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John G. Wright

New Army Statutes Indicate Stalin’s Agenda
for the 18th Conference

(February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 6, 8 February 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mr. Walter Duranty, Stalin’s publicity agent in the United States, continues to scoop the Daily Worker, “On February 15,” he writes, “begins the Eighteenth Party Conference which will rank in importance with any such previous meeting.”

All that the Daily Worker has printed on this important Conference is the announcement of the call last December 20! From all indications, the pre-Conference discussion is taking place in the columns of the New York Times.

Mr. Duranty boasts that he knows in advance that “this next conference will discuss, work out in detail and ratify a program of party control and cooperation in ALL BRANCHES OF SOVIET ENDEAVOR.” (N.Y. Times, January 29. My emphasis) No more, no less.

This statement is then clarified as follows:

“It has now been determined (by whom? where? when ? – J.G.W.) that control shall not mean interference or divided local authority but watchfulness to see that the orders of the central authority – and also production plans – are carried out and to help in carrying them out.”

If these words mean anything at all, they mean that the party’s role is henceforth to be, if not that of “watchdog,” then, at most, that of a “watchman” and a “helper.” Let us see just what the “program of party control and co-operation” amounts to in the Red Army, where things have gone beyond the point of discussion, elaboration, or ratification. In fact, the new “program” was already in force in the Red Army a month before the Conference call was issued. Complete political authority has been for months in the hands of the self-same commandeers who (as Comrade Pokras describes elsewhere in this issue) are invested with the power of life and death over their subordinates.

“On the commanders, the plenipotentiary leaders of the troops, has likewise fallen the whole burden of responsibility for the political work in the sections. This has still further raised,” insists Pravda, “the authority of commanders and has determined the direction of the party political work in the Red Army.” (Pravda, November 19, 1940) This was written more than two months before Duranty began writing his dispatches!

How much “role” does that leave for the party as such in the life of the Red Army?

Duranty pretends that there is still “the question of precisely what role the Communist party ... should play in army affairs.” (N.Y. Times, January 27)

Apparently, the role is that of a flea on a watchdog.

If any discussion took place this “adjustment.” as Duranty modestly calls it, it certainly was not on the pages of the Russian press. “The Army Bolsheviks have rallied as a single monolithic detachment, in closed ranks around the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. Comrade Stalin ...” boasted Pravda on November 19, 1940.

Stalin will be surrounded at the Eighteenth Party Conference by his suite of Marshals, Generals etc. in addition to all the other “plenipotentiaries,” who will do the “ratifying,” and who have done the “rallying.”

The old formula used to read “rally around the party, the Central Committee and Comrade Stalin.” For the time being we reserve comment on the new formula, namely, “the Central Committee, Comrade Stalin.” Suffice it to call attention here to this noteworthy change, in connection with the new role of the officers.

Duranty does not lie when he says “It is the biggest thing in the U.S.S.R. today, this adjustment of the Communist party ... to the Red Army and, for that matter, to industry, too.” It certainly does loom bigger and bigger.

If the “adjustment” in the Army is any gauge, then the party’s role in industry will not be a major one. Stalin, when he takes the floor at the Conference, will undoubtedly clarify matters more fully than Duranty is permitted to. But it is possible to say in advance that Duranty’s formula of “watchfulness” comes close to summing up the program as regards the party.

Duranty even supplies the keynote of Stalin’s speech at the Conference, namely: “Stop Playing Politics!” “Work for National Progress!” Duranty himself assures us that “the Communists themselves are learning ... are working for national progress instead of just playing politics.” That sounds very authoritative. And no doubt it is.

In 1937, Stalin “taught the Communists” that they had become too preoccupied with economic successes and had forgotten all about politics. At the plenum of the Central committee he said at the time:

“It should be explained that economic successes themselves, their stability and duration wholly and fully depend on the successes of party organizational and party political work; that without this condition economic successes may prove to have been built on sand.”

And again:

“And he who thinks to separate economy from politics in our practical policy, to strengthen, economic work at the cost of belittling political work, or contrariwise, to strengthen, political work at the cost of belittling economic work, will inevitably find himself in a blind alley.” (Daily Worker, March 30, 1937)

In 1941, he is evidently preparing to instruct the party to forget all about politics. The formulas may alter but the conclusion remains the same: ‘In a blind alley.’

Last updated: 4 October 2015