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George Breitman

New Military Code Foreshadows Revival of Purges in Red Army

(29 June 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 26, 29 June 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

More purges are on the order of the day in the Soviet Union, and they are coming – if they have not already begun – in the armed forces of the USSR. That is the political conclusion to be drawn from the new disciplinary code for the Red Army, Navy and Air Force signed by Stalin and reported by the official army newspaper Red Star on June 19.

The new code, according to this paper, has the following special features:

  1. Even more rigorous military discipline than in the past, with greater emphasis on saluting, etc., with an injunction to officers that “not a single offense or act of misconduct by subordinates should go unnoticed.”
  2. The necessity and duty to report to the highest officials “the stealing or wasting of military property, unlawful spending of money or any misconduct in handling food supplies to troops” and “insubordinate acts that are lessening the military efficiency of the armed forces.”
  3. The establishment of special “officers’ courts of honor which are created to preserve the dignity and honor of the officers’ rank.” These courts will rule on breaches of discipline unworthy of officers and contrary to the “understanding of the ethics and morality in the Red Army.”

How does it happen that after the war, after the Red Army has been hailed as the savior of the Soviet Union, it is discovered that stricter discipline is needed for peace time?

There can be only one answer: This stricter discipline is not needed to strengthen the Red Army, but to strengthen the bureaucratic grip over the Red Army, which the Kremlin had to relax somewhat during the war.

A rift must be taking place between the Stalinist bureaucracy and a section of the officer caste.

If this was not the case, Stalin would not take the grave step of in effect publicly reprimanding the officers and implying they have been guilty of military offenses.

The new code is a warning to the officers. At the same time under cover of talk about embezzlement, corruption and insubordination, it prepares Soviet public opinion for a general assault against all oppositional elements in the armed forces.

Potential Victims

That some of the victims of this new purge will be pro-capitalist elements in the officer corps may be taken for granted. There are such elements, reflecting primarily the growth of a pro-capitalist peasantry in the countryside, whose development is reported elsewhere on this page in the article by Ernest Germain. During the war they were encouraged and rewarded by Stalin himself, and it is quite likely that their influence has grown sufficiently to make them appear dangerous to the Kremlin.

But they will not be the only victims. It has always been a favorite Stalinist device to utilize the crimes and blunders of the bureaucracy or its pro-capitalist allies as a pretext for launching purges which wipe out opposition trends of all kinds. The bureaucracy can be expected in the new purge to strike also – and must brutally – at critics from the left (in the army) those who are discontented with the nationalist counter-revolutionary course of Stalinism and want to return to the program of Leninism.

At any rate the new code, like the purges it foreshadows, is a manifestation of the fact that the Stalin regime remains a regime of crisis. None of Stalin’s problems inside the Soviet Union have been solved by the war. On the eve of the war he had to carry through widespread and repeated purges in the army, decimating its leadership over and over again. Now at the termination of the war the same process is renewed.

Like all totalitarian dictatorships, the Stalin regime dares not permit the slightest sign of opposition and its only answer to discontent is new bloodbaths. These purges are a sign of the mortal weakness of the regime and its lack of support from the masses.

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