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Albert Gates

Internal Crisis Forces Stalin to Begin New Series of Purges

(30 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 39, 30 September 1946, p.  3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Under Stalin’s signature, a new series of purges have begun in Russia. This time the purges are directed against officials appointed by the Kremlin and the peasant population of the collective farms. The charges against them are similar to those in all previous purges: false interpretation and application of policies laid down by the state, mismanagement, personal enrichment of officials, withholding of grain by peasants, the development of private property ideology among them and failure to meet plan quotas. The present purge follows the purges just carried out in industry, in the. field of literature, art and culture, and against the “nationalist elements” in the Ukraine.

It is obvious from a reading of the press dispatches which occasionally break through the thick wall surrounding Stalin’s prison called Russia, that the present wave of purges is not an ordinary event. The world has come to look upon Stalin’s purges as something normal to Russia. In a measure this is true, for periodic purges are one of the normal attributes of Stalin’s dictatorship. But the extent of this purge reveals that the situation is a little more than normal.

Purges are a natural and normal part of totalitarian regimes because they are the only way in which a police regime maintains the solidity and power of its rule and enforces its plans and decrees. The regime punishes dissatisfaction, differences, normal and natural failures, and failures, produced by the policies of the regime itself in a brutal, police manner. Those who are swept up by the purges are punished in several ways: they are shot, imprisoned, deprived of jobs and privileges which are controlled by the regime, or they are sent into forced labor camps to swell the ranks of the many millions of slave laborers.

Purges are an indictment of a regime because they record its failures – the failures in economic and political policy. Sometimes the purges come after the event, sometimes they occur as a preventative measure against mass dissatisfaction. In Russia, purges have presaged a change of line on the part of the regime, usually after discarding a policy that was wrong, or they have been started to force the population to some inhuman effort to meet new goals set by the rulers:

Each successive period of Russian development – especially the contradictory policies adopted by the totalitarian regime, super-industrialization and complete collectivization which produced chaotic conditions in industry and a famine on the land, the victory of Hitler contributed to by Stalin’s policies, collective security as the antithesis of the long established revolutionary foreign policy of Lenin and Trotsky, the pact with Hitler, the alliance with the “democratic imperialists” – each of these were accompanied by nationwide purges and frame-up trials and the murderous extermination of all friends of the regime as well as opponents and critics.

Five Reasons for the Purges

The new purges have their origin and explanation in the present conditions which pervade Stalin’s Russia:

  1. The economic devastation brought about by the war and the policies of the regime which rested its hopes (remaining out of the war) on an alliance with Hitler, has brought about a great deterioration in the living conditions of the masses without any hope that they will be easily or quickly ameliorated.

    The new Five-Year Plan sets goals far below those of pre-war plans and in the field of consumer goods, less than those called for in the very first Five-Year Plan. This means that the actual living conditions of the masses will remain dismally low for a long time to come. The purges, therefore, are an instrument in forestalling mass outbreaks against the existing conditions by creating mass fear.
  2. The devastation of war is not confined to industry, but is equally as severe in agricultural areas. But in addition to the destruction caused by the war, the state-appointed officials in the collective farms, as the industrial managers, have conducted its affairs in the manner of land bosses or plantation owners. The class division between the managers of collectives and the peasants is as wide and sharp as it is in industry. The managers and directors live in good houses, have automobiles, servants, special privileges, money bonuses to the point where the economic disproportion between; them and the masses is greater than that existing in capitalist countries.
  3. There is widespread dissatisfaction throughout the land. This is attested to by the regime itself. The struggle against the reappearance, of so-called “bourgeois nationalism” is merely a cover for forcing on the variegated peoples who inhabit Russia, the practices of Great Russian nationalism. The tyrants of the Kremlin, who have resurrected ancient heroes of feudalism and modern Czarism, who have committed, in the name of Lenin’s enlightened and revolutionary policy on the national question, the worst crimes against the national minorities of land, inaugurate a purge to destroy those who question or oppose its policies.
  4. In addition to these economic factors, the country lives under the severest police and spy system the world has ever known. Thus, economic and political insecurity is accompanied by ordinary personal insecurity in a world where the practice of “scapegoatism” is indispensably bound up with economic and political policy. The country lives under permanent terrorization.
  5. The purges are also a preparatory measure, an organization measure, to meet the conditions of increasing struggle on a world scale. Aggressive, imperialist policies of the Kremlin are covered up by the old chestnut about the “imperialist encirclement of the Soviet Union” and lays the groundwork for excusing future failures and for continuing the police terror regime which keeps the masses in a permanent state of alarm. The regime calls into existence the “war danger” as the permanent obstacle to an improvement of the life of the masses, while the bureaucracy increases its own take of the total production.

Shift Responsibility

Thus, to prepare for a new postponement of an improvement in the life of the masses, to prepare in advance the excuses for future failures of the bureaucracy, to condone the corrupt practices of the regime and justify its exploitation of the country and its enrichment, to fortify its rule, the purges have been instituted. Blame for difficulties is put on the shoulders of second-rate and lower-grade functionaries or on the many-times liquidated kulaks and on the resurgence of “capitalist ideology” in a land where socialism was represented as having been completely realized.

It does not take great profundity to realize that the system of purges is incompatible with socialism and the mere existence of this system is proof that Russian society has nothing in common with the great ideal of masses. Russian society is a class society, an exploiting system. The bureaucracy which rules over the masses pursues policies which meet its needs as a new ruling class.

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