From the archive of struggle no.75: anti-Stalinist Leninism in the 1930s (MIA special)

It’s months now since I’ve looked through the Marxist Internet Archive. Since I’ve last been there, loads of really good stuff is up. The below is just from November and December last year, and it covers a period from ca.1930 to ca.1940 which was pivotal in the development of the anti-Stalinist left.

The material here focuses on three overlapping currents in this anti-Stalinist left. The first is the POUM, the Spanish party whose name this blog’s is taken from, who fused the “left” and “right” opposition in Spain to the official Stalinist Communist party, to form a democratic mass movement of radical socialism, before being liquidated by the Stalinists in during the Spanish Civil War.

The second is the Trotskyist movement, Communism’s “left” opposition. While Trotsky supplied much of the intellectual justification for Stalin’s brutal misrule in the Soviet Union, his sharp critique of the degeneration of the Stalinist state made him a criminal in the dictatorship. His followers have formed one of the main planks of anti-Stalinist socialism globally. The material below focuses mainly on American Trotskyists, but particularly those who developed beyond the rigid and damaging orthodoxies of “official” Trotskyism.

Parallel to Trotsky’s Left Opposition, the Right Opposition called for a more democratic path to socialism, and was bitterly excluded from the Communist movement. Unlike Trotksyism, it leaves little organisational trace today, and so its history remains more deeply buried.

In the period from 1930 to 1940, these currents moved from composing a dissatisfied internal dissident streak within Stalinism, to a fully developed critical analysis of Stalinism. From 1940 to 1950, they several different interesting directions forward, some positively, others less so. Between them (along with anarchist, democratic socialist and left communist currents not represented here), they constitute a significant part of the heritage of anti-Stalinism that continues to be relevant to thinking about the task of reforging a radical movement today.

The POUM

Added to the Spanish-language Archivo Andreu Nin and English-language Andrés Nin Archive:

The Catalan Andreu (or Andres in Spanish) Nin i Pérez was a left dissident in the Communist Party, forming a left opposition group Communist Left of Spain (ICE), which merged with the Right Opposition party Bloque Obrero y Campesino, to form the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) in 1935.

Added to the new Julián Gorkin Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL): (more…)

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On this day: 31 July 1937- NKVD operative order 00447

NKVD operative order 00447 «Об операции по репрессированию бывших кулаков, уголовников и других антисоветских элементов» (The operation for repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements) is approved by the Politburo. Originally the operation was planned for four months; the plan was for 75,950 people to be executed and an additional 193,000 to be sent to the GULAG. The operation was extended multiple times. Altogether, through the summer of 1938, at least 818,000 people were arrested and not less than 436,000 were executed.

To execute this order, NKVD troikas were created on the levels of republic, krai, and oblast. Investigation was to be performed by operative groups “in a speedy and simplified way”, the results were to be delivered to troikas for trials.

The chairman of a troika was the chief of the corresponding territorial subdivision of NKVD ( People’s Commissar of a republican NKVD, etc.). Usually a troika included the prosecutor of the republic/krai/oblast in question; if not, he was allowed to be present at the session of a troika. The third person was usually the Communist Party secretary of the corresponding regional level. The staff of these troikas were personally specified in the Order # 00447.

Protocols of a troika session were passed to the corresponding operative group for executions of sentences. Times and places of executions of death sentences were ordered to be held in secret.

The same order instructed to classify kulaks and other anti-Soviet elements into two categories: the First category of repressed was subject to death by shooting, the Second category was subject to labor camps. The order set upper quotas per territory and category. For example Byelorussian SSR was estimated to have 2,000 (1st cat.) + 10,000 (2nd cat.) = 12,000 anti-Soviet elements. It was specifically stressed that quotas were estimates and could not be exceeded without personal approval of Yezhov. But in practice this approval was easy to obtain, and eventually these initial quotas were exceeded by orders of magnitude. For example, in September 1937, the Dagestan obkom requested the increase of the First Category from 600 to 1,200; the request was granted the next day.

After this Order, the terms First/Second Category became standard abbreviations in NKVD documentation for “the highest measure of punishment” and “placing into corrective labor camps”, respectively.

The implimentation was swift. Already by August 15, 1937, 101,000 was arrested and 14,000 convicted.

Sources: 1, 2.

¶ Related: I recently found an interesting document on Archive.org: the memoirs of Valentín González, “El Campesino”, Spanish Republican guerrilla fighter who spent years in a Soviet labour camp at Vorkuta. The memoirs were written in France with the help of Poumista Julian Gorkin.

Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 3:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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Alternative histories

Harry Barnes remembers his father (beautiful piece). Histomatist defends Trotsky. Martin remembers to remember Bastille Day (and Casablanca). Rosie is underwhelmed by Katyn. Dennis Healey remembers the Italian campaign but can’t remember who wrote Lili MarleneEd Walsh reviews Leo Panitch’s call for a renewal of socialism. Conor McCabe remembers the 1955 Irish/Yugoslav soccer international. The Irish Left Archive retrieves the Anarchist Worker of 1979. Bataille Socialiste remember Marceau Pivert with Orwell in Spain. Bataille Socialiste rescue the legacy of Charles Allegier. Entdinglichung archives The Left. Hillel Ticktin and Adam Buick debate Trotskyism.

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Historical and archival notes

Yes, I know there are more important things going on in the world today, but here are some tidbits from the history of struggle. From the archive of struggle, no.9.

Many via Entdinlichung.

Micro-miscellany

News

Tribune has been saved.

From the archive of struggle, no.8

Entdinglichung has another update, including Julian Gorkin in Spanish, Pietro Secchia on  Women anti-fascist partisans in Italy, Dwight MacDonald on fascism, texts from Socialist Appeal (the Trotskyist entrists in the Socialist Party of America – including some by Albert Goldman and Ernest Erber), and Martov in French.

The site of the wonderful Kate Sharpley Library archive has also been updated. Some new stuff: