Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky

Joseph Stalin, was born in Gori, Georgia on . His mother, Ekaterina Djugashvilli, was married at the age of 14 and Joseph was her fourth child to be born in less than four years. The first three died and as Joseph was prone to bad health, his mother feared on several occasions that he would also die. Understandably, given this background, Joseph's mother was very protective towards him as a child. (1)

Joseph's father, Vissarion Djugashvilli, was a bootmaker and his mother took in washing. He was an extremely violent man who savagely beat both his son and wife. As a child, Joseph experienced the poverty that most peasants had to endure in Russia at the end of the 19th century. (2)

Soso, as he was called throughout his childhood, contacted smallpox at the age of seven. It was usually a fatal disease and for a time it looked as if he would die. Against the odds he recovered but his face remained scarred for the rest of his life and other children cruelly called him "pocky". (3)

Joseph's mother was deeply religious and in 1888 she managed to obtain him a place at the local church school. Despite his health problems, he made good progress at school. However, his first language was Georgian and although he eventually learnt Russian, whenever possible, he would speak and write in his native language and never lost his distinct Georgian accent. His father died in 1890. Bertram D. Wolfe has argued "his mother, devoutly religious and with no one to devote herself to but her sole surviving child, determined to prepare him for the priesthood." (4)

Early years of Joseph Stalin

Stalin left school in 1894 and his academic brilliance won him a free scholarship to the Tiflis Theological Seminary. He hated the routine of the seminary. "In the early morning when they longed to lie in, they had to rise for prayers. Then, a hurried light breakfast followed by long hours in the classroom, more prayers, a meager dinner, a brief walk around the city, and it was time for the seminary to close. By ten in the evening, when the city was just coming to life, the seminarists had said their prayers they were on their way to bed." One of his fellow students wrote: "We felt like prisoners, forced to spend our young lives in this place although innocent." (5)

Stalin told Emil Ludwig that he hated his time in the Tiflis Theological Seminary. "The basis of all their methods is spying, prying, peering into people's souls, to subject them to petty torment. What is the good in that? In protest against the humiliating regime and the jesuitical methods that prevailed in the seminary, I was ready to become, and eventually did become, a revolutionary, a believer in Marxism." (6)

While studying at the seminary he joined a secret organization called Messame Dassy (the Third Group). Members were supporters of Georgian independence from Russia. Some were also socialist revolutionaries and it was through the people he met in this organization that Stalin first came into contact with the ideas of Karl Marx. Stalin later wrote: "I became a Marxist because of my social group (my father was a worker in a shoe factory and my mother was also a working woman), but also because of the harsh intolerance and Jesuitical discipline that crushed me so mercilessly at the Seminary... The atmosphere in which I lived was saturated with hatred against Tsarist oppression." (7)

In May, 1899, Joseph Stalin left the Tiflis Theological Seminary. Several reasons were given for this action including disrespect for those in authority and reading forbidden books. According to the seminary conduct book he was expelled "as politically unreliable".Stalin was later to claim that the real reason was that he had been trying to convert his fellow students to Marxism. (8)

Stalin's mother provided a different version of events: "I wanted only one thing, that he should become a priest. He was not expelled. I brought him home on account of his health. When he entered the seminary he was fifteen and as strong as a lad could be. But overwork up to the age of nineteen pulled him down, and the doctors told me that he might develop tuberculosis. So I took him away from school. He did not want to leave. But I took him away. He was my only son." (9)

Soon after leaving the seminary he began reading Iskra (the Spark), the newspaper of the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP). It was the first underground Marxist paper to be distributed in Russia. It was printed in several European cities and then smuggled into Russia by a network of SDLP agents. The editorial board included Alexander Potresov, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Julius Martov. (10)

For several months after leaving the seminary Stalin was unemployed. He eventually found work by giving private lessons to middle class children. Later, he worked as a clerk at the Tiflis Observatory. He also began writing articles for the socialist Georgian newspaper, Brdzola Khma Vladimir. Some of these were translations of articles written by Lenin. During this period he adopted the alias "Koba" (Koba was a Georgian folk hero who fought for Georgian peasants against oppressive landlords). (11)

Joseph Iremashvili, one of his Georgian comrades pointed out: "Koba became a divinity for Soso. He wanted to become another Koba, a fighter and a hero as renowned as Koba himself... His face shone with pride and joy when we called him Koba. Soso preserved that name for many years, and it became his first pseudonym when he began to write for the revolutionary newspapers." (12) He also used the name Stalin (Man of Steel) and this eventually became the name he used when he published articles in the revolutionary press. (13)

In 1901 Stalin joined the and whereas most of the leaders were living in exile, he stayed in Russia where he helped to organize industrial resistance to Tsarism. On 18th April, 1902, Stalin was arrested after coordinating a strike at the large Rothschild plant at Batum and after spending 18 months in prison, Stalin was deported to Siberia. (14)

Grigol Uratadze, a fellow prisoner, later described Stalin's appearance and behaviour in prison: "He was scruffy and his pockmarked face made him not particularly neat in appearance.... He had a creeping way of walking, taking short steps.... when we were let outside for exercise and all of us in our particular groups made for this or that corner of the prison yard, Stalin stayed by himself and walked backwards and forwards with his short aces, and if anyone tried speaking to him, he would open his mouth into that cold smile of his and perhaps say a few words... we lived together in Kutaisi Prison for more than half a year and not once did I see him get agitated, lose control, get angry, shout, swear - or in short - reveal himself in any other aspect than complete calmness." (15)

Early years of Leon Trotsky

Lev Davidovich Bronstein (he assumed the name Leon Trotsky in 1902) was born in Yanovka, Russia, on 7th November, 1879. His parents were Jewish and owned a farm in the Ukraine. He later recalled: "My father and mother lived out their hard-working lives with some friction, but very happily on the whole. Of the eight children born of this marriage, four survived. I was the fifth in order of birth. Four died in infancy, of diphtheria and of scarlet fever, deaths almost as unnoticed as was the life of those who survived. The land, the cattle, the poultry, the mill, took all my parents' time; there was none left for us. We lived in a little mud house. The straw roof harboured countless sparrows' nests under the eaves. The walls on the outside were seamed with deep cracks which were a breeding place for adders. The low ceilings leaked during a heavy rain, especially in the hall, and pots and basins would be placed on the dirt floor to catch the water. The rooms were small, the windows dim; the floors in the two rooms and the nursery were of clay and bred fleas." (16)

David Bronstein made a success of his 250 acre farm. He cultivated wheat for the thriving export markets in the region. He also raised cattle, sheep and pigs. He also kept horses for ploughing and travelling. As Bronstein grew in wealth he replaced the original hut with a house of brick, and he had the garden, including a croquet lawn, set out in a grand fashion. He also built his own mill so that he could grind his own wheat and cut out payments to middle men. He also rented out several thousand acres from local landlords. (17)

Leon Trotsky was very close to his younger sister, Olga Kamenev: "We usually sat in the dining-room in the evening until we fell asleep.... Sometimes a chance word of one of the elders would waken some special reminiscence in us. Then I would wink at my little sister, she would give a low giggle, and the grown-ups would look absent-mindedly at her. I would wink again, and she would try to stifle her laughter under the oilcloth and would hit her head against the table. This would infect me and sometimes my older sister too, who, with thirteen-year-old dignity, vacillated between the grown-ups and the children. If our laughter became too uncontrollable, I was obliged to slip under the table and crawl among the feet of the grown-ups, and, stepping on the cat's tail, rush out into the next room, which was the nursery. Once back in the dining-room, it all would begin over again. My fingers would grow so weak from laughing that I could not hold a glass. My head, my lips, my hands, my feet, every inch of me would be shaking with laughter." (18)

Bertram D. Wolfe has attempted to explain the Bronstein's success: "Like their neighbours, they lived lives that were scarcely distinguishable from those around them, unless by the fact that they were not so given to drink as most, worked harder, were more foresighted, drove better bargains with the grain merchants, were able to make a go of it during the prolonged crisis of the eighties, when the competition of American, Canadian and Argentine wheat ruined so many farmers of the steppes." (19)

When Trotsky was eight years old his father sent him to Odessa to be educated. He stayed at the home of his mother's nephew, Moissei Spentzer. He was a journalist who had been in trouble with the authorities for his liberal views. His wife, was the headmistress of a secular school for Jewish girls. Trotsky was taught to speak Russian (up until this time he used the Ukrainian language). In the evenings the Spentzers would read aloud the work of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Charles Dickens. Many years later the American writer, Max Eastman, described the Spentzers as "kindly, quiet, poised, intelligent". (20)

At first the Spentzers were unable to find a school for Trotsky. The Russian government had just passed a law to make it difficult for Jews to obtain a good education. Schools could only have up to 5 per cent of Jewish students. He finally found a place at a school where he received instruction in science, mathematics and modern languages. It was not long before he was top of his class. He also produced a school magazine, nearly all written by himself. This got him into trouble as the Minister of Education had banned all school magazines. (21)

In 1895 he attended a school in Nikolayev where he was first introduced to the ideas of Karl Marx. Trotsky became friends with Grigori Sokolnikov and in 1897 formed the underground South Russian Workers' Union. Trotsky later recalled: "I drafted our constitution along Social-Democratic lines. The mill authorities tried to offset our influence through speakers of their own. We would answer them the next day with new proclamations. This duel of words aroused not only the workers but a great many of the citizens as well. The whole town was alive with talk about revolutionaries who were flooding the mills with their handbills. Our names were on every tongue." (22)

Trotsky met Alexandra Sokolovskaya in 1889. She had previously been involved in revolutionary activity in the Ukraine and had read several books written by Marx, including The Communist Manifesto. At first he rejected the ideas of Marx because of its "grinding economic determinism" and at first claimed Alexandra was an "obdurate" Marxist. They constantly argued about politics but the "sexual chemistry was explosive". Although he resisted, he eventually became a Marxist like his girlfriend. (23)

The couple married in 1899. Trotsky recalled in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930) that "Alexandra... held one of the most important positions in the South Russian Workers' Union. Her utter loyalty to socialism and her complete lack of any personal ambition gave her an unquestioned moral authority. The work that we were doing bound us closely together, and so, to avoid being separated, we had been married in the transfer prison in Moscow." (24)

Trotsky later explained "we firmly resolved not to hide in case of wholesale arrests, but to let ourselves be taken." He did this so that the police could not say to the workers: "Your leaders have deserted you." Trotsky and his wife were arrested and sent to Siberia after being arrested for revolutionary activity. Alexandra had two daughters, Zinaida Volkova (1901) and Nina Nevelson (1902). Trotsky managed to escape in the summer of 1902. His wife and children followed later. (25)

Left Opposition

In October 1923, Yuri Piatakov drafted a statement that was published under the name Platform of the 46 which criticized the economic policies of the party leadership and accused it of stifling the inner-party debate. It echoed the call made by Leon Trotsky, a week earlier, calling for a sharp change of direction by the party. The statement was also signed by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Andrey Bubnov, Ivan Smirnov, Lazar Kaganovich, Ivar Smilga, Victor Serge, Evgenia Bosh and thirty-eight other leading Bolsheviks.

"The extreme seriousness of the position compels us (in the interests of our Party, in the interests of the working class) to state openly that a continuation of the policy of the majority of the Politburo threatens grievous disasters for the whole Party. The economic and financial crisis beginning at the end of July of the present year, with all the political, including internal Party, consequences resulting from it, has inexorably revealed the inadequacy of the leadership of the Party, both in the economic domain, and especially in the domain of internal Party, relations."

The document then went on to complain about the lack of debate in the Communist Party: "Similarly in the domain of internal party relations we see the same incorrect leadership paralyzing and breaking up the Party; this appears particularly clearly in the period of crisis through which we are passing. We explain this not by the political incapacity of the present leaders of the Party; on the contrary, however much we differ from them in our estimate of the position and in the choice of means to alter it, we assume that the present leaders could not in any conditions fail to be appointed by the Party to the out-standing posts in the workers’ dictatorship. We explain it by the fact that beneath the external form of official unity we have in practice a one-sided recruitment of individuals, and a direction of affairs which is one-sided and adapted to the views and sympathies of a narrow circle. As the result of a Party leadership distorted by such narrow considerations, the Party is to a considerable extent ceasing to be that living independent collectivity which sensitively seizes living reality because it is bound to this reality with a thousand threads." (26)

Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "Among the signatories were: Piatakov, one of the two ablest leaders of the young generation mentioned in Lenin's testament, Preobrazhensky and Serebriakov, former secretaries of the Central Committee, Antonov-Ovseenko, the military leader of the October revolution, Srnirnov, Osinsky, Bubnov, Sapronov, Muralov, Drobnis, and others, distinguished leaders in the civil war, men of brain and character. Some of them had led previous oppositions against Lenin and Trotsky, expressing the malaise that made itself felt in the party as its leadership began to sacrifice first principles to expediency. Fundamentally, they were now voicing that same malaise which was growing in proportion to the party's continued departure from some of its first principles. It is not certain whether Trotsky directly instigated their demonstration." Lenin commented that Piatakov might be "very able but not to be relied upon in a serious political matter". (27)

Two months later, Leon Trotsky published an open letter where he called for more debate in the Communist Party concerning the way the country was being governed. He argued that members should exercise its right to criticism "without fear and without favour" and the first people to be removed from party positions are "those who at the first voice of criticism, of objection, of protest, are inclined to demand one's party ticket for the purpose of repression". Trotsky went on to suggest that anyone who "dares to terrorize the party" should be expelled. (28)

Stalin objected to the idea of democracy in the Communist Party. "I shall say but this, there will plainly not be any developed democracy, any full democracy." At this time "it would be impossible and it would make no sense to adopt it" even within the narrow limits of the party. Democracy could only be introduced when the Soviet Union enjoyed "economic prosperity, military security, and a civilized membership." Stalin added that though the party was not democratic, it was wrong to claim it was bureaucratic. (29)

Gregory Zinoviev was furious with Trotsky for making these comments and proposed that he should be immediately arrested. Stalin, aware of Trotsky's immense popularity, opposed the move as being too dangerous. He encouraged Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev to attack Trotsky whereas he wanted to give the impression that he was the most moderate, sensible, and conciliatory of the triumvirs. Kamenev asked him about the question of gaining a majority in the party, Stalin replied: "Do you know what I think about this? I believe that who votes how in the party is unimportant. What is extremely important is who counts the votes and how they are recorded." (30)

In April 1924 Joseph Stalin published Foundations of Leninism. In the introduction he argued: "Leninism grew up and took shape under the conditions of imperialism, when the contradictions of capitalism had reached an extreme point, when the proletarian revolution had become an immediate practical question, when the old period of preparation of the working class for revolution had arrived at and passed into a new period, that of direct assault on capitalism... The significance of the imperialist war which broke out ten years ago lies, among other things, in the fact that it gathered all these contradictions into a single knot and threw them on to the scales, thereby accelerating and facilitating the revolutionary battles of the proletariat. In other words, imperialism was instrumental not only in making the revolution a practical inevitability, but also in creating favourable conditions for a direct assault on the citadels of capitalism. Such was the international situation which gave birth to Leninism." (31)

According to his personal secretary Boris Bazhanov, Stalin had the facility to evesdrop on the conversations of dozens of the most influential communist leaders. Before meetings of the Politburo Stalin would neet with his supporters. This included Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Lazar Kaganovich, Vyacheslav Molotov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Sergy Kirov and Kliment Voroshilov. As Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), has pointed out: "He demanded efficiency as well as loyalty from the gang members. He also selected them for their individual qualities. He created an ambience of conspiracy, companionship and crude masculine humour. In return for their services he looked after their interests." (32)

Joseph Stalin with his daughter Svetlana.
Joseph Stalin with Svetlana, his daughter with his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva.

Leon Trotsky accused Joseph Stalin of being dictatorial and called for the introduction of more democracy into the party. Zinoviev and Kamenev united behind Stalin and accused Trotsky of creating divisions in the party. Trotsky's main hope of gaining power was for Lenin's last testament to be published. In May, 1924, Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, demanded that the Central Committee announce its contents to the rest of the party. Zinoviev argued strongly against its publication. He finished his speech with the words: "You have all witnessed our harmonious cooperation in the last few months, and, like myself, you will be happy to say that Lenin's fears have proved baseless." The new members of the Central Committee, who had been sponsored by Stalin, guaranteed that the vote went against Lenin's testament being made public. (33)

Trotsky and Stalin clashed over the future strategy of the country. Stalin favoured what he called "socialism in one country" whereas Trotsky still supported the idea of world revolution. He was later to argue: "The utopian hopes of the epoch of military communism came in later for a cruel, and in many respects just, criticism. The theoretical mistake of the ruling party remains inexplicable, however, only if you leave out of account the fact that all calculations at that time were based on the hope of an early victory of the revolution in the West." (34)

Trotsky had argued in 1917 that the Bolshevik Revolution was doomed to failure unless successful revolutions also took place in other countries such as Germany and France. Lenin had agreed with him about this but by 1924 Stalin began talking about the possibility of completing the "building of socialism in a single country". Nikolay Bukharin joined the attacks on Trotsky asserted that Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution" was anti-Leninist. (35)

In January 1925, Stalin was able to arrange for Leon Trotsky to be removed from the government. Isaac Deutscher, the author of Stalin (1949) has argued: "He left office without the slightest attempt at rallying in his defence the army he had created and led for seven years. He still regarded the party, no matter how or by whom it was led, as the legitimate spokesman of the working-class. If he were to oppose army to party, so he reasoned, he would have automatically set himself up as the agent for some other class interests, hostile to the working-class... He still remained a member of the Politbureau, but for more than a year he kept aloof from all public controversy." (36)

With the decline of Trotsky, Joseph Stalin felt strong enough to stop sharing power with Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev. Stalin now began to attack Trotsky's belief in the need for world revolution. He argued that the party's main priority should be to defend the communist system that had been developed in the Soviet Union. This put Zinoviev and Kamenev in an awkward position. They had for a long time been strong supporters of Trotsky's theory that if revolution did not spread to other countries, the communist system in the Soviet Union was likely to be overthrown by hostile, capitalist nations. However, they were reluctant to speak out in favour of a man whom they had been in conflict with for so long. (37)

Stalin & the New Economic Policy

Joseph Stalin now formed an alliance with Nikolay Bukharin, Mikhail Tomsky and Alexei Rykov, on the right of the party, who wanted an expansion of the New Economic Policy that had been introduced several years earlier. Farmers were allowed to sell food on the open market and were allowed to employ people to work for them. Those farmers who expanded the size of their farms became known as kulaks. Bukharin believed the NEP offered a framework for the country's more peaceful and evolutionary "transition to socialism" and disregarded traditional party hostility to kulaks. (38)

Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), argued: "Stalin and Bukharin rejected Trotsky and the Left Opposition as doctrinaires who by their actions would bring the USSR to perdition... Zinoviev and Kamenev felt uncomfortable with so drastic a turn towards the market economy... They disliked Stalin's movement to a doctrine that socialism could be built in a single country - and they simmered with resentment at the unceasing accumulation of power by Stalin." (39)

When Stalin was finally convinced that Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev were unwilling to join forces with Leon Trotsky against him, he began to support openly the economic policies of right-wing members of the Politburo. They now realized what Stalin was up to but it took them to summer of 1926 before they could swallow their pride and join with Trotsky against Stalin. Kamenev argued: "We're against creating a theory of the leader; were against making anyone into the leader... Were against the Secretariat, by actually combining politics and organisation, standing above the political body… Personally I suggest that our General Secretary is not the kind of figure who can unite the old Bolshevik high command around him. It is precisely because I've often said this personally to comrade Stalin and precisely because I've often said this to a group of Leninist comrades that I repeat it at the Congress: I have come to the conclusion that comrade Stalin is incapable of performing the role of unifier of the Bolshevik high command." (40)

Kamenev and Zinoviev denounced the pro-Kulak policy, arguing that the stronger the big farmers grew the easier it would be for them to withhold food from the urban population and to obtain more and more concessions from the government. Eventually, they might be in a position to overthrow communism and the restoration of capitalism. Before the Russian Revolution there had been 16 million farms in the country. It now had 25 million, some of which were very large and owned by kulaks. They argued that the government, in order to undermine the power of the kulaks, should create large collective farms. (41)

Stalin tried to give the impression he was an advocate of the middle-course. In reality, he was supporting those on the right. In October, 1925, the leaders of the left in the Communist Party submitted to the Central Committee a memorandum in which they asked for a free debate on all controversial issues. This was signed by Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Grigori Sokolnikov, the Commissar of Finance, and Nadezhda Krupskaya, the widow of Lenin. Stalin rejected this idea and continued to have complete control over government policy. (42)

Sergo Ordzhonikidze
Anastas Mikoyan, Joseph Stalin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze in 1925.

On the advice of Nikolay Bukharin, all restrictions upon the leasing of land, the hiring of labour and the accumulation of capital were removed. Bukharin's theory was that the small farmers only produced enough food to feed themselves. The large farmers, on the other hand, were able to provide a surplus that could be used to feed the factory workers in the towns. To motivate the kulaks to do this, they had to be given incentives, or what Bukharin called "the ability to enrich" themselves. (43) The tax system was changed in order to help kulaks buy out smaller farms. In an article in Pravda, Bukharin wrote: "Enrich yourselves, develop your holdings. And don't worry that they may be taken away from you." (44)

At the 14th Congress of the Communist Party in December, 1925, Zinoviev spoke up for others on the left when he declared: "There exists within the Party a most dangerous right deviation. It lies in the underestimation of the danger from the kulak - the rural capitalist. The kulak, uniting with the urban capitalists, the NEP men, and the bourgeois intelligentsia will devour the Party and the Revolution." (45) However, when the vote was taken, Stalin's policy was accepted by 559 to 65. (46)

In September 1926 Stalin threatened the expulsion of Yuri Piatakov, Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Mikhail Lashevich and Grigori Sokolnikov. On 4th October, these men signed a statement admitting that they were guilty of offences against the statutes of the party and pledged themselves to disband their party within the party. They also disavowed the extremists in their ranks who were led by Alexander Shlyapnikov. However, having admitted their offences against the rules of discipline, they "restated with dignified firmness their political criticisms of Stalin and Bukharin." (47)

Stalin appointed his old friend, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, to the presidency of the Central Control Commission in November 1926, where he was given responsibility for expelling the Left Opposition from the Communist Party. Ordzhonikidze was rewarded by being appointed to the Politburo in 1926. He developed a reputation for having a terrible temper. His daughter said that he "often got so heated that he slapped his comrades but the eruption soon passed." His wife Zina argued "he would give his life for one he loved and shoot the one he hated". However, others said he had great charm and Maria Svanidze described him as "chivalrous". The son of Lavrenty Beria commented that his "kind eyes, grey hair and big moustache, gave him the look of an old Georgian prince". (48)

Stalin gradually expelled his opponents from the Politburo including Trotsky, Zinoviev and Lashevich. He also appointed his allies, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov, Gregory Ordzhonikidze, Lazar Kaganovich, Sergy Kirov, Semen Budenny and Andrei Andreev. "He demanded efficiency as well as lyalty from the gang members... He wanted no one near to him who outranked him intellectually. He selected men with a revolutionary commitment like his own, and he set the style with his ruthless policies... In return for their services he looked after their interests. He was solicitous about their health. He overlooked their foibles so long as their work remained unaffected and the recognised his word as law." (49)

Kaganovich later recalled: In the early years Stalin was a soft individual... Under Lenin and after Lenin. He went through a lot. In the early years after Lenin died, when he came to power, they all attacked Stalin. He endured a lot in the struggle with Trotsky. Then his supposed friends Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky also attacked him... It was difficult to avoid getting cruel." (50)

In the spring of 1927 Trotsky drew up a proposed programme signed by 83 oppositionists. He demanded a more revolutionary foreign policy as well as more rapid industrial growth. He also insisted that a comprehensive campaign of democratisation needed to be undertaken not only in the party but also in the soviets. Trotsky added that the Politburo was ruining everything Lenin had stood for and unless these measures were taken, the original goals of the October Revolution would not be achievable. (51)

Stalin and Bukharin led the counter-attacks through the summer of 1927. At the plenum of the Central Committee in October, Stalin pointed out that Trotsky was originally a Menshevik: "In the period between 1904 and the February 1917 Revolution Trotsky spent the whole time twirling around in the company of the Mensheviks and conducting a campaign against the party of Lenin. Over that period Trotsky sustained a whole series of defeats at the hands of Lenin's party." Stalin added that previously he had rejected calls for the expulsion of people like Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. "Perhaps, I overdid the kindness and made a mistake." (52)

According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "The opposition then organized demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad on November 7. These were the last two open demonstrations against the Stalinist regime. The GPU, of course, knew about them in advance but allowed them to take place. In Lenin's Party submitting Party differences to the judgment of the crowd was considered the greatest of crimes. The opposition had signed their own sentence. And Stalin, of course, a brilliant organizer of demonstrations himself, was well prepared. On the morning of November 7 a small crowd, most of them students, moved toward Red Square, carrying banners with opposition slogans: Let us direct our fire to the right - at the kulak and the NEP man, Long live the leaders of the World Revolution, Trotsky and Zinoviev.... The procession reached Okhotny Ryad, not far from the Kremlin. Here the criminal appeal to the non-Party masses was to be made, from the balcony of the former Paris hotel. Stalin let them get on with it. Smilga and Preobrazhensky, both members of Lenin's Central Committee, draped a streamer with the slogan Back to Lenin over the balcony." (53)

Stalin argued that there was a danger that the party would split into two opposing factions. If this happened, western countries would take advantage of the situation and invade the Soviet Union. On 14th November 1927, the Central Committee decided to expel Leon Trotsky and Gregory Zinoviev from the party. This decision was ratified by the Fifteenth Party Congress in December. The Congress also announced the removal of another 75 oppositionists, including Lev Kamenev. (54)

The Russian historian, Roy A. Medvedev, has explained in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971): "The opposition's semi-legal and occasionally illegal activities were the main issue at the joint meeting of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission at the end of October, 1927... The Plenum decided that Trotsky and Zinoviev had broken their promise to cease factional activity. They were expelled from the Central Committee, and the forthcoming XVth Congress was directed to review the whole issue of factions and groups." Under pressure from the Central Committee, Kamenev and Zinoviev agreed to sign statements promising not to create conflict in the movement by making speeches attacking official policies. Trotsky refused to sign and was banished to the remote area of Kazhakstan. (55)

One of Trotsky's main supporters, Adolf Joffe, was so disillusioned by these events that he committed suicide. In a letter he wrote to Trotsky before his death, he commented: "I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of permanent revolution. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path... One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever... You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell." (56)

Collective Farms

Stalin now decided to turn on the right-wing of the Politburo. He blamed the policies of Nickolai Bukharin for the failure of the 1927 harvest. By this time kulaks made up 40% of the peasants in some regions, but still not enough food was being produced. On 6th January, 1928, Stalin sent out a secret directive threatening to sack local party leaders who failed to apply "tough punishments" to those guilty of "grain hoarding". By the end of the year it was revealed that food production had been two million tons below that needed to feed the population of the Soviet Union. (57)

During that winter Stalin began attacking kulaks for not supplying enough food for industrial workers. He also advocated the setting up of collective farms. The proposal involved small farmers joining forces to form large-scale units. In this way, it was argued, they would be in a position to afford the latest machinery. Stalin believed this policy would lead to increased production. However, the peasants liked farming their own land and were reluctant to form themselves into state collectives. (58)

Stalin was furious that the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulaks property. This land was then used to form new collective farms. There were two types of collective farms introduced. The sovkhoz (land was owned by the state and the workers were hired like industrial workers) and the kolkhoz (small farms where the land was rented from the state but with an agreement to deliver a fixed quota of the harvest to the government). He appointed Vyacheslav Molotov to carry out the operation. (59)

In December, 1929, Stalin made a speech at the Communist Party Congress. He attacked the kulaks for not joining the collective farms. "Can we advance our socialised industry at an accelerated rate while we have such an agricultural basis as small-peasant economy, which is incapable of expanded reproduction, and which, in addition, is the predominant force in our national economy? No, we cannot. Can Soviet power and the work of socialist construction rest for any length of time on two different foundations: on the most large-scale and concentrated socialist industry, and the most disunited and backward, small-commodity peasant economy? No, they cannot. Sooner or later this would be bound to end in the complete collapse of the whole national economy. What, then, is the way out? The way out lies in making agriculture large-scale, in making it capable of accumulation, of expanded reproduction, and in thus transforming the agricultural basis of the national economy." (60)

Stalin then went on to define kulaks as "any peasant who does not sell all his grain to the state". Those peasants who were unwilling to join collective farms "must be annihilated as a class". As the historian, Yves Delbars, pointed out: "Of course, to annihilate them as a social class did not mean the physical extinction of the kulaks. But the local authorities had no time to draw the distinction; moreover, Stalin had issued stringent orders through the agricultural commission of the central committee. He asked for prompt results, those who failed to produce them would be treated as saboteurs." (61)

Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulak property. This land would then be used to form new collective farms. The kulaks themselves were not allowed to join these collectives as it was feared that they would attempt to undermine the success of the scheme. An estimated five million were deported to Central Asia or to the timber regions of Siberia, where they were used as forced labour. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination. (62) According to the historian, Sally J. Taylor: "Many of those exiled died, either along the way or in the makeshift camps where they were dumped, with inadequate food, clothing, and housing." (63)

Ian Grey, in his book, Stalin: Man of History (1982): "The peasants demonstrated the hatred they felt for the regime and its collectivisation policy by slaughtering their animals. To the peasant his horse, his cow, his few sheep and goats were treasured possessions and a source of food in hard times... In the first months of 1930 alone 14 million head of cattle were killed. Of the 34 million horses in the Soviet Union in 1929, 18 million were killed, further, some 67 per cent of sheep and goats were slaughtered between 1929 and 1933." (64)

Walter Duranty, a journalist working for the New York Times, observed the suffering caused by collectivisation: "At the windows haggard faces, men and women, or a mother holding her child, with hands outstretched for a crust of bread or a cigarette. It was only the end of April but the heat was torrid and the air that came from the narrow windows was foul and stifling; for they had been fourteen days en route, not knowing where they were going nor caring much. They were more like caged animals than human beings, not wild beasts but dumb cattle, patient with suffering eyes. Debris and jetsam, victims of the March to Progress." (65)

Riots broke out in several regions and Joseph Stalin, fearing a civil war, and peasants threatening not to plant their spring crop, called a halt to collectivisation. During 1930 this policy led to 2,200 rebellions involving more than 800,000 people. Stalin wrote an article for Pravda attacking officials for being over-zealous in their implementation of collectivisation. "Collective farms," Stalin wrote, "cannot be set up by force. To do so would be stupid and reactionary." (66)

Stalin portrayed himself in the article as the protector of the peasants. Members of the Politburo and local officials were upset that they had been blamed for a policy that had been devised by Stalin. The man who was mainly responsible for the peasants' suffering was now seen as their hero. It was reported that as peasants marched in procession out of their collective farms to return to their own land, they carried large pictures of their saviour, "Comrade Stalin". Within three months of Stalin's article appearing, the numbers of peasants in collective farms dropped from 60 to 25 per cent. It was clear that if Stalin wanted collectivisation, he could not allow freedom of choice. Once again Stalin ordered local officials to start imposing collectivisation. By 1935, 94 per cent of crops were being produced by peasants working on collective farms. The cost to the Soviet people was immense. As Stalin was to admit to Winston Churchill, approximately ten million people died as a result of collectivisation. (67)

Five Year Plan

Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and other left-wing members of the Politburo had always been in favour of the rapid industrialisation of the Soviet Union. Stalin disagreed with this view. He accused them of going against the ideas of Lenin who had declared that it was vitally important to "preserve the alliance between the workers and the peasants." When left-wing members of the Politburo advocated the building of a hydro-electric power station on the River Druiper, Stalin accused them of being 'super industrialisers' and said that it was equivalent to suggesting that a peasant buys a "gramophone instead of a cow." (68)

When Stalin accepted the need for collectivisation he also had to change his mind about industrialisation. His advisers told him that with the modernisation of farming the Soviet Union would require 250,000 tractors. In 1927 they had only 7,000. As well as tractors, there was also a need to develop the oil fields to provide the necessary petrol to drive the machines. Power stations also had to be built to supply the farms with electricity.

However, Stalin suddenly changed policy and made it clear he would use his control over the country to modernize the economy. The first Five Year Plan that was introduced in 1928, concentrated on the development of iron and steel, machine-tools, electric power and transport. Stalin set the workers high targets. He demanded a 111% increase in coal production, 200% increase in iron production and 335% increase in electric power. He justified these demands by claiming that if rapid industrialization did not take place, the Soviet Union would not be able to defend itself against an invasion from capitalist countries in the west. (69)

"We are the Realisation of the Plan (1933)
"We are the Realisation of the Plan (1933)

The first Five-Year Plan did not get off to a successful start in all sectors. For example, the production of pig iron and steel increased by only 600,000 to 800,000 tons in 1929, barely surpassing the 1913-14 level. Only 3,300 tractors were produced in 1929. The output of food processing and light industry rose slowly, but in the crucial area of transportation, the railways worked especially poorly. "In June, 1930, Stalin announced sharp increases in the goals - for pig iron, from 10 million to 17 million tons by the last year of the plan; for tractors, from 55,000 to 170,000; for other agricultural machinery and trucks, an increase of more than 100 per cent." (70)

Every factory had large display boards erected that showed the output of workers. Those that failed to reach the required targets were publicity criticized and humiliated. Some workers could not cope with this pressure and absenteeism increased. This led to even more repressive measures being introduced. Records were kept of workers' lateness, absenteeism and bad workmanship. If the worker's record was poor, he was accused of trying to sabotage the Five Year Plan and if found guilty could be shot or sent to work as forced labour on the Baltic Sea Canal or the Siberian Railway. (71)

One of the most controversial aspects of the Five Year Plan was Stalin's decision to move away from the principle of equal pay. Under the rule of Lenin, for example, the leaders of the Bolshevik Party could not receive more than the wages of a skilled labourer. With the modernization of industry, Stalin argued that it was necessary to pay higher wages to certain workers in order to encourage increased output. His left-wing opponents claimed that this inequality was a betrayal of socialism and would create a new class system in the Soviet Union. Stalin had his way and during the 1930s, the gap between the wages of the labourers and the skilled workers increased. (72)

According to Bertram D. Wolfe, during this period Russia had the most highly concentrated industrial working class in Europe. "In Germany at the turn of the century, only fourteen per cent of the factories had a force of more than five hundred men; in Russia the corresponding figure was thirty-four per cent. Only eight per cent of all German workers worked in factories employing over a thousand working men each. Twenty-four per cent, nearly a quarter, of all Russian industrial workers worked in factories of that size. These giant enterprises forced the new working class into close association. There arose an insatiable hunger for organization, which the huge state machine sought in vain to direct or hold in check." (73)

Joseph Stalin now had a problem of workers wanting to increase their wages. He had a particular problem with unskilled workers who felt they were not being adequately rewarded. Stalin insisted on the need for a highly differentiated scale of material rewards for labour, designed to encourage skill and efficiency and "throughout the thirties, the differentiation of wages and salaries was pushed to extremes, incompatible with the spirit, if not the letter, of Marxism." (74)

Stalin gave instructions that concentration camps should not just be for social rehabilitation of prisoners but also for what they could contribute to the gross domestic product. This included using forced labour for the mining of gold and timber hewing. Stalin ordered Vladimir Menzhinski, the chief of the OGPU, to create a permanent organisational framework that would allow for prisoners to contribute to the success of the Five Year Plan. People sent to these camps included members of outlawed political parties, nationalists and priests. (75)

Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004), has pointed out: "During the First Five Year Plan the USSR underwent drastic change. Ahead lay campaigns to spread collective farms and eliminate kulaks, clerics and private traders. The political system would become harsher. Violence would be pervasive. The Russian Communist Party, OGPU and People's Commissariat would consolidate their power. Remnants of former parties would be eradicated… The Gulag, which was the network of labour camps subject to the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD), would be expanded and would become an indispensable sector of the Soviet economy… A great influx of people from the villages would take place as factories and mines sought to fill their labour forces. Literacy schemes would be given huge state funding… Enthusiasm for the demise of political, social and cultural compromise would be cultivated. Marxism-Leninism would be intensively propagated. The change would be the work of Stalin and his associates in the Kremlin. Theirs would be the credit and theirs the blame." (76)

Eugene Lyons was an American journalist who was fairly sympathetic to the Soviet government. On 22nd November, 1930, Stalin selected him to be the first western journalist to be granted an interview. Lyons claimed that: "One cannot live in the shadow of Stalin's legend without coming under its spell. My pulse, I am sure, was high. No sooner, however, had I stepped across the threshold than diffidence and nervousness fell away. Stalin met me at the door and shook hands, smiling. There was a certain shyness in his smile and the handshake was not perfunctory. He was remarkably unlike the scowling, self-important dictator of popular imagination. His every gesture was a rebuke to the thousand little bureaucrats who had inflicted their puny greatness upon me in these Russian years.... At such close range, there was not a trace of the Napoleonic quality one sees in his self-conscious camera or oil portraits. The shaggy mustache, framing a sensual mouth and a smile nearly as full of teeth as Teddy Roosevelt's, gave his swarthy face a friendly, almost benignant look." (77)

Walter Duranty was furious when he heard that Stalin had granted Lyons this interview. He protested to the Soviet Press office that as the longest-serving Western correspondent in the country it was unfair not to give him an interview as well. A week after the interview Duranty was also granted an interview. Stalin told him that after the Russian Revolution the capitalist countries could have crushed the Bolsheviks: "But they waited too long. It is now too late." Stalin commented that the United States had no choice but to watch "socialism grow". Duranty argued that unlike Leon Trotsky Stalin was not gifted with any great intelligence, but "he had nevertheless outmaneuvered this brilliant member of the intelligentsia". He added: "Stalin has created a great Frankenstein monster, of which... he has become an integral part, made of comparatively insignificant and mediocre individuals, but whose mass desires, aims, and appetites have an enormous and irresistible power. I hope it is not true, and I devoutly hope so, but it haunts me unpleasantly. And perhaps haunts Stalin." (78)

Some people complained that the Soviet Union was being industrialized too fast. Isaac Deutscher quoted Stalin as saying: "No comrades... the pace must not be slackened! On the contrary, we must quicken it as much as is within our powers and possibilities. To slacken the pace would mean to lag behind; and those who lag behind are beaten.... The history of old Russia... was that she was ceaselessly beaten for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol Khans, she was beaten by Turkish Beys, she was beaten by Swedish feudal lords, she was beaten by Polish-Lithuanian Pans, she was beaten by Anglo-French capitalists, she was beaten by Japanese barons, she was beaten by all - for her backwardness... We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. we must make good this lag in years. Either we do it or they crush us." (79)

In 1932 Walter Duranty won the Pultzer Prize for his reporting of the Five Year Plan. In his acceptance speech he argued: "I went to the Baltic states viciously anti-Bolshevik. From the French standpoint the Bolsheviks had betrayed the allies to Germany, repudiated the debts, nationalized women and were enemies of the human race. I discovered that the Bolsheviks were sincere enthusiasts, trying to regenerate a people that had been shockingly misgoverned, and I decided to try to give them their fair break. I still believe they are doing the best for the Russian masses and I believe in Bolshevism - for Russia - but more and more I am convinced it is unsuitable for the United States and Western Europe. It won't spread westward unless a new war wrecks the established system." (80)

Some people argued that Duranty had been involved in a cover-up concerning the impact of the economic changes that were taking place in the Soviet Union. An official at the British Embassy reported: "A record of over-staffing, overplanning and complete incompetence at the centre; of human misery, starvation, death and disease among the peasantry... the only creatures who have any life at all in the districts visited are boars, pigs and other swine. Men, women, and children, horses and other workers are left to die in order that the Five Year Plan shall at least succeed on paper." (81)

Martemyan Ryutin criticises Joseph Stalin

Martemyan Ryutin worked for the Central Committee and was greatly disturbed by the failures in collectivization and industrialization. In 1930 he organized an opposition group in Moscow that included supporters of Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and Nickolai Bukharin. "The Ryutin group was essentially conspirational in nature. Its main goal was to remove Stalin and to change Party policies in the direction of greater democratization, greater consideration for the interests of workers and peasants, and an end to repression within the Party." (82)

In the summer of 1932 he wrote a 200 page analysis of Stalin's policies and dictatorial tactics, Stalin and the Crisis of the Proletarian Dictatorship. Ryutin argued: "The party and the dictatorship of the proletariat have been led into an unknown blind alley by Stalin and his retinue and are now living through a mortally dangerous crisis. With the help of deception and slander, with the help of unbelievable pressures and terror, Stalin in the last five years has sifted out and removed from the leadership all the best, genuinely Bolshevik party cadres, has established in the VKP(b) and in the whole country his personal dictatorship, has broken with Leninism, has embarked on a path of the most ungovernable adventurism and wild personal arbitrariness."

Ryutin then went onto making a very personal attack on Stalin: "To place the name of Stalin alongside the names of Marx, Engels and Lenin means to mock at Marx, Engels and Lenin. It means to mock at the proletariat. It means to lose all shame, to overstep all hounds of baseness. To place the name of Lenin alongside the name of Stalin is like placing Mt. Elbrus alongside a heap of dung. To place the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin alongside the works of Stalin is like placing the music of such great composers as Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner and others alongside the music of a street organ grinder... Lenin was a leader but not a dictator. Stalin, on the contrary, is a dictator but not a leader."

Ryutin did not only blame Stalin for the problems facing the Soviet Union: "The entire top leadership of the Party leadership, beginning with Stalin and ending with the secretaries of the provincial committees are, on the whole, fully aware that they are breaking with Leninism, that they are perpetrating violence against both the Party and non-Party masses, that they are killing the cause of socialism. However, they have become so tangled up, have brought about such a situation, have reached such a dead-end, such a vicious circle, that they themselves are incapable of breaking out of it... The mistakes of Stalin and his clique have turned into crimes.... In the struggle to destroy Stalin's dictatorship, we must in the main rely not on the old leaders but on new forces. These forces exist, these forces will quickly grow. New leaders will inevitably arise, new organizers of the masses, new authorities. A struggle gives birth to leaders and heroes. We must begin to take action." (83)

General Yan Berzin obtained a copy and called a meeting of his most trusted staff to discuss and denounce the work. Walter Krivitsky remembers Berzen reading excerpts of the manifesto in which Ryutin called "the great agent provocateur, the destroyer of the Party" and "the gravedigger of the revolution and of Russia." It has been argued: "This manifesto of the Union of Marxist-Leninists was a multifaceted, direct, and trenchant critique of virtually all of Stalin's policies, his methods of rule, and his personality. The Ryutin Platform, drafted in March, was discussed and rewritten over the next few months. At an underground meeting of Ryutin's group in a village in the Moscow suburbs on 21 August 1932, the document was finalized by an editorial committee of the Union.... At a subsequent meeting, the leaders decided to circulate the platform secretly from hand to hand and by mail. Numerous copies were made and circulated in Moscow, Kharkov, and other cities. It is not clear how widely the Ryutin Platform was spread, nor do we know how many party members actually read it or even heard of it. The evidence we do have, however, suggests that the Stalin regime reacted to it in fear and panic." (84)

Joseph Stalin interpreted Ryutin's manifesto as a call for his assassination. When the issue was discussed at the Politburo, Stalin demanded that the critics should be arrested and executed. Stalin also attacked those who were calling for the readmission of Leon Trotsky to the party. The Leningrad Party chief, Sergy Kirov, who up to this time had been a staunch Stalinist, argued against this policy. Kirov also gained support from Stalin's old friend, Gregory Ordzhonikidze. When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin. It is claimed that Stalin never forgave Kirov and Ordzhonikidze for this betrayal. (85)

On 22nd September, 1932, Martemyan Ryutin was arrested and held for investigation. During the investigation Ryutin admitted that he had been opposed to Stalin's policies since 1928. On 27th September, Ryutin and his supporters were expelled from the Communist Party. Ryutin was also found guilty of being an "enemy of the people" and was sentenced to a 10 years in prison. Soon afterwards Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev were expelled from the party for failing to report the existence of Ryutin's report. Ryutin and his two sons, Vassily and Vissarion were later both executed. (86)

Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's wife, became critical of Stalin's approach to politics. She pleaded with him to release friends who had been arrested as supporters of Leon Trotsky. She also objected to his policy of collectivization that had caused so many problems for the peasants. On 9th November, 1932, at a social gathering with several members of the Politburo. "Nadezhda spoke her mind about the famine and discontent in the country and about the moral ravages which the Terror had wrought on the party. Stalin's nerves were already strained to the utmost. In the presence of his friends he burst out against his wife in a flood of vulgar abuse." That night she committed suicide. (87)

Nadezhda's maid, Alexandra Korchagina, told other members of staff she believed Stalin had killed her. As a result, she was sentenced to three years's corrective labour on the White Sea - Baltic Canal. Stalin was deeply shaken by his wife's death. At first he blamed himself, he told Vyacheslav Molotov, that he had been "a bad husband". Later he became more hostile to her and claimed that "she did a very bad thing: she made a cripple out of me." (88)

It is claimed that at first people were worried he might kill himself. Seeking companionship he asked close political associates such as Sergy Kirov, Anastas Mikoyan, Alexander Svanidze and Lazar Kaganovich. This caused problems for Mikoyan, who had difficulty persuading his wife he really was spending his nights with Stalin. According to Kaganovich, he was never the same man again. He turned it on himself and hardened his attitude to people in general. He drank and ate more, sometimes sitting at the table for three or four hours after putting in a full day in his office." (89)

The Great Famine

The journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, discovered the existence of widespread famine in the Soviet Union in 1933. He knew that his reports would be censored and so he sent them out of the country in the British diplomatic bag. On 25th March 1933, the Manchester Guardian published Muggeridge's report: "I mean starving in its absolute sense; not undernourished as, for example, most Oriental peasants... and some unemployed workers in Europe, but having had for weeks next to nothing to eat." Muggeridge quoted one peasant as saying: "We have nothing. They have taken everything away." Muggeridge supported this view: "It was true. The famine is an organized one." He went to Kuban where he saw well-fed troops being used to coerce peasant starving to death. Muggeridge argued it was "a military occupation; worse, active war" against the peasants. (90)

Muggeridge travelled to Rostov-on-Don and found further examples of mass starvation. He claimed that many of the peasants had bodies swollen from hunger, and there was an "all-pervading sight and smell of death." When he asked why they did not have enough to eat, the inevitable answer came that the food had been taken by the government. Muggeridge reported on 28th March: "To say that there is a famine in some of the most fertile parts of Russia is to say much less than the truth; there is not only famine but - in the case of the North Caucasus at least - a state of war, a military occupation." (91)

On 31st March, 1933, The Evening Standard carried a report by Gareth Jones: "The main result of the Five Year Plan has been the tragic ruin of Russian agriculture. This ruin I saw in its grim reality. I tramped through a number of villages in the snow of March. I saw children with swollen bellies. I slept in peasants’ huts, sometimes nine of us in one room. I talked to every peasant I met, and the general conclusion I draw is that the present state of Russian agriculture is already catastrophic but that in a year’s time its condition will have worsened tenfold... The Five-Year Plan has built many fine factories. But it is bread that makes factory wheels go round, and the Five-Year Plan has destroyed the bread-supplier of Russia." (92)

Eugene Lyons, the Moscow correspondent of the United Press International pointed out in in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "On emerging from Russia, Jones made a statement which, startling though it sounded, was little more than a summary of what the correspondents and foreign diplomats had told him. To protect us, and perhaps with some idea of heightening the authenticity of his reports, he emphasized his Ukrainian foray rather than our conversation as the chief source of his information. In any case, we all received urgent queries from our home offices on the subject. But the inquiries coincided with preparations under way for the trial of the British engineers. The need to remain on friendly terms with the censors at least for the duration of the trial was for all of us a compelling professional necessity." (93)

Eugene Lyons and his friend Walter Duranty, who were both very sympathetic to Stalin, decided to try and undermine these reports by Jones. Lyons told Bassow Whitman, the author of The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost (1988) "We admitted enough to soothe our consciences, but in roundabout phrases that damned Jones a liar. The filthy business having been disposed of, someone ordered vodka." Lyons justified his actions by claiming that the Soviet authorities would have made life difficult as newsmen in Moscow. (94)

Duranty published an article in the New York Times on 31st March 1933, where he argued that there was a conspiracy in the agricultural sector by "wreckers" and "spoilers" had "made a mess of Soviet food production". However, he did admit that the Soviet government had made some harsh decisions: "To put it brutally - you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevik leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socialism as any General during the World War who ordered a costly attack in order to show his superiors that he and his division possessed the proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviki are more indifferent because they are animated by fanatical conviction."

Duranty then went on to criticize Gareth Jones. He admitted that there had been "serious food shortages" but Jones was wrong to suggest that the Soviet Union was enduring a famine: "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition, especially in the Ukraine, North Caucasus, and Lower Volga." He then went on to claim that Jones description of famine in the Soviet Union was an example of "wishful thinking". (95)

Eugene Lyons has argued: "Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes - but throw him down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials." (96)

Gareth Jones wrote to the New York Times complaining about Duranty's article in the newspaper. He pointed out that he was not guilty of "the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet regime, a forecast I have never ventured". Jones argued that he had visited over twenty villages where he had seen incredible suffering. He accused journalists such as Duranty and Lyons of being turned "into masters of euphemism and understatement". Jones said that they had given "famine" the polite name of "food shortage" and "starving to death" is softened to read as "wide-spread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition". (97)

Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued that Lyon's record on the famine was appalling: "He had been among the earliest to hear of it, suggested at first by the investigations of his own secretary and confirmed later by the findings of Barnes and Stoneman. But Lyons declined to go into the famine-stricken area.... The zealous Lyons fulminated about moral and ethical issues, but he had shown little inclination himself to interrupt what was an unusually successful social life in Moscow." (98)

Arthur Koestler lived in the winter of 1932-33 in Kharkiv in the Ukraine. When he visited the countryside he saw starving young children that looked like "embryos out of alcohol bottles." Traveling through the countryside by rail was "like running the gauntlet; the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage-windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs, swollen, pointed bellies." Later the Soviet authorities began to require that the shades of all windows be pulled down on trains traveling through the famine areas. To Koestler, it was most unreal to see the local newspapers full of reports of industrial progress and successful shock workers, but "not one word about the local famine, epidemics, the dying out of whole ' villages.... The enormous land was covered with a blanket of silence." (99)

Victor Kravchenko was a soviet official who witnessed these events: "People dying in solitude by slow degrees, dying hideously, without the excuse of sacrifice for a cause. They had been trapped and left to starve, each in his home, by a political decision made in a far-off capital around conference and banquet tables. There was not even the consolation of inevitability to relieve the horror.... Everywhere were found men and women lying prone, their faces and bellies bloated, their eyes utterly expressionless." (100)

Walter Duranty and Eugene Lyons were not the only journalists in the Soviet Union who attacked Gareth Jones for his account of the famine. Louis Fischer questioned Jones estimate of a million dead: "Who counted them? How could anyone march through a country and count a million people? Of course people are hungry there - desperately hungry. Russia is turning over from agriculture to industrialism. It's like a man going into business on small capital." (101)

William Henry Chamberlin was eventually allowed into Kuban that autumn. Chamberlain argued in the Christian Science Monitor: "The whole North Caucasus is now engaged in the task of getting in the richest harvest of years, and shows few outward signs of recent poor crops." (102) However, Chamberlain told officials at the British Embassy that he estimated that two million had died in Kazakhstan, a half a million in the North Caucasus, and two million in the Ukraine. Historians have estimated that as many as seven million people died during this period. Journalists based in Moscow were willing to accept the word of the Soviet authorities for their information. Walter Duranty even told his friend, Hubert Knickerbocker, that the reported famine "is mostly bunk". (103)

On 16th May 1934, Joseph Stalin called for the Central Committee of the Communist Party to take action in controlling the teaching of history in the Soviet Union. As David R. Egan pointed out in Joseph Stalin (2007), this action "eventually led to the rewriting of Russian history and a new phase in Soviet historiography". This resulted in "the standardization of history textbooks and the difficulties faced by authors in their efforts to write new textbooks to the satisfaction of the special commission established by the party's Central Committee to oversee the textbook project." (104)

Stalin oversaw the production of appropriate historical texts. It was very important for Stalin that the Russian people were proud of their past. This included praise of life under the Tsars. "The Russian tsars did many bad things... But there's one good thing they did: they created an immense state from here to Kamchatka. We've been bequeathed this state. And for the first time we, the Bolsheviks, have rendered this state not in the interests of the great landowners and the capitalists but rather to the advantage of workers and of all the peoples that consitute this state." (105)

Sergey Kirov

After the death of his wife, Joseph Stalin became very close to Sergey Kirov. The two men went on holiday together and many felt that he was being groomed for the future leadership of the party by Stalin. This appeared to give him more confidence and at meetings of the Politburo he sometimes questioned Stalin's decisions. In September, 1932, when Martemyan Ryutin was arrested for calling for the re-admission of Leon Trotsky to the Communist Party, Stalin demanded his execution. Kirov argued against the death penalty being used. When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin. (106)

Kirov was now seen as the leader of the liberal faction in the Politburo, a group that included Mikhail Kalinin, Kliment Voroshilov and Janis Rudzutak, that pleaded with Stalin for leniency towards those who disagreed with him. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. Kirov, who was the leader of Communist Party in Leningrad, did his best to restrain the political police in his own domain. Rudzutak, the vice-premier and the leader of the trade unions, exercised his influence in the same direction. (107)

Stalin began to worry about the growing popularity of Kirov with the members of the Communist Party. As Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "In sharp contrast to Stalin, Kirov was a much younger man and an eloquent speaker, who was able to sway his listeners; above all, he possessed a charismatic personality. Unlike Stalin who was a Georgian, Kirov was also an ethnic Russian, which stood in his favour." (108)

At the 17th Party Congress in 1934, when Sergey Kirov stepped up to the podium he was greeted by spontaneous applause that equalled that which was required to be given to Stalin. In his speech he put forward a policy of reconciliation. He argued that people should be released from prison who had opposed the government's policy on collective farms and industrialization. (109)

The last duty of a Congress was to elect the Central Committee. Usually this was a formality. The delegates were given the ballot, a list of names prepared by Stalin. The voters crossed out names they opposed and voted for the names left unmarked. Although the results were never published but according to some sources, Kirov received one or two negatives Stalin received over 200. All the candidates were automatically elected but this was another blow to Stalin's self-esteem. (110)

As usual, that summer Kirov and Stalin went on holiday together. Stalin, who treated Kirov like a son, used this opportunity to try to persuade him to remain loyal to his leadership. Stalin asked him to leave Leningrad to join him in Moscow. Stalin wanted Kirov in a place where he could keep a close eye on him. When Kirov refused, Stalin knew he had lost control over his protégé. Kirov had several advantages over Stalin, "his closeness to the masses, his tremendous energy, his oratorical talent". Whereas, Stalin "nasty, suspicious, cruel, and power-hungry, Stalin could not abide brilliant and independent people around him." (111)

According to Alexander Orlov, who had been told this by Genrikh Yagoda, Stalin decided that Kirov had to die. Yagoda assigned the task to Vania Zaporozhets, one of his trusted lieutenants in the NKVD. He selected a young man, Leonid Nikolayev, as a possible candidate. Nikolayev had recently been expelled from the Communist Party and had vowed his revenge by claiming that he intended to assassinate a leading government figure. Zaporozhets met Nikolayev and when he discovered he was of low intelligence and appeared to be a person who could be easily manipulated, he decided that he was the ideal candidate as assassin. (112)

Assassination of Sergy Kirov

Zaporozhets provided him with a pistol and gave him instructions to kill Kirov in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad. However, soon after entering the building he was arrested. Zaporozhets had to use his influence to get him released. On 1st December, 1934, Nikolayev, got past the guards and was able to shoot Kirov dead. Nikolayev was immediately arrested and after being tortured by Genrikh Yagoda he signed a statement saying that Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev had been the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Kirov. (113)

On his arrest, Zinoviev wrote to Stalin: "I tell you, Comrade Stalin, honesty, that from the time of my return from Kustanai by order of the Central Committee, I have not taken a single step, spoken a single word, written a single line, or had a single thought which I need conceal from the Party, the Central Committee, and you personally... I have had only one thought - how to earn the trust of the Central Committee and you personally, how to achieve my aim of being employed by you in the work there is to be done. I swear by all a Bolshevik holds sacred, I swear by Lenin's memory... I implore you to believe my word of honor." (114)

Victor Kravchenko has pointed out: "Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Hundreds of others, dragged from prison cells where they had been confined for years, were executed in a gesture of official vengeance against the Party's enemies. The first accounts of Kirov's death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners - Estonian, Polish, German and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks." (115)

According to Alexander Orlov, who was Chief of the Economic Department for Foreign Trade who worked closely with Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD): "Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov." (116)

Maurice Latey, the author of Tyranny: A Study in the Abuse of Power (1969), has put forward the theory that Stalin had learnt something from Adolf Hitler, who the previous year, had used the case of the half-witted arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe had been found guilty of setting fire to the Reichstag and therefore gave him the pretext for destroying the opposition. "It may have been engineered by Stalin himself in order to kill two birds with one stone - to get rid of Kirov and to give an excuse for the great purges that were to follow." (117)

Leonid Nikolayev and his fourteen co-defendants were executed after their trial but Zinoviev and Kamenev refused to confess. Y. S. Agranov, the deputy commissar of the secret police, reported to Stalin he was not able to prove that they had been directly involved in the assassination. Therefore in January 1935 they were tried and convicted only for "moral complicity" in the crime. "That is, their opposition had created a climate in which others were incited to violence." Zinoviev was sentenced to ten years hard labour, Kamenev to five. (118)

Stalin now had a new provision enacted into law on 8th April 1935 which would enable him to exert additional leverage over his enemies. The new law decreed that children of the age of twelve and over who were found guilty of crimes would be subjected to the same punishment as adults, up to and including the death penalty. This provision provided NKVD with the means by which they could coerce a confession from a political dissident simply by claiming that false charges would be brought against their children. Soon afterwards, Stalin began ordering the arrests of "tens of thousands of suspect Bolsheviks". (119)

Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov (August, 1936)

On 20th November, 1935, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev were charged with espionage on behalf of hostile foreign powers. Early in 1936, about forty of the KGB's top operatives were summoned to Moscow for a conference. They were advised that a conspiracy against Stalin and the Government had been uncovered and that it would be left to them to secure confessions. Over 300 political prisoners were ruthlessly interrogated and subjected to inordinate pressure in order to gain information against Zinoviev and Kamenev that could be used in court against the defendants. One member of the interrogating team, claimed: "Give me long enough and I will have them confessing that they are the King of England". However, according to Alexander Orlov only one of those men tortured was willing to give evidence against Zinoviev and Kamenev. (120)

In July 1936 Yezhov told Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev that their children would be charged with being part of the conspiracy and would face execution if found guilty. The two men now agreed to co-operate at the trial if Joseph Stalin promised to spare their lives. At a meeting with Stalin, Kamenev told him that they would agree to co-operate on the condition that none of the old-line Bolsheviks who were considered the opposition and charged at the new trial would be executed, that their families would not be persecuted, and that in the future none of the former members of the opposition would be subjected to the death penalty. Stalin replied: "That goes without saying!" (121)

Lev Kamenev
The last known photograph of Lev Kamenev (1936)

The trial opened on 19th August 1936. Also charged was Ivan Smirnov, Konon Berman-Yurin, Vagarshak Ter-Vaganyan and twelve other defendants. It is claimed that five of these men were actually NKVD plants, whose confessional testimony was expected to solidify the state's case. The presiding judge was Vasily Ulrikh, a member of the secret police. The prosecutor was Andrei Vyshinsky, who was to become well-known during the Show Trials over the next few years. The foreign press were allowed to attend the trial and were shocked to hear that Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other defendants, were part of a terrorist organisation, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, were attempting to overthrow the communist government of the Soviet Union. It was claimed that Trotsky was under the influence of Adolf Hitler and that he eventually planned to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Soviet people. (122)

Yuri Piatakov accepted the post of chief witness "with all my heart." Max Shachtman pointed out that it was important to consider those who did not testify: "Of the hundreds and perhaps thousands arrested for the purposes of the trial, it is significant that only a small handful were found who could be prevailed upon to make the 'confessions' that fell in so neatly with every charge of the prosecution. Every single one of them (the GPU provocateurs excepted) was a capitulator, who had once, twice and three times in the past signed whatever statement was dictated to him by Stalin. (123)

On 20th August, 1936, Lev Kamenev was cross-examined and admitted that he had worked with those on the right of the party, including Nikolai Bulganin and Maihail Tomsky, to undermine Stalin: "I personally conducted negotiations with the so-called 'Leftist' group of Lominadre and Shatsky. In this group I found enemies of the Party leadership quite prepared to resort to the most determined measures of struggle against it. At the same time, I myself and Zinoviev maintained constant contact with the former 'Workers' Opposition' group of Shlyapnikov and Medvedyev. In 1932, 1933 and 1934 I personally maintained relations with Tomsky and Bukharin and sounded their political sentiments. They sympathized with us... having set ourselves the monstrously criminal aim of disorganizing the government of the land of socialism, we resorted to methods of struggle which in our opinion suited this aim and which are as low and as vile as the aim which we set before ourselves." (124)

He was followed by Gregory Zinoviev who also made a full confession. He claimed that he worked closely with members of the Workers' Opposition, such as Alexander Shlyapnikov: "We were convinced that the leadership must be superseded at all costs, that it must be superseded by us, along with Trotsky... I spoke a great deal with Smirnov about choosing people for terroristic activities and also designated the persons against whom the weapon of terrorism was to be directed. The name of Stalin was mentioned in the first place, followed by those of Kirov, Voroshilov and other leaders of the Party and the government. For the purpose of executing these plans, a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist centre was formed, the leading part in which was played by myself - Zinoviev,and by Smirnov on behalf of the Trotskyites." (125)

On the final date of the trial the defendants made further statements. Ivan Smirnov said: "I communicated Trotsky's instructions on terrorism to the bloc to which I belonged as a member of the centre. The bloc accepted these instructions and began to act. There is no other path for our country but the one it is now treading, and there is not, nor can there be, any other leadership than that which history has given us. Trotsky, who sends direction and instructions on terrorism, and regards our state as a fascist state, is an enemy; he is on the other side of the barricade; he must be fought." (126)

Gregory Zinoviev
The last known photograph of Gregory Zinoviev (1936)

Gregory Zinoviev confessed to being involved in the assassination of Sergy Kirov: "I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned as scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky.... We took the place of the terrorism of the Socialist-Revolutionaries.... My defective Bolshevism became transformed into anti-Bolshevism, and through Trotskyism I arrived at fascism. Trotskyism is a variety of fascism, and Zinovievism is a variety of Trotskyism." (127)

Lev Kamenev added: "I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party's - Stalin's policy - was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party; but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power." Kamenev's final words in the trial concerned the plight of his children: "I should like to say a few words to my children. I have two children, one is an army pilot, the other a Young Pioneer. Whatever my sentence may be, I consider it just... Together with the people, follow where Stalin leads." This was a reference to the promise that Stalin made about his sons." (128)

On 24th August, 1936, Vasily Ulrikh entered the courtroom and began reading the long and dull summation leading up to the verdict. Ulrikh announced that all sixteen defendants were sentenced to death by shooting. Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "Those in attendance fully expected the customary addendum which was used in political trials that stipulated that the sentence was commuted by reason of a defendant's contribution to the Revolution. These words never came, and it was apparent that the death sentence was final when Ulrikh placed the summation on his desk and left the court-room." (129)

The following day Soviet newspapers carried the announcement that all sixteen defendants had been put to death. This included the NKVD agents who had provided false confessions. Joseph Stalin could not afford for any witnesses to the conspiracy to remain alive. Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996), has pointed out that Stalin did not even keep his promise to Kamenev that his wife, Olga Kamenev, and their two sons, would be saved. All three of them were either shot or died in a prison camp. (130)

Most journalists covering the trial were convinced that the confessions were statements of truth. The Observer wrote: "It is futile to think the trial was staged and the charges trumped up. The government's case against the defendants (Zinoviev and Kamenev) is genuine." (131) The New Statesman agreed: "It is their (Zinoviev and Kamenev) confession and decision to demand the death sentence for themselves that constitutes the mystery. If they had a hope of acquittal, why confess? If they were guilty of trying to murder Stalin and knew they would be shot in any case, why cringe and crawl instead of defiantly justifying their plot on revolutionary grounds? We would be glad to hear the explanation." (132)

The New Republic pointed out: "Some commentators, writing at a long distance from the scene, profess doubt that the executed men (Zinoviev and Kamenev) were guilty. It is suggested that they may have participated in a piece of stage play for the sake of friends or members of their families, held by the Soviet government as hostages and to be set free in exchange for this sacrifice. We see no reason to accept any of these laboured hypotheses, or to take the trial in other than its face value. Foreign correspondents present at the trial pointed out that the stories of these sixteen defendants, covering a series of complicated happenings over nearly five years, corroborated each other to an extent that would be quite impossible if they were not substantially true. The defendants gave no evidence of having been coached, parroting confessions painfully memorized in advance, or of being under any sort of duress." (133)

Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent based in Moscow, also accepted the idea that the executed men were also involved with Adolf Hitler in trying to bring down the Soviet government. "A widespread plot against the Kremlin was discovered, whose ramifications included not merely former oppositionists but agents of the Nazi Gestapo." When supporters of the men executed raised doubts about the conspiracy, Duranty commented that "it was unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov... could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming." (134)

Piatakov, Radek and Sokolnikov (January, 1937)

In January, 1937, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek, Grigori Sokolnikov, and fifteen other leading members of the Communist Party were put on trial. They were accused of working with Leon Trotsky in an attempt to overthrow the Soviet government with the objective of restoring capitalism. Robin Page Arnot, a leading figure in the British Communist Party, wrote: "A second Moscow trial, held in January 1937, revealed the wider ramifications of the conspiracy. This was the trial of the Parallel Centre, headed by Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Serebriakov. The volume of evidence brought forward at this trial was sufficient to convince the most sceptical that these men, in conjunction with Trotsky and with the Fascist Powers, had carried through a series of abominable crimes involving loss of life and wreckage on a very considerable scale." (135)

Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996) has pointed out: "After they saw that Piatakov was ready to collaborate in any way required, they gave him a more complicated role. In the 1937 trials he joined the defendants, those whom he had meant to blacken. He was arrested, but was at first recalcitrant. Ordzhonikidze in person urged him to accept the role assigned to him in exchange for his life. No one was so well qualified as Piatakov to destroy Trotsky, his former god and now the Party's worst enemy, in the eyes of the country and the whole world. He finally agreed I to do it as a matter of 'the highest expediency,' and began rehearsals with the interrogators." (136)

One of the journalists covering the trial, Lion Feuchtwanger, commented: "Those who faced the court could not possibly be thought of as tormented and desperate beings. In appearance the accused were well-groomed and well-dressed men with relaxed and unconstrained manners. They drank tea, and there were newspapers sticking out of their pockets... Altogether, it looked more like a debate... conducted in conversational tones by educated people. The impression created was that the accused, the prosecutor, and the judges were all inspired by the same single - I almost said sporting - objective, to explain all that had happened with the maximum precision. If a theatrical producer had been called on to stage such a trial he would probably have needed several rehearsals to achieve that sort of teamwork among the accused." (137)

Piatakov and twelve of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death. Karl Radek and Grigori Sokolnikov were sentenced to ten years. Feuchtwanger commented that Radek "gave the condemned men a guilty smile, as though embarrassed by his luck." Maria Svanidze, who was later herself to be purged by Joseph Stalin wrote in her diary: "They arrested Radek and others whom I knew, people I used to talk to, and always trusted.... But what transpired surpassed all my expectations of human baseness. It was all there, terrorism, intervention, the Gestapo, theft, sabotage, subversion.... All out of careerism, greed, and the love of pleasure, the desire to have mistresses, to travel abroad, together with some sort of nebulous prospect of seizing power by a palace revolution. Where was their elementary feeling of patriotism, of love for their motherland? These moral freaks deserved their fate.... My soul is ablaze with anger and hatred. Their execution will not satisfy me. I should like to torture them, break them on the wheel, burn them alive for all the vile things they have done." (138)

Purge of the Soviet Army

It is claimed that Reinhard Heydrich developed a plan to damage the Red Army. In January 1937, a Soviet journalist heard stories that senior members of the German Army were having secret talks with General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. This idea was reinforced by a diplomat from the Soviet embassy in Paris who sent a telegram to Moscow saying he had learned of plans "by German circles to promote a coup de'etat in the Soviet Union" using "persons from the command staff of the Red Army." (139)

According to Robert Conquest, the author of The Great Terror (1990), the story had been created by Nikolai Skoblin, a NKVD agent who had appeared to be one of the leaders of the Russian opposition based in Paris. "Skoblin had long worked as a double agent with both the Soviet and the German secret agencies, and there seems no doubt that he was one of the links by which information was passed between the SD and the NKVD. According to one version... the Soviet High Command and Tukhachevsky in particular were engaged in a conspiracy with the German General Staff. Although this was understood in SD circles as an NKVD plant, Heydrich determined to use it, in the first place, against the German High Command, with whom his organization was in intense rivalry." (140)

Major V. Dapishev of the Soviet General Staff has claimed that the plot "originated with Stalin" as he wanted to purge the leadership of the armed forces. Roy A. Medvedev, has argued in Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) that he is convinced that Heydrich arranged the forgery of the documents. However, he points out: "It would be a mistake to think that these false accusations were the main cause of the destruction of the best cadres. They were only a pretext. The real causes of the mass repression go much deeper. Any serious investigation would have exposed the Nazi forgery against Tukhachevsky, but Stalin did not order an expert investigation. It would have been even easier to establish the falseness of many other materials produced by the NKVD, but neither Stalin nor his closest aides checked or wanted to check the authenticity of these materials." (141)

On 11th June, 1937, Tukhachevsky and seven other Soviet generals appeared in court on the charges of treason for having conspired with Germany. All were executed. "Following the Tukhachevsky trial, the wave of executions of the officer corps of the military was like a wind blowing over a huge field of wheat; no one escaped. Any officer, no matter how remotely connected to Tukhachevsky and the seven deposed generals in the past or present, was rounded up and executed. In turn, the military subordinates of the newly executed commanders became the next group of candidates for elimination and so on, like a never-ending web of destruction. Even the top echelon of Soviet marshals and generals, who had signed the verdict for the actually non-existent trial of Tukhachevsky and the other generals, disappeared one by one, never to be heard of again. By the end of the reign of terror, the officer corps of the Soviet Army had been decimated beyond recognition." (142)

Bukharin, Rykov and Yagoda (March, 1938)

The next show trials took place in March, 1938, and involved twenty-one leading members of the party. This included Nickolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky. Another leading figure in the government, Maihail Tomsky, committed suicide before the trial. They were all charged with attempting to assassinate Joseph Stalin and the other members of the Politburo, "to restore capitalism, to wreck the country's military and economic power, and to poison or kill in any other way masses of Russian workers." (143)

Raphael R. Abramovitch, the author of The Soviet Revolution: 1917-1939 (1962) pointed out that at his trial: "Bukharin, who still had a little fight left in him, was extinguished by the concerted efforts of the public prosecutor, the presiding judge, GPU agents and former friends. Even a strong and proud man like Bukharin was unable to escape the traps set for him. The trial took its usual course, except that one session had to be hastily adjourned when Krestinsky refused to follow the script. At the next session, he was compliant." (144) However, he did write to Stalin and ask: "Koba, why is my death necessary for you." (145)

They were all found guilty and were either executed or died in labour camps. Isaac Deutscher has pointed out: "Among the men in the dock at these trials were all the members of Lenin's Politbureau, except Stalin himself and Trotsky, who, however, though absent, was the chief defendant. Among them, moreover, were one ex-premier, several vice-premiers, two ex-chiefs of the Communist International, the chief of the trade unions, the chief of the General Staff, the chief political Commissar of the Army, the Supreme Commanders of all important military districts, nearly all Soviet ambassadors in Europe and Asia, and last but not least, the two chiefs of the political police: Yagoda and Yezhov." (146)

Walter Duranty always underestimated the number killed during the Great Purge. As Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has pointed out: "As for the number of resulting casualties from the Great Purge, Duranty's estimates, which encompassed the years from 1936 to 1939, fell considerably short of other sources, a fact he himself admitted. Whereas the number of Party members arrested is usually put at just above one million, Duranty's own estimate was half this figure, and he neglected to mention that of those exiled into the forced labor camps of the GULAG, only a small percentage ever regained their freedom, as few as 50,000 by some estimates. As to those actually executed, reliable sources range from some 600,000 to one million, while Duranty maintained that only about 30,000 to 40,000 had been killed." (147)


(1) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 9

(2) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003) page 25

(3) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 19

(4) Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (1948) page 461

(5) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 33

(6) Joseph Stalin, interviewed by the German journalist Emil Ludwig (1932)

(7) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 38

(8) Tiflis Seminary Conduct Book (27th May, 1899)

(9) Ekaterina Djugashvilli, interview with New York Post (1st December, 1930)

(10) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 159

(11) John Laver, Joseph Stalin (1993) page 9

(12) Joseph Iremashvili, Stalin and the Tragedy of Georgia (1932) page 5

(13) Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (1948) page 454

(14) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 14

(15) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 53

(16) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1971) page 17

(17) Robert Service, Trotsky (2009) pages 20-24

(18) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1971) page 14

(19) Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (1948) page 197

(20) Max Eastman, Leon Trotsky: The Portrait of a Youth (1925) page 14

(21) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet: The Life of Leon Trotsky (2015) page 24

22) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1971) page 111

(23) Robert Service, Trotsky (2009) pages 42-48

(24) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1971) page 124

(25) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet: The Life of Leon Trotsky (2015) pages 56-58

(26) Yuri Piatakov, Platform of the 46 (October, 1923)

(27) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 262

(28) Leon Trotsky, open letter (5th December, 1923)

(29) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 269

(30) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 228

(31) Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism (April 1924)

(32) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 225

(33) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 40

(34) Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (1937) page 18

(35) Robert Service, Trotsky (2009) page 325

(36) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) pages 298-299

(37) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 42

(38) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003) page 37

(39) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 229

(40) Lev Kamenev, speech, 14th Communist Party Congress (18th December, 1925)

(41) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 304

(42) Memorandum submitted to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (October, 1925)

(43) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 44

(44) Nikolay Bukharin, Pravda (14th April, 1925)

(45) Gregory Zinoviev, speech, 14th Communist Party Congress (18th December, 1925)

(46) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 215

(47) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 310

(48) Sergo Beria, Beria My Father - Inside Stalin's Kremlin (2001) page 15

(49) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 225

(50) Lazar Kaganovich, Memorable Notes (1996) page 35

(51) Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (1937) pages 556-557

(52) Joseph Stalin, speech Communist Party Congress (October, 1927)

(53) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 219

(54) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 250

(55) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) page 60

(56) Adolf Joffe, suicide letter sent to Leon Trotsky (16th November, 1927)

(57) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 46

(58) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 314

(59) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 239

(60) Joseph Stalin, speech (27th December, 1929)

(61) Yves Delbars, The Real Stalin (1951) page 162

(62) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 47

(63) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) page 163

(64) Ian Grey, Stalin: Man of History (1982) page 250

(65) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935) page 288

(66) Joseph Stalin, Pravda (2nd March, 1930)

(67) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 48

(68) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) pages 320-321

(69) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 50

(70) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) page 103

(71) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 264

(72) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 52

(73) Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (1948) page 197

(74) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 337

(75) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) pages 234-235

(76) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 264

(77) Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia (1937) pages 383-389

(78) Walter Duranty, New York Times (18th January, 1931)

(79) Isaac Deutscher, The Listener (8th July 1948)

(80) Walter Duranty, speech reported in the New York Times (3rd May, 1932)

(81) British Embassy report (21st June 1932)

(82) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) pages 142-143

(83) Martemyan Ryutin, Stalin and the Crisis of the Proletarian Dictatorship (1932)

(84) John Archibald Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 (2010) page 33

(85) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 352

(86) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 264

(87) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 333

(88) Vyacheslav Molotov, Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics (1993) page 356

(89) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) pages 294-295

(90) Malcolm Muggeridge, Manchester Guardian (25th March 1933)

(91) Malcolm Muggeridge, Manchester Guardian (28th March 1933)

(92) Gareth Jones, The Evening Standard (31st March, 1933)

(93) Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia (1937) page 575

(94) Bassow Whitman, The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost (1988) page 69

(95) Walter Duranty, New York Times (31st March 1933)

(96) Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia (1937) page 575

(97) Gareth Jones, New York Times (13th May, 1933)

(98) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) page 202

(99) Arthur Koestler, The Yogi and the Commissar (1945) page 142

(100) Victor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom (1947) page 118

(101) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) page 235

(102) William Henry Chamberlin, Christian Science Monitor (13th September, 1933)

(103) Walter Duranty, letter to Hubert Knickerbocker (27th June, 1933)

(104) David R. Egan, Joseph Stalin (2007) page 237

(105) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 325

(106) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 54

(107) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 352

(108) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) page 30

(109) Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above (1992) page 260

(110) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003) page 132

(111) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) pages 165-166

(112) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) page 31

(113) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) pages 312-318

(114) Gregory Zinoviev, letter to Joseph Stalin (16th December, 1934)

(115) Victor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom (1947) page 167

(116) Alexander Orlov, The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes (1953) page 27

(117) Maurice Latey, Tyranny: A Study in the Abuse of Power (1969) page 111

(118) Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003) page 167

(119) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 355

(120) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) page 36

(121) Alexander Orlov, The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes (1953) page 140

(122) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 56

(123) Max Shachtman, Socialist Appeal (October 1936)

(124) Lev Kamenev, speech at his trial (20th August, 1936)

(125) Gregory Zinoviev, speech at his trial (20th August, 1936)

(126) Ivan Smirnov, speech at his trial (23rd August, 1936)

(127) Gregory Zinoviev speech at his trial (23rd August, 1936)

(128) Lev Kamenev, speech at his trial (23rd August, 1936)

(129) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) page 41

(130) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 333

(131) The Observer (23rd August, 1936)

(132) The New Statesman (5th September, 1936)

(133) The New Republic (2nd September, 1936)

(134) Walter Duranty, The Kremlin and the People (1941) pages 146-148

(135) Robin Page Arnot, The Labour Monthly (November 1937)

(136) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 338

(137) Lion Feuchtwanger, Moskva (1937) page 108

(138) Maria Svanidze, diary entry (20th November, 1936)

(139) Soviet Embassy in Paris, telegram to Moscow headquarters (16th March, 1937)

(140) Robert Conquest, The Great Terror (1990) page 198

(141) Roy A. Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (1971) page 300

(142) Edward P. Gazur, Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001) page 442

(143) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 369

(144) Raphael R. Abramovitch, The Soviet Revolution: 1917-1939 (1962)

(145) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 592

(146) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949) page 368-369

(147) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) page 271