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John G. Wright

Soviet Union Notes

Red Army and Navy Feel Effects Of Purge – New Party Elections to Be Held to Fill Vacant Posts

(16 April 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 16, 16 April 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Crisis in the Soviet Armed Forces

An extensive article on the critical condition of the Soviet armed forces resulting from Stalin’s decimation of the commanding personnel, is contained in the Sotsialisticheski Vestnik, Menshevik organ published in Paris, of March 8, 1938. The general staff of the Red Army has been wiped out. Marshal Tukhachevsky and seven members of the general staff were doomed by a tribunal of eight men: Alksnis, one of Voroshilov’s four deputies, head of the Air Corps; Shaposhnikov, head of the general staff; five commanders of military districts: Budenny, Bluecher, Belov, Dybenko and Kashirin and the commander of the Cossack cavalry corps, Goriachev. What has been the fate of the “judges”?

All of them – with the sole exception of Kashirin – were designated as candidates to the Supreme Council. All of them, with the exception of Alksnis, were “elected” deputies, and almost all of them have already been liquidated. Kashirin disappeared last autumn. Alksnis was removed on the eve of the elections. Dybenko, commander of the Leningrad District, and Belov, commander of the White Russian district, both disappeared after the elections, together with Kuibyshev, commander of the Trans-Caucasian district. Budenny and Bluecher have been under a cloud. Their names were not even mentioned in the dispatches issued in connection with the twentieth anniversary of the Red Army. To the above names should be added that of Velikanov, commander of the Trans-Baikal district who was removed after the elections. The same fate was suffered by Mezis, member of the White Russian Military Council, Ozolin (Kharkov), and Apse (Trans-Caucasia). Marshal Yegorov, Tukhachevsky’s successor who was elected deputy to the Supreme Council, has disappeared, together with thousands of other army commanders.

Admirals Given Liquidation Order

The top personnel of the Navy has been even more seriously affected. Orlov, one of the four vice-commissars of defense and head of the navy, was removed last fall. His successor, Victorov, elected deputy to the Supreme Council, likewise disappeared. Ludri, head of the naval academy, and Sivkov, commander of the Baltic fleet since January 1937, have also turned out to be “fascist hirelings.” Kireyev, appointed to command the Pacific fleet, was nominated as deputy to the Supreme Council but never elected. Kozhanov, commander of the Baltic fleet, disappeared last October and was replaced by Smirnov-Sverlovsky, who did not last long even though he was “elected” deputy. The same fate was suffered by Dushenov, head of the Northern fleet.

Out of 22 high ranking officers in the army and navy who were elected last December to the Supreme Council, eight have already turned out to be “enemies of the people.”

So grave is the situation that, as Vestnik points out, no troops were permitted to parade on the twentieth anniversary of the Red Army.

* * *

Recent Developments in the Soviet Union

On March 30, the Central Committee issued instructions for the re-election of all the leading organs of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The elections are to be held in the period between April 1 and June 15. They will be “secret” – except for the posts of secretaries and the highest bodies such as presidiums of locals and districts. When the “returns” come in, the full scope of this latest purge in the party, camouflaged as an election, will become evident.

* * *

Pravda of March 23 comes out in favor of restoring corporal punishment in schools.

* * *

The term “ukase,” notorious under the Czars, has been restored to good standing by Stalin. The Supreme Council is now issuing “ukases.” The regime still eschews the use of the title “General.”

* * *

The appointment of new deputies indicates purges in the following departments: Soviet Control Commission, State Planning Commission, Commissariat of Water Transport, Commissariat of Justice and the Northern Sea Route administration. (Pravda, March 28 and 29)

* * *

Dispatch from Gorki: “In the Molotov automotive plant, 1,777 machines are awaiting shipment owing to the failure of the railroad A considerable number of the machines are standing in a yard flooded with water. In the next few days it will be impossible to pull them out of the mud.” (Pravda, March 28)

Last updated: 30 July 2015