Analyzing the Moscow Trials

Also check out my three articles explaining the Moscow Trials from beginning to end (part 1, part 2, part 3).


Apparently communist historian Grover Furr has a book called “Moscow Trials as Evidence”. I have not read the book (I’ll check it out some day). However, I have read all the transcripts of the trials themselves, and they indeed provide fascinating information.

Introduction

The vast majority of people who dismiss the Moscow Trials as a “fraud”, “frame-up” or “hoax”, have never read the trial material. It is also possible that many are not knowledgeable enough about the context to understand the trial material, even if they read it. The materials themselves are not difficult to understand, but if one is a) ignorant on the context and b) has a strong anti-communist bias, they might conclude that if there is something they don’t understand, or something which seems strange or far-fetched, then it must be fraudulent.

In actuality, however, the trial materials are absolutely believable. I strongly recommend everyone interested in the topic to actually read the materials. Almost everything in the trial materials is verified by independent evidence, or has a very logical and rational explanation (if one is not too blinded by bias). As a result the trials seem completely legitimate and truthful.

Of course, there are some details which are questionable. At every trial, defendants will always try to lie about certain things, they will forget things, get details wrong etc. This only further makes the trials more credible, because if there actually were absolutely zero contradictions or mistakes, it would suggest the thing could be scripted.

Why would someone believe the trials were a fraud?

The most common reason is simply that anti-communist historians claim the trials were a fraud. For most anti-communists this is the only reason. However, there are other possible reasons too, which are a bit more legitimate:

1) The accusations made at the trials seem extraordinary, at least if one is not familiar with the context or the motives and reasoning of the defendants. For those who are familiar with the defendants’ track record, their views and methods, the trial findings seem like a natural outcome of their past careers, and is only an escalation and “stepping up a notch” of the activity they were already doing in the past. For almost every accusation there is a precedent in the well-known past careers of the defendants. The more you know about the defendants and the facts surrounding the case, the more obvious their guilt seems. But in any case, the crimes (treason, espionage, terrorism etc.) are not ordinary every day crimes.

2) Many people think the defendants “were old Bolsheviks”, and “would not commit crimes like this”. Countless people have dismissed the trials on these grounds alone, but it is an argument entirely based on ignorance. Firstly, the status of the defendants as Old Bolsheviks is dubious at best. They had all committed various acts of treachery against Lenin, been in opposition to Lenin on countless occasions, for many years or even the majority of their careers, had opposed Lenin and Bolshevism in countless ways. Secondly, many of the defendants had engaged in acts very similar to those accused at the trials, already in the past, but usually (though not always) in less severe forms.

If one imagines the defendants as “Old Bolsheviks”, as “revolutionary Saints” who had always been nothing but loyal, and had never engaged in anything like this in the past, and if the crimes had been completely unprecedented, unheard of, and come entirely out of the blue, then it would indeed seem quite unbelievable. However, the opposite is the case. The defendants were a group of life-long oppositionists, and life-long professional underground conspirators, with a track record of similar acts. Stalin and all of his closest associates were also Old Bolsheviks. If the argument is that “Old Bolsheviks would never do anything wrong or terrible”, then we must conclude that Stalin must be entirely correct. The only difference is that Stalin and his associates were actually Old Bolsheviks in substance and not only in name. Stalin and his associates were never in opposition against Lenin. (See my article “Stalin & the myth of the ”Old Bolsheviks”” where I discuss this in more detail.)

3) Many people claim “the defendants would not unite with fascists, would not use terrorism” etc. because those positions are seen as un-marxist. However, this is also based on ignorance. The defendants all rationalized everything they did based on their own (albeit twisted) version of “marxism”. From the point of view of their worldview and their program, it all makes absolutely logical sense. Of course, their plan was still overly risky, adventurist, and unlikely to succeed. However, the plans of the Left-Opposition and the Trotskyist Opposition were always notorious for being adventurist, extremely risky, overly hasty, aggressive and, quite frankly, more like frenzied utopias of fanatics, rather then realistic and scientific plans.

The opposition (which the defendants belonged to for most of their careers) was also extremely well-known for flip-flopping on every conceivable position. To mention only some examples: Bukharin went from being the leader of the Left-Opposition to the leader of the Right-Opposition, from a main supporter of extremely left-policies during the civil war, to supporting the opposite policies only couple years later. Trotsky had changed his positions so many times that Lenin said “Trotsky, however, has never had any “physiognomy” at all; the only thing he does have is a habit of changing sides” (Lenin, The Break-Up of the “August” Bloc).

“Trotsky, on the other hand, represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated electoral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., he was in fact once more with the Mensheviks); and in the spring of 1907, at the London Congress, he said that he differed from Rosa Luxemburg on “individual shades of ideas rather than on political tendencies”. One day Trotsky plagiarises from the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; the next day he plagiarises from that of another” (Lenin, The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia)

“That is just like Trotsky! He is always equal to himself—twists, swindles, poses as a Left, helps the Right, so long as he can.” (Lenin to Inessa Armand, Labour Monthly, September 1949)

Trotsky had flip-flopped between various kinds of anti-Bolshevism for more then a decade, until he joined the Bolsheviks in 1917. Right before joining he had said at a conference of his group:

“I cannot be called a Bolshevik… We must not be demanded to recognise Bolshevism.” (Leon Trotsky, Mezhrayontsi conference, May 1917, quoted in Lenin, Miscellany IV, Russ. ed., 1925, p. 303.)

After joining the Bolsheviks Trotsky soon went into opposition against Lenin. By 1927 he had been expelled from the party, and he was advocating his own Trotskyist theories again, which strongly differed from the line of the party. To expect some kind of “Leninist orthodoxy” from these people is not logical.

Therefore, the argument that “the defendants would not do X, because they would think it un-marxist or un-Bolshevik” is not accurate. They supported one position one day, and the opposite position the next day, and always justified it by appealing to Marxism, or even to Bolshevism. The Trotskyists, Bukharinists and co. believed that they were the ones “creating Marxism”, they were the ones who would decide what Marxism means, they would decide what is Marxist and what is un-Marxist. Trotsky and Bukharin considered themselves to be theoreticians and authorities on Marxist ideology practically on the same level as Lenin, and certainly above everyone else.

They were also quite willing to re-interpret Marx himself, to say that “certain parts of Marx are outdated and must be revised” etc. According to Marxism-Leninism, the world had entered into a new stage of capitalism, and therefore new theories were needed. Trotskyists and Bukharinists agreed about this, but their theories were entirely different. They thought, if Lenin and Stalin can develop new theories, why couldn’t they?

There are signs that their view on terrorism was changing. Even in his public writings, Trotsky argued that “stalinism” had entered into a stage of “bureaucracy” which made terrorism inevitable, and practically justifiable, though he doesn’t say it openly:

“discontent is spreading within the masses of the people, for which the means of proper expression and an outlet are lacking, but which isolates the bureaucracy as a whole; if the youth itself feels that it is spurned, oppressed and deprived of the chance for independent development, the atmosphere for terroristic groupings is created.” (Trotsky, On the Kirov Assassination)

Trotsky has a track record of not stating his actual positions openly. For example, during the Brest-Litovsk crisis, he did not have the courage to join the Left-Communist Opposition openly and to advocate for a “red holywar” (Bukharin’s words). Instead Trotsky advocated “neither peace nor war”, which in reality opposed Lenin’s demand to sign the peace treaty, and supported the Left-Communist position of not signing it.

Lenin was very familiar with Trotsky’s common tactic, which he followed throughout his entire career, of not stating his views clearly and openly, but covering them up with vague and radical phrases and using deception. About Trotsky’s dishonest and covert protection of right-opportunism and liquidationism Lenin said:

“All that glitters is not gold. There is much glitter and sound in Trotsky’s phrases, but they are meaningless… If our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong in theory, in principle, then Trotsky should say so straightforwardly, and state definitely, without equivocation, why he thinks it is wrong. But Trotsky has been evading this extremely important point for years… Although Trotsky has refrained from openly expounding his views, quite a number of passages in his journal show what kind of ideas he has been trying to smuggle in.” (Lenin, Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity)

Bukharin and the Left-Opposition had also collaborated in the past with Left-SRs, who supported and used terrorism. They also advocated and attempted a coup’de’tat in 1918, which the Left-Opposition did not oppose in principle. Bukharin himself admitted this already in the 1920s, long before he was ever on trial.

Bukharin wrote in Pravda, January 3, 1924:

“I consider it my Party duty to tell about the proposal made by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries at a moment of bitter factional struggle so as to paralyse that idyllic varnishing of the events of the Brest period which has been practised by the comrades of the opposition…”

“They depicted the Brest period in the Party as ‘the height of democracy.’ I know very well that this was a period when the Party was within a hair’s breadth of a split, and when the whole country was within a hair’s breadth of its doom.”

When the left-opposition “pointedly compared current norms with the free discussions during the Brest controversy, Bukharin tried to discredit the earlier period by disclosing that Lenin’s arrest had been discussed by Left Communists and Left Socialist Revolutionaries in 1918, and asserting that it had been “a period when the party stood a hair from a split, and the whole country a hair from ruin.”” (Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: a political biography, 1888-1938, p. 156 quoting from Pravda, January 3, 1924, p. 5)

Someone might ask “didn’t the Bolshevik party of Lenin also have a brief alliance with the Left-SRs?” Yes they did, but in those days the Left-SR party was not the same. The Left-SR party was a wavering petit-bourgeois utopian socialist party which included many different elements. Only the terroristic and reactionary elements joined with the Right-SRs and Bukharin’s “Left-Communists”. The best elements of the Left-SR party opposed the reactionary coup. They created two new parties: the Narodnik Communists and Revolutionary Communists, which both soon dissolved themselves and simply joined the Bolshevik Party.

Zinoviev and Kamenev had also cultivated terroristic views among their supporters, which they admitted in 1935.

It is also often argued that Trotsky would find fascists so repugnant that he would never work with them, but in reality Trotsky was a calculating politician who was willing to work with any “enemy of his enemy” i.e. any enemy of Stalin. In Trotsky’s mind he was not really helping the fascists (at least not in the long run) but playing fascists and Stalin against each other, and Trotsky imagined he would be the true beneficiary. Trotsky had a long history of doing this. In exile from the USSR Trotsky was living on money provided to him by capitalists, he wanted to get political asylum in the USA and was willing to provide the US Secret Services information about communists and the USSR in exchange. The USA declined to give Trotsky asylum, but instead they kept in touch with him, assisting him, while Trotsky got asylum in Mexico. This has been revealed in documents released since the 90s.

“Trotsky and his staff began giving U.S. consular officials in Mexico information on communists and
alleged Comintern (Communist or Third International) agents in the U.S. and Mexico.” (Trotsky in Mexico: Toward a History of His Informal Contacts with the U.S. Government, 1937-1940, William Chase, p. 1)

“Trotsky also received periodic financial contributions from rich American sympathizers.” (Chase, p. 11)

Chase stated: “I can tell you we have concrete information that Leon Trotsky, too, was an informant of the US government.” (Trotsky and Rivera were informants of the US government – American Researchers reveal)

David Alfaro Siqueiros alleges that Trotsky received funds also from the American fascist Hearst Press (cf. “The Assault on the House of Leon Trotsky”)

Let’s take a look at the trials themselves. There are some particular points I want to comment on:

The Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial (1936)

I cannot give a full explanation here of trials or what the opposition was trying to do. I assume the reader of this article already has a pretty good idea. If not, check out my three part video or my three part blog article.

At the trial the Zinovievite Opposition was accused of planning to murder Stalin, Kirov and others. But why Kirov? Kirov had replaced Zinoviev as the Leningrad Party Secretary, and had basically decimated Zinoviev’s organization and replaced it with “stalinists”. That is a good reason to want Kirov out of the picture. The Zinovievites also believed they could kill Stalin, and after Stalin’s death there would inevitably emerge a power struggle, and Kirov was likely to win it. Therefore, it was necessary to kill Kirov and all the other “top stalinists”.

Counter-revolutionary terrorist Grigory Tokaev has independently corroborated this in his memoirs written after his defection to the West. Tokaev admitted to belong to an “opposition group which… had been forced to contemplate acts of political terror against both Kirov and Kalinin… Kirov was shot by yet another underground group.” (Tokaev, Comrade X, p. 2)

Tokaev was in contact with other terroristic groups. He stated:

“there had already been no less than fifteen attempts to assassinate Stalin, none had got near to success, each had cost many brave lives.” (Tokaev, Comrade X, p. 49)

Bukharin’s colleague Humbert-Droz who later became an anti-communist has also verified that the Right-Opposition was planning to form a coalition to murder Stalin.

“I went to see Bukharin… He brought me up to date with the contacts made by his group with the Zinoviev-Kamenev fraction in order to coordinate the struggle against the power of Stalin… Bukharin also told me that they had decided to utilise individual terror in order to rid themselves of Stalin.” (Humbert-Droz, De Lénin à Staline, Dix Ans Au Service de L’ Internationale Communiste 1921-31)

At the trial the Zinovievites were accused of plotting to organize the arrest and killing of the entire “stalinist leadership” at the 17th Party Congress. This is also corroborated by Tokaev.

“In 1934 there was a plot to start a revolution by arresting the whole of the Stalinist-packed 17th Congress of the Party.” (Tokaev, Comrade X, p. 37)

Zinovievites and Trotskyists had formed a United Bloc in 1932 which also included many other groupings including Right-Oppositionists. However, nothing is mentioned about that at this trial. This will be an important piece of information later.

Some might claim that Zinoviev and Kamenev were honest and always spoke the truth, and that their denials were truthful, but they had already been put on trial in 1935 where they admitted moral guilt for Kirov’s murder, as they had cultivated anti-party and terroristic views among their supporters (the murderer had been a supporter of Zinoviev). However, at the trial in 1935, not only did Zinoviev and Kamenev not reveal that they had actually planned the murder, not only indirectly inspired it, but they also kept secret their contact with the Trotskyists and Bukharinists, and concealed the existence of the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, which had been formed in 1932, as documents prove. They continued to try to hide the Bloc in the trial in 1936.

”The bloc is organised, it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists (former capitulators). The Safar–Tarkhan Group have not yet formally entered they have too extreme a position; they will enter very soon…”
(A letter from Sedov to Trotsky written in invisible ink, discovered by Pierre Broue, Library of Harvard College 4782)

The document also mentions by name I. N. Smirnov, Preobrazhensky and Ufintsev: “the I.N. Smirnov Group, Preobrazh. and Uf…” (Ibid.)

The Radek-Pyatakov Trial (1937)

At this trial of the famous Trotskyist Radek and the famous Left-Communist/Left-Oppositionist Pyatakov, the motivations and the program of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite United Opposition is explained in greater detail. Trotsky had claimed that building Socialism in One Country was impossible and that the Soviet industrialization would inevitably fail. Due to challenges and hardships in the struggle to industrialize, many oppositionists had accepted Trotsky’s view in 1928-33. The position of the Right-Opposition was also that rapid industrialization and building of Socialism were impossible. They found common ground with the Trotskyists. Pyatakov was a close colleague of Bukharin (the head of the Right-Opposition, and the previous head of the Left-Communist Opposition). The different oppositions were closely connected.

When the danger of a second World War increased, Trotsky argued that the USSR would inevitably lose the war to Japan and Germany. This position was accepted by many oppositionists in the mid 1930s.

“Only the overthrow of the Bonapartist Kremlin clique can make possible the regeneration of the military strength of the USSR… The struggle against war, imperialism, and fascism demands a ruthless struggle against Stalinism, splotched with crimes. Whoever defends Stalinism directly or indirectly, whoever keeps silent about its betrayals or exaggerates its military strength is the worst enemy of the revolution” (Trotsky, A Fresh Lesson: On the Character of the Coming War, 1938)

Trotsky stated that Stalin fears the coming war because it will lead to his overthrow:

“The Soviet bureaucracy fears a great war more than any ruling class in the world: it has little to win but everything to lose… the Moscow bureaucracy itself will be thrown into an abyss before the revolution comes in the capitalist countries.” (Trotsky, The Second World War, 1940)

Radek explained, that since they believed the USSR would not be able to win the war, it was necessary to make agreements with foreign powers (UK, Poland, and mainly Japan and Germany), to make compromises. When those countries attacked the USSR, the oppositionists would take power, and they would already have agreements with those foreign powers. These agreements would grant foreign powers all kinds of concessions: territory, trade-deals, the ability to invest in the USSR (as had been done during the NEP) etc. The Opposition believed these concessions would save the USSR from disaster, and were also totally in line with the rest of their program.

They believed that Socialism could not be built in one country, and therefore it was necessary to restore the NEP. Foreign investment would perfectly fit with this. It is true that the Left-Communists and Trotskyists had previously opposed the NEP and preferred war-communism, but now they changed their minds. It is not surprising and not even particularly dishonest and not exceptionally unprincipled, their position had simply evolved. War-communism would not be applicable anymore, the European revolution of 1917-23 had ended, and the situation was entirely different.

According to the Oppositionists, because the USSR’s defeat in the war was considered inevitable, the correct position was “revolutionary defeatism”. This meant intentionally sabotaging the defensive capacity of the USSR to hasten the inevitable defeat. This is a twisted version of Lenin’s “revolutionary defeatism” and “turning imperialist war into civil war”. In the 1920s Trotsky had already advocated the so-called “Clémenceau Thesis”, which claimed that while the USSR was threatened by invading enemy armies, by capitalist encirclement, it was necessary to overthrow the government and thus save the country.

“What is defeatism? A policy which pursues the aim of facilitating the defeat of one’s ‘own’ state which is in the hands of a hostile class. Any other conception and interpretation of defeatism will be a falsification. Thus, for example, if someone says that the political line of ignorant and dishonest cribbers must be swept away like garbage precisely in the interests of the victory of the workers’ state, that does not make him a ‘defeatist.’ On the contrary, under the given concrete conditions, he is thereby giving genuine expression to revolutionary defencism: ideological garbage does not lead to victory!” (Trotsky’s letter to Orjonikidze, July 11, 1927)

“Examples, and very instructive ones, could be found in the history of other classes. We shall quote only one. At the beginning of the imperialist war the French bourgeoisie had at its head a government without a sail or rudder. The Clemenceau group was in opposition to that government. Notwithstanding the war and the military censorship, notwithstanding even the fact that the Germans were eighty kilometres from Paris (Clemenceau said: ‘precisely because of it’), he conducted a fierce struggle against petty-bourgeois flabbiness and irresolution and for imperialist ferocity and ruthlessness. Clemenceau was not a traitor to his class, the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, he served it more loyally, more resolutely and more shrewdly than Viviani, Painleve and Co. The subsequent course of events proved that. The Clemenceau group came into power, and its more consistent, more predatory imperialist policy ensured victory for the French bourgeoisie. Were there any French newspapermen that called the Clemenceau group defeatist? There must have been: fools and slanderers follow in the train of every class. They do not, however, always have the opportunity to play an equally important role” (Trotsky’s letter to Orjonikidze, July 11, 1927)

Later Trotsky attempted to defend himself by saying:

“The Clémenceau example, the example from the political experience of a class inimical to us, was used by me to illustrate a solitary and a very simple idea: the ruling class, in the guise of its leading vanguard, must preserve its capacity to reform its ranks under the most difficult conditions” (Trotsky, The “Clémenceau Thesis” and the Party Regime)

“Reforming party ranks” here means overthrowing Stalin and abolishing the so-called “stalinist system” which allegedly prevented the proper functioning and reforming the party.

When Trotsky went into exile Radek refused to go with him. This resulted in a split between the two. Some might argue that since Radek split with Trotsky, the charge that he returned to Trotskyism was fabricated. However, Zinoviev also split with Trotsky in 1927, and Trotsky was very bitter about it. Despite of that, documents from the Harvard Trotsky archive prove that Zinoviev joined with Trotsky again in 1932, and even in these documents Trotsky makes bitter remarks against the “old capitulators” and “ex-Trotskyists”, i.e. those capitulators like Zinoviev and ex-Trotskyists like Radek who did not emigrate with Trotsky in 1927. Still they all united into a common bloc in 1932.

Radek explains that his betrayal against the party, and his re-joining the Trotskyists took place because he still remained friends with many “ex-trotskyists” who had not left with Trotsky, but who adopted the Trotskyist position again as soon as the difficulties and hard class struggle of 1928-33 began. Radek explained that he would always hang out with Trotskyists, hear them attacking the party and the government’s policies, and would not say anything or do anything to stop them. Thus he was already one foot in Trotskyism. Gradually he joined their group, and was finally asked to join by Trotsky.

Radek explains his personal motives for joining and later abandoning the Trotskyists. He said that he fully believed defeat of the USSR in the war was inevitable. As a result he supported the defeatist position, for him the only possible position. This position might sound crazy to any sane person, but the Left-Communists had previously made statements saying that in the interest of World Revolution, it was acceptable to sacrifice Soviet Power, to sacrifice the USSR to a defeat in war. A Left-Communist text from 1918 said:

“In the interests of the world revolution, we consider it expedient to accept the possibility of losing Soviet power which is now becoming purely formal.” (quoted in Lenin, Strange and Monstrous)

However, according to Radek, as the industrialization was proceeding he began to believe the USSR actually could win the war. This in his own words meant that the Trotskyist program was “unreal”, i.e. not in accordance with real facts. He began distancing himself from them, not because of any love for Stalin or any loyalty towards the USSR, but because of purely tactical calculations.

Radek’s testimony is completely believable. It actually would be hard to believe anything else. The entire plot flows inevitably from the logic of Trotsky’s position, and any other outcome is impossible. The trial features countless moments which testify to its authenticity and truthfulness, for example the questioning of the German engineer. The court has an unnecessary and awkward interaction with the engineer regarding whether he needs an interpreter or not. It demonstrates that this is a real court, with real people, and it was not scripted.

Same goes for the testimony of the international vagabond Arnold (who also had countless other names). Arnold is a small character in the whole thing, but his convoluted story takes a very long time to get straight. If a script-writer had manufactured the whole thing he probably would have cut that whole segment. The engineer and Arnold were involved in the Opposition’s sabotage activities against Soviet industry (especially militarily strategic industry). Pyatakov was a high official working in industry, so he had all the opportunities for sabotage.

The Opposition united with all enemies of the Stalin government: all oppositionists, mensheviks, nationalists, anti-communists, SRs etc. This is not unusual because e.g. we know from documents discovered in the Harvard Trotsky archive that Trotsky had supported forming a bloc (or a coalition) with countless opposition groups, in his past Trotsky had united with anti-Leninists of all shades (in the so-called “August Bloc”) and the Left-Communists had also united with the Left-SR and Right-SR parties, which were both anti-communist parties and held views that strongly contradicted Left-Communist and Trotskyist ideology on numerous important points.

At this trial there is still no mention of the Right-Opposition, although they had entered into the United Bloc with the Trotskyists, Zinovievites and Left-Communists since 1932. The NKVD already had the documents to demonstrate this (and corroborating documents have been found in the Harvard Trotsky archive) but no charges were brought against Rights at the trial. Keep this in mind when we get to the next section.

Bukharin was mentioned in passing a couple of times, because he had been with Pyatakov when numerous relevant events had taken place. However, no charges were brought against Bukharin and he was not connected to the crimes. The oppositionist views he had advocated in the past together with Pyatakov and in 1928-30 were mentioned, but it was assumed that his participation in the opposition had ended. The other leader of the Right-Opposition, Tomsky, was also mentioned briefly.

The Bukharin-Rykov Trial (1938)

When Tomsky realized the police were on his trail, he committed suicide and left a note claiming that ex-NKVD chief Yagoda was actually also a secret member of the Right-Opposition. When Yagoda was relieved of the leadership of the NKVD due to incompetence, the connection of the Right-Opposition to the Trotskyists and Zinovievites were disclosed. It became clear that Yagoda had been hiding the fact that the Right-Opposition (and its leaders Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov) were in a united bloc together with the other criminals. All this has been verified many times over.

Yagoda was replaced as the head of NKVD by Yezhov, who was also a secret member of the Right-Opposition but this was not revealed until later. At the trial, some defendents claimed their plan was to murder Stalin and other high officials, like they had murdered Kirov, and to murder Yezhov. This obviously cannot be true because Yezhov himself was working together with the Opposition. There are two possible explanations:

1) Some defendants (low level conspirators) did not know Yezhov was a Rightist. Yezhov had a deep cover. This is very probable.
2) Some of them (highest ranking conspirators) were shielding Yezhov by claiming they had tried to murder him. This is also probable.

At the trial it became evident that even under “normal” conspiratorial conditions, the defendants did not usually know what other people in the organization were doing. This is normal for underground organizations. Trotsky and the high-ranking members of the conspiracy did not even reveal their true program to most of their underlings.

Yezhov was promoted to the NKVD to investigate the mine explosions caused by sabotage. This is my own speculation and I have not found evidence to prove it, but it is possible that the opposition orchestrated these explosions not only for the sake of sabotage, but specifically to engineer Yezhov’s promotion.

At the trial the Riutin platform was discussed. The Riutin platform was an oppositional program from 1932, which claimed that Stalin has created a system of feudal exploitation of the peasantry, and demanded his violent overthrow. This program was adopted by the Right-Opposition, the Left-Communists and Trotskyists. The Riutin group itself was a rightist group. It was known that young supporters of Bukharin had been involved in the Riutin group.

Bukharin had admitted at a Central Committee meeting where he had been questioned, that he had known about the group. He had not informed the party about this conspiratorial group, allegedly because he had tried to “reason with” the group and persuade them to stop what they were doing. Later Bukharin admitted that he was part of the group himself, and that his name had been left out of the group’s program for secrecy. However, he denied being the main architect of the program (which he probably was).

Historical facts fully corroborate the trial findings. The pro-Trotsky historian Pierre Broué actually discovered documents from the Harvard Trotsky archive which verified that in 1932 Trotsky had ordered the creation of the united bloc of Rights and Trotskyits. It also included Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and others. These documents mention the names of many of the most famous defendants such as Preobrazhensky, I. Smirnov and Sokolnikov.

A letter from Sedov to Trotsky states:

“The [bloc] is organised it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists (former “[capitulators]”). The Safar–Tarkhan Group… will enter very soon.” (Document No. 3, Letter from Sedov to Trotsky, Library of Harvard College 4782)

The letter also laments the arrest of the secret Trotskyist center and states that the loss of these old Trotskyist leaders is a serious defeat, but they still have links to agents on the ground level:

“The collapse of the “old men” is a heavy blow but the links with the workers have been preserved … “ (Ibid.)

“In the struggle to destroy Stalin’s dictatorship, we must in the main rely not on the old leaders” (Riutin Platform)

The Soviet communist had known that since 1929 Bukharin had tried to create a bloc with Zinovievites and Trotskyites, although perhaps Trotsky had not officially responded yet. It also seems clear that some of the wavering Trotskyists were not ready to create this alliance yet in 1929. In any case, the Soviet government had already discovered it and confronted Bukharin:

“At the beginning of 1929 it was discovered that Bukharin, authorized by the group of Right capitulators, had formed connections with the Trotskyites, through Kamenev, and was negotiating an agreement with them for a joint struggle against the Party.” (History of the CPSU(B) – Short Course. There’s also an audio version)

According to Bukharin’s friend revisionist Humbert-Droz the Bukharin rightist group had terrorist plans against Stalin’s life already since 1929, and already had an embryonic alliance with the Zinovievites and Trotskyists. By 1932 this had evolved into a firm program i.e. the “Riutin platform”—and the same year the bloc was officially formed on Trotsky’s orders.

Let’s discuss the behavior of people at the different trials. Zinoviev and Kamenev had denied and lied at their trial. Radek had explained his motivation in great detail at his trial. At the Bukharin-Rykov trial, the most well-known incident besides the testimony of Bukharin, has to be the testimony of Trotskyist Krestinsky.

At the first session Krestinsky was very emotional. He denied everything, shouting “I am not a trotskyite! I have never been a trotskyite!” and then collapsed into despondency. Some anti-communist commentators were impressed by Krestinsky and thought he spoke the truth. So when Krestinsky admitted the charges in the later sessions it was claimed that he had been coerced. But actually, Krestinsky was well known as an old Trotskyite, he had belonged to Trotsky’s opposition in the 1920s and everybody in the USSR knew it. His emotional denial was obviously false and a product of desperation. Nobody at the time took Krestinsky’s denial seriously.

If Krestinsky had said “I am not currently a Trotskyist” it would at least be possible. But he had screamed repeatedly “I have never been a Trotskyist” which was blatantly absurd. He explained that he was simply acting hysterically, denying everything due to panic and shame. This seems entirely believable. Otherwise we would have to assume that the organizers of the trial ordered Krestinsky to act out this hysterical episode, which probably would have required a professional actor to pull off, unless he was being genuinely hysterical.

Bukharin tried to not agree with anything the prosecutor said. He minimized his guilt at every opportunity, rationalized everything and tried to make himself into a martyr. He claimed he did not know what his friends and supporters were doing, and that he had nothing to do with their crimes, but he generously “accepts the responsibility for what they did.” This was his attempt to avoid actual guilt and to paint himself as a martyr. He denied knowing about the assassinations or espionage.

A small detail which most people probably miss, is that Bukharin constantly tried to attack the communist Valerian Kuibyshev, who had recently been murdered by the rightists. Kuibyshev was a supporter of Stalin and a member of the politburo, but he was known as a radical and had previously been close to Left-Communism. Bukharin constantly tried to insert statements about Kuibyshev, in order to demonstrate that Left-Communists were not disloyal. This is one of the many examples of Bukharin using cunning strategy to deny everything.

Bukharin used this strategy particularly when the court was discussing the Left-Communist and Left-SR coup attempt of 1918. When Lenin succeeded in implementing the decision to sign the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty, which Left-Communists and Left-SRs opposed, the latter decided that Lenin should be overthrown and arrested. Other high-ranking government officials who supported Lenin’s policy (namely Stalin and Sverdlov) also had to be arrested. Trotsky did not need to be arrested because he opposed Lenin’s position. Trotsky actually knew about the plot.

The Left-SRs launched the coup attempt, assassinated the German ambassador in the USSR to sabotage the peace treaty, and carried out an assassination attempt on Lenin. Lenin was shot in the neck, but he survived. The Left-Communists did not join it, due to tactical considerations. Bukharin admitted all this, as it was well-known. However, he denied the charge that the plan had been to execute Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov. The prosecutor pointed out, that the Bolshevik leaders might not surrender without a fight, and violence might have to be used, which would lead to them being murdered, but Bukharin refused to answer this line of questioning.

The charges mentioned at this trial truly were more monstrous then before, such as the plot to murder Lenin and Gorky. However, the plot to arrest and overthrow Lenin was already well known. It just hadn’t been put into this kind of context before, and it had been assumed that Bukharin’s and Trotsky’s oppositional activities had ended, and they had become loyal to Lenin and the party. When put into its proper context, the grotesquely horrible nature of their plan became clear. It was so horrible, that many refused to believe it. The plot to murder Gorky was particularly sadistic.

Gorky was an old man, and if he died it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising. But his son, who was a young man, also died mysteriously. They were both murdered by the same doctor, who had been coerced into it by Yagoda and the Right-Opposition. Why was this necessary? Because Gorky had a lot of influence on the literary and artistic community internationally, and the intellectual circles generally.

Gorky used this influence to paint the USSR and Stalin in a positive light, and to support Soviet foreign policy. This foreign policy consisted of trying to create a collective defense treaty against aggressive states, i.e. against fascist states. The USSR briefly had a defensive agreement with France and Czechoslovakia, and their relations with the UK temporarily improved in the mid 1930s. For the upcoming war it was highly important to remove this support of Stalin.

Rykov’s last plea is very interesting, especially his discussion about the murder of Gorky. He admits his other crimes but defends himself against that particular murder charge, and the way he does it is quite interesting. He says defendant “Enukidze only said we should politically liquidate Gorky”. In other words, Rykov in no way denies the murder, in fact he gives strong testimony against Enukidze. However, he claims to not have understood that Enukidze’s words meant murder. Of course it is possible that Rykov is lying (the murder of Gorky was such a disgusting crime he might have been ashamed) but this event surely couldn’t have been written by a script writer, its too convoluted and doesn’t serve a propagandist purpose.

Many other defendants of course lied at their last pleas, most blatantly Bukharin. They tried to save themselves by “repenting of their crimes” and tried to protect other hidden conspirators. They even mentioned their hatred for Yezhov, though Yezhov himself was the most powerful rightist conspirator still loose. If the trial had been scripted, they surely would not have included mentions of Yezhov, because the trial paints him as an enemy of Trotskyism, which he wasn’t.

The Bukharin-Rykov Trial also mentions the topic of nationalist, fascist and separatist groups who worked with the opposition. Separatists were also among the defendants. The nationalists served as a link to fascist powers. The Oppositionists also maintained their own communications with foreign fascists, but also with the local fascist separatists. The Opposition had agreed to give Soviet territories to the fascist powers, and one way to hasten this was to support separatism. During this period Trotsky began to publish writings calling for the separation of Ukraine from the USSR.

It is repeatedly mentioned at the trials that Trotsky and Bukharin wanted to restore capitalism. This is rejected by their defenders, because in their minds the charge is absurd, Trotsky and Bukharin were not supporters of capitalism. However, it should be understood that by “restoration of capitalism” they meant a return to the NEP. This is clarified at the trial, but it often gets lost.

However, Trotsky and Bukharin considered that the return to NEP would mean giving more power to the capitalists then before, more concessions to foreign investors, and also curtailing democracy. Radek and Bukharin both discuss this in detail. All of that was considered necessary so that they could hold power and build up the productive forces. For Bukharin it was based on his rightist economic views, and for Trotsky it was based on his idea that socialism cannot be built in one country.

Some concluding remarks:

The trial materials are full of all kinds of details, and I couldn’t possibly deal with all of them. I think anyone interested in the trial should read the material, and hopefully with some of the context and explanation that I have given, you can understand the material more easily. The material convincingly shows the guilt of the Oppositionists and any honest and critical reader should conclude the trials were accurate and bona fide. It is quite natural that the main tactic of the anti-communists is to discourage people from reading the materials, and instead to spread lies and caricatures about them.

Soviet environmentalism in the Stalin era

Introduction

There is a persistent myth that the USSR in the Stalin era was harshly anti-environmentalist. The research of historian Stephen Brain convincingly debunks this myth. Brain is a bourgeois anti-Stalin historian (who makes certain mistakes due to his pro-capitalist bias) but nevertheless, his main conclusion is correct and definitively proved: Stalin’s government supported strongly environmentalist policies.

However, Soviet environmentalism wasn’t the same kind of liberal-idealist environmentalism which existed in capitalist countries. It did not put any inherent spiritual or supernatural value on nature. Nor was Soviet environmentalism merely interested in conserving natural resources, like many western theorists. Instead the USSR saw the natural environment as something which offers economic, psychological and aesthetic value to human beings. Soviet environmentalism was tied to the deep humanism of Soviet socialism. The Soviets understood that humanity is not separate from nature, but is a product of nature, and deeply connected with nature.

Stephen Brain writes:

“Environmentalism survived and—even thrived—in Stalin’s Soviet Union, establishing levels of protection unparalleled anywhere in the world” (Stephen Brain, Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 93)

“the Soviet Union in the 1940s went about protecting from exploitation more forested land than any other country in history. Accordingly, it is accurate to say that the Soviet Union developed a real and effective environmentalist program… Stalin emerges as a peculiar kind of environmentalist… his policies withdrew millions of hectares [of forest] from economic exploitation on the grounds that this would improve the hydrology of the Soviet Union. These millions of hectares were left more or less untouched, in keeping with the supposition that complex, wild forests best regulated water flows, and thus one may conclude that Stalin’s policies were steadfastly environmentalist—and because of the way they were carried out, preservationist as well.” (Stephen Brain, Song of the Forest: Russian Forestry and Stalinist Environmentalism, 1905-1953, p. 2)

“Stalin also actively promoted forest environmentalism for the benefit of the state, establishing levels of protection unparalleled anywhere in the world… Stalin’s environmental policies codified into law an assumption that healthy land was forested land and that deforestation represented serious environmental dangers to the state’s larger project of modernization, in the form of droughts, floods, hydrological disturbances, and crop failures… Forest protection ultimately rose to such prominence during the last six years of Stalin’s rule that the Politburo took control of the Soviet forest away from the Ministry of Heavy Industry and elevated the nation’s forest conservation bureau to the dominant position in implementing policy” (Song of the forest, p. 116)

However, “after Stalin’s death, the forest protection bureaus were demoted or eliminated entirely” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, pp. 97-98)

“Such an assertion, clearly, represents a significant revision to the existing consensus about Soviet environmental politics, which holds that Stalin’s government was implacably hostile to environmentalist initiatives.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 93)

“The concensus”

“the shortcomings of Soviet environmental policy [which actually took place in the revisionist period, not in the Stalin-era~MLT]… have been extrapolated into a sweeping conclusion that conservationist or preservationist awareness in the Stalin era was entirely lacking.” (Song of the forest, p. 4)

The revisionists actually carried out projects in the 1960s, 70s and 80s which had very serious environmental effects. The Siberian oil industry, the gas industry and the drying of the Aral sea by the revisionists are usually given as examples. However, in the Stalin era the USSR had a completely opposite policy. There is no link between the environmentally destructive policies of the revisionists and the Marxist-Leninist policies of Lenin and Stalin.

Immediately after the October Revolution Lenin had called for nationalization and conservation of forests:

“We must demand the nationalisation of all the land, i.e., that all the land in the state should become the property of the central state power. This power must fix the size, etc., of the resettlement land fund, pass legislation for the conservation of forests, for land improvement, etc.” (Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution)

Lenin and Stalin already supported environmental protections in the 1920s:

“Lenin and Stalin called for aggressive afforestation at Party conferences in the 1920s” (Song of the forest, pp. 143-144)

However, in the Lenin and Stalin periods, the USSR did emphasize that humanity must use science to improve production, build industry, electricity etc. Statements were made, which emphasized that humanity changes the world. These statements were then twisted into supposed “evidence” of Soviet hostility towards nature:

“by the late 1980s, scholars of Soviet environmental history had documented a number of grave environmental problems in Russia, many of which had roots, or appeared to have roots, in the Stalin era. Soviet promethean proclamations from the 1930s, typified by Gorky’s famous dictum “Man, in changing nature, changes himself” and Ivan Michurin’s motto “We cannot wait for kindnesses from nature; our task is to wrest them from her,” strongly influenced this view, along with accounts of the mammoth engineering projects of the first Five-Year Plan. The failure to adopt meaningful emissions controls like those enacted in the West in the 1960s further reinforced the impression of Stalinist enmity toward nature.” (Song of the forest, p. 3)

“Ronald Suny’s discussion of the first Five-Year Plan provides a representative expression of this interpretation: “…insensitivity to the limits of nature was characteristic of capitalist industrialization as well, but in the Soviet Union general ecological ignorance was compounded by the bravado of the Communists…” So dominant is this interpretation that countervailing evidence has been unable to shake it” (Song of the forest, p. 4)

Stephen Brain shows in his paper that the so-called “consensus view” is false. This graph shows that protected forests (group I+II) were logged less and less over time, despite the fact total lumber harvests increased consistently. Group I forests could not be logged at all, and group II could only be logged at a sustainable rate and it had to be approved by the Sovnarkom. This demonstrates that the Soviets definitely prioritized the protection of these ecologically important forests:



In reality, the USSR under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin was not insensitive to the limits of nature or hostile to nature. In actuality: “the Stalinist political and economic system made meaningful economic and political sacrifices in the interests of environmentalism” (Song of the forest, p. 10)

Brain mentions numerous examples of researchers pointing out that the USSR in the 1970s was polluted, and they blamed it on Stalin. Brain says that the most sophisticated version of the consensus view—represented by Douglas Weiner—stated that there was some nature protection in the Lenin era, in the form of non-governmental nature preserve scientific stations, which debunked the claim that there was absolutely no kind of environmental protection. However, because these non-governmental preserves were abolished in the Stalin era when socialism was constructed, Weiner claimed this proves that “stalinism” is entirely hostile to environmentalism. This claim is fallacious. The nature preserves of the Lenin era prove that Lenin was not hostile to environmentalism. In the Stalin era the non-governmental nature preserves were abolished only because they were replaced by even more powerful state-enforced environmental protections and state-controlled nature preserves.

It is true that the USSR did not have emission controls like countries have today, and that is sometimes used as a criticism of the USSR, but this argument is illogical. In those years, emission controls did not exist in any country, and there were practically no environmental protections or laws in any capitalist country at all to speak of:

“Prior to the 1960s, environmental law did not exist as a discrete domestic and international legal category.” (A. Dan Tarlock, History of environmental law) except perhaps in the USSR, as we shall see further in this article.

“environmental law is a byproduct of the rise of environmentalism as a political force throughout the world [only] since the 1960s” (Tarlock)

For comparison, the US environmental protection agency was founded only in 1970. In the capitalist world there was no concept or understanding of the biosphere as something which needed protection:

“The science-based idea that the biosphere was a fragile system vulnerable to human-induced impairment only became widely accepted after World War II.” (Tarlock)

However, the idea of the biosphere was actually invented in the USSR by scientist V. I. Vernadsky, a student of V. V. Dokuchaev. The idea of nature being fragile and that it could be harmed by human action, was already researched and pioneered by Dokuchaev, and in the Soviet period by many of his students, such as V. R. Williams. Vernadsky elaborated his view in his book The Biosphere, which won a Stalin Prize in 1943.

Yet anti-communists have always dismissed these scientists or are completely ignorant of them. As a result they spread the interpretation that Stalin’s Soviet Union was hostile to environmentalism and sustainable practices:

“So dominant is this interpretation that countervailing evidence has been unable to shake it: William Husband’s recent survey of Soviet children’s literature from the Stalin era, for instance, revealed a multiplicity of encoded attitudes toward nature, with a “small but significant number” of books depicting nature in a nonadversarial way. Yet for Husband, such sympathetic portrayals of nature did not suggest a more complex attitude toward the environment, but instead represented only a failure of totalitarianism: “Stalinist-era literature,” he writes, “eluded the hegemony the dictatorship sought, and in so doing it demonstrated an important limit to political control in the USSR.” Although the English scholar Jonathan Oldfield recently pointed out the need for scholars to “move purposefully beyond broad understandings of the Soviet environmental legacy” in order to check a “tendency towards overly crude interpretations of Soviet environmental degradation,” the consensus remains basically unchallenged.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 95)

It is also wrong to claim that forests were protected only because of industrial or agricultural reasons, although those were priorities:

There are examples discussing the aesthetic and psychological benefits of the forests as well, from “a December 1917 editorial in the journal Lesnaia zhizn’ i khoziaistvo (Forest Life and Management) claiming that “the forest has always had . . . an enormous beneficial influence on the psyche and spiritual store of humans,” to the speech of a delegate at a January 1949 forest conference asserting that “the forest is an enormous moral force for our country.”” (Song of the forest, p. 10)


History of environmental laws in the USSR

Catastrophic clear cutting of Russian forests began during the first world war. Due to the terrible poverty and the needs of the war effort it continued during War Communism (1918-1921). During War Communism the Bolsheviks devised a plan to repair the damage caused to the forests, once peace was achieved. Here is a poster from the forest administration depicting this plan:

In the 1920s a debate arose between two rival schools of thought: “the conservationists”, followers of G. F. Morozov, and “the industrializers”, followers of S. A. Bogoslavsky. Morozov’s ideas had their roots in the theories of V. V. Dokuchaev, while Bogoslavsky relied on contemporary German theories.

Morozov’s supporters advocated sustainable practices and their position was favored by the Soviet government. However, during the first years of the First Five Year Plan, the ultra-left supporters of Bogoslavsky managed to label conservationists as bourgeois, and as people who hinder industrialization. Supporters of Bogoslavsky explicitly attacked sustainability as an outdated bourgeois concept, and stated that nature had to serve interests of industry without any limitations. Otherwise, man was allegedly subordinated at the mercy of nature, instead of nature being subordinated to a rational plan.

However, the ultra-leftists were used flawed undialectical reasoning. They did not correctly see humanity and nature in their inter-relation. The economic plan should be sustainable and take limits of nature into account, otherwise nature would be destroyed. This in no way meant subordinating the economic plan to blind natural forces. In fact, the ultra-left “industrializers” were advocating an idealist voluntaryist position which totally ignored material conditions and material limitations. The Marxist-Leninist position realizes that humanity is limited by material conditions, but can master material conditions more and more, and plan them rationally, thus becoming more and more freed from them, but never absolutely free from them.

Similar ultra-left tendencies raised their heads in other fields too during the first years of the First Five Year Plan. This is because the party and the working class had to focus on attacking Right-Wing views in those crucial years. However, the situation was soon corrected, and sustainable environmental policies gained the upper hand.

“In the 1920s, when representatives of the industrial bureaus advanced visions of a new, socialized landscape, with highly abstracted, regularized forests and logging quotas based on industrial demand, the party leadership sided with conservationists who championed traditional ideas such as sustainable yield. But later, in the 1930s, after industrialists and student activists succeeded in labeling such concepts as bourgeois, advocates of conservationism regained the upper hand by citing the theories of the pre-revolutionary soil scientist V. V. Dokuchaev, who linked the hydrological stability of Russia to the maintenance of permanent forest cover… After 1931, hydrological concerns became the justification for the creation of a vast forest preserve in the center of European Russia, at the time the largest in the world.” (p. 96)


1931 environmental regulations

“Stalin… personally initiated legislation predicated on the belief that Russia’s hydrology necessitated forest protection. Party archives show that on May 30, 1931, Stalin raised a topic for discussion, “On the order of cutting of timber,” requesting Sovnarkom to prepare “in a month’s term, a draft law about the absolute forbiddance of cutting timber in certain regions so as to conserve the water in other regions.” On July 15, Sovnarkom returned its draft law to the Politburo, and by the end of July 1931, Decree No. 519, dividing all the forests of the country into two zones – the forest-industrial zone, and the forest cultivation zone – became law.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 109)

“Regardless of which bureau controlled them, the forests in a one-kilometer belt along both banks of the Volga, Dniepr, Don, and Ural rivers were made off-limits to any logging whatsoever.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 109)


1936 environmental regulations

“The party leadership chose… in 1936, to strengthen forest protection further, by greatly expanding the zone of protection, and, with Stalin’s direct participation, by creating a powerful new administration to enforce the new regulations… in July 1936 a new agency was founded, the Main Administration of Forest Protection and Afforestation (GLO) whose sole duty would be to look after lands henceforth called “water protective forests.”…

Forbidden under threat of criminal responsibility was any cutting of the forest (aside from sanitary cutting) in vast zones lying
a) in a twenty-kilometer belt along the Dniepr and two of its tributaries, the Don and three of its tributaries, the Volga and ten of its tributaries, the Ural, and the Western Dvina;
b) in a six-kilometer belt along two tributaries of the Dniepr, four tributaries of the Don, five tributaries of the Volga, two tributaries of the Ural, and two tributaries of the Oka; and
c) in a four-kilometer belt along five tributaries of the Don, eleven of the Volga, one of the Bel’, and one of the Oka.

In the areas that lay outside these belts but still inside the basins of the rivers named above, logging was allowed, but this would be conducted by the GLO, and the harvest could not exceed the annual growth of the forests in question.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, pp. 110-111)

“The 1936 law reached far beyond the scope of its predecessor… These protected zones were so extensive that they amounted to a majority or near majority of forest land in most oblasts of central Russia, and moreover, a significant percentage of total land in many oblasts… the initiative came from the very top of the party apparatus. As the deputy head of Narkomzem’s forest protection arm, V. M. Solov’ev, reported to a convention of foresters, “this unusual law, comrades—a turning point in forest management—was developed under the direct guidance and with the direct participation of Stalin himself.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 111)

1943 environmental regulations

“Soviet forest protection grew yet more robust… on April 23, 1943… dividing the nation’s forests into three groups, two of which were subject to protective measures. Into Group I went “the forests of the state zapovedniki, soil protective, field protective, and resort forests, [and] forests of green zones around industrial firms and towns”; in these forests, only “sanitary cuts and selective cuts of overmature timber” were allowed, with clearcuts of all types forbidden. Into Group II went all the forests of Central Asia and along the left bank of the Volga; here, only cuts less than or equal to the annual growth, “ratified by Sovnarkom,” were allowed. Group I and II forests remained under the control of the GLO. In Group III were grouped all other forests, on which no restrictions whatsoever were imposed.

The 1943 classification greatly expanded upon the protections provided by the 1936 law; the forests of entire oblasts, among them Moscow, Voronezh, Kursk, Smolensk, Vladimir, Tambov, Penza, Riazan’, Saratov, Rostov, and Stalingrad, were placed in groups I and II, protecting them, at least ideally, from all exploitation. Over time, the size of Group I forests grew tremendously, until they represented by far the world’s largest area so protected.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 114)

1947-1953 regulations and the peak of forest protection

“Stalin-era environmentalism reached its zenith in 1947 with the creation of the Ministry of Forest Management (Minleskhoz).” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 115)

“the period of 1947 to 1953 indeed did represent a high point in Soviet forest management.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 117)

“forest protection in general, received more institutional support during the years from 1947 to 1953 than at any other time in Russian history.” (Song of the forest, p. 10)

Professor Viktor Nesterov of the Timiriazev Agricultural Academy wrote in Pravda on January 19, 1966 that:

“There is a pressing need for an all-Union forest management agency with its own system of subordinate organizations. … Specialists express the opinion that a USSR Ministry of Forestry could become such a competent agency. Incidentally, such a ministry existed from 1947 to 1953. During that time forest workers managed to do a great deal: The amount of sowing and planting of new groves was sharply expanded, and the trimming of the cutting areas was achieved everywhere. The ministry set up two hundred forest-protection stations outfitted with machinery. The annual volume of forest sowing and planting increased sevenfold. We are by no means thinking of idealizing the activity of this ministry, but the results of its work were apparent to everyone who had anything to do with the forests.” (quoted in Stalin’s Environmentalism, p. 117)

“in 1890 the soil scientist Dokuchaev experimented with shelter [forest] belts. During the Soviet period scientists continued to plant trees—millions of them—in order to increase agricultural productivity, particularly on the collective farms and in the wooded steppes of European Russia. The greatest impetus and plan for afforestation and reforestation were apparently Stalin’s; in 1948 he supposedly laid the groundwork for a fifteen-year project to plant trees on more than ten million acres… obviously the Plan benefited the Soviet Union” (Jack Weiner, The Destalinization of Dmitrii Shostakovich’s ‘Song of the Forests’, Op. 81 (1949), p. 214)

“Shelter forest belts have been planted already on more than 800,000 hectares, 306,800 hectares in this spring alone. An irrigation system for 122,000 hectares has been completed, for which it was necessary to build 8,000 irrigation pools and water tanks. The tasks for this year include planting of 700,000 hectares of forest and building of 7,587 irrigation pools.” (Kommunisti, no. 6, 1950, p. 387)

The destruction of environmental protections by the opportunists and Khrushchevite revisionists

“After Stalin’s death, the conservation bureaus fell from their prominent position” (Song of the forest, p. 117)

“The period when Minleskhoz dominated Soviet forest management, however, was brief. On March 15, 1953, six days after Stalin’s funeral, Minleskhoz was liquidated. With the functions of Minleskhoz transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, forest conservation fell into deep decline. The number of workers assigned to forest matters in Moscow fell from 927 to 342 in the space of six months, a drop of 62 percent, and then to 120 workers after a year.” (Stalin’s Environmentalism, pp. 117-118)

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’.

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.


The “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory debunked

Nazism believes that there is a secret conspiracy of jews aiming for world domination. They also believe that communism is part of this jewish conspiracy. What are the origins and basis of this idea?

Origins of the Judeo-Bolshevik Conspiracy Theory

Nazism did not invent this anti-semitic ideology, in reality Nazism has copied this idea from previous belief systems.


The Russian hardline monarchist reactionary group “the Black Hundreds” were early proponents of the theory of a Jewish global conspiracy. The Black Hundreds were extremely anti-semitic and in 1903 they published a book titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document supposedly by the jews detailing their plan for world domination.

Anti-semitism of this type was more rampant in Russia then in most countries and “pogroms”, the rounding up and killing of jews and other minorities such as armenians, tatars etc. were common in Russia in those times.

After the Russian revolution of 1917 many czarists and Black Hundreds began emigrating from Russia to the United States and Germany. In the USA they formed a political organization known as the Union of Czarist Army and Navy Officers. In 1919 the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into English.

A well known reactionary and supported of Black Hundred ideology was Alfred Rosenberg, the son of rich landowner living in Estonia in the Russian Empire. After the Russian revolution, Rosenberg who considered himself ethnically German, emigrated to Germany together with many other czarist emigres. There he helped to disseminate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the anti-semitic czarist ideology in Germany. Up to 400,000 White Guard Russians moved to Germany.

Of course, Rosenberg would later become the leading early ideologist of the Nazi Party.

“In June 1921, a group of former Czarist officers, industrialists and aristocrats called an International Anti-Soviet Conference at the Reichenhalle in Bavaria. The conference, which was attended by representatives from anti-Soviet organizations throughout Europe, drew up plans for a world-wide campaign of agitation against Soviet Russia.

A “Supreme Monarchist Council” was elected by the Conference. Its function was to work for “the restoration of the monarchy, headed by the lawful sovereign of the Romanov house, in accordance with the fundamental laws of the Russian Empire.”

The infant National Socialist Party of Germany sent a delegate to the Conference. His name was Alfred Rosenberg.”
(Kahn & Sayers, Great Conspiracy)

The anti-semitic, conspiratorial views of the Nazis and the contemporary neo-nazi movement thus largely originated from monarchist reactionary Russians.

A wealthy industrial capitalist, Arnold Rechberg met with Rosenberg and took a liking to him. Rechberg introduced Rosenberg to another one of his proteges: an austrian police informant named Adolf Hitler. The capitalist Rechberg was already providing funds for Hitler’s brown shirt organization that attacked striking workers and labour unions.

“Rechberg and his wealthy friends purchased an obscure newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and turned it over to the Nazi movement. The publication became the official organ of the Nazi Party. As its editor, Hitler appointed Alfred Rosenberg.” (Ibid.)

In the 1920s half a million copies of the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published by the wealthy American capitalist Henry Ford who helped to spread anti-semite ideology in the USA. Ford also supplied millions of dollars of funds to the German Nazi Party.

The ideology of the Nazis, as well as their funding and support, came from the monarchists and capitalists, i.e. the rich elite.


The Russian Civil War

During the Russian civil war the White Guard reactionaries, czarists and capitalists decided to incorporate their previous idea of a jewish conspiracy to the fight against communism. Since the Whites were fighting a war against the communists, in Russia, a country with widespread anti-semitism that was a remnant of czarism, the White Guards decided it would be very useful to use anti-semitism as a weapon in the civil war against the Communists. They attacked the Communists as puppets of the jews.

In 1918-1920 more then a dozen capitalist countries sent troops to help the White Guard russians in the civil war. The United States, Japan, France, Great Britain, Canada and others sent hundreds of thousands of troops to aid the capitalist White Guards.

The Capitalist media in the West published slanderous lies against the Russian Communists. They claimed that the Bolsheviks wanted to abolish the family, abolish marriage and nationalize women, that the Bolsheviks were anarchists and jews. These ridiculous claims were presented by mainstream capitalist media outlets and capitalist politicians of western countries. When it comes to the anti-semitic claims, the Nazis directly copied this from the capitalist media
and the Russian reactionaries.

This is what the capitalist press stated in the Western countries, in Britain:

“This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupth [Founder of illuminati] to those of Karl Marx… this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation… has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century.”
(Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920)

And in America:

“[T]he three great parties of Russia are led by Jews… Bolshevism had been planned years ago by Jews” (The Dearborn Independent, 1920)


Notice that both of those writings are from as early as 1920, same time as the creation of the Nazi party by the capitalists.


Anti-semitism was widespread in Europe and Russia, increased partly by jewish immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term “jewish bolshevism” was first invented by a White Guard publication of the same name in 1917. Soon it was spread to capitalist media by white emigres and this belief was picked up by the Nazi party which was founded soon after.

Most of these blatantly false claims have since been abandoned even by the capitalist propagandists themselves. The Protocols were soon proven to be a hoax and a forgery. However the jewish conspiracy idea still remains among neo-nazis. They still cling to this capitalist invention.

Neo-Nazis believe that the world is ruled by the jews, and that the Nazis are the only ones who know the truth. They believe that the communists and capitalists alike are all servants of the jews. Ironically, the myth of the jewish conspiracy was itself created by the capitalists and utilized against communism. The Nazis themselves are acting as uniwitting tools of capitalism, but in this case the capitalists have moved on, and left the jew conspiracy behind.

Hitler claimed that communism was a jewish ideology. He claimed to be a socialist, but in reality he was defending the private property rights of his capitalist backers. It is no coincidence that Hitler attacked all real socialists as jews. When the Western imperialists turned against him he also attacked them as jews. “Wallstreet jewish bankers”. But this was simply an opportunist lie. The capitalists, including Western capitalists and bankers like Henry Ford were exactly the ones who created Hitler, who funded his party and who created the propaganda that Hitler copied and disseminated.


The myth of Jewish Bolshevism

Now let us examine the claims of modern neo-nazism. A typical claim they make is that the Russian Bolshevik party was allegedly a jewish puppet and filled with Jews.

Robert Wilton was a British journalist reporting for several Western newspapers as their Russian correspondent during the Russian Civil War. Wilton had served with the Russian army during the First World War and was a strong supporter of the Russian White Army sharing their ideological views including anti-semitism. Wilton had also supported the failed military coup by the White General Kornilov. Wilton’s writings are another significant part of the modern neo-nazi mythology surrounding the Judeo-Bolshevism Conspiracy Theory. He is possibly the most cited source for the erroneous claim that the Bolshevik Party and Government were controlled by Jews and mostly consisted of Jews.

He wrote in 1919: “Bolshevism is not Russian – it is essentially non-national, its leaders being almost entirely the race that lost its country and its nationhood long ago” (Wilton, Russia’s Agony)

In 1921 Wilton put forward the following figures, which have been widely cited by neo-nazis. I quote from a widely circulated neo-nazi article “The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s Early Soviet Regime”:

“The 62 members of the [Central] Committee were composed of five Russians… and 41 Jews.

“The Extraordinary Commission [Cheka or Vecheka] of Moscow was composed of 36 members… two Russians, eight Latvians, and 23 Jews.

“The Council of the People’s Commissars numbered… three Russians, and 17 Jews.”


How accurate are these numbers? The answer is: not accurate at all. In fact it seems difficult to find any basis for them. The numbers are almost entirely fabricated.

I’m not going to go through all of the false information put forth by Wilton, but I will give you an idea of just how inaccurate his findings are:

Wilton claimed that out of 22 People’s Comissars three were Russians and 17 Jews. In reality the only jewish Comissar was Trotsky.

Wilton includes a number of fabricated names in his list of supposed people’s comissars, he removed people who were Russians and included people who Jewish such as Zinoviev even if they were not actually People’s Comissars at all.

The People’s Comissars in 1917:

Chairman: V. I. Lenin (1/4 Russian, Tatar, German, Jewish)
Commissar of Agriculture: V. P. Milyutin (Russian)
Commissars of Army and Navy: V. A. Ovseyenko, N. V. Krylenko, P. V. Dybenko (Russians, Ovseyenko was ethnic ukranian)
Commissar of Commerce and Industry: V. P. Nogin (Russian)
Commissar of Education: A. V. Lunacharsky (Ukranian)
Commissar of Food: I. A. Teodorovich (Polish, not jewish)
Commissar of Foreign Affairs: L. D. Trotsky (jewish)
Commissar of Interior: A. I. Rykov (Russian)
Commissar of Justice: G. I. Oppokov (Russian)
Commissar of Labour: A. G. Shlyapnikov (Russian)
Commissar of Nationality Affairs: I. V. Stalin (Georgian)
Commissar of Post and Telegraphs: N. P. Avilov (Russian)
Commissar of Treasury: I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov (Russian)

Wilton claimed that the Soviet government consisted of three Russians and nine jews.

Bronstein (Trotsky), Apfelbaum (Zinoviev), Lurie (Larine), Uritsky, Volodarski, Rosenfeld (Kamenev), Smidovich, Sverdlov (Yankel), and Nakhamkes (Steklov).The three Russians were: Ulyanov (Lenin), Krylenko, and Lunacharsky.”

In reality Lurie, Nakhamkes, Smidovitch, and Volodarski weren’t even in the Central Executive Committee. Wilton claims the government was 12 people, 9 of whom were jews. In reality the government was 15 people and included 4 jews.


Members of the Government (Central Execute Committee):
Artem F. A., Buharin N. I. (Russian), Vladimirskij M. F. (Russian), Dzerzhinskij F. E. (Pole), Zinovjev G. E. (Jew), Krestinskij N. N. (Ukrainian), Lashevich M. M., Lenin V. I. (Russian*), Sverdlov Ja. M. (Jew), Smilga I. T., Sokol’nikov G. Ja. (Jew), Stalin I. V. (Georgian), Stasova E. D. (Russian), Trotskij L. D. (Jew), Shmidt V. V. (German)

*Lenin was Russian but ethnically mixed

Furthermore Wilton claims that:

“According to data furnished by the Soviet press, out of 556 important functionaries of the Bolshevik state… in 1918-1919 there were: 17 Russians… 457 Jews.”


In reality, members of the Bolshevik apparatus were more then 70% Russian. It is true that jews were somewhat over-represented in the Bolshevik party, making up around 5% of the party. However Andre Gerrits points out in his article “The Myth of Jewish Communism” that:

“Jews were not the only ethnic minority over-represented in European Communist parties between the two world wars. So too were Georgians, Armenians and Latvians.”

The reasons for this could be that those ethnic minorities were particularly oppressed and more radicalized. The socialist parties which functioned illegally, tended to have large amounts of intellectuals who were in political exile. This could be one reason why some minorities were somewhat over-represented.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy theory was something created long ago by the rich elites, monarchists and capitalists. Nazis did not invent these ideas, they merely inherited them from the monarchists or received them from the western capitalist press. The Nazis were acting as puppets of the capitalist elite, they got their ideology as well as their funding from them.

These conspiracy theories are crucial to modern day neo-Nazis, but based on nothing. Even a cursory inspection of the most popular and widely cited Nazi sources show them to be inaccurate. There are many movements of people believing in things based on very little evidence or on faith alone, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Nazis would do this.

Some people are misinformed, some are wilfully delusional. We can give people information, but if they are essentially following an entirely faith-based worldview then its probably a waste of time.


Sources and further reading:

The Myth of Jewish Communism
https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=19150

http://holocaust.skeptik.net/misc/party.htm

http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=522197#p522197


A Judeo-Bolshevik Debacle
http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot.com/2008/10/judeo-bolshevik-debacle.html

The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.58240

A century of lies about Russia
https://www.workers.org/2016/12/20/a-century-of-lies-about-russia/

On the protocols of the Elders of Zion
https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy/society/protocols-elders-zion-1927-society-antisemitism