and in the Writers’ Directorate. As a result he was persecuted and blacklisted in Horthy’s Hungary. Móricz’s most famous work is Be faithful unto death, which has been translated into English.

An advanced Socialist Realist type of literature was already emerging. Perhaps the best representative of this new art is Béla Illés (1895-1974). Other socialist realist authors include Antal Hidas, Andor Gábor, Sándor Gergely, László Benjámin, Ferenc Juhász, Péter Kuczka, Sándor Rideg and others. The 1948-54 period represented the peak of Socialist Art in Hungary. The rise of revisionism negatively affected the work of authors, either forcing them out of politics or causing them ideological confusion.

PAINTING AND VISUAL ART

Realism and Critical Realism

The foremost painter of pre-revolutionary Hungary was the Realist Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900). He painted many masterpieces, most famously the gritty “The Last Day of a Condemned Man”. Near the end of his career he turned towards more political themes and painted “Strike”, a picture of striking workers.

László Mednyánszky (1852-1919) was from a noble background and influenced by impressionism. However, he became disgusted with the aristocracy and began painting Critical Realist works depicting the suffering of ordinary people. During WWI he painted the misery of prisoners of war.

János Nagy Balogh (1874-1919) came from a proletarian background and painted pictures of workers.

Adolf Fényes (1867-1945) painted many Critical Realist works, most famously “The Life of the Poor Man” series. In the Hungarian Soviet Republic he belonged to the “Artistic Executive Committee”. Because of his jewish origin he was forced into the Budapest Ghetto by the Arrow Cross Fascists which seriously undermined his health. He died from illness in 1945.

Nagybánya school

In pre-revolutionary Hungary the Nagybánya artist colony (founded in 1896) included many leading painters of the time. Its style began with naturalism (which depicts reality metaphysically, as static and with an over-emphasis on unimportant details) and later developed under the influence of impressionism (which sometimes meant progress but soon lapsed into subjectivism especially with the neo-impressionists or “Neos” of Nagybánya) and more abstract styles. The Nagybánya school included elements of the stagnation of bourgeois art, but also trained future artists. By the 20s the school had stagnated and lost relevance. In 1920 the territory was annexed by Romania and the school was closed by Romanian Fascists in 1937.

The French cubist, Italian futurist, German expressionist and other foreign trends were influential in Hungarian bourgeois art for a short period in the 1900s but never took root with the people. They merely represented the crisis of bourgeois art internationally and in Hungary. This is also shown by the fact that although many artists dabbled in these styles they also quickly abandoned them as the styles ended in stagnation and crisis.

“The Eight” (approximately 1909-1918)

The “Eight” group also had contradictory tendencies. Their project represented an attempt to solve the problems of contemporary bourgeois art. The attempt ran into a blind alley, but their work had a progressive influence on the next generation of artists. It was the necessary transitionary step for some artists of bourgeois origin. The “Eight” did not have a unified style, but were influenced by a variety of foreign bourgeois trends. Their ideology was petit-bourgeois radicalism and idealist utopianism. Many of their members are not worth mentioning here as they did not contribute to progressive or socialist art.

A significant early member of the group was Károly Kernstok (1873-1940). Inspired by the Critical Realism of those times, one of his earliest paintings is a realistic picture of a socialist agitator. He also created paintings of workers and peasants (such as “The Plum Pickers”) but these were already impressionistic. Afterwards he veered further and further away from reality. This is when “the Eight” group was created. Kernstok supported the Hungarian Soviet Republic and had to flee Hungary to escape the White Terror.

Bertalan Pór studied at Nagybánya, later joining the Eight. In the course of his career he was able to overcome the bourgeois influences of his early period. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic he was the head of the painting department of the Art Directorate and designed some of the most iconic posters for the revolution. After the revolution he lived in emigration in the Soviet Union. After his return to Hungary in 1948 he changed his style completely, and began producing works of Socialist Realism.

“The Activists” (approximately 1914-1925)

The artists gathered around the magazines “Tett” (“action”) and “MA” (“today” but also short for “Magyar Aktivizmus”) are known as “the activists” . Their style was similar to the Eight and they shared a similar petit-bourgeois outlook.

A member of the activists worth mentioning, Béla Uitz, became a marxist and joined the Hungarian Communist Party. Like many other members of the group he was initially attracted to the ultra-left Proletkult art movement in the USSR. Together with his comrades he split from the activists and created a communist art magazine Egység (1922-24). During the revolution of 1919 he had created posters for the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Most activists had to escape from Hungary after the revolution was crushed by the Horthyists, many emigrated to the USSR. In the USSR Béla Uitz began developing a realistic style focusing on frescoes. He painted frescoes for the Kirghiz Soviet Republic.

Other forerunners

Istvan Desi Huber was influenced by post-impressionism but worked in the Labor Movement and tried to develop a socialist style of art. He died in 1944 during the Nazi occupation.

Gyula Derkovits originally followed the post-Nagybánya style but the content of his work made him a forerunner of the Hungarian Socialist Realists. He was a proletarian, and created pictures of proletarians. He joined the Communist Party in 1918. After the mid 1920s he began to discard the formalistic bourgeois influences of his past more and more. In the late twenties he created the “1514” engravings about the Dózsa peasant revolt and in the 30s his true masterpieces “Generations”, “Along the Railway”, “Weaver” and others. Unfortunately his poverty had undermined his health which led to his early death in 1934.

“The Group of Socialist Artists” (1934)

In 1934 the Socialist Artists’ Group was founded. This group did not have a unified method or style, but tried to create a socialist type of art. Painters and visual artists in the group included:
Endre A. Fenyő (painter who later became famous for Socialist Realism)
Béla Ban (painter who made some Socialist Realist works but was mainly a surrealist)
Béla Fekete Nagy (painter who made some realistic works but was mainly influenced by bourgeois styles)
Andor Sugár (painter who was influenced by Impressionism but made beautiful Socialist Realist works. He died in a German concentration camp)
Károly László Háy (Socialist Realist graphic artist and set-designer)
Ernő Berda (anti-fascist and progressive graphic artist)

Socialist Realist visual artists in the Hungarian People’s Republic besides the above mentioned, include the likes of painter Iván Szilárd the famous Sándor Ék and poster artists István Czeglédi, Tibor Bánhegyi and György Konecsni.

Other established painters also took up the new style. For example, still-life painter Anni Gáspár Felekiné received a second degree Munkácsy Award for socialist realist paintings in 1946 and Jenő Benedek and Bernáth Aurél were awarded the Kossuth Prize for their works.

SCULPTURE

In pre-revolutionary Hungary sculptor Ö. Fülöp Beck followed the bourgeois Art Nouveau trend but produced some realistic works, mainly his bust of Zsigmond Móricz.

Leftist sculptor György Goldmann was the leader of the Socialist Artists’ Group. He died tragically in a Nazi concentration camp.

The important Socialist Realist sculptor László Mészáros also belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl was perhaps the most talented Socialist Realist sculptor in Hungary. Sándor Mikus and Pál Pátzay also produced extremely skillful works.

CERAMICS

Hungary became famous for its ceramics. The three most important artists in this field were István Gádor, Géza Gorka and Margit Kovács. They helped develop modern ceramics into an art form. Especially Gádor and Gorka were originally influenced by bourgeois styles, but became more and more interested in folk-art, the art of the people. In 1934 Gádor joined the Socialist Artists’ Group and tried to create a united anti-fascist front of artists. The realistic and folk-inspired tendency of these artists only increased over time, but they still worked under considerable economic difficulties. Only when Hungary became a People’s Democracy their art was given full freedom to blossom.

CINEMA

Film reached a high level in Hungary only during the Socialist government. Before that, there barely was a film industry in the country at all. Cinema going doubled from previous figures during the first Five-Year Plan (1950-54) and many collective farms built their own cinemas. Movies were originally produced in beautiful vibrant color but unfortunately the original film prints were later damaged and color degraded over time. They could be restored to their original beauty but naturally the capitalists don’t want to do that.

Socialist Realist films in Hungary were democratic in character: they depicted the lives, challenges and successes of ordinary people. For example, Civil a pályán is a film about football, one of the favorite past times in Socialist Hungary. These films (while not perfect) are both entertaining and democratic, without losing intellectual, political and artistic quality.

Many films were made about Hungarian history. Instead of advocating chauvinism, national hatred or oppression, these films demonstrated the best progressive traditions in the nation’s history. The motto of Socialist Realism is “socialist in content, national in form”. Each country has their own history of heroic class struggle against oppression and exploitation. The film Föltámadott a tenger depicts the 1848 revolution for democracy and national sovereignty of Lajos Kossuth, Rákóczi hadnagya is about Ferenc Rákóczi’s 1703–11 peasant war against the Hapsburg monarchy’s domination of Hungary.

Other Socialist Realist movies include Első fecskék, Ütközet békében, Tűzkeresztség, Teljes gőzzel, Becsület és dicsőség.

Musical and comedy elements were used to create a positive outlook on life and hope in the future. Films also utilized suspense elements to warn about the dangers which the class enemy still poses in the form of criminal sabotage and foreign intervention.

ARCHITECTURE

The most important bourgeois architect in Hungary is Miklós Ybl (1814-1891) who worked in the renaissance style. The Ybl Miklós Award for architects was created in 1953.

In capitalist Hungary, architect Máté Major had belonged to the Socialist Artists’ Group. However, he had received a purely bourgeois education and advocated bourgeois views. His work was completely superseded by the newly arising Socialist Realist architects like Emil Zöldy and Tibor Weiner.

During socialist construction, talented architects of pre-revolutionary Hungary like Lajos Gádoros, István Janáky, Antal Károlyi, Oszkár Winkler and Gyula Rimanóczy now adopted a Socialist Realist method of work.

The new socialist industrial city of Sztálinváros was built following the principles of Socialist Realism in architecture. This means it was designed to serve the people, following a visual style rooted in the national traditions.

Buildings in Sztálinváros were inspired by largely by Hungarian classicism and decorated by beautiful ornaments. frescoes and mosaics. Particulary Jenő Percz created magnificent mosaic art for the city. Painter Endre Domanovszky designed frescoes. György Szrogh designed the Dózsa Cinema and many nice buildings were designed by István Zilahy. Tibor Weiner was the lead architect and city planner.

Unfortunately this style which represented the peak of Hungarian architecture was entirely abandoned during the revisionist period (the name of the city was also changed to Dunaújváros).

Books on the topic:

Franz Liszt, artist and man. 1811-1840 vol. 1 & vol. 2 by Lina Ramann (Earliest thorough bourgeois biography of Liszt. Not bad, but sadly it doesn’t cover his whole life)

Béla Bartók; his life in pictures and documents by Ferenc Bónis (the book has a lot of information but for a communist book it suffers from lack of marxism)

The Life and Music of Béla Bartók by Halsey Stevens (Not bad for a bourgeois book)

Bela Bartok Documentary

Selected poems of Endre Ady

Hungarian drawings and watercolours by Dénes Pataky (Good book with a lot of information, but is a bit non-political)

Modern Hungarian ceramics by Ilona Pataky Brestyánszky (Very informative, but is too soft on bourgeois art and near the end of the book tries to make excuses why sculpture and ceramics was suffering and becoming bourgeois under revisionism)

Renaissance architecture in Hungary by Feuer-Tóth, Rózsa; Kónya, Kálmán (Lots of information, very non-political)

A Thousand years of Hungarian masterpieces by Dezso Keresztury (Big collection of pictures of art works, non-political)

The art of the Hungarian furriers by Mária Kresz (Book about traditional folk clothing and textiles of Hungary, non-political)

Old musical instruments by György Gábry (book with pictures and information about musical instruments, mostly in the collection of the Hungarian National Museum, non-political)

Old textiles by Maria Varju-Ember (book with pictures and information about textile works of art, mostly in the collection of the Hungarian National Museum, non-political)

See also:

The artwork of Bertalan Pór
The artwork of Béla Uitz
The artwork of Gyula Derkovits
Hungarian Socialist Realist Artworks

____________

Ék Sándor, “Comrade Rákosi in 1919 on the Salgótarján front“. Socialist Realism
Sugar Andor, “Builders“. Depicts construction workers at their job.
Endre A. Fenyő, “The Young Stalin”. Socialist Realism depicting the young Stalin reading a book of georgian poetry.
László Mészáros, “Worker-Peasant Alliance”
A vase by István Gádor. Influenced by peasant folk art.
The rationally planned city of Sztálinváros being built
The Sztálinváros “Peace Building”
Communist Youth camping in tents. Sztálinváros being built in the background.

Truth About the Kronstadt Mutiny

THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

In March 1921 there was a mutiny against the Soviet government among soldiers in the fortress town of Kronstadt. The mutiny went on for two weeks, until it was suppressed by the Bolshevik government. The Kronstadt mutiny is one of those topics which is always debated: was it a heroic uprising against the ‘tyrannical bolsheviks’? Or was it an attempt at counter-revolution? Before I started researching this topic I thought that the Kronstadt mutiny was just a silly anarchist action – but its actually much worse then that.

THE LASTING MYTH OF KRONSTADT

The Kronstadt mutiny has remained a topic of discussion to this day. That is because it is always used as an example of supposed ‘communist tyranny’ by anarchists and revisionists, but also by capitalists and imperialists. They all claim that since the communists had to suppress a mutiny, therefore it proves they were anti-worker, oppressive and that they had turned against the revolution. Of course, this is simplistic and childish thinking and pure demagogy. Of course, there were other revolts and plots against the bolsheviks too, but the Kronstadt mutiny works much better for anarchist and capitalist propaganda purposes because at least on the surface it was done by soldiers of mostly peasant origin (and not by the rich) and because at least on the surface it had a left-wing agenda – however, the surface appearance doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole truth.

The first capitalist president of Russia Boris Yeltsin (the most hated Russian leader in known history) praised the Kronstadt mutiny and opened the archives on Kronstadt for researchers, so that they could prove how heroic the mutiny was and how evil the bolsheviks were. Unfortunately it backfired, since the primary source evidence doesn’t support his conclusion at all. The opened archives contain more then 1000 documents which include firsthand accounts by mutineers, secret White Guard reports, articles, memoirs etc. collected from a range of Soviet, White Guard, Menshevik, anarchist and western capitalist sources.

When the mutiny broke out it was immediately praised and supported in the capitalist media – actually, it was already praised and supported in the capitalist media two weeks before it had even broken out. This already shows that the mutiny was organized, or at least sponsored and supported by capitalists and western imperialist countries.

LEADER OF THE MUTINY PETRICHENKO

The leader of the mutiny was a political adventurer named Stepan Petrichenko. He had been in the Red Army, but considered himself an anarcho-syndicalist. He was also a Ukrainian nationalist. Petrichenko apparently remained an anarcho-syndicalist at least on the surface for most of his life, but one year before the Kronstadt mutiny he had tried to join the White Army. Anarchist historian Avrich writes:

“Petrichenko returned to his native village in April 1920 and apparently remained until September or October… The authorities, he later told an American journalist, had arrested him more than once on suspicion of counterrevolutionary activity. He had even tried to join the Whites…” (Avrich, Kronstadt, p. 95)

Avrich also discovered a secret White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt.

Already pretty quickly after the events in Kronstadt we had absolutely solid proof the leaders and organizers of the mutiny were White Guardists or were working with White Guardists. And now with the archival materials, we have absolutely mountains of further evidence. If anyone says otherwise, they are wilfully ignorant or lying.

HOW THE MUTINY WAS ORGANIZED

In 1921 the country was in ruins after years of WWI and civil war. Fuel and food were always extremely scarce. As long as the civil war lasted, the population tolerated all these hardships. They understood it was inevitable in the war. However, in 1921 the war was coming to an end. Massive amounts of soldiers were sent home from the Red Army or at least taken away from battle. This created disturbances as people were no longer focused on fighting the White Army, and there were lots of badly adjusted jobless soldiers wandering around. Peasants also began opposing the war-time policy of grain requisition at fixed prices. Most soldiers themselves were peasants. This all combined together, to create some spontaneous disturbances. The policy of the government, was to evaluate the situation, change from war policies to peace time policies, and organize the reconstruction of the country and revitalization of the economy. However, that was an extremely difficult task which couldn’t be completed in one day.

There was unrest in Petrograd after several factories were temporarily closed due to fuel shortages. Some menshevik counter-revolutionaries were arrested without bloodshed. False rumors of workers being shot and factories even being bombarded, were spread in the fortress town of Kronstadt. Reactionaries took full advantage of these rumors and spread them.

“Mingled with the initial reports was an assortment of bogus rumors which quickly roused the passions of the sailors. It was said, for example, that government troops had fired on the Vasili Island demonstrators and that strike leaders were being shot in the cellars of the Cheka.” (Avrich, p. 71)

“the Petrograd strikes were on the wane… But the rumors of shootings and full-scale rioting had already aroused the sailors, and on March 2, at a time when the disturbances had all but ceased, they were drafting the erroneous announcement (for publication the following day ) that the city was in the throes of a “general insurrection.”” (Avrich, p. 83)

This was the necessary ideological preparation for the mutiny.

A mass meeting was held in Kronstadt on March 1 where anti-Communist statements and lies were spread. The meeting was orchestrated in such a way that Communists were not allowed to speak. The topic was raised that new elections to the Soviet should be carried out.

A delegate meeting of soldiers was held the next day on March 2. In this meeting it was proposed that all Communists be arrested. The delegates were amazed. However, the organizers of the mutiny made the completely baseless and hysterical claim that armed Communist detachments were about to surround the meeting and arrest everyone, therefore it was supposedly justified and necessary to begin rounding up and arresting Communists. This type of fear propaganda was cleverly used by the mutineers. Delegates had no time to think, they had no access to information, and Communists had no chance to speak. Thus the reactionaries could basically push through their anti-Communist policy.

“the Bolshevik commissar barely had time to object to the irregular proceedings before being cut off by the “military specialist” in charge of artillery, a former tsarist general named Kozlovsky… “Your time is past,” Kozlovsky declared.” (Avrich, p. 81)

The adventurer, anarcho-syndicalist and would-be White Guardist Petrichenko declared that a so-called ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ or PRC had been elected. This PRC would now take over.

“[T]he chair of the meeting, Petrichenko, quieting down the meeting, announced that ‘The Revolutionary Committee… declares: “All Communists present are to be seized and not to be released until the situation is clarified” (Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

“suddenly… a voice from the floor… shouted that 15 truckloads of Communists armed with rifles and machine guns were on their way to break up the meeting. The news had the effect of a bombshell, throwing the delegates into alarm and confusion… it was the bogus report that Communists were preparing to attack the meeting that actually precipitated the formation of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee… Petrichenko himself took up the rumor and announced that a detachment of 2,000 Communists were indeed on their way to disperse the meeting. Once again pandemonium broke loose, and the delegates left the hall in great excitement.” (Avrich, p. 84)

Using skillful propaganda and deception Petrichenko claimed that the ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ was elected by soldier delegates. However, this was simply a lie. No elections had been carried out. But the masses did not know that – after all, maybe their delegates in their meeting had elected such a committee? Who could say? This is a good example of how such a reactionary coup can happen.

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee or PRC was never elected, its members had already been chosen before hand. In fact the committee was already sending orders and messages, one day before it had supposedly been elected. The committee stated:

“[T]he Communist Party is removed from power. The Provisional Revolutionary Committee is in charge. We ask that non-[Communist] party comrades take control into their hands” (“To All Posts of Kronstadt,”, reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy.)

Avrich also mentions how the PRC was never elected, though he claims it was merely “for lack of time to hold proper elections” (Avrich, p. 84)

This “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” actually consisted of opportunists, capitalists and counter-revolutionaries. Two members of this committee were Mensheviks who had opposed the October Revolution. Mensheviks and their foreign supporters believed Russia needed capitalism and wasn’t ready for a workers’ revolution. Ivan Oreshin, another member in the committee was part of the capitalist Kadet party, one of the leading parties under the Tsar. The head of the Committee was the would-be White Guardist Petrichenko. The chief editor of the Kronstadt mutiny’s newspaper, Sergei Putilin was also a supporter of the capitalist Kadets. Thus both the political leadership of the Kronstadt mutiny, and the mutiny’s propaganda outlets were under the control of counter-revolutionaries.

A genuine revolution is not led by anti-revolutionary Mensheviks or by capitalists. Already from its very inception, the Kronstadt mutiny was basically counter-revolutionary. However, that was just the beginning.

Other members of the PRC were a black-market speculator Vershinin, former police detective Pavlov, two ex-capitalists or property holders Baikov and Tukin “who had once owned no less than six houses and three shops in Petrograd. Another committee member, Kilgast, had reportedly been convicted of embezzling government funds in the Kronstadt transportation department but had been released in a general amnesty on the third anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.” (Avrich, pp. 93-94)

“Perepelkin may have been the only reputed anarchist among the rebel leaders, but… he was in a good position to propagate his libertarian views… [however] the sailors, for their part, never called for the complete elimination of the state, a central plank in any anarchist platform.” (Avrich, p. 170)

It was important for the leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny to appear like they were some kind of revolutionaries. They needed gauge the mood of the soldiers, and try to fool them. Leader of the Kronstadt mutiny, would be-White Guardist Petrichenko made the proposal to allow full freedom for “all socialist parties” in the public meeting of March 1. Immediately he was attacked by angry shouts by soldiers: “That’s freedom for the right SRs and Mensheviks! No! No way! …We know all about their Constituent Assemblies! We don’t need that!” (Kuzmin Report, Stenographic Report of Petrograd Soviet, 25 March 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

Petrichenko needed to be careful to not alienate his crowd. The Kadet Ivan Oreshin who was part of the PRC wrote: “The Kronstadt uprising broke out under the pretext of replacing the old Soviet… with a new one… The question of… extending the vote also to the bourgeoisie, was carefully avoided by the orators… They did not want to evoke opposition among the insurgents… They did not speak of the Constituent Assembly, but the assumption was that it could be arrived at gradually…” (Oreshin in Volia Rossii (April-May 1921), quoted in Shchetinov Kronstadt Tragedy)

The mutiny leaders understood that the soldiers didn’t actually support their goals, so they needed to keep their true goals secret. They could be achieved “gradually” by sneaky secret maneuvering.

During all these operations the reactionary organizers of the mutiny still carefully tried to use a cover of revolutionary and pro-worker language. They called each other ‘comrades’ and ‘the revolutionary committee’. However, they were adamant that Communists must be crushed. The vaguely anarchistic ideology, most likely influenced by Petrichenko, suited their purposes. All kinds of demagogical slogans were made about “freedom against bolshevik tyranny”, “soviets without communism” etc.

However, even if we didn’t know that Petrichenko had wanted to be a White Guardist it was still completely obvious that the Kronstadt mutineers were not following anarchist theory in any typical sense. They were not establishing a stateless society but an anti-Communist military dictatorship. 300 Communists were rounded up and thrown into prisons, but hundreds of Communists also managed to run away.

“The repression carried out by the PRC against those Communists who remained faithful to the communist revolution fully refutes the supposedly peaceful intentions of the rebels. Virtually all the minutes of the PRC sessions indicate that the struggle against the Communists still at large and against those still in prison, remained an unrelenting focus of their attention. At the last phase they even resorted to threats of field courts martial in spite of their declared repeal of the death penalty.” (Agranov, April 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An anarchist thug named Shustov, was the commandant of the prison. Imagine being an anarchist and advocating the abolition of all prisons, but at the same time you’re literally a prison warden, and you keep arresting hundreds of Communists! Shustov was chosen as the executioner who would shoot the leading local Communists. There was a plan to carry out a mass execution:

“Early on the morning of March 18, Shustov set up a machine gun outside the cell, which contained 23 prisoners. He was prevented from slaughtering the Communists only by the advance of the Red Army across the ice.” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

THE KRONSTADT DEMANDS

Lenin pointed out that the Kronstadt demands were quite vague and unclear. This was inevitable because they were not realistic policy proposals but a combination utopianism, spontaneity and demagogic propaganda intended to gather enough support until the White Guard could take power and crush the Communists and all other opposition.

The essential demands were: (Source: March 1 Resolution, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

1. New elections to the Soviets. In Kronstadt Communists were arrested and thus would not be allowed to run in elections. Instead the Soviets would be filled with mensheviks, white guards, anarchists and opponents of the October Revolution such as the SR kerensky types. Of course the reactionaries also hoped this could spread elsewhere and help destabilize the Soviet government. Needless to say this was not an anarchistic “stateless” order.

2. Full freedom of action for anti-Communist parties including the left-SR terrorists who tried to assassinate Lenin in 1918. The terrorist’s bullet hit Lenin in the neck but he survived. These anti-Communist forces would receive full freedom of action, but of course in Kronstadt the Communists would be repressed and prevented from all activitism. Again, the reactionaries hoped this would spread to other areas too.

3. There should be no government regulation of trade-unions. Of course, in practice this simply meant that unions should denounce the Soviet government, sever their ties with the Soviet government and not follow instructions from it. If this demand was implemented it would lead to chaos because the unions were the government’s main instrument of economic management and workplace democracy. The demand for unions which did not collaborate with the workers’ government was also an essentially anti-socialist demand. Unions working with a proletarian state are an important part of planned economy and socialist construction.

4. Anti-Communist rebels like menshevik saboteurs, SR terrorists and those organizing revolts should be freed from jail.

5. The mutineers demanded bigger rations. Of course everybody wanted higher wages and bigger rations, but this was just a cheap attempt to garner popularity. Also, the bolshevik government was being basically forced to pay somewhat higher salaries and better rations for skilled experts, bourgeois officials and workers in strategic branches. They did not want to do this, but they had to. Those experts and officials could not be replaced right away, and if they didn’t collaborate the government would have huge problems. Therefore the bolsheviks simply had to accommodate those people until Red Experts could be trained to replace them. It may seem unfair, but failing to recognize this necessity is just another example of utopian stupidity.

6. The abolition of “war communism” or grain requisition. Again, this demand could gain some popularity. The peasants never particularly liked the system of war communism, though it was necessary for the war effort. The mutineers more broadly demanded that peasants should be able to use their land and property exactly how they see fit. They did not want collective agriculture or socialist planned economy, but instead who ever was lucky enough to have land should use it to the best of their ability and compete on the market. Landless would remain landless, and big peasants would get bigger.

7. The mutineers demanded the purging of Communists from the military and factory management, and abolition of Communist political departments from the army. The army at this point still had very large numbers of professional officers and soldiers from the times of the Tsar and Kerensky. These officers were needed and used by the Communists because of their skills and professional military training. However, because those officers and soldiers were not communists or workers, and were generally untrustworthy the Bolsheviks invented ‘political comissars’ to supervise the officers.

“former imperial officers were… [used] as “military specialists” ( voenspetsy ) under the watchful supervision of political commissars. In this way, badly needed command experience and technical knowledge were provided until a new corps of Red Commanders could be trained.” (Avrich, p. 66)

The Kronstadt mutineers demanded that this system be abolished. Such a demand might appeal to some anarchists, but one can only imagine what the result would be. The non-Communist officers inside the Red Army would no longer follow socialist instructions and the Red Army would stop being a proletarian army at all. In fact, this quickly happened and the old Tsarist officers Kozlovsky, Vilken and others were soon walking around like they were masters of the situation. In fact, they were masters during the mutiny.

According to the SRs the White Guard general Kozlovsky was ‘elected’ to the defence council of the Kronstadt mutiny, but it seems unlikely he could get elected. Its more likely he was simply chosen by the counter-revolutionaries into that post. The Menshevik newspaper Sotsialisticheski Vestnik published in Germany wrote that Kozlovsky and the other Whites tried to convince the Mensheviks and SRs to begin a general military assault against the Soviet government, but they were unable to convince them. The Mensheviks wrote: “The political leaders of the insurrection would not agree to take the offensive and the opportunity was let slip.“

WHITE GUARDS AND CAPITALISTS IN KRONSTADT

White emigres immediately began making plans to join the Kronstadt mutineers. A former associate of White General Dennikin, N. N. Chebyshev wrote about those times: “White officers roused themselves and started seeking ways to get to the fight in Kronstadt… The spark flew among the emigres. Everybody’s spirit was lifted by it” (quoted in Shchetinov, Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

Imperialist France and Britain encouraged capitalist states on the Russian border to assist the Kronstadt mutiny. British foreign minister Lord Curzon sent a secret message to Finland On March 11 stating: “His Majesty’s Government are not prepared themselves to intervene… Very confidential: There is no reason, however, why you should advise the Finnish Government to take a similar course or to prevent any private societies or individuals from helping [the mutiny]” (Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939).

Food and money came from rich capitalists and White emigres to support the Kronstadt mutineers. Tsarist Baron P. Y. Vilken, the former commander of the Sevastopol, used his spy contacts to deliver the money. His telegrams discuss sending the funds through Helsinki “which needs the money in the beginning of March” (Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov).

“The Russian banks, with the former Tsarist minister of finance Kokovtsev at their head, began to collect money for Kronstadt. Goutchkov, the head of the Russian imperialist party, got in contact with the English and American governments to obtain food supplies.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

“The Whiteguard emigres in Paris organized collection of money and provisions for the mutineers, and the American Red Cross sent food supplies to Kronstadt under its flag.“ (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

“the Russian Union of Commerce and Industry in Paris declared its intention to send food and other supplies to Kronstadt… an initial sum of two million Finnish marks had already been pledged to aid Kronstadt in “the sacred cause of liberating Russia” (Avrich, p. 116)

“the Russian-Asiatic Bank contributed 225,000 francs. Additional funds were donated by other Russian banks, insurance companies, and financial concerns throughout Europe, and by the Russian Red Cross, which funneled all collections to Tseidler, its representative in Finland. By March 16 Kokovtsov was able to inform the Committee of Russian Banks in Paris that deposits for Kronstadt already exceeded 775,000 francs…” (Avrich, p. 117)

The leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny published an article on March 6 where they claimed to oppose the Whites. However, this was more deception as Petrichenko and many of his associates were White Guardists. Two days later on March 8 they welcomed a secret delegation of allies, which included a courier from the SR Administrative Center, an agent of Finnish State Security, two representatives of the monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization and four White Guard officers, including Baron Vilken.

The Whites were disguised as a “Red Cross” delegation sent from Finland. According to a detailed report by White Guardist Tseidler to his HQ, the delegation was immediately invited to ajoint session of the PRC and the general staff officers. A plan was reached to use the Red Cross as a cover to organizing sending food, supplies and funds to Kronstadt. (Source: Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921).

White emigre and former member of the Kronstadt leadership Kupolov wrote later that some of the Kronstadt leaders (probably mensheviks and anarchists) were not too happy about the monarchist and White Guard plots. However, Petrichenko was simply using them and planned to eventually get rid of them too. Kupolov writes:

“The PRC, seeing that Kronstadt was filling up with agents of a monarchist organization, issued a declaration that it would not enter into negotiations with, nor accept any aid from, any non-socialist parties… But… Petrichenko and the General Staff secretly worked in connection with the monarchists and prepared the ground for an overthrow of the committee…” (Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”)

This is exactly why the Bolsheviks stated that while many of the Kronstadt mutineers were not White Guards or members of the capitalist class, their action still furthered the goals of the White Guard counter-revolution and of capitalist restoration. The White Guards were simply using these mensheviks and hapless opportunists.

The PCR claimed:
“In Kronstadt, total power is in the hands only of the revolutionary sailors… not of the White Guards headed by some General Kozlovsky, as the slanderous Moscow radio proclaims.” “We have only one general here… commissar of the Baltic Fleet Kuzmin. And he has been arrested.”” (Avrich, p. 99)

In exile Petrichenko stated:
“Cut off from the outside world, we could receive no aid from foreign sources even if we had wanted it. We served as agents of no external group: neither capitalists, Mensheviks, nor SR’s.” (Avrich, p. 113)

These days we know that he was lying.

Anarchist sailor Perepelkin, who was there in Kronstadt stated:

“And here I saw the former commander or the Sevastopol, Baron Vilken with whom I had earlier sailed. And it is he who is now acknowledged by the PRC to be the representative of the delegation that is offering us aid. I was outraged by this. I… said, so that’s the situation we’re in, that’s who we’re forced to talk to. Petrichenko and the others jumped on me… There was no other way out: they said. I stopped arguing and said I would accept the proposal. And on the second day we received 400 poods of food and cigarettes. Those who agreed to mutual friendship with the White Guard baron yesterday shouted that they were for Soviet power.” (Komarov Report, 25 March 1921)

“Any doubts about Vilken’s motives (his officer background was known to the rebel leaders) were brushed aside, and the Revolutionary Committee accepted his offer.” (Avrich, p. 122)

This has of course continued to this very day. The pseudo-Anarchists in Rojava made the same exact arguments. They said, they needed to collaborate with American imperialists because American imperialists were giving them funding, training, military support and weaponry. And were they really expected to win all on their own without such support? But such opportunistic logic merely reduces any movement into helpless puppets of capitalists and imperialists.

Wrangel’s right hand man, White General General Von Lampe literally laughed at the anarchists, mensheviks and SRs. He wrote in his diary that their propaganda was “full of justifications to dispel the thought, God forbid, that the sailors were under the influence of [White Monarchist] officers… The SRs don’t understand that in such a struggle, what are needed are severe and determined measures.” (Quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An editor for the mutineer newspaper Lamanov stated: “Up until the seizure of Kronstadt by Soviet troops I thought the movement had heen organized by the Left SRs. After I became convinced that the movement was not spontaneous, I no longer sympathized with it… Now I am firmly convinced, that, without a doubt, White Guards, both Russian and foreign, took part in the movement. The escape to Finland convinced me of this. Now I consider my participation in this movement to have heen an unforgivable stupid mistake.” (Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov)

On March 15 the Kronstadt mutineers secretly sent two of their leaders to Finland, to ask for support. At this time Finland was ruled by the ferocious White Guard government of Mannerheim and co. which was launching invasions into Soviet-Karelia and supporting the Russian White Generals. When the mutiny was being defeated, on March 17 Petrichenko and the leaders ordered the crews of ships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol to blow up the ships and flee to Anti-Communist Finland. However, at this point the soldiers had already begun to think their leaders must be reactionaries and did not follow orders. They rose up, saved the ships and arrested all the officers and Provisional Committee members they could get their hands on.

After the Kronstadt mutiny had failed and its leaders had fled to Finland, they agreed to join the White Army of Wrangel:

“In May 1921 Petrichenko and several of his fellow refugees at the Fort Ino camp decided to volunteer their services to General Wrangel… in a new campaign to unseat the Bolsheviks and restore “the gains of the February 1917 Revolution.”” (Avrich, p. 127)

It is very significant that at this point they were no longer in Kronstadt, and thus didn’t need to pretend they supported the October Revolution. Hence they now began to only praise the February revolution of Kerensky!

The Petrichenko gang and the Whites forces of Wrangel agreed to “the retention of their slogan “all power to the soviets but not the parties.”… the slogan was to be retained only as a “convenient political maneuver” until the Communists had been overthrown. Once victory was in hand, the slogan would be shelved and a temporary military dictatorship installed…” (Avrich, pp. 127-128)

THE REACTIONARY PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The Kronstadt mutineers and their capitalist allies carried out a massive propaganda campaign to support the mutiny. They published lies claiming that supposedly the Bolsheviks were carrying out atrocities and supposedly everybody was rising up against them. In fact, nothing of the kind happened.

The Kronstadt newspaper wrote on March 7: “Last Minute News From Petrograd” – ”Mass arrests and executions of workers and sailors continue.”

On March 8 a Finnish capitalist newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet published the following lies, provided to them by Mensheviks: “Petrograd workers are striking… crowds bearing red banners demand a change of government – the overthrow of the Communists.”

On March 11 the Kronstadt newspaper wrote: “The [bolshevik] Government In Panic.” “Our cry has been heard. Revolutionary sailors, Red Army men and workers in Petrograd are already coming to our assistance … The Bolshevik power feels the ground slipping from under its feet and has issued orders in Petrograd to open fire at any group of five or more people gathering in the streets …”

“Moscow Rising Reported. Petrograd Fighting.” (London Times, March 2, 1921)

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.” [“Petrograd and Moscow will be in the hands of the insurgents who have formed a provisional government”] (Matin, March 7)

“Les Marins Revoltés Débarquent à Petrograd.” [“Rebelling sailors land in Petrograd”] (Matin, March 8)

“Der Aufstand in Russland.” [“The uprising in Russia”] (Vossische Zeitung, March 10)

“In Petrograd the remnants of the SRs, Mensheviks and various anarchists banded together… [and] collaborated with the newly formed monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization (PCO), as the PCO itself asserted (PCO Report to Helsinki Department of National Center, no earlier than 28 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy). The [monarchist-capitalist] PCO even printed the Mensheviks’ leaflets! On March 14… [they] issued a leaflet in solidarity with Kronstadt that said not one word about socialism or soviets, but instead called for an uprising against “the bloody communist regime” in the name of “all power to the people” (“Appeal to All Citizens, Workers, Red Army Soldiers and Sailors,” 14 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy).” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

“Savinkov, aide to Kerensky… in his Warsaw newspaper Svoboda, printed on Polish [capitalist] government money, boasts (24th February) “I fight against the Bolsheviks, I fight alongside those who have already struggled with Kolchak, Denikin, Wrangel and even Petlioura [Petrichenko], strange as that may seem.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

Savinkov wrote that the sailors of Kronstadt had captured the battleship Aurora and fired its cannons on Petrograd. This never actually happened. He wrote: “when the cruiser Aurora fired on Petrograd it was an expression of repentance for the sin committed on the 25th of October 1917 with the bombardment of the Winter Palace, the seat of Kerensky’s ministry.”

“The Roul of Berlin, the organ of the right wing of the Cadet Party, wrote “The uprising of Kronstadt is scared, because it is an uprising against the idea of the October revolution”. The Society of Russian Industrialists and Financiers of Paris, when they heard the news from Kronstadt, decided to not worry about the extremist demands or the primitive cause of the mutiny [“les revendications extremistes cause primitive de la mutinerie”] because its essential point was that “the sailors were for the overthrow of the Communist government” [Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March].” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

The reactionary mutineers claimed that mass uprisings had broken out in Petrograd and Moscow to support the Kronstadt mutiny, but this was a total lie. Even Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2). This is easy to understand, because the mutiny was not based on genuine political organizing or a genuine program. It was a plot organized by White Guard reactionaries and political adventurers, by spreading false rumors, lies, and exploiting the temporary difficulties and confusion in Kronstadt at the time in order to carry out a military coup, repress the communists and prevent the workers and peasants from understand what was actually going on.

It was enterily unlikely that workers would support the mutiny in other towns where they could not be simply tricked by plotters, and where they had their working class and Communist organizations. The Kronstadt mutiny used anarchists, left-SR terrorists and Mensheviks as their henchmen but even they were to a large extent simply fooled into it, as White Guardists were secretly trying to orchestrate many aspects of the mutiny for their own purposes.

Its also worth pointing out that the best revolutionary elements in the left-SRs, left-Mensheviks and even anarchists had already seen the error in their ways and joined the Bolshevik Party either right before the October Revolution or soon after it. Only the worse elements like terrorists, utopians and right-wing Mensheviks now opposed the Bolsheviks. The anarcho-syndicalist “Worker Opposition” also supported the Bolsheviks in crushing the Kronstadt mutiny.

“SOVIETS WITHOUT COMMUNISM! DOWN WITH COMMUNISM!” – IDEOLOGY OF THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

Milliukov, one of the capitalist leaders of Russia who was ousted by the October Revolution, wrote in his newspaper which he published in Paris, that reactionaries need to support the Kronstadt mutiny. He therefore advocated the slogan “Down with the Bolsheviks’ Long live the Soviets!” (Poslednie Novosti. 11 March 1921). The first step was to get rid of the Bolshevik Communists, after that it would be easy to restore the power of the capitalists.

“The [capitalist]… Milyukov, supplied the Kronstadt counter-revolutionaries with the watchword “Soviets without Communists””(A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

Stalin said: “Soviets without Communists — such was then the watchword of the chief of the Russian counter-revolution, Milyukov…” (J. Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, , Russ, ed., p. 217)

“But the class enemy was not dozing. He tried to exploit the distressing economic situation and the discontent of the peasants for his own purposes. Kulak revolts, engineered by Whiteguards and SRs, broke out in Siberia, the Ukraine and the Tambov province… All kinds of counter-revolutionary elements — Mensheviks, SRs, Anarchists, Whiteguards, bourgeois nationalists—became active again. The enemy adopted new tactics of struggle against the Soviet power. He began to borrow a Soviet garb, and his slogan was no longer the old bankrupt “Down with the Soviets!” but a new slogan: “For the Soviets, but without Communists!”

A glaring instance of the new tactics of the class enemy was the counter-revolutionary mutiny in Kronstadt… Whiteguards, in complicity with SRs, Mensheviks and representatives of foreign states, assumed the lead of the mutiny. The mutineers at first used a “Soviet” signboard to camouflage their purpose of restoring the power and property of the capitalists and landlords. They raised the cry: “Soviets without Communists!” The counter-revolutionaries tried to exploit the discontent of the petty bourgeois masses in order to overthrow the power of the Soviets under a pseudo-Soviet slogan.

Two circumstances facilitated the outbreak of the Kronstadt mutiny: the deterioration in the composition of the ships’ crews, and the weakness of the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt. Nearly all the old [revolutionary, communist Kronstadt] sailors… [had been sent away to the] front, heroically fighting in the ranks of the Red Army. The naval replenishments [sent to Kronstadt to replace them] consisted of new men, who had not been schooled in the revolution. These were a perfectly raw peasant mass who gave expression to the peasantry’s discontent with the [grain requisition system and war communism]. As for the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt, it had been greatly weakened by a series of mobilizations for the front.”
(History of the CPSU(B) short course)

Anarchist historian Avrich writes that the bulk of Kronstadt sailors had fought in anti-Communist forces before: “…we have it from Petrichenko himself that “three-quarters” of the Kronstadt garrison were natives of the Ukraine, some of whom had served with the anti-Bolshevik forces in the south before entering the Soviet navy.” (Avrich, p. 93)

“Throughout the Civil War of 1918-1920, the sailors of Kronstadt… More than 40,000… replenished the ranks of the Red Army on every front.” (Avrich, p. 62)

“There can be little doubt that during the Civil War years a large turnover had indeed taken place within the Baltic Fleet… old-timers had been replaced by conscripts from the rural districts… By 1921… more than three-quarters of the sailors were of peasant origin, a substantially higher proportion than in 1917, when industrial workers from the Petrograd area made up a sizable part of the fleet.” (Avrich, p. 89)

The temporary weakness of the local Communist organization in Kronstadt, the mass influx of politically uneducated people from the countryside, who were even anti-communists, and the sending of politically educated, experienced proletarians away to the frontlines during the war – these factors allows the SR utopians, terrorists, anarchists, mensheviks and outright capitalists, monarchists and White Guards to gain a temporary foothold in Kronstadt.

One of the reasons for the relative weakness of the Kronstadt Bolshevik party organization, was that Trotskyists and Zinovievites were in a strong position there:

“The work of political education was at that time badly organized in the Baltic Fleet, and the Trotskyites… managed to get into leading positions…” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

A power struggle began between the opportunist factions of Trotsky and Zinoviev. At this time Lenin had been waging ideological struggle against Trotsky’s bureaucratic position on the questions of war-communism and role of the trade-unions. Zinoviev took advantage of this to strengthen his own opportunist faction. Trotskyists themselves admit this:

“Seizing on Trotsky’s wrong-headedness, Zinoviev mobilized his own base in the Petrograd-Kronstadt area against Trotsky… Zinoviev opened the floodgates of the Kronstadt party organization to backward recruits while encouraging a poisonous atmosphere in the inner-party dispute. The rot in the Kronstadt Communist Party organization was a critical factor in allowing the mutiny to proceed” (“Kronstadt 1921…”, Spartacist, Spring 2006 #59, )

There is no honor among scoundrels! A few years after this the renegade cliques of Trotsky and Zinoviev would unite their forces against the Bolshevik party.

“The authority of the party was further undermined by a struggle for political control in the fleet, which pitted Trotsky, the War Commissar, against Zinoviev… As a result of this dispute, the commissars and other party administrators lost much of their hold over the rank and file.” (Avrich, p. 70)

ANTI-SEMITISM

Another piece of information, indicating that the Kronstadt mutineers did not represent the best revolutionary elements, but actually some of the most political backward elements, was their rampant anti-semitism. Anti-semitism of course was quite common in Russia at that time, but it was not tolerated among the Communists. It was more common among peasants then workers.

“feelings against the Jews ran high among the [Kronstadt] sailors, many of whom came from the Ukraine and the western borderlands, the classic regions of virulent anti-Semitism in Russia” (Avrich, p. 179)

One of the Kronstadt newspaper editors Lamanov, said that people constantly wrote anti-semitic articles about Jews having “murdered Russia” but he usually succeeded in preventing them from being published. (Source: Further Minutes of Questioning of Anatoly Lamanov, 25 March 1921)

“Vershinin… [member of the PRC] shouted an appeal for joint action against the Jewish and Communist oppressors…” (Avrich, p. 155)

“Jews were a customary scapegoat in times of hardship and distress… In a particularly vicious passage [one sailor] attacks the Bolshevik regime as the “first Jewish Republic”… he labels the Jews a new “privileged class,”… calling the government ultimatum to Kronstadt “the ultimatum of the Jew Trotsky.” These sentiments, he asserts were widely shared by his fellow sailors… Witness the appeal of Vershinin, a member of the Revolutionary Committee… on March 8… “Enough of your ‘hoorahs,’ and join with us to beat the Jews. It’s their cursed domination that we workers and peasants have had to endure.” (Avrich, pp. 179-180)

WHY DIDN’T THE BOLSHEVIKS NEGOTIATE A PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT?

Anarchists usually claim that the Bolsheviks saw the Kronstadt mutiny as some great threat to their power. That supposedly the “heroic struggle” of the mutineers could’ve inspired everyone to overthrow the Bolsheviks. However, this is completely false.

Lenin wrote:

“This Kronstadt affair in itself is a very petty incident. It no more threatens to break up the Soviet state than the Irish disorders are threatening to break up the British Empire.” (Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt)

The Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2)

The Bolshevik government suppressed the mutiny because the Whites still tried to use it as a springboard for restarting the civil war with foreign imperialist backing.

“What the authorities feared, in other words, was not so much the rebellion itself…” (Avrich, p. 134)

“Of greater concern to the Bolsheviks was the determination of the [white] emigres to gain access to Kronstadt and use it as a base for a landing on the mainland. This would have meant nothing less than a resumption of the Civil War…” (Avrich, p. 134)

The ice was quickly melting so time was of the essence. Kronstadt had an extremely strong fortress and heavy weaponry. It would be very difficult to attack, and if the ice melted the only way to get there would be on battleships. Kronstadt itself also had two battleships. Therefore if the Bolsheviks waited and didn’t attack and take the Fort right away, the resulting battle might be catastrophic in its casualties and material damages. The mutineers also felt that they had gone too far, and there was no turning back. They felt they couldn’t negotiate their way out of this and simply had to fight as long as possible.

Zinoviev carried out pointless negotiations with the mutineers, which achieved nothing and only allowed the counter-revolutionaries to fortify their defenses.

“Zinoviev negotiated with the traitors for seven whole days, thereby giving them time to fortify themselves.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

TROTSKY’S ROLE

It is often stated that Trotsky led the suppression of the Kronstadt mutiny, and that under Trotsky’s leadership the soldiers committed atrocities. However, both of these claims are false. The military defeat of the mutiny was entirely led by Voroshilov. Trotsky himself wrote later:

“The truth of the matter is that I personally did not participate in the least in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion” (Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt)

The soldiers, 300 of whom had been delegates to the 10th Bolshevik Part Congress, acted heroicially but Zinoviev who was in a power struggle with Trotsky at the time, spread all kinds of lies about the military operation, saying that it was organized by Trotsky and that all kinds of mistakes and wrong-doings supposedly occurred. But the bureaucratic mistakes of Trotsky, neglecting ideological education in the army and navy, and the further sabotage of Zinoviev contributed to the outbreak of the mutiny.

DEFEATING THE MUTINY

“The mutineers gained possession of a first-class fortress, the fleet, and a vast quantity of arms and ammunition… Against the Kronstadt mutineers the Party sent its finest sons—delegates to the Tenth Congress, headed by Comrade Voroshilov. The Red Army men advanced on Kronstadt across a thin sheet of ice; it broke in places and many were drowned. The almost impregnable forts of Kronstadt had to be taken by storm…” (History of the CPSU(B) short course)

“Picked units of the Red Army were sent to crush the Kronstadt counter-revolution. The Tenth Congress of the Party, which was in session at that time, sent 300 of its delegates, headed by K. E. Voroshilov, to reinforce them. On March 16, the revolutionary soldiers… commenced an assault upon the main forts of Kronstadt, rushing forward in spite of continuous machine-gun fire and the bursting shells which broke the already fragile ice over which they were advancing. In the front ranks of the assault columns was Voroshilov, setting an example of Bolshevik courage and valour.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, pp. 307-308)

APPENDIX. LENIN ON KRONSTADT:

“What does it mean? It was an attempt to seize political power from the Bolsheviks by a motley crowd or alliance of ill-assorted elements, apparently just to the right of the Bolsheviks, or perhaps even to their “left”—you can’t really tell, so amorphous is the combination of political groupings that has tried to take power in Kronstadt. You all know, undoubtedly, that at the same time whiteguard generals were very active over there. There is ample proof of this. A fortnight before the Kronstadt events., the Paris newspapers reported a mutiny at Kronstadt. It is quite clear that it is the work of SRs and whiteguard émigrés, and at the same time the movement was reduced to a petty-bourgeois counter-revolution and petty-bourgeois anarchism. That is something quite new. This circumstance, in the context of all the crises, must be given careful political consideration and must be very thoroughly analysed… There is evidence here of the activity of petty-bourgeois anarchist elements with their slogans of unrestricted trade and invariable hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat… they wanted to correct the Bolsheviks in regard to restrictions in trade—and this looks like a small shift, which leaves the same slogans of “Soviet power” with ever so slight a change or correction. Yet, in actual fact the whiteguards only used the non-Party elements as a stepping stone to get in. This is politically inevitable. We saw the petty-bourgeois, anarchist elements in the Russian revolution, and we have been fighting them for decades. We have seen them in action since February 1917, during the great revolution, and their parties’ attempts to prove that their programme differed little from that of the Bolsheviks, but that only their methods in carrying it through were different. We know this not only from the experience of the October Revolution, but also of the outlying regions and various areas within the former Russian Empire where the Soviet power was temporarily replaced by other regimes. Let us recall the Democratic Committee in Samara. They all came in demanding equality, freedom, and a constituent assembly, and every time they proved to be nothing but a conduit for whiteguard rule. Because the Soviet power is being shaken by the economic situation, we must consider all this experience and draw the theoretical conclusions a Marxist cannot escape… We must take a hard look at this petty-bourgeois counter-revolution with its calls for freedom to trade. Unrestricted trade—even if it is not as bound up initially with the whiteguards as Kronstadt was—is still only the thin end of the wedge for the whiteguard element, a victory for capital and its complete restoration. We must, I repeat, have a keen sense of this political danger.”
(Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“I emphasised the danger of Kronstadt because it lies precisely in the fact that the change demanded was apparently very slight: “The Bolsheviks must go . . . we will correct the regime a little.” That is what the Kronstadt rebels are demanding. But what actually happened was that Savinkov arrived in Revel, the Paris newspapers reported the events a fortnight before they actually occurred, and a whiteguard general appeared on the scene. That is what actually happened.” (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The way the enemies of the proletariat take advantage of every deviation from a thoroughly consistent communist line was perhaps most strikingly shown in the case of the Kronstadt mutiny, when the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries and whiteguards in all countries of the world immediately expressed their readiness to accept the slogans of the Soviet system, if only they might thereby secure the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and when the SRs and the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries in general resorted in Kronstadt to slogans calling for an insurrection against the Soviet Government of Russia ostensibly in the interest of the Soviet power. These facts fully prove that the whiteguards strive, and are able, to disguise themselves as Communists, and even as the most Left-wing Communists, solely for the purpose of weakening and destroying the bulwark of the proletarian revolution in Russia.“ (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The vacillation of the petty-bourgeois element was the most characteristic feature of the Kronstadt events. There was very little that was clear, definite and fully shaped. We heard nebulous slogans about “freedom”, “freedom of trade”, “emancipation”, “Soviets without the Bolsheviks”, or new elections to the Soviets, or relief from “Party dictatorship”, and so on and so forth. Both the Mensheviks and the SRs declared the Kronstadt movement to be “their own”. [Menshevik] Victor Chernov sent a messenger to Kronstadt. On the latter’s proposal, the Menshevik Valk, one of the Kronstadt leaders, voted for the Constituent Assembly. In a flash, with lightning speed, you might say, the whiteguards mobilised all their forces “for Kronstadt“. Their military experts in Kronstadt, a number of experts, and not Kozlovsky alone, drew up a plan for a landing at Oranienbaum, which scared the vacillating mass of Mensheviks, SRs and non-party elements. More than fifty Russian whiteguard newspapers published abroad conducted a rabid campaign “for Kronstadt”. The big banks, all the forces of finance capital, collected funds to assist Kronstadt. That shrewd leader of the bourgeoisie and the landowners, the Cadet Milyukov, patiently explained to the simpleton [Menshevik] Chernov… and to the Mensheviks Dan and Rozhkov, who are in jail in Petrograd for their connection with the Kronstadt events… that there is no need to hurry with the Constituent Assembly, and that Soviet power can and must be supported—only without the Bolsheviks.

Of course, it is easy to be cleverer than conceited simpletons like Chernov, the petty-bourgeois phrase-monger, or like Martov, the knight of philistine reformism doctored to pass for Marxism. Properly speaking, the point is not that Milyukov, as an individual, has more brains, but that, because of his class position, the party leader of the big bourgeoisie sees and understands the class essence and political interaction of things more clearly than the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie, the Chernovs and Martovs. For the bourgeoisie is really a class force which, under capitalism… and which also inevitably enjoys the support of the world bourgeoisie. But the petty bourgeoisie, i.e. … cannot… be anything else than the expression of class impotence; hence the vacillation, phrase-mongering and helplessness…

[Menshevik leader] Martov showed himself to be nothing but a philistine Narcissus when he declared in his Berlin journal that Kronstadt not only adopted Menshevik slogans but also proved that there could be an anti-Bolshevik movement which did not entirely serve the interests of the whiteguards, the capitalists and the landowners. He says in effect: “Let us shut our eves to the fact that all the genuine whiteguards hailed the Kronstadt mutineers and collected funds in aid of Kronstadt through the banks!” Compared with the Chernovs and Martovs, Milyukov is right, for he is revealing the true tactics of the real whiteguard force, the force of the capitalists and landowners. He declares: “It does not matter whom we support, be they anarchists or any sort of Soviet government, as long as the Bolsheviks are overthrown, as long as there is a shift in power; it does not matter whether to the right or to the left, to the Mensheviks or to the anarchists, as long as it is away from the Bolsheviks… ‘we’, the capitalists and landowners, will do the rest ‘ourselves’… History proves it. The facts bear it out. The Narcissuses will talk; the Milyukovs and whiteguards will act.”
(Lenin, The Tax in Kind)

“You must have noticed that these extracts from the whiteguard newspapers published abroad appeared side by side with extracts from British and French newspapers. They are one chorus, one orchestra… They have admitted that if the slogan becomes “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” they will all accept it. Milyukov explains this with particular clarity… He says he is prepared to accept the “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” slogan. He cannot see from over there in Paris whether this is to be a slight shift to the right or to the left, towards the anarchists. From over there, he cannot see what is going on in Kronstadt, but asks the monarchists not to rush and spoil things by shouting about it. He declares that even if the shift is to be to the left, he is prepared to back the Soviet power against the Bolsheviks…”
(Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers)

SOURCES:

Paul Avrich, Kronstadt: The 1921 Uprizing of Sailors in the Context of the Political Development of the New Soviet State

[Avrich provides a lot of useful factual information, however he is pro-anarchist. He sees the Kronstadt mutiny as a tragedy which could never have succeeded but he sympathizes with it. Despite everything he tries to deny that the mutiny was orchestrated by the Whites. He admits that the Kronstadt mutineers collaborated with Whites, Monarchists, Capitalists, foreign powers, Mensheviks and SRs but basically claims “that doesn’t matter”. His book is from 1970 when the archives were still closed. For that reason he relies quite heavily on dishonest Menshevik and Anarchist sources which have nothing to support their claims, and often he takes Petrichenko’s words at face value. He also doesn’t understand Marxism and therefore distorts it. Perhaps it was impossible to publish in American academia unless one reached an anti-bolshevik conclusion? Still he deserves credit for his discoveries.]

White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt, reprinted in Avrich

Primary source documents printed in “Kronshtadtskaia tragediia 1921 goda, dokumenty v dvukh knigakh” (“Kronstadt Tragedy”):
-Kuzmin Report, 25 March 1921
-Agranov Report, April 1921
-“To All Posts of Kronstadt,” Kronstadt Izvestia
-Ivan Oreshin, Volia Rossii (April-May 1921)
-Kronstadt March 1 Resolution
-Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921.
-Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”
-Komarov Report, 25 March 1921
-Von Lampe’s Diary entry
-Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov

Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution, Spartacist #6 Spring 2006
[Very good article, which brought many primary source documents to my attention. The article propagates erroneous Trotskyist views but luckily they have practically nothing to do with the topic of Kronstadt and can thus be ignored.]

Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939

Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov

Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921

History of the USSR volume 3
http://ciml.250x.com/archive/ussr/english/history_of_the_usssr_part3.pdf

Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, Russ. ed., p. 217, quoted in History of the USSR vol. 3

Hufvudstadsbladet, March 8, quoted in “The Truth about Kronstadt” by Wright

Kronstadt Izvestia, March 7 & 11, quoted in Wright

Sotsialisticheski Vestnik April 5, 1921, quoted in Wright

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.”, Matin, March 7, quoted in Wright

“Der Aufstand in Russland.”, Vossische Zeitung, March 10, quoted in Wright

The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2

Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March quoted in Radek

Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt

History of the CPSU(B) short course
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1939/x01/ch09.htm

Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Lenin, The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/dec/30.htm

Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/15.htm

Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/10thcong/index.htm

Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/27.htm

Lenin, Third Congress Of The Communist International https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jun/12.htm

Lenin, The Tax in Kind
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm

Anti-Communist Propaganda And Psychological Warfare

Lenin said:

“…no living person can help taking the side of one class or another…” and “Taken as a whole, the professors of economics are nothing but learned salesmen of the capitalist class, while the professors of philosophy are learned salesmen of the theologians”
(Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism)

What Lenin said about capitalist professors of economics and philosophy, is surely even more true about capitalist historians. Engels put it even more bluntly:

“…the best paid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie.”
(Engels, Notes for the “History of Ireland”)

Communists are constantly under a barrage of psychological warfare from the capitalists and their henchmen. On any given historical topic there are countless books about the supposed crimes and atrocities committed by communists. While those books are often lazily researched, have bad evidence or no evidence at all, or can even be deliberately lying, they carry out their purpose. Their purpose is, that when ever someone wants to learn about a given topic related to communism, he is told “the communists are bad”. The sheer amount of anti-communist books on every possible topic, can slowly start to work on even an intelligent and devoted communist.

When one reads book after book, of more and more horrors supposedly caused by communism, it will unavoidable cause the communists to become discouraged, depressed – at least temporarily. The communist might almost start to believe the lies which all these dozens and dozens, thousands and tens of thousands of anti-communist books spread. Then, after hours and hours of research, the communist might find something which reveals the truth about communism, debunks the capitalist lies. For a moment, he is satisfied and comfortable. But the anti-communist psychological bombartment continues relentlessly.

Is it any wonder that so many workers hold anti-communist views? No. Withstanding the anti-communist propaganda bombartment can be extremely difficult, and for a person who hasn’t already learned the truth about marxism it is even more difficult. I grew up being taught to fear communism. And I really did fear it. Even after learning about marxism, it took several years to finally get rid of most of that fear, which was instilled deep inside my psyche, by years of indoctrination. Even after becoming a marxist, I still emotionally and irrationally feared communism. I knew it was the result of lies, but that didn’t make it go away.

Maybe for some other people it was easier, but for me it wasn’t easy. Only very gradually, after discovering more and more, and becoming slowly more and more convinced of the truth of communism, I finally was able to discard that fear.

Researching the history of socialism in Hungary has reminded me of all these things, because I read dozens of books, maybe 30 or 40 about the topic, and the vast majority of them were absolutely virulently anti-communist.

My plan for researching the history of socialism in Hungary was simple:
1) find some books discussing it from a marxist point of view.
2) find maybe two or three non-marxist books on the subject which would be somewhat objective, as neutral as possible, and have lots of sources and evidence.

The first goal was actually very easy. I found some marxist books about Hungary. The second goal proved to be impossible. I didn’t find even a single good history book about Hungary written by a non-communist. Even the best ones, like “Hungary: A Short History” by Norman Stone and “Revolution in Hungary” by Paul E. Zinner were terrible. Some chapters by Stone would have only a small number of sources, and it had insane and unproven slanders against communism all the time. Zinner’s book had more sources, but it was equally dishonest, untrustworthy and often times blatantly lying or badly researched. The other books which I read, were all much worse. Some of them had zero sources, or less then five sources in the whole book, it was common. They all made the same unfounded assertions about important events in Hungarian history.

I could read those books, and always get the same answers, and everytime it was without any good evidence, without citations, or citing one of those terrible books which I had already read, which itself had no evidence or cited yet another terrible book with no evidence. Eventually after hours of research, I could discover the original source for some baseless claim, and it was proved to be lies. But what if I wanted to find out the truth, and not merely discover what was lies? It was extremely difficult, because those books often times contained barely any truth. Even a basic summary of Hungarian history was often distorted almost beyond recognition.

But it began to take its toll. There were times when it made me sad. I read atrocity-story after atrocity-story. “Communist dictators”, “communist murderers”, “bloodthirsty communist tyrants”, “economic disaster caused by communism”, “destruction of culture by communism”. I knew it was lies, but it still made me unhappy to have to read it constantly, book after book. And only occasionally, I would get a small glimpse of truth, some new fact which I could verify and add to my pile of knowledge. I stayed motivated, and sometimes the little discoveries that I made were rewarding.

History is just as partisan as any science. History has a class character like everything. Capitalist society is ruled by capitalist ideology. Those truths were always in my arsenal. But it might be easy to forget those things. One might simply fall into the comfortable fantasy that the historians – taught in capitalist schools, taught by virulent anti-communists, taught based on anti-communist books, restricted by the capitalist academia which decides what gets published and what doesn’t – that those historians, really were telling the simple and “neutral” facts. Life would be so easy then, so comforting. One wouldn’t need to rack one’s brain. Could simply believe the professors, could simply believe the “salesmen” of anti-communism as Lenin said. One might simply fall into that comfortable dream… of class collaboration.

But instead, we have to awaken to the frightening, and unpleasant wakefulness, where the henchmen of the capitalists are always merely serving their class interest, where we can never believe in some “simple” and “neutral” truth, but have to always analyze everything for ourselves, through a firmly proletarian and marxist viewpoint, never lapsing into the fantasy of “neutrality”, but always keeping a proletarian partisan viewpoint. And at every step, the capitalist propagandists try to hinder us, they hide the facts, they spread lies, they falsify, distort, they use fear-propaganda and drive it into our heads daily and for all our lives. And many of them even believe many of their own lies.

When I read a historian or a journalist, and I discover that they are telling lies, deliberately, maliciously, to protect exploitation, to oppress the hard working everyday people of the world, it almost always makes me at least a little unhappy. When I read a historian who uses very colorful well crafted language to describe a situation, his text captures my imagination, I go with the flow of his text, almost beginning to believe him, and then something alerts me, stirs me from the enjoyable activity of reading a well crafted narrative. I stop. I consider. He has written something which cannot be right… or something very biased… I check to see… There is no citation… or the citation is one of the familiar hacks and liars. Another disappointement. More malicious lies! I’m not surprised but I am unhappy.

There is an optimism which comes with marxism, but there is also a sadness. A sadness about the state of the world, and the capitalists use this ruthlessly against us. They want a sad, apathetic mass of people without hope.

We can live in the fantasy-land where the capitalist professors are simply “neutral” and always reliable. It would be easier. No critical thinking is required. Just play video games, drink alcohol, distract yourself. In that kind of life, we are safely kept away from communism by fear and ignorance. “Communism doesn’t work”, “Communism leads to millions of deaths”. Better to stay away from it!
As long as one doesn’t care about the truth, as long as one isn’t too curious! And there are so many products to help take our mind off things…

Stalin said that revisionists are those, who surrender under the pressure of capitalism and capitalist ideology. (Stalin, The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.)) A revisionist believes in their heart that it is too hard to fight the capitalists, to resist them. It is easier to capitulate, compromise with them. This is why so many people who consider themselves progressives or even communists, adopt revisionist ideas and believe lies about communism. They are under a constant shower of anti-communist propaganda, it takes determination and hard work to resist it – but we must resist it, we have no choice, the masses, humanity itself, has no other choice.

Lenin said: “a revolution that is more difficult, more tangible, more radical and more decisive than the overthrow of the bourgeoisie,… is a victory… over the habits left as a heritage to the worker and peasant by accursed capitalism.” (Lenin, A Great Beginning)

Should we be surprised about the revisionists and opportunist waverers, the compromisers and those who consider themselves honest and good people, and even progressives, who still parrot anti-communist lies? They collapse into the bourgeois swamp under the weight of all the propaganda, all the conservative attitudes, prejudices and ingrained beliefs which have been drilled into our heads for generations.

In What is to be done? Lenin discusses how there exists a spontaneous working class movement. He says this movement will always be limited in what it can achieve, and it can even turn to strengthen capitalism, because it lacks class consciousness. The spontaneous movement is a product of capitalism, and only class consciousness can help it overcome this. Class consciousness does not arise automatically, but due to hard struggle and study. It is always easier to lapse into spontaneity, to think what everybody else is thinking, to accept the status quo, or if the spontaneous person rejects the status quo, they do it based on the status quo: though its ideas, through false solutions provided by the status quo itself, not through class conscious communism, but through reformism, nationalism, revisionism, utopianism.

Instead of the difficult but correct road of class consciousness it is easy to step into the broad and massive marsh of spontaneity and capitalist ideology, which surrounds us from all sides:
“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having… chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh!… Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place… Only let go of our hand… for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!”
(Lenin, What is to be done?)

To surrender under pressure from capitalist ideology, to collapse under the weight of capitalist ideas, prejudices and traditions, to become discouraged and pessimistic, to sink into the marsh of spontaneous capitalist trends and beliefs, or even to become a happy and brainless believer in the lies of the capitalist professors, a blissfully ignorant person. Those are all dangers for any worker, for any communist.

But capitalism has no future, and it has no truth, only ignorance, lies and decay, poverty, misery and war, death of culture, stagnation of philosophy, and science being turned against the people.

So let’s keep fighting for a better world for the workers, for humanity itself. Despite all the difficulties the future is ours’. Marx wasn’t wrong when he said “workers have nothing to lose but their chains”, he wasn’t wrong at all. More often then not, those chains are not only physical but intellectual and mental too: chains of lies, chains of ignorance, chains of fear. The truth is that we don’t have anything to lose, only a world to win!


Sources:

Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/mec/

Engels, Notes for the “History of Ireland”
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1870/history-ireland/notes.htm

Stalin, The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1929/04/22.htm

Lenin, A Great Beginning
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jun/19.htm

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/

Short critique of Trotskyism

In terms of theory, Trotskyism is a form of revisionism. It tries to change aspects of Marxism-Leninism and replace them with Trotskyism. However, ‘orthodox trotskyists’ (the original type of trotskyists) also agree with Marxism-Leninism on many issues.

Trotsky created only a few new ‘theories’:

  • the idea that Socialism can only be built if it happens in many Western industrial countries at the same time.
  • the idea that the USSR was a “degenerated stalinist state”
  • the idea that workers cannot ally with anti-fascist bourgeoisie or anti-imperialist bourgeoisie

I think all of those ideas are wrong. But like I said, its possible to find some common ground with some Trotskyists.

In terms of its historical role, Trotskyism was anti-communist. Its main goal was to attack and criticize Marxist-Leninist communist parties in all countries, and create propaganda against the Soviet Union. They also collaborated with enemies of the Soviet Union and enemies of communist parties. Sometimes they secretly allied with capitalists and fascists against “stalinist communists”. That is why it was impossible historically for Trotskyists to unite with Marxist-Leninists. Today the situation is a little bit different, as the Soviet Union and “stalinism” no longer exists.

Modern Trotskyists still attack the legacy of the USSR and the legacy of communism. That is a problem. They also advocate incorrect theories. Many (if not most) modern Trotskyist organizations have betrayed orthodox Trotskyism and have accepted worse kinds of revisionist ideas. Some of them defend US imperialism as “spreading democracy” and “overthrowing dictatorships”. Some of them advocate reformism and some of them are basically liberals. But its possible to find some orthodox Trotskyists who can be reasonable, and can agree with Marxist-Leninists on many things. They probably won’t agree about historical events, but they might agree with our modern day tactics and goals.

The “Holodomor” explained

INTRODUCTION

The famine in Ukraine, the so-called “holodomor” was a serious natural disaster. The collectivization of agriculture began in 1928 and the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 seriously threatened the success of collectivization and the entire Five-Year Plan.

The primary reasons for the famine were the weather conditions. There were two serious crop failures in a row (and others before) because of drought and snow which prevented sowings. A plant disease called ‘grain-rust’ also destroyed much of the crops. ‘Rusted’ crops can look normal and so the government didn’t originally recognize that much of the food was ruined. The bulk of this article describes the causes of the famine in detail, based on the research of Mark B. Tauger, Associate Professor of History at West Virginia University, who has published many peer-reviewed scientific papers and articles on these topics.

WHY DID THE COLLECTIVIZATION OF AGRICULTURE TAKE PLACE?

The collectivization began in 1928 because of several reasons:

  • the USSR needed to industrialize to build socialism. Collectivization was necessary in order to grow enough food for a larger industrial proletariat.
  • the USSR needed to industrialize fast, to build a strong modern military to defend itself
  • class relations inside the country had reached a crisis in 1927. The NEP succeeded in rebuilding the economy after the Civil War, but it allowed the rural capitalists (‘kulaks’) to grow stronger. Most small farmers only produced enough food for their own families and didn’t sell food. Most food on the market was produced by large kulaks. They demanded less regulations on prices, and demanded higher prices for higher profits. They controlled the food supply of the cities and could use this to blackmail the government. In 1926-27 the kulaks were refusing to sell or produce food. The government responded by confiscating food which they were hiding. Kulaks responded by destroying food, slaughtering animals, and stopping farming etc.

The Soviet government had two options: to accept the demand for de-regulation and move back to unrestricted capitalism. Or to fight the kulaks and move towards socialism. Of course they chose to fight. It was impossible to accept the kulak demands, it would’ve meant the death of the socialist revolution and the country would’ve remained underdeveloped.

Poor peasants were encouraged to take over lands from kulaks which were not being used, and set up collective farms on those lands. The fight intensified in the countryside and kulaks were able to destroy many farm buildings and kill huge amounts of animals. This contributed to the famine, but was not the main cause of it.

Prof. Mark Tauger has shown conclusively that the Soviets couldn’t have avoided the famine in any way. The weather caused the crops to not grow, and thus they didn’t have enough food regardless of what they did.

Right-Wing propagandists claim that collectivization caused the famine, which is obviously false. We have evidence that the famine was caused by crop failure due to weather, but also the famine ended when the collective farms produced a good harvest. And after that the Soviet Union didn’t have famines anymore, except because of the war.

Some right-wingers also claim that the famine was purposefully orchestrated to kill Ukrainians, but there is no evidence of that. Ukraine received a million tons of food aid from the Russian SSR etc. The famine was a disaster for the Soviet economy, so they would never have caused it on purpose.

TAUGER’S RESEARCH:

WAS THE FAMINE ORCHESTRATED ON PURPOSE?

“A Ukrainian nationalist interpretation holds that the Soviet regime, and specifically Iosif Stalin, intentionally imposed the famine to suppress the nationalist aspirations of Ukraine and Ukrainians; revisionists argue that the leadership imposed the famine to suppress more widespread peasant resistance to collectivization… recent research has cast substantial doubt on them. Several studies and document collections have shown conclusively that the famine did not stop at Ukraine’s borders, but affected rural and urban areas throughout the Soviet Union, and even the military.”
(Prof. Mark B. Tauger, Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933, p. 2. From now on this article will be cited simply as “Tauger”)

The Soviet government sent several millions of tons of food aid to Ukraine. This was all they had, but not enough. The famine was not caused by any government decision or policy, but by natural disasters which lead to crop-failures:

“The Soviet government did have small reserves of grain, but continually drew these down to allocate food to the population… virtually the entire country experienced shortages of food… the Soviet Union faced a severe shortage, and the most important cause of that shortage has to have been small harvests in 1931 and 1932… Russia itself has endured more than one hundred fifty famines in its thousand years of recorded history, virtually all of which resulted directly from natural disasters, in most cases drought…” (Tauger, p. 7)

“[E]nvironmental disasters… have to be considered among the primary causes of the famine. I argue that capital and labor difficulties were… not as important as these environmental factors, and were in part a result of them… I conclude that it is thus inaccurate to describe the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 as simply an artificial or man-made famine…” (Tauger, p. 8)

In his article “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933” Tauger explains that grain procurement by the government was decreased in 1932 which should’ve left more food in villages assuming that the harvest was alright. But there was famine because the harvest was ruined by natural disasters. Procurement or export weren’t the problem. The narrative that the government supposedly took all the food and left people to die, cannot be supported by evidence.

“The low 1932 harvest worsened severe food shortages already widespread in the Soviet Union at least since 1931 and, despite sharply reduced grain exports, made famine likely if not inevitable in 1933.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

This situation makes it difficult to accept the interpretation of the famine as the result of the 1932 grain procurements and as a conscious act of genocide. The harvest of 1932 essentially made a famine inevitable.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

Anti-communist eye-witnesses are unreliable in any case, but in “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933” Tauger demonstrates that the reason eye-witnesses might’ve claimed the harvest was good, is probably because they didn’t have the expertise to recognize diseased crops on the fields. More of this later in the article.

DROUGHT

The crop-failure was not caused by the Soviet system. In fact other countries at the same time also experienced droughts and famine. However, capitalist-colonialist regimes behaved much more cruelly in these situations:

“The Soviet regime was not unique in this experience: other major agricultural countries in the world also encountered major natural disasters and food crises in the early 1930s. The United States in 1930-1931 endured what was termed “the great southern drought,” which affected twenty-three states from Texas to West Virginia, brought immense suffering and increased mortality, and caused a major political scandal when Herbert Hoover refused to allocate food relief from federal government resources… French colonies in western Africa in 1931-1932 endured a drought, locust infestation, and the worst famine ever recorded there, though the French authorities continued to demand taxes.” (Tauger, pp. 9-10)

Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution was a poor underdeveloped country. As such, it was food insecure and at the mercy of natural disasters and crop failures. To combat droughts, pests, floods and other disasters it would’ve been necessary to build massive irrigation projects, drains, pesticide industries and to improve the soil. Something which the Russian Empire had completely neglected. It fell upon the shoulders of the Soviet government to overcome these challenges.

“Russia itself has endured more than one hundred fifty famines in its thousand years of recorded history, virtually all of which resulted directly from natural disasters, in most cases drought…” (Tauger, p. 7)

“The grain crisis and famine of 1928-1929 were among the main factors that led Soviet leaders… to undertake the collectivization of agriculture. Even in 1930 many regions had unfavorable weather and crop failures… The domestic context of the 1931-1933 famine, therefore, was one of chronic food insecurity. Natural disasters, especially drought alone or in combination with other environmental factors… repeatedly caused crop failures during the early years of the Soviet Union and threatened to revive the food crises and famine of the Civil War period…” (Tauger, p. 9)

Before the famine many grain-growing areas only had 25% of the necessary rain:

“[D]rought played a central role in precipitating the famine crisis… In the main spring-grain maturation period of mid-April to mid-June, precipitation in the southern Urals and Western Siberia was one-fourth of the amount that agronomists there considered necessary for normal plant growth.” (Tauger, p. 11)

“Serious famine conditions in villages and towns in Ukraine by early 1932 required special food relief. The regime admitted the seriousness of this drought publicly, in particular by holding a conference on drought in October 1931 attended by agricultural specialists as well as Sovnarkom chairman Viacheslav Molotov and other high officials. The government also established a meteorological monitoring service and began plans for construction of major irrigation projects along the Volga and in other drought-prone areas. The Central Committee also dispatched seed and food loans to most of the severely affected regions.” (Tauger, p. 12)

Collected grain had to be sent back to the farms, because otherwise they wouldn’t have any seed-grain to sow:

“This was the situation throughout the eastern regions. The Urals oblast’ … had to obtain a seed and provisions loan of 350,000 tons, 45 percent of its procurements. Kazakstan received back 36 percent. Western Siberia 22 percent, Bashkiria 20 percent.” (Tauger, p. 12)

WINTERKILL AND TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATIONS

“Other weather conditions quite distinct from drought affected the 1932 crop. In January 1932 a sudden warm spell in the southern regions of the Soviet Union caused fall-sown crops to start growing, after which winter temperatures returned and killed a portion of the crop. In Ukraine this winterkill destroyed at least 12 percent of fall-sown crops, more than double the long-term average; in one district 62 percent of winter crops failed.” (Tauger, p. 13)

CROP-DISEASES

It may sound paradoxical but despite the early drought and snow which prevented sowing and killed crops, the rest of the year was actually much too humid. Heavy rainfall (as much as triple the normal rain) destroyed crops and the humidity stimulated the spread of plant-diseases, massive growth of the insect population and weeds, which also destroyed crops.

“And most important, despite the regional droughts mentioned above, 1932 was overall a warm and humid year. In several regions heavy rains damaged crops and reduced yields… [there was] heavy rainfall in 1932 which was double or triple the normal amount in many regions. “ (Tauger, pp. 13-14)

“such rainfall encourages the spread of crop diseases. This type of problem chronically affected the Soviet Union… The most important infestation in 1932 came from several varieties of rust, a category of fungi that can infest grains and many other plants…” (Tauger, p. 15)

The most sinister aspect of grain-rust and other such diseases, is that they are hard to detect. Crops can look normal for a long time but be inedible:

“Although in some cases rust will kill grain plants, rusted grain ordinarily will continue to grow, form ears, and in general appear normal; but the grain heads will not “fill,” so that the harvest will seem “light” and consist of small grains, or of fewer normal-sized grains, and disproportionately of husks and other fibrous materials. In other words, a field of wheat (or barley, rye, oats, or other grain, all of which are susceptible to rust) could appear entirely normal and promising, and yet because of the infestation could produce an extremely low yield… Rusts have been the most common and the most destructive infestations of grain crops, and remain so today… In 1935, wheat stem rust caused losses of more than 50 percent in North Dakota and Minnesota…” (Tauger, p. 15)

“In 1932, however, a large epiphytotic of rust, one of the most severe recorded, affected all Eastern Europe… Studies of estates in Germany found losses of 40 to 80 percent of wheat crops, a scale not seen in decades, if ever… In Hungary, a leading specialist described the rust epidemic that year as the worst in generations; additional reports from elsewhere in the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, and Poland referred to “fantastic” losses.” (Tauger, p. 16)

“Identifying rust required specialized knowledge and training… peasants in the North Caucasus could not distinguish between rust and other diseases…This problem was by no means limited to the USSR; a study of wheat growing in Maryland in 1929 found an inverse relation between the condition of the crop and its final yield, because the high rainfall that stimulated plant growth also fostered plant diseases: “A farmer observing a lush stand reported a high condition, not recognizing the development of the disease before harvest time.” The fact that rust was difficult for nonspecialists to detect helps to explain the numerous claims in memoirs and testimonies of a good 1932 harvest Famine survivors in the Volga region whom the Russian historian Viktor Kondrashin interviewed, however, remembered that in the 1932 harvest the ears were somehow “empty,” the characteristic one would expect from rusted grain.” (Tauger, p.17)

“While rust infestations were not a new problem in Russia, the extreme outbreak in 1932 took agronomists by surprise…” (Tauger, p.18)

“Rust was not the only plant disease to affect Soviet agriculture in 1932: large outbreaks of smut also caused substantial losses. Smut spreads through the soil or from contaminated seed, and like rust does not alter greatly the external appearance of the crop… the disease not only destroys grain in infested plants but also easily contaminates healthy grain in the harvest… Smut had been a severe problem in Soviet agriculture during NEP [in the 1920s]. Infestations in many parts of the country in 1922 caused substantial losses, in extreme cases more than 80 percent…” (Tauger, p. 18)

INSECTS AND PESTS

“The warm, humid weather in 1932 also led to severe insect infestations, including locusts, field moths, and other insects on grain and sugar beets… [There was a] failure of winter sowings due to pests and the above-mentioned winterkill in 333 districts in Ukraine, encompassing an area of 747,984 hectares, which inducted 8.6 percent of winter sowings and 10.5 percent of winter wheat.” (Tauger, p. 20)

WEEDS

“Weeds were a major problem through the famine period… The unusually warm and wet weather in 1932 greatly stimulated this weed growth” (Tauger, p. 40)

LACK OF HORSES AND OTHER DRAUGHT ANIMALS

Lack of horses contributed to the famine. The majority of animals were owned by rich peasants (kulaks). Most poor peasants only owned a single horse or cow, and one third of peasants didn’t own any. Because most animals were concentrated in the hands of kulaks, they were able to slaughter large amounts of them as a form of economic warfare. However, the biggest cause for lack of horses was the famine itself:

“Animals were the immediate victims of shortages in 1930-1933 since starving peasants had no choice but to feed themselves first from the dwindling reserves” (Tauger, p. 22)

“By April 1932 30-40 percent of the horses were incapable of work.” (Tauger, p. 24)

It would be a mistake to blame the famine on sabotage by kulaks or by capitalists, but instances of sabotage did occur:

“some 5,000 tractors purchased from the American company “Oliver” had leaking radiators and loud sounds in their mufflers, transmissions, and motors… Allis-Chalmers tractors purchased in 1930 arrived with missing parts.”
(Tauger, p. 24)

The Soviet Union was producing tens of thousands of tractors during 1932 but this was not enough to meet the growing need, due to the unexpected catastrophe.

SOIL EXHAUSTION

Soil science was invented in Russia because of the extreme soil exhaustion in the final period of the Russian Empire. This continued to be a problem for the early USSR especially when it was decided to try to cultivate new lands and increase crop-area. Grain was a priority, so peasants neglected crop-rotation which caused exhaustion of the soil. This was due to ignorance but also due to economic motivators. The government also considered that to solve the grain-shortage this was acceptable for a period of 5 years maximum, but no more. However, already in 1932 the Politburo issued a decree to increase crop-rotation and thus combat soil exhaustion.

“soil exhaustion from repeated sowings of grain in the same fields and lack of crop rotations caused serious declines in yield… This situation reflected a general problem in the Soviet Union: despite its vast size, [due to the Czarist backwardness] the country had surprisingly little good agricultural land; at this time the United States had more land under crops than the Soviet Union.” (Tauger, pp. 38-39)

“[I]n September 1932 the Politburo formed a commission… to raise crop yields and combat weeds. Stalin and Molotov themselves joined this commission, and the result was the decree of 29 September “on measures for raising harvest yields.” This decree ordered that all party, state, and economic organizations focus their work on raising harvest yields “as the central task of agricultural development at the present moment” and specified measures to increase grain sowings at the expense of technical crops and to introduce crop rotations.” (Tauger, p. 46)

PEASANT RESISTANCE?

During collectivization of agriculture the Communists deported many rural capitalists (kulaks) from their land and gave the land to poor and landless peasants. It is often claimed that this “ruined” Russian farming. However, that’s false:

“the common assertion that dekulakization removed the best farmers from farming contains two arguments that are questionable at best… “poor” or “middle” peasants were potentially just as competent farmers as the “kulaks.” Dekulakization, therefore, would not have removed all the best farmers, even if officials applied the policy to remove the “well-off’ farmers.” (Tauger, p. 26)

It is also often claimed that the famine resulted from massive peasant resistance. This is also false:

“Peasant resistance and unwillingness to work in the collective farms are fundamental themes in discussions of the famine and Soviet agriculture generally… My research on Soviet farm labor policies and actual peasant practices and my reading of this literature, however, has made me skeptical of the argument for labor resistance… for peasant resistance to have been sufficient to cause the low 1932 harvest an extremely large number of peasants would have had to act this way… the argument asserts that the majority of peasants attempted to deprive their families and fellow villagers of sufficient food to last until the next harvest. This interpretation, therefore, requires us to believe that most peasants acted against their own and their neighbors’ self-interest. This viewpoint is difficult to accept both on general human terms and particularly when applied to peasants in Russia and Ukraine. The great majority of these peasants had lived for centuries in corporate villages that had instilled certain basic cooperative values, and the kolkhozy perpetuated basic features of these villages.” (Tauger, p. 28)

“Although observers at the time argued, as do some scholars today, that peasant resistance took forms that diminished the harvest, the evidence… leads to a more ambivalent conclusion. Some peasants’ actions clearly indicated that they sought to do as much as possible to save the harvest… in some cases peasants restored kolkhozy (reports referred to cases in the Middle Volga, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Moscow regions)…” (Tauger, p. 33-34)

There was real sabotage committed by kulaks and middle-peasants who had been persuaded by kulaks. This sabotage still wasn’t among the main causes of the famine:

“Only in certain types of actions can we discern a clear, conscious effort to reduce food production… In some cases …[saboteurs] attacked kolkhozniki working in the fields in order to induce them to join with the leavers and divide up the farm… In the Middle Volga, Nizhnii Novgorod, Ivanovo, and Northern regions, arson destroyed thousands of hectares of unharvested grain and hundreds of tons of harvested grain, in addition to hundreds of thousand of hectares of forests, cut timber, housing, and fuel. In some places [saboteurs] attacked officials and other peasants involved in harvest work and destroyed harvest machinery” (Tauger, p. 33-34)

However, there were no real signs of massive peasant resistance. Tauger states that from what we can see: “at least some peasants worked hard, and this situation was not limited to Ukraine.” and other peasants “may not have worked less” (Tauger, p. 36)

In reality, the Soviet government relied on the workers (industrial but also agricultural) and poor and middle peasants:

“the regime’s actions during and after the famine indicated that they did not see the peasants exclusively as enemies. For example, the political departments formed in MTS and sovkhozy in early 1933 to organize farm work during the famine… promoting thousands of peasants… and… relied on the peasants to overcome the crisis. ” (Tauger, p. 49)

In reality, older sources which described alleged peasant resistance may simply have mistaken fallow land as “abandoned by resisting peasants”. Eventually these stories became widespread in anti-communist circles and were repeated constantly:

“[C]ritical observers may have mistaken fallows as abandoned lands.” (Tauger, p. 39)

Peasant resistance was also exaggerated because the government “may have misinterpreted as a protest what may have been simply a farm with more labor than it could employ” (Tauger, p. 36)

REPRESSION?

Anti-communists have claimed that the USSR was only able to “force” peasants to farm during this period due to extreme repression such as punishing those farms who refused to sell excess grain. However, according to Tauger the repression was not quite so severe:

“repressive measures… however, seem to have had limited effects.” (Tauger, p. 37)

Instead of believing in conspiracy theories, it is much more likely that the peasants farmed simply because it was in everybody’s best interest. The collective farm movement was not something completely alien to them, and the movement itself relied on tens of millions of peasants and activists.

DID THE USSR EXPORT FOOD DURING THE FAMINE?

The USSR needed capital to purchase industrial goods, machines and to hire foreign experts. This was part of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, to turn a backward country into a modern industrial country. The Russian Empire also used to expert raw-materials (mainly grain and cotton) because it was a backward agrarian state. The USSR tried to escape this backwardness.

“[T]hat put the Soviet Union under intense pressure to export commodities”
(Tauger, p. 44)

The USSR tried to achieve some level of economic independence but was being squeezed ruthlessly by foreign countries, which forced it to export:

“According to the commercial counselor of the British Embassy in Moscow, writing in late 1931, “failure [by the Soviet government] to meet its obligations would certainly bring disaster in its train. Not only would further credits cease, but all future exports, all Soviet shipping entering foreign ports, all Soviet property already in foreign countries would be liable to seizure to cover sums due. Admission of insolvency would endanger the achievement of all aspirations based on the five-year plan and might indeed imperil the existence of the government itself” (PRO FO 371. 15607 N7648/ 167/38, 6-7). German Chancellor Bruening told a British diplomat in Berlin in early 1932 that if the Soviets “did not meet their bills in some form or other, their credit would be destroyed for good and all” (PRO FO 371 16327 N456/ 158/38).” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

It is often claimed that the government supposedly had lots of food, but simply exported all of it. This is a conspiracy theory, and is not based on any reliable evidence.

“The amount of grain exported during the peak of the famine in the first half of 1933, however, approximately 220,000 tons, was small, less than 1 percent of the lowest harvest estimates, and the regime was using virtually all the rest of the available harvest to feed people.” (Tauger, p. 6)

“Total aid to famine regions was more than double exports for the first half of 1933.”
(Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

“The severity and geographical extent of the famine, the sharp decline in exports in 1932-1933, seed requirements, and the chaos in the Soviet Union in these years, all lead to the conclusion that even a complete cessation of exports would not have been enough to prevent famine.” (Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

The fact is that even if all exports had been stopped, it wouldn’t have prevented the famine. However, it would have made industrialization impossible and thus kept the country in poverty, and at risk of future famines. Industrialization was a necessity in order to end famines. If the harvest of 1932 had been successful, as everyone hoped, then there would not have been any famine. However, the USSR at the time was still not industrialized and therefore was to a large extent at the mercy of environmental factors outside of their control.

TAUGER’S CONCLUSION

The [low] harvest of 1932 essentially made a famine inevitable.
(Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933”)

“Any study that asserts that the harvest was not extraordinarily low and that the famine was a political measure intentionally imposed through excessive procurements is clearly based on an insufficient source base and an uncritical approach to the official sources. The evidence cited above demonstrates that the 1932-1933 famine was the result of a genuine shortage, a substantial decline in the availability of food… [The famine was] the result of the largest in a series of natural disasters… it is clear that the small harvests of 1931-1932 created shortages that affected virtually everyone in the country and that the Soviet regime did not have the internal resources to alleviate the crisis.” (Tauger, p. 48)

The famine ended in 1933 when the collective farms produced a successful crop, much larger then ones before. The collective system demonstrated its effectiveness by increasing crop yields continually.

MORE READING:
Holodomor, myth and reality
Blood_Lies by Grover Furr (Best short book to read on the topic)
Fraud, Famine and Fascism by Douglas Tottle
Collectivization and the “Ukrainian holocaust” (from Another View of Stalin)
Famine of 1932 (from “the Real Stalin” series)