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The Militant, 25 May 1946

John G. Wright

Extent of Purges in USSR
During the Pact with Hitler

(December 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 21, 25 May 1946, p. 7.
Extract from Fourth International, Vol. 2 No. 10, December 1941, pp. 311–312.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


John G. Wright, authoritative analyst of Soviet affairs, followed the development of the purges in the USSR very closely from year to year as they were reported in the Russian press. In the December 1941 issue of Fourth International Comrade Wright describes one of the purges organized by Stalin on the very eve of Hitler’s invasion. The report of this one purge gives a good idea of what was repeated again and again in the period 1934–42:

“The signal for this purge came with the call for the Eighteenth Party Conference which convened in Moscow in February 1941.

“A partial list of the People’s Commissariats that were decimated during the ‘discussion period’ in the months prior to the Conference follows:

“At the Conference itself six members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party ... 15 alternates and 9 members of the Central Auditing Commission were expelled on the charge of ‘incompetence’ and ‘failure to fulfill their duties.’ The People’s Commissars of Agriculture, Medium Machine Building, Timber and Defense Industry were purged. Immediately after the Conference the ax fell on the Commissariats of Aircraft, Munitions, Electrical Industry, Chemical Industry, Marine Transport, River Transport and Fishing Industry.

“All this was only the beginning. The Moscow press, issues of which are finally available, reveals conditions that verge on the incredible. Pravda from March 2 to March 27 reported further ‘reorganization’ in the following Commissariats:

“The Kremlin’s average during this period was approximately a Commissariat a day. Many of the Commissariats were purged several times during the month of March alone.”

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