Stalin in Clerkenwell Green

From Eric Lee:

This article appears in Solidarity.  Feel free to add your comments below.


It was a beautiful May morning, one of the first warm and sunny days we’ve had all year. In Clerkenwell Green, hundreds of people were assembling for the annual official London May Day march. Many of you will not have been there — in fact there were very few trade unionists at all on this year’s march.

So let me tell you who was there — the twentieth century’s greatest serial killer, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was on several banners, and not only his image side by side with Lenin and Mao, but huge banners just with his picture alone — and quotations from his writings.

As I marched along with some trade union leaders and a traditional brass band, I could not help feeling ashamed at what the march would have looked like to onlookers, of whom there were many along the route. Ashamed and disgusted.

It’s disgusting because holding aloft iconic images of Stalin at a trade union march shows a complete lack of moral judgement. Seventy years ago, it may have been understandable — the second world war was raging, the Soviet leadership had not yet acknowledged Stalin’s crimes. But after 1956, anyone who still believed that Stalin was a great revolutionary leader was delusional. (more…)

Poumatic

Stalin, Hitler’s enabler, and his aristocratic apologists today. Podcast on the 1934 San Francisco General StrikeRecommended reading for ordinary peopleWin a CLR James T-shirt. Victor Serge: `dishonest authoritarian’, `anti-worker anarchist’ or revolutionary Bolshevik? An incredibly superficial A-Z of socialism, with one highlight being Ian Birchall’s U for United Front. Lindbergh in Des Moines. Roland’s Link-O-Mania. TNC’s last link-o-mania.

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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Stalin’s nemesis

This week’s Radio 4 book of the week, Stalin’s Nemesis:

Nigel Anthony reads from Bertrand M Patenaude’s account of the exile and subsequent assassination of Leon Trotsky, who was outmanoeuvred by his great rival, Josef Stalin.

About Patenaude. Q&A with Patenaude. Review by Robert Service. Review in Socialist Review. Review by Richard Overy. review. Review in Times. Review in The Socialist.

A carpy review in The Oxonian made me want to read the book more:

The dustbunnies that Patenaude brings to light range the gamut, from real bunnies—Trotsky kept them on his Mexican patio as pets and tended to them just before his murder—to oral sex, a frank discussion of which appears in a letter that Trotsky wrote to his wife Natalia during the liaison with Frida. Why Patenaude believes that readers want to know about Trotsky’s erections, or rather lack thereof, is anyone’s guess. But blinded by the temptations of salaciousness, Patenaude forges ahead into the biographical depths, right down to the revolutionary’s anus: apparently, certain species of Mexican bacteria aggravated Trotsky’s colon, which was already irritated by colitis.

The book’s effusive details, some fascinating and others wholly unnecessary, hardly end there. For example, we learn that Trotsky briefly lived in the Bronx before returning to launch the revolution in 1917; the surrealist André Breton offended Trotsky by stealing Mexican figurines from a church the two visited together; the writer Saul Bellow sat in the hospital waiting room as Trotsky died; and the artist Diego Rivera—Frida’s husband and the guarantor of the old man’s asylum in Mexico—first appeared on Trotsky’s radar when he inserted Lenin’s face into a mural he painted at Radio City Music Hall. Ramon Mercader, the Spanish-born NKVD agent who infiltrated Trotsky’s inner circle and killed him, apparently worked as a chef at the Ritz in Barcelona.

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Comments (4)  
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In the Mexican suitcase

Robert Capa’s “Mexican” Suitcase.  photo © Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Gerda Taro, Air Raid Victim in the Morgue, Valencia, 1937.

Highbrow

Lowbrow

Folkish

Churchillian

Activist

Obituary

Under two dictators, Every cook can govern, and so on

Recommended:

Tendance Coatesy: Review of Under Two Dictators by Margarete Buber-Neumann.

March for Justice: CLR James’ Every Cook Can Govern

Criticism, etc: Raya Dunayevska on fascism, state capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism