by Max Shachtman
This is a book about liars and their lies. Yet it does not pursue a mere iconoclastic end. It aims to show that the history of the Russian revolution has been falsified for the purpose of falsifying the basis of the revolution itself. A return to the original basis and the ideals of the Bolsheviks in the first years of the Soviet republic requires first of all that the true picture of the revolution be restored by removing the thick encrustation of falsehoods which overlays it.
The history of man’s development is also a history of the men who represent its social cross-currents, or its succeeding periods. Indeed, it is sometimes easier to distinguish a segment of social development by the men who prominently represent it than by any of its other marks. For, while men do make their own history, a multitude of forces combine to produce the great man of each period and the agglomeration of men not quite so great who compose the general staff. For a period of progress, history kneads its leaders out of one batch of dough; for a period of reaction, a dough of very much different ingredients is used.
It is not, therefore, because the conflicts in the Soviet Union are due to a base rivalry for power of individuals, but because the groups of individuals involved reflect the profound economic and political changes of the last fifteen years, that the latter can be grasped in the most direct and, so to speak, personal sense by an analysis of the former. Without the physical extermination or the moral destruction of the men who won the revolution and its conquests, it would have been impossible for those who succeeded them to reduce the revolution and its achievements to the low level attained almost a score of years since the Bolshevik uprising.
The Bolshevik party of 1917, the one that led the revolution to victory, was the most unusual political organization in the world. Strictly centralized and intolerant of the dilution of its principles, functioning illegally under Czarism and therefore dispersed by repression to the far corners of Russia and all the other countries of the earth, it nevertheless led a much richer and more democratic inner life than do most parties today. Its vigorous internal discussions and disputes, often conducted by means of temporary groupings, factions and their special periodicals, were not peremptorily settled by appeals to constituted and sanctified authority, to say nothing of administrative repressions or bureaucratic measures against minority opinion. The combination of party democracy and centralization enabled the party to live and flourish even under Czarist reaction, to pass through the Revolution of 1905, the long years of reaction and World War which followed, and finally to emerge victorious in the decisive conflict of November, 1917. The Bolshevik party before the Revolution of 1917 was the product of a process of selection. After the tests it went through, there was little room in it for weaklings, dilettantes, adventurers and careerists.
To he sure, not all the members of the Bolshevik party were cast from exactly the same metal. Nor is there any ground – especially now, in retrospect – for idealizing even that totality of all the members which was the party itself. On the contrary. Both collectively and individually it was not free from flaws and even serious flaws – more telling among the individuals separately than taken as a whole. But firmly grouped together by the cement of revolutionary doctrine, having passed a number of drastic tests for almost two harsh decades, the Bolsheviks formed a party far superior to any other. It was able to perform what almost everybody else considered, a month before the seizure of power, a miracle, and what many continued to consider a miracle years after November, 17. And whatever may or must be said about the short comings of the Bolshevik party, the great, ineradicable historic fact remains that the “miracle” was accomplished. It is not every day that such a revolution occurs and it is not everybody that can accomplish it.
Early in the revolution, honest adversaries of Bolshevism, who saw through the abominable lies of the capitalist press, made note of the indubitable probity of the Russian revolutionists.
“The Russian Communists,” wrote the American sociologist, Edward Alsworth Ross, some five years after the revolution, “were men with a vision of a regenerated society which they sought to realize. All the party leaders who in November, 1917, laid rude hands on Russian society to remold it by force were sincere men, since, for the sake of their ideal, they had made themselves targets for the inhuman persecutions that went on under the Czars. When freedom arrived in March, nobody had any standing with the Russian masses who had not stood up for them in those ghastly years when every spokesman for the robbed toilers had to skulk and run and burrow if he would remain at large. These fire-tested revolutionaries had behind them a record of personal disinterestedness and heroism which should put to the blush our smug captains of conservative opinion, who have never risked their lives or freedom for others yet affect to dwell on a higher moral plane than the Russian fighters.” (The Russian Soviet Republic, p.8. New York, 1928.)
After the Bolsheviks established their government, one of Lenin’s greatest concerns was the preservation of this party of “fire-tested revolutionaries” from the negative effects of the power which had suddenly come into their possession in a country with a low cultural level and with powerful traditions of bureaucratism. He was the most tireless and merciless critic of the party and Soviet bureaucracy, and his last two years in particular were filled with increasing apprehensions over its alarming growth. He saw thousands of former anti-revolutionists flocking to the powerful official government party after the consolidation of the revolution, joining it only because it now disposed of the accolade of respectability and the distribution of a vast number of posts. Many of his most scathing strictures were directed at these prudent careerists and belated joiners, and the periodic party “purgings” which he insisted on were part of his attempt to reduce their pernicious influence. At the same time he was preoccupied with preserving the unity and integrity of the body of old revolutionists, who, with all their shortcomings (which he knew so well!) were a repository of doctrine and revolutionary tradition. Constantly refreshed with new blood, they would more easily withstand the ravages of decay than the careerists and upstarts who, five years after the revolution, were discovering the merits, not of Bolshevism, but of an established government and its official party apparatus.
“It must always be taken into account,” he wrote to the Central Committee of the party in March, 1922, when the probationary period for new members was being discussed, “that it is a great temptation to enter the party of the government. The throng of petty bourgeois and even anti-proletarian elements anxious to join our party will increase enormously in the near future. The six months’ period probation for the workers will not be able to dam back this throng, the more so as it will be easy for the petty bourgeois elements to become workers for the time being. If we are not to deceive ourselves and others, we must apply the definition of workers solely to those whose life has imparted to them a proletarian psychology, and who have worked for several years in shops or factories, not for the attainment of outside aims, but in consequence of general social and economic conditions. To state the matter openly: it must be recognized that at the present time the proletarian party policy is determined not so much by its membership as by the unlimited and powerful authority of that thin layer which we may name the old party guard.“ (International Press Correspondence, Vol.6 No.7, p.92)
It would of course be absurd to attribute to Lenin a superstitious faith in the flawlessness of this Old Guard. But that it was generally considered as one of the main guarantees against retrogression – the Old Guard, that is, as a collective force – is conclusively attested by precisely that “unlimited and powerful authority “it enjoyed in the party and through out the working class.
In a country of some 150,000,000 population, the Old Guard of the revolutionary movement constituted only a very small group, small even in relation to the size of the Communist party. In the first years after the revolution, when the party had grown to between a third and a half a million members, the Old Guard rarely composed more than ten per cent of the ranks. Moreover, natural deaths and the fact that the “thin layer “contributed so many of its members to the fighters killed in the bitter civil war, continually reduced its numbers. The 1922 census of the party membership, with 886,313 men and women registered, showed that a total of 45,585 members had joined the party in 1917 or before, and that the party contained only 10,431 members who had joined in 1916 or before, that is, prior to the outbreak of the March, 1917, Revolution. The 1925 census, registering 401,481 members, showed only 86,496 who joined the party not later than 1917, of whom only 8,249 of the pre-1917 period remained. (Jahrbuch fur Politik, Wirtschraft, Arbeiterbewegung, 1925-1926, p.487. Berlin 1926) It would be safe to say, then, that ten years after the Bolshevik revolution, there were not more than 5,000 members left in the communist party who would properly fall into the category Lenin called the party’s Old Guard.
Before dealing with the ultimate fate of this Old Guard, it is necessary to dwell briefly on the questions relating to it which were raised by Trotsky in 1928. Like Lenin, his appreciation of the Old Guard was unmingled with superstitious worship of it. It was already evident that the wearing years of supreme tension through which the revolution and its leaders had passed, years of defending an isolated workers’republic against almost insuperable internal difficulties and foreign pressure unrelieved by a successful revolution in the West, were having their effect on the people and on the leading stratum of the party. Conservatism, routine, adaptation, bureaucratism-all were producing significant changes in the political mentality of the party, from top to bottom. While underlining the tremendous importance of the Old Guard, Trotsky opened a drive for war upon bureaucratism and for pumping the restorative blood of the best forces in the new generation into the arteries of the old. Unless this were done, he emphasized, there was a danger of the degeneration of the old revolutionary group, a degeneration not unlike that of the old disciples of Marx and Engels – Adler, Bernstein, Guesde, Kautsky – who had gradually abandoned their old positions.
It is important to note that the first “struggle against Trotskyism” in the Russian Communist Party – the so-called “literary discussion” of 1923 – was directed at Trotsky’s alleged slanders of the Old Guard. The entire party apparatus was mobilized to “defend the Old Guard” and to smash Trotsky and his friends merely because they suggested the possibility, the danger of a degeneration of the ruling group.
“It is quite incomprehensible,” said Stalin, in a now for gotten polemic against Trotsky, “that such opportunists and Mensheviks as Bernstein, Adler, Kautsky, Guesde and others, can be named in the same breath as the old Bolshevist Guard, which has been fighting honorably all this time against opportunism, Menshevism and the Second International, and will, I hope, continue to fight them in the future. What is the cause of this error, of this confusion; what need is there for it, if nothing but the interest of the party is held in view, if there are no ulterior motives behind it, aiming by no means at the defense of the Old Guard? How are we to understand these insinuations as to opportunism with regard to the old Bolsheviki, who have been reared in the midst of a fight against opportunism? In the third place, I am by no means convinced [!] that the old Bolsheviki are absolutely immune [!!] against the danger of degeneration, any more than I can reasonably maintain that we are for instance immune against earthquake. Such a danger can and must be admitted as a possibility. But is this intended to signify that this danger is actual and present? I do not believe it. Neither has Comrade Trotsky mentioned any signs indicating that the danger of degeneration is an actual danger.” (International Press Correspondence, Vol.4 No.12, p.87)
In 1924, then, Stalin argued against Trotsky that the Old Bolsheviks were no less “absolutely immune against the danger of degeneration” than they were from earthquakes – a rare enough phenomenon. And by “Old Bolsheviks,” Stalin and his partisans had certain individuals in mind, specifically the more eminent representatives of that group. The Political Bureau named by the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Party Congress, in May, 1924, was composed of Stalin, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Tomsky and Trotsky. In the struggle against Trotsky, the other six were named as the principal leaders of the “Old Guard.” Thirteen years later, Stalin has shot, driven to suicide, or is preparing to shoot all the other members of that Political Bureau, all the main leaders of the Old Guard who, though there was as much danger of their degeneration as there was of an earthquake, turned out to be, according to Stalin, Fascists, assassins, spies, diversionists, wreckers, scum of the earth and mad dogs.
The drastic nature of the change in the Soviet Union since Lenin’s death may be further emphasized by reference to Stalin’s concluding polemic against the new opposition of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya at the Fourteenth Party Congress in 1925. “In 1928, after the Twelfth Congress, some people assembled in an ‘underground,’ worked out a platform to abolish the Political Bureau and to politicize the Secretariat, that is, to convert the Secretariat into a political leadership by composing it out of Zinoviev, Trotsky and Stalin. What is the significance of this platform? What does this mean? This means: to lead the party without Rykov, without Kalinin, without Tomsky, without Molotov, without Bukharin. Nothing came of this platform, not only because it was unprincipled but also because without the comrades mentioned by me, it is impossible to lead the party.“ (My emphasis. M.S.)
Not so long ago, therefore, Stalin exclaimed that it was impossible to lead the Communist party without Rykov, Kalinin, Tomsky, Molotov and Bukharin, not to mention Zinoviev and Trotsky. Of the seven who received honorable mention as indispensable leaders, one has been shot, one has been driven to suicide or killed, two are awaiting trial for their lives, and Trotsky has a price on his head. The other two remain formally members of the Political Bureau, figure – heads pure and simple, whose tenure even in that innocuous capacity is only a matter of time. The Political Bureau has become only slightly less of a fiction than the party itself. The “unpoliticalizable” Secretariat has become an omnipotent device in the hands of the Leader, and Bukharin’s joke in 1921, that “the history of humanity is divided into three great periods: the matriarchate, the patriarchate and the secretariat,” is no longer a joke. It is a rude reality, consummated by a rude and disloyal General Secretary.
And the handful of old Bolsheviks, the “thin layer” of the Old Guard – what has become of it? It has been crushed by the monstrous bureaucratic machine. Part of it was exterminated physically in the recent trials; the rest of it is in prison, and every prisoner is in daily danger of following Zinoviev and the others to their graves.
There are many who seek to still the protesting voice of their conscience, or who rationalize their subservience to the mighty bureaucracy, by disseminating a cowardly interpretation of the change. “The former leaders, who shouted so much about world revolution, were primarily agitators, men who fitted in best with the romantic and heroic period of the revolution. But the world revolution has subsided now, and what is needed is a new type of leader. Now we need practical men, realists, builders of a new society, men who are able to fill the commanding positions in economic life, in government administration, in foreign affairs.”
The argument is not only miserably philistine and reactionary, but it is not even in consonance with facts. The facts are that precisely those men have been wiped out who were not only the Old Guard of Bolshevism, but the ablest government administrators, the most competent economic directors, the best equipped representatives of the Soviet republic abroad. Even a partial list of the most prominent of these men, all of whom have been driven out, imprisoned or murdered by Stalin, will show the devastating havoc wrought in the country by the bureaucracy in the period of its rise to omnipotence.
Of the first Council of People’s Commissars – the actual Soviet government – organized in November, 1917, four members died natural deaths: Lenin, Nogin, Skvortsov-Stepanov and Lunacharsky. Still alive and in Stalinist service are Stalin himself, Miliutin, and the trio who functioned for a few months as the head of the Army and Navy Commissariat: Antonov-Ovseyenko, Dybenko and Krylenko. The other commissars were Rykov, now in prison; Shliapnikov, dying in prison, where he has been confined for years; Lomov-Oppokov and N.F. Glebov-Avilov, the latter a Bolshevik since 1904, are both in prison now as “wreckers”; Teodorovich, condemned in November 1930 as a counter-revolutionary “Kondratievist,” has vanished into some obscure hole; Trotsky, Soviet Russia’s first Commissar of Foreign Affairs, is in Mexican exile, charged by Moscow with being an “agent of Hitler and the Mikado.”
Lenin’s deputy as Chairman of the Council – a post equivalent to that of Prime Minister of France or England, or President of the United States – was Leo Kamenev; he was shot in August 1936 as a “Fascist assassin.” Alexis Rykov, who succeeded Kamenev in that post in 1925, is now in prison accused of the same crime. Rykov was not only head of the Council of the Soviet Union, but also of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic – Russia proper. When he was removed from that post too, his successor was Sergei Syrtsov, a Bolshevik for a quarter of a century, head of the Russian Soviet Republic from 1929 to 1931, removed as a “counter-revolutionary plotter,” and still in prison. Also in prison, even rumored shot, is L. Sosnovsky, once Russia’s most popular political writer, the early floor leader and whip of the Bolshevik group in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. Driven to suicide in 1925 was Lutovinov, the secretary of the Central Executive Committee. Worn almost to death in the Verkhne-Uralsk Solitary Prison is the secretary of this same Committee from 1922 to 1928, Timofey Sapronov, who joined the party in 1912. Aveli Yenukidze, who succeeded Lutovinov in his post, and retained it for more than a decade, was suddenly removed in 1935 and imprisoned – with the whispered charges that this man, who had been so loyal a servitor of the bureaucracy for years, had participated in the plot to kill S.M. Kirov. His nephew, Lado Yenukidze, has been imprisoned for nine years as a Trotskyist. In prison also is V.V. Schmidt, a worker-Bolshevik, for years the head of the miners’ union, former Commissar of Labor and one-time vice-chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. Shot as a “Trotskyist wrecker” in January 1937, Mikhail Boguslavsky, an old Bolshevik, was chairman of the Small Council – the most important commission of the Council of People’s Commissars. Occupying the same post at another time was the above-mentioned T.V. Sapronov, who was also president of the Executive Committee of the Moscow Provincial Government from 1918-1919. Like all the others whom the bureaucracy smashed, he occupied leading posts in those crucial years when leading posts were not lightly conferred.
Executed or imprisoned are the heads of the most important local Soviets in Lenin’s time. For years, the chairman of the Leningrad Soviet was Gregory Zinoviev; he was shot in the August 1936 trial. The secretary of the Leningrad Soviet, Kostina, is in a Siberian prison. The chairman of the next most important local Soviet government, that of Moscow, was Leo Kamenev, until 1925. He was shot with Zinoviev; the secretary of the Moscow Soviet in the early days, Boguslavsky, was shot five months after the chairman. The first head of the Soviets in the Urals, the president of the Executive Committee of the Region, was Beloborodov. When the Whites and the Czechoslovaks were advancing on Yekaterinburg, Belohorodov signed the order of execution of ex-Czar Nicholas the Bloody. Now Beloborodov, one of the earliest Trotskyists, who capitulated to Stalin in 1929, is in prison. Shot, in prison or in exile are virtually all the other Bolshevik leaders of the Urals region: Eugene Preobrazhensky, one of the party’s leading economists and theoreticians, and co-author of what was once the standard text-book on Communism in Russia and throughout the International; Ufimtsev, in prison; Boris M. Eltsin, one of Lenin’s oldest friends, is in prison, together with his son Victor – the other son, Sergei, died in deportation; V.M. Chernykh, head of the Urals Cheka, is in prison; Mrachkovsky has been shot.
The chairman of the Regional Committee of the Russian Soviets in Finland in 1917, leader of the Bolsheviks in the Baltic Fleet, a confidant of Lenin, was Ivan T. Smilga, one of the oldest party leaders. His life, now being spent in prison, depends upon an order from Stalin. Yakob Drobnis, chairman of the Poltava Soviet in the first years, was shot as a “Trotskyist wrecker” in January 1937. Together with him went the former chairman of the Voronezh Soviet, Boguslavsky. Shot also was the first head of the Kiev Soviet, Gregory Piatakov. Shot five months before was Ivan Nikitich Smirnov, the “Lenin of Siberia,” founder of the “buffer” Republic of the Far East and chairman of the Siberian Revolutionary Committee in the difficult days of the civil war. The fate of Syrtsov, we already know; he was the first chairman of the Rostov Soviet as well as of its Revolutionary Military Committee. His fate has been shared for nine years by the chairman of the first Bolshevik Soviet in Tiflis, Lado Dumbadze, who is so paralyzed by shock received during the civil war that he cannot feed or dress himself; he has been sent from prison to prison and is now a deportee in Sarapool, entirely alone, dying.
One Commissar of Labor after another has been removed and is now in prison for inability or refusal to adapt himself to the Stalinist machine: Shliapnikov, Vladimir Smirnov who followed him, then Mikhail Uglanov and finally V.V. Schmidt. Also imprisoned or shot is the Old Leningrad Bolshevik, G. Fedorov, first chief of the Conflicts Department of the Commissariat of Labor.
The occupants of the position of Commissar of Posts and Telegraphs have experienced a similar fate. The very first one, Glebov-Avilov, is in prison as a “wrecker”; I.N. Smirnov, who held the post until his expulsion from the party in 1927, was shot as a “Trotskyist assassin” in 1936; Rykov, who held the post until 1936, is in the GPU prison where every refinement is used to extort from him one of those notorious “confessions”; Rykov’s place was taken by Yagoda, who was demoted to it from his previous position as head of the GPU. A few weeks later, Yagoda too was removed and imprisoned. The charges? He embezzled fabulous sums, and spent the money on revolting orgies. He is the agent Stalin used to frame-up men like Smirnov, Kamenev, Mrachkovsky and to execute them as ... “scum of the earth.”
The two most important republics of the Soviet Union after Russia are the Ukraine and Georgia. All the most authentic Bolshevik leaders of these countries have either been shot or imprisoned by Stalin.
Piatakov, the head of the Provisional Workers’and Peasants’Government of the Ukraine, was executed in January, 1937 for conspiring to sell the Ukraine to Hitler! Rakovsky, founder of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1918, first chairman of its Council of People’s Commissars and also its Commissar of Foreign Affairs, is in prison, presumably for the same crime. Their prosecutor? Andrei Vishinsky, who, in 1918, when the Piatakovs and Rakovskys were fighting for the establishment of the Soviet power, was himself active in the work of sabotaging the provisioning of the Ukraine. The whole change that the Soviet Union has undergone is demonstrated by this symbolic contrast! Imprisoned on the charge of counter-revolutionary activity are founders of the Ukrainian Soviets like Kotsiubinsky, like General Dmitri Schmidt, the young worker who organized the first Ukrainian Red Cavalry forces in the struggle to liberate the Ukraine from the Whites; Drobnis, a distinguished figure in the Ukrainian revolution, has already been mentioned; imprisoned in the dungeons of Solovietsky Prison is Alexander Shumsky, member of the Central Committee of the Party and Ukrainian Commissar of Education, for resisting Stalin’s bureaucratic policy with regard to national minorities; Eugenie Bosch, another of the Ukraine’s best Bolshevik militants, was driven to suicide in 1925; her act was repeated eight years later by Skrypnik, another old Bolshevik, Shumsky’s successor as Commissar of Education, once chairman of the Central Council of Factory and Shop Committees in Petrograd in 1917 and later Commissar of the Workers’and Peasants’Inspection. The positions occupied by the great founders and builders of Soviet Ukraine have been concentrated in the hands of a single boss, Postyshev, an unknown, who rules the Ukraine for Stalin as provinces were ruled for the Czar by his Governor-Generals.
What Postyshev is to the Ukraine, Lavrenti Beria is to Georgia. He has taken the place of all the best Georgian Bolsheviks, who have filled Stalin’s prisons, concentration camps and places of deportation for years. The first three chairmen of the Council of People’s Commissars of Soviet Georgia are now imprisoned: Budu Mdivani, Sergei Kavtaradze and Gogoberidze. So is Makharadze, who, in 1921, was the first Chairman and Commissar of Agriculture of the Provisional Council of Commissars of the Soviet Republic; the dreadful fate of Lado Dumbadze, Commissar of Labor and Social Welfare of the same provisional Council, has previously been referred to. The leaders of the Presidium of the Tiflis Congress of the Georgian Soviets in 1922, Toroshelidze and Misha Okudjava, have just been arrested again as “assassins” and “wreckers.” Tsuladze, one of the early leaders of the Tiflis government, has shared Dumbadze’s imprisonment and exile for years. So has Vassili Pankratov, the former vice-chairman of the Transcaucasian Cheka. So did Kote Tsintsadze, until his death a few years ago; Tsintsadze, once head of the Tiflis, then of the Caucasian Cheka, was one of the finest representatives of the old Bolshevik generation, driven to his death by the persecutions of Stalin, with whom he had worked hand in glove in the early years of the Georgian movement, particularly in the famous “expropriations” under Czarism. Precisely those Georgian Bolsheviks – like Mdivani and Makharadz – in whose cause Lenin engaged himself so warmly against the bureaucratic factionalism of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky in 1922, have been sent to prison or death to make room for careerists and incompetents.
Industry, agriculture, planned economy, finances – in all these the ravages of the bureaucracy have wiped out one draft of functionaries and directors after another, beginning with those who guided the work in Lenin’s time. The first two chairmen, after Lenin, of the all-important Council of Labor and Defense, were Kamenev and Rykov; one has lost his life, the other his freedom. The most famous members of the Supreme Council of National Economy have recently been shot or imprisoned on the dumbfounding charge of plotting to wreck that same national economy: Rykov, who was the head of the Supreme Council for years is gone; gone also are the three vice-chairmen of the Council, Tomsky, Dogadov and Ossinsky, removed from their posts together with Rykov in 1980; Piatakov, who was deputy chairman of the Council in 1928, was judicially assassinated in January of this year; imprisoned is I.T. Smilga, who was vice-chairman of the Council from 1921 to 1928, and of the Government Planning Commission from 1924 to 1926; awaiting trial together with Rykov is N. I. Bukharin, once a leading member of the Council, chairman of the Communist International for four years after Zinoviev was removed, and editor of the official government daily, Izvestia, at the time of his arrest.
In the field of industry, the scars are no less deep. Piatakov, who was recently shot, was formerly chairman of the Central Administration of the Chemical Industries and, at the time of his arrest, the Assistant Commissar of Heavy Industry; despite the nominal superiority of Commissar Ordjonikidze, Piatakov was the actual head of the Commissariat. Shot with him was Drobnis, the director of the famous Kemerovo Chemical Plants, and Stanislas Rataichak, head of the Coke Industry Trust and former chief of the Central Administration of the Basic Chemical Industries. Awaiting the same fate is Loginov, manager of the Kharkov Coke Trust. As in the case of every name mentioned on these pages, the men involved have behind them twenty, thirty, forty, and even fifty years of activity in the Russian revolutionary movement. Hardly one of them comes into the category which Lenin often referred to contemptuously as “October Bolsheviks,” that is, men who joined the party when it looked safe and was the respectable and lucrative thing to do.
Transportation has suffered heavily from bureaucratic mismanagement and the murderous Stalinist purges. Trotsky, who initiated the reconstruction of Soviet transportation for the first time on a planned basis, some fifteen years ago, is the world’s most noted exile. His closest collaborator at the time, Yemshanov, with whom he elaborated the famous plans, and the man who was recently deputy chief of the Moscow Donbas Railroad, is now in prison “a wrecker.” In prison also is the old Leningrad Bolshevik, V. Zorin, late deputy chief of the Southern Railroad, arrested on the same trumped-up charge. In prison also: Mironov, chief of the Tomsk Rail road; Tolmachev, the director of Soviet transportation, who was arrested as early as 1932; Zoff, former assistant Commissar of Water Transport, prominent in military work in the early years. Shot as “traitors and wreckers” in the January 1937 trial were: Ivan Kniazev, an old Social Revolutionary who broke with his party and joined the Bolsheviks immediately after the revolution, who collaborated with the late Dzerzhinsky when the latter was Commissar of Railroads, and who was chief of the Southern Railroad at the time of his arrest; Joseph Turok, who was chief of the Urals Railroad at the time of his arrest; Leonid Serebriakov, an old railroad specialist, who was once Assistant Commissar of Transportation, who represented Russia’s interests on the Chinese Eastern Railway after his capitulation to Stalin in 1929-1930, and who was formerly head of the Central Administration of Road Transport; Yakob Livshitz, former chief of the Southern Railroad and Assistant Commissar of Railroads when he was arrested. Mrachkovsky, who directed the building of the strategic railroad from Lake Baikal to the Amur River in 1931-1932, was shot in the August 1936 trial as an “assassin.” The equals of these men will not easily be found, much less manufactured by decree.
Gregory Sokolnikov, Commissar of Finance from 1921 to 1926 and noted for stabilizing the chervonetz (a ten-ruble gold currency), was sentenced to ten years imprisonment at the January 1937 trial. Piatakov, chief Commissar of the State Bank in 1918 and its president ten years later, was shot, however, a warning of the fate that still awaits Sokolnikov. Imprisoned are: Preobrazhensky, once a prominent official of the government’s financial administration; Arkus, once the assistant director of the State Bank; Tumanov, manager of the powerful Industrial Bank. Remember that they were imprisoned by Yagoda, who is himself now charged with embezzlement!
One leader in agriculture after another – either in the Right wing or the Left – has fallen under the blows of the blind, frightened or vindictive bureaucracy. Shot last year was I.I. Reingold, once assistant Commissar of Agriculture, in the department of cotton raising; shot less than half a year later was Nikolai Muralov, once Deputy Commissar of Agriculture, himself an agronomist, one of the few old Bolsheviks who, like Rykov and Shliapnikov, participated directly and actively in the 1905 revolution. Imprisoned as scapegoats or for insufficient sycophancy to Stalin are: A.P. Smirnov, Commissar of Agriculture since July 1923; his successor, Teodorovich, who once headed the Peasants’International; and Eismont, vice-Commissar of Agriculture for Food Supplies in Russia in 1932 when he was arrested together with Tolmachev and scores of other high officials.
Even worse is the devastation in the military field, where so many tried revolutionists have been replaced by braided Marshals and lesser martinets. Gone is Trotsky, organizer and leader of the most remarkable army the world has ever seen, first chairman of the Supreme War Council. Gone is the Deputy Commissar of War and acting president of the Revolutionary Military Council in 1918, Efraim Sklyansky, Trotsky’s right-hand man, a revolutionist with exceptional military talents, who was driven out of office by intrigues and machinations when Trotsky was forced to surrender his post as Commissar of War, and who undoubtedly escaped prison or the firing squad as an “agent of Hitler” only because he died in an accident in New York in 1925. Imprisoned now is Shtykhold, secretary to Sklyansky, and one of the earliest organizers of the Red Army. Imprisoned are the distinguished military men Gayevsky and Vladimir Smirnov – the latter dying, his sight gone, confined in Suzdal penitentiary. In prison, for the third time, is Gruenstein, Red Army organizer in the early days, divisional commander, a hard labor prisoner under the Czar, with countless years of Bolshevik party membership behind him. In prison are General Vitovt Putna, once military representative of the Soviets in Berlin, where he was the Red Army’s link with the Reichswehr, and late military attache of the embassy in London; General Dmitri Schmidt, who was mentioned before; the military commanders Kuzmichev and Esterman. Shot in the January trial was N.I. Muralov, former high official of the Military Inspection and for years the commandant of the Moscow Military District. Shot in the August trial was Sergei Mrachkovsky, who won the Urals from the Whites, and who was commandant of the Urals Military District until 1924. Held in prison is Klias-Klavin, Commissar of Defense of Petrograd during the Civil War, whom the government saved from death in December, 1922 when he was exchanged, with ninety other communists, for Latvian hostages held in Moscow. In prison now is Sokolnikov, once commander of the Eighth Army at the southern front. Shot in August as a “traitor” was I.N. Smirnov, commander of the famous Fifth Army which took Kazan. Another of the leaders of the Fifth Army in the struggle against Kolchak was Man-Nevelson, now completing his ninth year in Stalinist prison exile; among his “counter revolutionary crimes” is the fact that he is Trotsky’s son in-law. In prison, without a trial (virtually all the Trotskyists were imprisoned without even a semblance of a trial), is I.T. Smilga, who, together with Tukhachevsky, led the Seventh Army against Pilsudski in 1921.
Finally, in the field of foreign affairs, the change has been striking. Revolutionary Russia’s first Commissar of Foreign Affairs was Trotsky. He was succeeded by Chicherin, who was finally replaced by Litvinov after a wretched intrigue which drove Chicherin to morose, brooding exile in the West. In addition to these two, virtually all of Russia’s ablest revolutionary diplomats and foreign trade representatives, have been ousted. The heads of Russia’s famous delegation to the Genoa Conference in 1922 were Chicherin, Rakovsky, Preobrazhensky. The last two are today in prison. Rakovsky was the Soviet ambassador to London and Paris. Kamenev was chairman of the Russian delegation to London before him; then he was ambassador to Italy; now he is a dishonored corpse. Piatakov and Budu Mdivani headed the Soviet Trade Mission to Paris at different times; the former has been shot and the latter is in prison on charges that mean execution. Also imprisoned are Ufimtsev, the head of the Trade Bureau in Vienna; Yuri Kotsiubinsky, who signed the Russo-Polish Treaty of Riga in March, 1921, for the Ukrainian Soviets, and who was later secretary of the Soviet legations in Vienna and Warsaw; Shliapnikov, who was Krassin’s deputy in 1924 when the latter was ambassador to Paris; Sokolnikov, who signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in 1918 for the Bolsheviks, became ambassador to London years later, and who was Assistant Commissar of Foreign Affairs when he was arrested for “treasonable relations” with Germany and Japan; exiled to Orenburg is Leonid Gerchik, formerly head of the Trade Mission to Persia. One of Russia’s most brilliant foreign representatives, A.A. Joffe, first ambassador to Germany, then to China, was driven to suicide in 1927 by Stalinist persecutions; his exiled wife, Maria Joffe, committed suicide in 1935 in Siberia.
Who took the places of these men? Instead of Kamenev, Rakovsky and Sokolnikov in London, Stalin has Maisky, a former minister of the counter-revolutionary “Samara Government” which the Czechoslovak mercenaries established against the Bolsheviks during the civil war. Instead of Rakovsky or Shliapnikov in Paris, Stalin has the old Menshevik, Potemkin. The place once occupied by Joffe in Berlin was taken by Khinchuk, the anti-Bolshevik chairman of the Moscow Council under Kerensky. Where the executed Serebriakov once represented the Soviet Union as head of the Amtorg in New York, it is now represented in Washington by Troyanovsky, ex-member of the Menshevik Central Committee who, as its spokesman, denounced Lenin and Trotsky as German agents in the Constituent Assembly in 1918 ...
What has happened in the last decade of the Soviet Union’s evolution is that the “thin layer” of the Old Guard, virtually all of whom fought the Stalinist reaction at one time or another, was finally exterminated physically, or itself succumbed to the virus of degeneration. The oft-repeated recantations, and the increasingly humiliating genuflections to Stalin, availed them little in the end; they only contributed to the destruction of their moral fiber as revolutionists and facilitated their destruction and replacement by the ruthless Juggernaut of the bureaucracy. Whatever the final level to which they humbled or felt obliged to humble themselves, however wretchedly they behaved as capitulators who clung convulsively to a party membership card which no longer meant anything, they symbolized, and many of them even represented, poorly or well, a different epoch, a different tradition, a different ideology than that of the new ruling caste which could not, and would not, assimilate the old into the new. The period of social and political reaction represented by Stalin needed new and different men from those who had represented, to any important extent, the period of social and political progress.
The Stalin bureaucracy which has concentrated all power in its hands is, for the time being, the triumphant bearer of a political counter-revolution, which, while it has already infringed upon the socio-economic foundations of the new state, namely, the nationalized means of production and exchange – has not yet replaced them with other foundations – namely, private property in the means of production and exchange. The political counter-revolution has thus far mainly affected the political super-structure of the state. If its retrogressive force is not to affect fundamentally the economic sub-structure, that is, if the nationalized means of production and exchange are to be preserved and strengthened and developed systematically in the direction of a socialist economy, the new superstructure must be changed. In a word, the political power must be restored to the proletarian masses by overthrowing the bureaucratic machine. Because of the very methods with which it rules, the bureaucracy has left no legal and peaceful way open for its removal.
This is the background of the conclusion arrived at by the author of this book in his latest work, The Revolution Betrayed:
“The revolution which the bureaucracy is preparing against itself will not be social, like the October Revolution of 1917. It is not a question this time of changing the economic foundations of society, of replacing certain forms of property with other forms. History has known elsewhere not only social revolutions which substituted the bourgeois for the feudal regime, but also political revolutions which, with out destroying the economic foundations of society, swept out an old ruling upper crust (1880 and 1848 in France, February, 1917 in Russia, etc.). The overthrow of the Bonapartist caste will, of course, have deep social consequences, but in itself it will be confined within the limits of political revolution.” (p.288)
It is a political revolution that will not be led by the Old Guard or against it because, with few exceptions, it is no longer a factor in Soviet society and politics; what has not been wiped out physically, has deteriorated to the point where it cannot fight and need not be fought against. The revolution will not be led by or against the Bolshevik Party; it no longer exists as a political party or a living organism – it is now a Soviet myth. The revolution will be directed against the new political party that took form in the period of the Soviet reaction, the party of the Stalinist bureaucratic machine. It will be composed of the advanced elements of the new generation in Russia, for the old is burned out. And because the soldiers of the proletarian revolutionary party, which even now exists and is growing in the Soviet Union, will have to have the truth as one of their principal weapons, because they will gain strength largely to the extent that they are able to break through the thick barrage of lies manufactured by the Stalin School of Falsification for the last fifteen years – the contents of the present volume are of immeasurable importance. Outlawed, imprisoned, hounded, slandered as German spies, the Bolsheviks in 1917 ended by reaching the best elements of the workers and peasants with the truth and with their ideas. Even more fiercely persecuted and calumniated today, the proletarian revolutionists two decades later will also end by being vindicated by the Russian masses. For falsehood is the weapon of reaction and truth the weapon of socialism. In the historic struggle between the two, socialism is invincible.