Next to the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany; the purges of 1936-37 make up some of the sadder parts of Soviet History. The official "history" of these events is supposed to show us how totalitarian the Soviet Union really was and why it wasn't really socialist the Trots say. It is indeed impossible to apologetically accept every execution that occurred in this period as legitimate equally as it is impossible to accept that this occurred at the lust of one man(Stalin) for complete control of the CPSU. One must ask himself: Why did the purges happen ? Were they actually planned out from beginning to end as the Trotskyites and bourgeois historians claim ? You cannot separate the understanding of these events from all the events together. That is why I must give the reader a brief outline of the steps the Communist Part led by Stalin had taken in order to consolidate socialism. We must go back to the NEP era through the industrialization process and the constant struggles within the party itself.
The Period of Industrialization
After the Civil War, Soviet Russia had inherited
a ruined economy country whose industry had been ravaged by eight years
of military operations. If the it was going to survive and defend its independence
against the imperialist powers, Soviet Russia would need to industrialize
very rapidly.challenge: to lay down the basis of modern industry in a national
Five Year Plan, essentially using the country's inner resources. To succeed,
the country was set on a war footing to undertake a forced march towards
industrialization. On February 4, 1931, Stalin explained why the country
had to maintain the extremely rapid rate of industrialization:
`Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and lose its independence`We are fifty to a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do this or they crush us.'
To be able to direct this giant industrialization
effort, the Party had to grow. The number of members rose from 1,300,000
in 1928 to 1,670,000 in 1930. During the same period, the percentage of
members of working class background rose from 57 to 65 per cent. Eighty
per cent of the new recruits were shock workers: they were in general relatively
young workers who had received technical training, Komsomol activists,
who had distinguished themselves as model workers, who helped rationalize
production to obtain higher productivity. This refutes the fable of bureaucratization'
of the Stalinist party: the party reinforced its worker base and its capacity
to fight. Industrialization was accompanied by extraordinary upheavals.
By the end of 1932, the industrial labor force doubled from 1928 to more
than six million.' After twenty years of titanic efforts, the workers built
a country that could stand up to the most developed capitalist power in
Europe, Hitler's Germany.
The bourgeois historians love to complain about the terror of Industrialization of Russia ? But how did the industrialization of the civilized world' made? How did the London and Paris bankers and industries create their industrial base? Could their industrialization have been possible without the pillage of the India? Pillage accompanied by the extermination of more than sixty million American Indians? Would it have been possible without the slave trade in millions of Africans? UNESCO experts estimate the African losses at 210 million persons, killed during raids or on ships, or sold as slaves. Could our industrialization have been possible without colonization, which made entire peoples prisoners in their own native lands?
The NEP period, which was necessary for a time, became unnecessary after 8 years. By 1928 the Soviet State was facing sure destruction. New Class divisions were forming among the peasantry where peasant speculators were able to grow rich by selling grain back to the peasants at extremely low prices. In 1927, after the spontaneous evolution of the free market, 7 per cent of peasants, i.e. 2,700,000 peasants, were once again without land. Each year, one quarter of a million poor lost their land. Furthermore, the land less men were no longer accepted in the traditional village commune. In 1927, there were still 27 million peasants who had neither horse nor cart.These poor peasants formed 35 per cent of the peasant population. Although the middle peasants made up 50% of the population, they had to rely on poor tools. In the whole of the Soviet Union, between 5 and 7 per cent of peasants known as kulaks succeeded in enriching themselves. It is not true as the Trotskyites maintain that Stalin kept switching sides during this period.for his personal gain as the Trots maintain. The accepted history is that first he used the Troika block(Kamenev and Zionvev) and then attached him self to Bukrain with his enrich the peasantry policies. In reality Stalin was struggle against both these revisionist lines. As early as 1925 Stalin sent a letter to him saying, "`the slogan enrich yourself is not ours, it is wrong .... Our slogan is socialist accumulation'.
To add to the problem in agriculture, although, the harvests had been good, the state was menaced by famine. Although the amount of grain produced had been going up, the amount sold to the cities dropped dramatically. There was also resistance in many areas that included armed rebellion of the kulaks who threatened to reverse the progress toward socialism in the cities and to undermine the power of the Soviet state. In this emergency situation it was necessary to launch an all-out offensive against the last great bastion of capitalism in the USSR: capitalism in agriculture. But what steps were the Soviets supposed to take in order to collectivize and go on the road to socialism. Lenin already pointed out these tasks right before he died:
"Two main tasks confront us, which constitute the epoch -- to reorganize our machinery of state, which is utterly useless, and which we took over in its entirety from the preceding epoch; during the past five years of struggle we did not, and could not, drastically reorganize it. Our second task is educational work among the peasants. And the economic object of this educational work among the peasants is to organize the latter in co-operative societies. If the whole of the peasantry had been organized in co-operatives, we would by now have been standing with both feet on the soil of socialism. (Lenin: On Co-Operation)
The collectivization effort was also a revolution in itself. Millions of illiterate peasants were pulled out of the Middle Ages and hurled into the world of modern machinery. The Bourgeois historians like to claim that collectivization was `imposed' by the leadership of the Party and by Stalin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state have the technical means, the required qualified personnel, nor the sufficient Communist leadership to direct collectivization in a planned and orderly manner: to describe it as an all-powerful and totalitarian State is absurd. The essential impulse during the violent episodes of collectivization came from the most oppressed of the peasant masses. This revolution was not implemented through administrative channels; instead the state appealed directly to the party rank and file and key sectors of the working class in order to circumvent rural officialdom. The mass recruitment of workers and other urban cadres and the circumvention of the bureaucracy served as a breakthrough policy in order to lay the foundations of a new system.
The party authority in the country side was very weak. On January 1, 1930, there were 339,000 Communists among a rural population of about 120 million people!And most of the rural party districts were composed of young peasants recruited from the Red Army during the Civil War. They had no political experience and had the habit of commanding and hardly knew what political education and mobilization meant. The party had to take extraordinary measures to cope with this. One of the things they did was send out 25,000 experienced industrial workers from the large factories to go to the countryside and to help. Before leaving they were told their purpose by the central committee:to acquire understanding of the upheavals in the countryside and the problems of collectivization, and discuss their organizational experience with the peasantry because they were handicapped by their traditional individual work on land which was a serious problem for collective use of the land. Also hey were told that they would have to judge the Communist quality of the Party functionaries and, if necessary, purge the Party of foreign and undesirable elements.
The 25,000 who are completely overlooked by historians played a very significant role in the collectivization efforts.Upon arrival, the 25,000 immediately had to fight against the bureaucracy of the local apparatus and against the excesses committed during the collectivization. Zakharov, one of the 25,000, wrote that no preparatory work had been done among the peasants. Consequently, they were not prepared for collectivization. Many complained of the illegal acts and of the brutality of rural cadres. Makovskaya attacked `the bureaucratic attitude of the cadres towards the peasants', and she said that the functionaries spoke of collectivization `with revolver in hand'. By opposing the bureaucrats and their excesses, they succeeded in winning the confidence of the peasant masses. These details are important, since these workers can be considered to have been direct envoys from Stalin. It was precisely the `Stalinists' who fought bureaucracy and excesses most consistently and who defended a correct line for collectivization.
The work they had to do was very dangerous. Among the 25,000, many were attacked and beaten. Among other things they had to face terrible rumors made by the Kulaks to the backwards peasents about communism and the Anti-Christ the communists were supposed to represent. Several dozen were murdered at the hands of the Kulaks.
The contribution of the 25,000 to collectivization was enormous. The workers introduced regular work days, with morning roll call. They invented systems of payment by piecework and wage levels. Everywhere, they had to introduce order and discipline. The workers introduced production conferences where the kolkhozians exchanged practical knowledge, they organized Socialist Competition between different brigades, and they set up workers' tribunals where violations of rules and negligence were judged. Some even set up literacy schools.The 25,000 helped elaborate the organizational structures of socialist agriculture for the next quarter century to come.
In order to keep production norms up in both terms of quantity and quality, a mass movement was popularized by the party known as the Stakhanovite This was not just a simple movement created to speed up production as the bourgeoise historians claim. It emphasized reorganizing the division of labor, and developing teamwork to achieve their goal. This include the redesign innovation of machinery and machine processes by the workers themselves(with opposition from engineers and managers as Stalin said in his Economic problems of Socialism) A bourgeois U.S. scholar, David Granick, in his study "The Red Executive" defended the movement against Western charges that it was mainly a form of speedup. "Primarily, it was aimed at motivating workers to use improved techniques on the job," he wrote, "and to innovate new ones. Its emphasis was thoroughly modern, being on rationalization rather than on sweating." The production increases were enormous thanks to the Stakhanovite movement. The labor productivity increases 82% in 1929 up from 41%.
The 5 year plan was not initiated single handedly from above. A form of mass initiative was made by workers themselves in criticizing the 5 year plan and drawing up plans of their own. This form of "counter planning" , as it was known, was first advanced by shock workers in the Karl Marx Works of Leningrad. In 1930 these workers as well as many of their comrades throughout the country participated in the elaboration of counter plans and became acquainted with the organization and management of production. Many of them acquired an inclination for planning and enrolled at higher educational institutions offering specialized training in this field. Also like the Stakhanovite movement, it did not pass happily by plant managers:
"All the workers, all are called to the production
conference. And then begins the so-called 'counterplanning,' in a
very crude form, which quickly ends in a fiasco. They read off the plan.
Here, our chief administration has given us such and such information,
such and such indices, of course we have to meet them, we all understand
that this has to be done. Thus, the agitation proceeds further. This we
have to do, we have to fulfill and over fulfill. 'I hope that some of
the workers -- this is said by some engineer or a representative of the
party organization -- will bring forth counterproposals.' Now everyone
wants to manifest his 'activity.' Some 'butterfly,' some milkmaid gets
up in her place and says 'I think we should promise Comrade
Stalin to over fulfill by 100 percent.' She takes no account of materials,
no account of supply. Then a second stands up and says 'We should all promise
100 percent and I personally promise 150 percent" In short,
it piles up higher and higher, and the engineers and economists scratch
their heads. Nevertheless, this is called 'counterplanning,'
a manifestation of the new socialist morality and higher socialist enthusiasm.
All this goes to the top and there, you understand, there is confusion,
downright confusion, a complete muddle." Joseph Berliner
Victory is Won
By the early 1930s, the generally offensive towards building a socialist economy had been won, and all traces of the NEP had been complete. By the end of 1933, the long road of the New Economic Policy (NEP) had been completed. About two thirds of the peasants were in functioning collective farms; private industry had all but vanished.After 16 years of political rule, the new Soviet power had succeeded in remolding the capitalist economic foundation it inherited, and in creating the foundation of a socialist economy.
At the 17th party congress in January 1934, Stalin -- speaking for the central committee -- was able to make the landmark declaration that the socialist economic formation "now holds unchallenged sway and is the sole commanding force in the whole national economy." This was at a time when the world entered the great depression.
In the early 1930s the Soviet Communist party proclaimed that the USSR had entered the period of socialist economic development. What we had here was not full fledged communism, in which classless society had been achieved The stage Russia entered into, was what Marx called the "lower stage of communism" a long transition between capitalism and communism. The slogan "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" would have to be put off for a period where "From each according to his ability to each according to his need" took sway. Most of the vestiges of capitalism would remain.
There would always be differences in wages a course during socialism. These things cannot be prevented until society is able to close up the division between manual and mental labor. Infact the gap between the lowest and the highest wages even increased during the 1930s, as an enormous influx of new recruits from the countryside more than tripled the ranks of the industrial proletariat between 1929 and 1940.
While the rest of the world was in a complete depression, the Soviet Union was thriving. For the first time it was shown that the benefits of a planned economy over the anarchy of capitalism. Here was the only country in the world where workers were able to own and control the destiny of their country. The massive industry they built up would save themselves from the biggest invasion in the world by any country in history. In 1939 a 7- hour work week was even introduced but taken away to help prepare for the upcoming war. Some dare to call the soviet Union a 'deformed worker state' or even 'state capitalist.' But what sort of capitalist system was this where the the contradictions of capital were resolved and the vestiges of capitalism were gone ? Also what sort of deformed worker's state was this when the it was able to pull itself out of thousands of years of feudalism in only a matter of ten years ?
The Bolsheviks always led a revolutionary struggle against the bureaucratic deviations that, in a backward country, inevitably occurred within the apparatus of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had to retake' part of the old Tsarist state apparatus, which had only been partially transformed in the socialist sense. Between 1928 and 1931, the Party accepted 1,400,000 new members. Among this mass, many were in fact political illiterates. They had revolutionary sentiments, but no real Communist knowledge. Kulaks, old Tsarist officers and other reactionaries easily succeeded in infiltrating the Party. All those who had a certain capacity for organization were automatically accepted into the party, as there were so few cadres. Between 1928 and 1938, the weight of the Party in the countryside remained weak, and its members were heavily influenced by the upper strata that intellectually and economically dominated the rural world. These factors all lead to problems of bureaucratic degeneration.
The first generation of revolutionary peasants had experienced the Civil War, when they were fighting the reactionary forces. The War Communism spirit, giving and receiving orders, maintained itself and gave birth to a bureaucratic style of work that was little based on patient political work.
Throughout the period in which Stalin was the leader of the Party, Stalin called for the leadership and the base to mobilize to hound out the bureaucrats from above and from below. Here is a 1928 directive, typical of Stalin's view.
'Bureaucracy is one of the worst enemies of our progress.
It exists in all our organizations .... The trouble is that it is not a
matter of the old bureaucrats. It is a matter of the new bureaucrats, bureaucrats
who sympathize with the Soviet Government and finally, communist bureaucrats.
The communist bureaucrat is the most dangerous type of bureaucrat. Why?
Because he masks his bureaucracy with the title of Party member.'
Stalin, Speech delivered at the Eighth Congress of the All-Union Leninist
Young Communist League. Selected Works, p.
After having presented several grave cases, Stalin continued:
`What is the explanation of these shameful instances of
corruption and moral deterioration in certain of our Party organizations?
The fact that Party monopoly was carried to absurd lengths, that the voice
of the rank and file was stifled, that inner Party democracy was abolished
and bureaucracy became rife .... I think that there is not and cannot be
any other way of combating this evil than by organizing control from below
by the Party masses, by implanting inner Party democracy. What objection
can there be to rousing the fury of the mass of the Party membership against
these corrupt elements and giving it the opportunity to send these elements
`There is talk of crit(i)cism from above, criticism by the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, by the Central Committee of the Party and so on. That, of course, is all very good. But it is still far from enough. More, it is by no means the chief thing now. The chief thing now is to start a broad tide of criticism against bureaucracy in general, against shortcomings in our work in particular. Only (then) ... can we count on waging a successful struggle against bureaucracy and on rooting it out.'
The first thing to do in order to struggle
against bureaucracy was to reinforce public education. Over 200,000 party
schools were set up to provide communist education for millions of workers
and peasants that didn't have any basic political education.
To deal with opportunists and careerists, the party organized regular purges. Things became so critical that in 1932-33 the party had to organize a verification purge.During the verification campaign of 1932--1933, the leadership remarked that not only did it have a difficult time in ensuring that its instructions were followed, but also that the Party's administration in the countryside was quite deficient. No one knew who was a member and who was not. There were 250,000 lost and stolen cards and more than 60,000 blank cards had disappeared.
There were however bad effects from these purges. Some of the party leaders organized them in a very bureaucratic way, expelling some without any thoughtful research. As the Pravda admitted in January 16, 1938 :
`Certain of our Party leaders suffer from an insufficiently attentive attitude toward people, toward party members, toward workers. What is more, they do not study the party workers, do not know how they are coming along and how they are developing, do not know their cadres at all .... And precisely because they do not take an individualized approach to the evaluation of party members and party workers they usually act aimlessly --- either praising them indiscriminately and beyond measure, or chastising them also indiscriminately and beyond measure, expelling them from the party by the thousands and tens of thousands .... But only persons who are in essence profoundly anti-party can take such an approach to party members.'
On May 4, Stalin spoke about this subject. He condemned
`The outrageous attitude towards people, towards cadres, towards workers, which we not infrequently observe in practice. The slogan ``Cadres decide everything'' demands that our leaders should display the most solicitous attitude towards our workers, ``little'' and ``big,'' assisting them when they need support, encouraging them when they show their first successes, promoting them, and so forth. Yet in practice we meet in a number of cases with a soulless, bureaucratic, and positively outrageous attitude towards workers.'
In February 1937, elections for the first time were held in secret. At the Central Committee meeting that dealt with these questions of bureaucratic deformations, by Stalin and Zhdanov dealt with the development of criticism and self-criticism,about the necessity of cadres to submit reports to their respective bases.The February 27, 1937 Central Committee resolution indicates:
`The practice of co-opting members of party committees must be liquidated .... each party member must be afforded an unlimited right of recalling candidates and criticizing them.'
The May 31 election was the most important, most general and most effective anti bureaucratic campaign that the Party ever effected. during the May 1937 electoral campaign, for the 54,000 Party base organizations for which we have data, 55 per cent of the directing committees were replaced. In the Leningrad region, 48 per cent of the members of the local committees were replaced.
However serious problems continued to remain unshaken by these events. For one thing at the Regional level, which constituted the main level of decision making, very little changed. In the rural areas, certain individuals and clans were able to entrench themselves and hold virtual monopoly powers.
At the same time the dictatorship strengthened itself in terms of economic growth , political power of the working class was manifest began to manifest in both the party as well as the factory level. Beginning in the NEP era, "one- man management" was the principle laid by Lenin for running the different workplaces to meet production norms. This began to change in the 1930's after economic development was able to slow down. The workplace director played a very serious and contradictory role in the the management process. They had greater responsibility than the managers in capitalist countries (since they had to keep things in accordance with the 5 year plan) yet at the same time had fewer powers than their capitalist counterparts.
The factory directors had power to assign workers to different roles in the internal division of labor, to punish lateness and absenteeism with fines, but they did not have the power as their capitalist counterparts to fire a worker. The importance of this distinction was noted by Martin Nicholas in his "Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR" This was a concrete meaning of the phrase that labor power in the USSR was no longer a commodity bought and sold like any other: its price (wages) was no longer depressed by the existence of a relative surplus army of unemployed and the inalienable right of commodity buyers to refuse to buy -- the right to not hire and to lay off -- was no longer recognized. Except during wartime, workers were free to quit; but managers could not fire them except by proving some criminal offense against them. Thus, lacking the whip hand, the managers were weak.
Also the workers had power to counter act a director who abused his authority.As the British bourgeois scholar Mary McAuley writes (in "Labour Disputes in the Soviet Union," Oxford 1969), there were special courts to hear industrial disputes to which only workers had access; managerial personnel could appear there only as defendants and were barred from initiating cases (pp. 54-55). Even before matters came to court, there were ways that the workers on the shop floor could let a troublesome director know who was boss. One of these avenues, the production meeting, is described by the bourgeois scholar David Granick in his book, "The Red Executive":
is operating under severe ideological and practical handicaps in its efforts
to keep down worker criticism. One factory director . . . implied that
production meetings were a real ordeal for him. But at a question as to
whether workers dared to criticize openly, he said, 'Any director who suppressed
criticism would be severely punished. He would
not only be removed, he would be tried.'" (New York, 1960, p. 230)
Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United
Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s said.
"Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the "ruthless dictatorship in Russia". I tell you ... in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy... (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).
The Soviet people were able to relax greatly after the long industrialization process. In his book "Life and Terror in Stalinist Russia" Robert Thurston uses the example of the soviet legal system to prove (although not a communist) to us that life in the USSR was actually becoming more "liberal" in protecting citizens rights and freedoms. For many years the Soviet Government had to keep a strict legal laws because of the conditions of the time; there were huge influxes of homeless workers and peasantry wandering from city to city. This overwhelmed the Soviet authorities who had to deal with border lines and these unidentified people crossing them. Thurston notes how once the things got going again, the Soviet Government reformed their judicial system greatly for a short time up to the purges. Thurston's book also shows us how much the Soviets relied on western capitalist models for their judicial systems as fields in education and industry.
However serious problems
continued to remain in this period. For one thing in the elections
at the Regional level, which constituted the main level of decision making,
very little changed. In the rural areas, certain individuals and
clans were able to entrench themselves and hold virtual monopoly powers.
There were also huge sections of middle layer party officials who took
to their job in a very bureaucratic way. The purges happened to actually
try to destroy this undemocratic symptom that existed in the country and
encourage rank and file criticism as Getty shows:
... the Central Committee sincerely wanted to encourage criticism "from below" ... this practice had never been advocated as strongly and relentlessly as in 1935. The C.C. had never before stopped a Party operation and denounced the local administrators before the rank and file. The Central Committee had never seemed to turn to the party activists to complete an operation which had been bungled by the regular administrators. :
The purges were nothing more than frequent attempts by the CPSU to find out who was in the party and to strengthen it. They were not aimed at removing opportunists like Trotskyites for example,but careerists and drunkards who had no place in the Communist Party. In fact, the purges in the 1930s resulted in fewer expulsions than in the 1920s. Most of what we think about the purges is not just pure bourgeois media but also included the help of revisionists like Cursive. In his 1956 Speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Union, Kruschev claimed that Stalin was an evil man who during the purges committed the worst crimes against humanity. But where was Kruschev during this time? If Stalin was so bad he must of been his partner in crime.
One must ask himself this: If we set aside all our preconceived axioms we have made about the nature of the USSR and assume that it was indeed a socialist country, would the USSR be free of enemy influence and infiltration inside and out? Would it not be possible for imperialist countries to do everything they can to destroy what they see as threat to their own livelihood ? Would the dictatorship of the bourgoise merely sit tight as the specter of International Communism manifests itself in their own countries ?Also, would a country just developing socialism really be free of opportunists who would want to wreck the country and seize power ? Would the bourgeois media even tell us the truth about these things ? Any attempt to understand the nature of the purges must start with the events leading up to it such as the Five year plans and the period of socialist construction. We will show you that the purges were unplanned and happened as a panicky response, to real enemies, that went way out of hand.
One cold morning on December 1 a lone assassin was hiding at the bathroom inside the Leningrad Soviet. As his intended victim walked up the stair case, he suddenly emerged from his hiding place and shot him in the neck. The assassin, who fainted right afterwards, was a man named Leonid Vasilevich Nikolayev. The person he killed was Kirov, a member of both the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, and Secretary to the Leningrad Committee of the All Union Communist Party, and second to Stalin.
Nikolayev prepared a diary and some statements in which he said his crime was an act of desperation and a protest against the unjust government officials. Yet the investigation found out that he couldn't of possibly been in this alone. They found:
1) Absence of all guards on December 1 at the Smolny,including Kirov's
2) Security police had long since been aware of Nikolayev's attitude and threats. They had reported this to Zaporozhets ( Deputy Head of Leningrad NKVD)
3) Discovered that a few days before Nik visited and searched his brief case by which they found Had long since been aware of Nikolayev's attitude and threats. They had reported this to a loaded pistol and a diary. Nikolayev was immediately detained and taken to the commandant's office". And released him later.
4) On that same day Kirov's body guard was taken for a ride on immediate orders of Leningrad in which he died in a car accident.
Would the assassination of a man second to Stalin in the mist of enemy countries and imprisonment of communists the world over not set fear in the party ? A course not ! Later the party would find a few spies in a regular purge and also a real plot in the army to seize power. This created a huge amount of panic in the party. These purges were not planned by Stalin to destroy all his personal opponents. They were a reaction to actual findings. It is no wonder why the party leadership went to far in during this crisis. There were many innocent people killed and abuse committed by Soviet Authorities. A lesser example of this can be comparison with the Fear and Sedition Acts that were passed in the United States during its first years of existence. In 1790 there were negotiation problems between the Adams administration and the French government. The USA found that there were French agents inside the country trying to influence the government and people in Congress. A course Adams got scared and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts which not only imposed harsh immigration laws but stopped all criticism of the government in the press, this was in complete violation of the Constitution and only few years after the Bill of Rights were added.
The examples of police corruption were numerous. In Thurston's book "Life and Terror in Stalinist Russia" he notes that corrupt cops would arrest and execute people in order to meet quotas. These quotas were often set high by the Ezhov the head of the NKVD. There were also many revisionists in the top who contributed to these crimes including those who set up themselves in the early years in order to consolidate their power later.Look at what our trustworthy Krushev was saying at Kamenev and Ziovev's trial.
"Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all living men, our wise leader Comrade Stalin. We assure you, Comrade Stalin, that we will increase our Stalinist vigilance still more and close our ranks around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin".
Stalin and the Communists spent years waging struggles against many different forms of revisionism and opportunism. From 1922-27 they waged an ideological struggle against left opportunists had by Trotsky (later Zionven and Kamenev) who took a defeatist attitude claiming that socialism couldn't be implemented in Russia. Only a few years after that they struggled against right opportunism headed by Bukrain who worked in the interests of rich peasant capitalists. Stalin was not only careful and patient in the struggle, he even allowed opponents who claimed that they had understood their errors to return to the leadership. Many of these people like Zionvev, Bukrain, and the Trotskyites were expelled and would return to the party and make a self-criticism of themselves so they could join again.
At the end of his remarkable book, Professor J. Arch Getty Origins of the Great Purges, writes:
`The evidence suggests that the Ezhovshchina --- which is what most people really mean by the ``Great Purges'' --- should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy's stamping out dissent and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovshchina was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy. The entrenched officeholders were destroyed from above and below in a chaotic wave of voluntarism and revolutionary puritanism.'
The party would recognize that things went way to far. In January 1938, the central committee published a resolution restating it's goal to cleanse the party of spies but also recognizing false vigilance' of some Party Secretaries who were attacking the base to protect their own position. It starts as follows:
`The VKP(b) Central Committee plenum considers it necessary
to direct the attention of party organizations and their leaders to the
fact that while carrying out their major effort to purge their ranks of
trotskyite-rightist agents of fascism they are committing
serious errors and perversions which interfere with the business of purging the party of double dealers, spies, and wreckers. Despite the frequent directives and warnings of the VKP(b) Central Committee, in many cases the party organizations adopt a completely incorrect approach and expel Communists from the party in a criminally frivolous way.'
On November 11, 1939, Stalin and Molotov signed a decision putting an
end to the excesses made during the purges. The NKVD would no longer be
aloud to conduct any massive arrest or other such operations.
On May 13 1937, Marshal Tukhachevsky was arrested for an anti-communist plot to stage a coup. He was under suspicion since May 8. The army itself was a very weak point in class orientation. The Bolsheviks had to rely on different class forces to protect themselves when they were a weak state. In 1930 there were 4,500 Kulak officers in the army. The party also had little influence over the army affairs. The Great Purge took place right after this. It was later remarked to Hitler that the purges helped destroy the army. Hitler knew the importance of taking advantage of the opposition.
`The Führer explained one more time the Tukhachevsky
case and stated that we erred completely at the time when we thought that
Stalin had ruined the Red Army. The opposite is true: Stalin got rid of
all the opposition circles within the army and thereby succeeded in making
sure that there would no longer be any defeatist currents within that army
' (Goebbels notes, May 8, 1943)