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John G. Wright

Soviet Union Notes

Monstrousness of Trials Matched by Acuteness of Soviet Economic Crisis;
Pravda Gives Picture Showing Scope of Breakdown

(26 March 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 13, 26 March 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Stalin Frame-ups Mask Bankruptcy of Regime

The inseparable connection between the Moscow frame-up trials and the external and internal difficulties of the Stalin regime stand fully revealed. Especially so with respect to the economic difficulties. When Stalin became the unquestioned ruler in the country (after he had smashed all opposition), and with the inception of planned economy under his direction, Soviet society entered into the phase of sensational trials. When Stalin’s regime encountered difficulties, it found from the outset only one solution: ever more repressive measures, ever more monstrous trials whose primary intention is to supply scapegoats for the crimes and failures of the ruling clique, thus aiming to discredit any opposition in order better to destroy it. As the difficulties of the regime increased the trials became more and more monstrous.

Never before has Soviet economy been in such straits. For the third time in less than two months, the official “plan” figures for coal production have been slashed. In December 1937 the control figures for coal production were set at 403.5 thousand tons per day. For the current month of March they have been fixed at 379.5 thousand tons as against 384.2 thousand tons for the end of February.

Statistics Carefully Doctored

On the surface, this latest cut appears so slight as hardly to merit attention. We should bear in mind, however, that Stalin’s statistics are carefully doctored to exaggerate all successes while minimizing all the failures. To understand the true significance of the cut one need only refer to the actual output of coal as officially reported in the press. The figures released for the first days in March admit a production below 350,000 tons a day as against a reported average daily output of some 360,000 tons for the previous month. This shows a drop of more than 10,000 tons, i.e., more than three times the drop in the control figures. If this figure is multiplied by the number of days in a month – not to mention the months in a year – it is obvious that there is a discrepancy of millions of tons between the current output and the requirements of the plan, as well as the current needs of industry as a whole. We need hardly comment on the disastrous effects on industry resulting from this continued drop in coal production.

Suffice it to say that proportionate drops for the first days of March have been reported in all key branches of industry (iron production – below 40,000 tons a day; steel – below 50,000, and so on).

Stalin finds its necessary to falsify his statistics just as he must continue with his efforts to frame-up the October revolution. As production drops, the control figures are slashed just the amount necessary to keep the ratio, between the actual output and the “plan” figures in the neighborhood of 90 percent. The Soviet citizen, if he scans the official reports, can see for himself that the plan is still being fulfilled “90 percent” if not more, while in reality it is not being fulfilled at all. In point of fact, for at least the last two years, which cover precisely the period of the latest Moscow frame-ups, the plan has been “fulfilled” in reverse. Instead of making progress, industry has been sliding backwards at ever-increasing speed despite the enormous sums of money poured into equipment, new plants, etc. and despite the inhuman speed-up of the workers.

Stalin Regime Wrecks Soviet Economy

This appalling condition only reflects how inimical to the existence of the Soviet Union the Stalinist regime lifts become. Stalinist methods have well-nigh wrecked the country’s basic industrial equipment. In the reckless drive for records, under the monstrous bureaucratic regime, machines and workers have been driven to the breaking point. The result – a crisis, an ever-deepening crisis.

Stalin issues no direct information as to the condition of things in the sphere of goods for mass production. However, if only from his trials, sufficient “indirect” data can be obtained concerning the real living conditions of the masses, just how “merry and joyous” life really is: wages remain at very low levels and are often unpaid for long periods; the purchasing power of the ruble is extremely low, reflecting the scarcity of such necessities as butter, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, and even bread, to say nothing of tobacco. Among the masses – widespread discontent, ever sharpening, ever-aggravated by the looming reality of the war. Are we perhaps exaggerating the picture? That is the picture drawn by Pravda itself, in a leading article of March 6. It is well worth reprinting in full, but we confine ourselves only to the following three paragraphs:

Pravda Paints a Revealing Picture

“The party and the Soviet government are improving, incessantly and from year to year, the material welfare of the toilers in the city and country. The filthy scum of the ‘Right Trotskyite’ block has done everything to worsen the material condition, if only of isolated layers of the toilers. The wrecker, spy and diversionist Grinko, has cynically testified in court that he and his henchmen tried to weaken the Soviet ruble; and that they held back the payment of wages to workers and employees. A practice was made of holding back wages in order to arouse dissatisfaction among the toilers. Today, in the light of the testimony of the defendants at the trial, both the lumber-worker in Archangel as well as the Sovkhoz worker in the Azov-Black Sea area – all those whose wages were frequently not paid in time during the past years but instead were maliciously held back, today they can all see for themselves who is responsible, for it and why it was done. Holding back the wages of certain groups of workers and employees was a link in the chain of provocations of the Right-Trotskyite conspirators, sowing dissatisfaction among the toilers ...

“The production of goods essential to the toilers is increasing without interruption in bur country. Zelensky and his criminal gang, in pursuance of directives of the ‘Right Trotskyite Bloc’ strained with all their might to keep the shelves of the village cooperatives empty. They did everything to prevent and retard the flood of goods intended for the village to satisfy the wants of the peasants. Thus, in the first quarter of 1936 many regions in the Kursk province received no sugar for weeks. Regions in the Leningrad province were left for a long time without makhorka (low grade tobacco). In the summer of 1936 a number of rural border regions of White Russia received no bread for a long time ...

Everyone Can Now See

“Today when the masks have been torn off the Fascist degenerates who sit in the prisoners’ dock, every man and woman in the collective farms, every working man and woman can see for themselves just who is responsible for the unsatisfactory functioning of the rural cooperatives, just who held back supplying the toilers with such goods as sugar, salt, makhorka which are available in surplus quantities in our country ... There they are – these beasts in human form, sitting in the prisoners’ dock, who wanted to deprive the population of these necessities of life.” (Pravda, March 6, 1938)

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