Leon Trotsky

Stalin Plans
Wholesale Persecution

(March 1936)

Written: March 25, 1936.
First published: New Militant, May 16, 1936.

The March 15 issue of Pravda carries a semi-official order that emanates from a high source, obviously from Stalin, and deals with the treatment to be accorded the expelled party members. The question is not a simple one because, as we have only to recall, from the second half of last year to the present day more than 300,000 have been expelled – perhaps even half a million. The smallest percentage of the party members expelled is 7 percent, but in several instances over one-third have been expelled. At the present time the purge is continuing under the guise of “exchanging party cards,” or, as Stalin’s order states, the party continues to rid itself of “Trotskyists, Zinovievists, White Guards, and other filth.” This list, and the order of naming the categories of the expelled, have become very firmly established, and, moreover, in all the lists, both local and general, the “Trotskyists” invariably occupy the first place. This means that the heaviest blows are directed against them.

Stalin’s order leaves no room for doubt on this score. On the surface the order seems to be intended as a check upon the excessive zeal of local organizations, who are depriving all the expelled of work. With unexampled bureaucratic Jesuitism, Stalin intervenes in behalf of certain categories of the expelled. Thus, the order remarks that certain Communists have been expelled as passive elements, for breaches of discipline or of party ethics. Harshness toward them is unwarranted. If they are too compromised for their old work, they must be given new work. One should not needlessly breed enemies. “Unfortunately, this simple truth is not understood everywhere.” A man who has committed “some sort of a grave breach of party ethics” may nevertheless remain a “useful individual for our socialist country” – under one condition: that he is not an “enemy,” i.e., the enemy of the bureaucracy. If a man has embezzled, given or taken bribes, beat up an underling, or raped a girl – in short, committed a “grave breach of party ethics” – but has in the meantime remained loyal to the powers that be, then this “useful individual” must be given other work.

The chief quality that the order demands from the party leaders is: “the ability to distinguish between the enemy and the non-enemy.” Ruthlessness is recommended only with regard to the political opponent. A docile grafter is not an enemy. The mortal enemy is the honest Oppositionist, who must be deprived of work of every kind.

The only employer in the USSR is the bureaucracy. Stalin’s order implies in practice the doom of tens of thousands of Oppositionists to the tortures of unemployment and homelessness, even when they are exiled. To be sure, this used to be done before too, but not in every case. Today, this has been erected into a system.

This order of Stalin, which bears the caption “On Bolshevik Vigilance,” must be brought to the attention of the workers the world over. Not a single appropriate occasion should be missed to raise this question at workers’ meetings. Wherever possible, it is necessary to penetrate into the trade union press. Everything must be done to prevent Stalin from physically exterminating tens of thousands of irreproachable young fighters.


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Last updated on: 19.4.2007