Celebrating the Turning of the Tide Against Fascism

Philosophy Football’s Victory at Stalingrad Night Out

STALINGRAD PARTY

Saturday 2 February 2013. The 70th Anniversary of the Red Army’s Victory at Stalingrad.

“Meet Comrade Feelgood.” Q Magazine.

The blistering hot socialist R&B of Thee Faction will be providing anthems to march, and dance to! A night of musical mayhem and purpose.

“Balkan ska meets Ottoman punk in The Trans-Siberian’s infectious brass blow-out.” Time Out

Co-headliners The Trans-Siberian March Band are a Balkan Brass band with a
fearsome blend of two clarinets, two saxophones, three trumpets, two tubas, two trombones,guitar,vocals and two percussionists, they never fail to get audiences dancing.

Opening the night, Seumas Milne columnist on the Guardian and author of The Revenge of History discusses the meaning of Stalingrad with Geoffrey Roberts acclaimed historian of the Eastern Front and author of Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov who is joined by Susan Richards, editor of the OpenDemocacy Russia website and author of Lost and Found in Russia. Reporting from today’s anti-fascist frontline, Matthew Collins, author of Hate.

At Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road London E1 (5 mins walk from Liverpool Street station. Doors open 6pm, show starts 7pm.

A Philosophy Football night out for a one-party state of ideas and entertainment, in association with the Hope not Hate Campaign.

TICKETS JUST £9.99. From Philosophy Football or call 01273 472 721

Bookings online at Philosophy Football

192 comments on “Celebrating the Turning of the Tide Against Fascism

  1. graham on said:

    Just read today that Stephen Lennon, leader of the EDL, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for trying to get into the USA using a false identity. Hope this news cheers everyone up!

  2. Jellytot on said:

    Yes, it has and it wasn’t surprising that Lennon/Harris/Robinson hightailed it out of the USA and back to England using one of his many passports ASAP.

    I guess he didn’t want to experience the American prison-industrial complex first hand.

  3. Hospital Worker on said:

    So, the leader of the anti-immigrant EDL is an illegal immigrant. Fantastic.

  4. PJ Rose on said:

    Yes, the turning of the tide against Fascism, and the strengthening of Stalinism. What a great ‘victory’!

  5. Morning Star reader on said:

    PJ Rose, in the absence of a well-armed, well-drilled Trotskyist-led workers’ militia arriving to defeat the German and Rumanian forces, the only alternative to a Red Army victory at Stalingrad would have been a Fascist victory. I can only conclude that you would have preferred the latter. Had you been around at the time and voiced that view, you would have have been shot as a Nazi sympathiser or collaborator. And there would have been no shortage of Russian workers lining up to shoot you.

  6. Morning Star reader on said:

    Comrades who are not regular Daily Mail readers may have missed this new information about Stalingrad:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2228373/Human-excrement-piled-waist-high-Full-horror-Stalingrad-revealed-time-interviews-Russian-soldiers-finally-light-day.html#ixzz2GJ6gZolf

    The article and videos etc. confirm the commitment and heroism of the Soviet people and their Red Army in the struggle against Fascism. Obviously, those who would have preferred a Nazi victory will find this stuff very disappointing.

  7. Manzil on said:

    Morning Star reader: Comrades who are not regular Daily Mail readers may have missed this new information

    Your heroic fishing in such murky waters is much appreciated.

    Interesting article. Wonder whether the ‘Stalingrad Protocols’ will be translated into English. My spoken German’s just about good enough to get me through a night out, but I’d have more chance of deciphering ancient Egyptian pictograms than reading Hellbeck in the original.

  8. Jellytot on said:

    @4Yes, the turning of the tide against Fascism, and the strengthening of Stalinism. What a great ‘victory’!

    Yes, it was a great and genuine victory for humanity PJ Rose.

    If Stalingrad isn’t worthy of commemoration and celebration then nothing is.

    Mark P, the PF team and HnH should be congratulated for organising this. It’s sure to be a great night.

    @5 I can only conclude that you would have preferred the latter.

    Modern Trots views on WW2 tend to be all over the place. I’ve met a few who are quite good on it while I’ve met others who have argued a basic position of neutrality stating that Stalin was a bad as Hitler and it wasn’t the World WC’s concern.

    WW2 is very problematic for them.

  9. Personally I find it quite possible to admire the heroism that delivered the victory at Stalingrad, recognise that battle’s crucial significance to the defeat of Nazi Germany, and maintain a critical attitude to the former Soviet Regime and all latterday versions of Stalinism.

    Why is that so difficult?

    Meantime with Thee Facton, a 13-piece Ottoman Punk Ska band, Seumas Milne and plenty more on 2 Feb we’ll be having a darn good time. Care to join us?

    Mark P

  10. George Hallam on said:

    Mark P: Personally I find it quite possible to admire the heroism that delivered the victory at Stalingrad, recognise that battle’s crucial significance to the defeat of Nazi Germany, and maintain a critical attitude to the former Soviet Regime and all latterday versions of Stalinism.
    Why is that so difficult?

    Since you ask…

    You asset three propositions.

    1. admiration for the heroism that delivered the victory at Stalingrad;
    2. a positive assessment of the victory over Nazi Germany and by extension the contribution made by the battle of Stalingrad;
    3. a critical attitude to the former Soviet Regime, Stalinism, etc.

    The first is relatively uncontroversial and need not concern us.

    The second is also uncontroversial. However, you then go on to denigrate the policies that made that victory possible.

    I wouldn’t say this was ‘difficult’; given the general level of understanding of the economic and military history of the period display on this site I would say it was ‘entirely understandable’.

  11. Manzil on said:

    @ George Hallam

    Which ‘policies that made that victory possible’ do you believe Mark P is denigrating?

  12. A critique is entirely different to ‘denigrating’ George.

    But the essential point is that we are bringing toether artists and thinkers, the latter from a diverse range of viewpoints, to celebrate a turning point in the defeat of Hiler and the Nazis, and have a darn good time doing it.

    And you’re welcome to join us (tickets going fast tho’)

    Mark

  13. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil:
    @ George Hallam

    Which ‘policies that made that victory possible’ do you believe Mark P is denigrating?

    a) Industrialisation on the basis of import substitution and a concentration on heavy industry;
    b) The collectivisation of agriculture;
    c) The execution of Tukhashevsky and his allies. More generally, the purge of the Red Army.
    d) The conduct of the war from June 1942 up to the battle of Stalingrad

  14. George Hallam on said:

    Mark P: A critique is entirely different to ‘denigrating’ George.

    Of course, you are right; there is a distinction.

    On the basis of what is commonly accepted on this site I was guessing that in this case there would be little difference.

    If I’m wrong please accept my apologies.

  15. George Hallam: On the basis of what is commonly accepted on this site I was guessing that in this case there would be little difference.

    There are fairly wide differences of opinion on this site.

    I’m disapointed with you making such a sweeping judgement based on so little empirical data. Not up to your usual standards George.

  16. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: Why was the execution of Tukhashevsky necessary for Soviet victory at Stalingrad?

    Tukhashevsky was a defeatist. He thought that the German army was invincible.

  17. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: There are fairly wide differences of opinion on this site.
    I’m disapointed with you making such a sweeping judgement based on so little empirical data. Not up to your usual standards George.

    Sorry to disappoint you so early in the New Year.

    On the positive side I’m encouraged by your irritation with “sweeping judgement based on so little empirical data”.

    It may give you some insight into how I feel when I read posts on this site.

  18. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #19 So had he not been executed in 1937 the Germans would have won at Stalingrad?

    You get the idea.

    Amongst military historians a consensus has been forming over the last couple of decades that, at the highest level, Soviet military leadership was of a very high order. This was mainly provided by people who were promoted because of the purges.

  19. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam,

    I’d have thought criticisms of Stalinism might have mentioned the 700,000 shot in the great purges, the massacre of all the Old Bolsheviks in the show trials, or the millions sent to labour camps, rather than import substitution. None of which reasonably be said to have aided the later Soviet war effort.

  20. I think the posters are slightly missing the point of the night out.

    Some cracking tunes, great live performers, superb range of thinkers, all at one of East London’s permier art venues. To celebrate a great date in the defeat of Nazi Germany. No need to hand in your critical faculties at the door but the debaring follows the celebrating.

    Hope to see some of you there.

    Mark P

  21. Jellytot on said:

    @27I’ve already booked. Looking forward to it

    Hopefully George will go and he can educate you, Vanya, on the effectiveness of the ‘up-gunned’ 85mm variant of the T34 and it’s performance against the Panther Ausf. G equiped Panzer Divisions in the drive across Poland in 1944…. :-)

  22. #28 Strangely enough I have some knowledge of such matters myself.

    If only the British had been equiped with some of those at Villers-Bocage. An example of where the Arctic convoys should have brought some stuff the other way.

  23. I’m no fan of the SWP, but allegations of sexual impropriety are a pretty lame reason to split an organisation.

  24. Jellytot on said:

    @29If only the British had been equiped with some of those at Villers-Bocage.

    Did they need them?

    Surely the 17 pounder armed Sherman Fireflys and Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger (also with a 17 pounder) were more than a match for anything the fascists had in Normandy tanks-wise?

  25. #31 Well the subject is a bit controversial. Some put the failure down to the superiority of the Tiger tank and the actions of one nazi commander in particular, others to the failings of the British command.

    Perhaps I was doing a Tuckashevsky by suggesting the former, and George H will have me shot if he turns up to this do :) .

  26. The night wll be opened by Geoffrey Roberts, one of the most eminent military historians on the Eastern Front, so Vanya expect all your quetions to be answered!

    See you there.

    Mark P

  27. Uncle Albert on said:

    When thinking of Stalingrad the commitment of the 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment always comes to mind: 83 tanks and 15 infantry-carrying vehicles destroyed or damaged, three battalions of assault infantry destroyed or dispersed, 14 aircraft shot down.

    When their isolated position was eventually over-run the Germans were shocked to discover the regiment (numbering less than 200) was composed of young women barely out of high school.

  28. Morning Star reader on said:

    To think that those young women were wasting their time “strengthening Stalinism”, as PJ Rose (4) would put it. Never mind, PJ, the Nazis got ‘em in the end!

  29. Karl Stewart on said:

    Looks like a great event MarkP and well done for organising it.
    The exceptional courage of the Soviet people, their armed forces and leaders like Zhukov should never be forgotten and should be respectfully commemorated by all of us.

    PJ Rose and GeorgeH are both talking absolute nonsense here.

    MSR’s criticism of PJ is spot on and I couldn’t agree more.

    GeorgeH’s delusional holocaust-denial is quite disturbing too however.

    Tukachevsky was a loyal and long-serving military officer in the Red Army, who was “guilty” of nothing other than having clashed with Stalin during the civil war. He was innovative in terms of military strategy and advocated offensive operations and was most certainly not a “defeatist”.

    At the height of Stalin’s terroristic post-Kirov purges, he had Tukachevsky arrested and tortured until he “confessed” then he was shot and so were his immediate family. Afterwards, most members of the military tribunal who had sentences Tukachevsky were themselves shot.
    After Stalin’s death, the CPSU fully rehabilitated Tukachevsky and declared him innocent of any crimes.

  30. George Hallam on said:

    George W : Which military historians is that George?

    I’m mainly thinking of the incomparable David M. Glantz. He was the Deputy Chief of Staff for US Intelligence, chief of research at the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and finally the Director of Soviet Army Operations at the Center for Land Warfare of the U.S. Army War College.

    Over the last thirty years has produced a number of detailed studies of the Soviet-German conflict making extensive use of Soviet sources. In the course of his research he has continually uncovered material which has led him to challenge accepted accounts of events.

    For example on Stalingrad
    QUOTE from http://www.historynet.com/david-m-glantz.htm

    One common perception is this: unlike in Barbarossa in 1941, where the Soviet army resisted the Wehrmacht and took immense casualties, during Blau in 1942 Stalin very quickly withdraws his forces and decides to trade space for time; once he gets back to a more defensible line, he launches a counteroffensive. That’s flat wrong. From Blau’s very beginning, Stalin’s orders are to stand and fight. His strategy throughout the war is to attack everywhere at every time, in the belief that somewhere someone will break.
    Does the Red Army attack on the road to Stalingrad?
    Despite widespread belief otherwise, there’s some horrendous fighting, generally caused by Soviet forces in counterattacks, counterstrokes, and even counteroffensives. The most important comes in July along the Germans’ northern flank. Stalin commits a tank army as well as other new formations that didn’t exist in 1941. There are major tank battles, 500 to 1,000 Soviet tanks.
    What do these achieve?
    In the first operations they’re very poorly led, and so don’t achieve that much—except that they bleed the Germans. The same thing happens at the end of July: two new Soviet tank armies appear at the bend of the Don River and launch counterattacks in support of the new Sixty-second Army. This huge tank battle goes on for nearly three weeks, and throws the German plan right out the window.
    Why?
    The number of Germans in the attacking infantry force is far smaller than in 1941, and many of the infantry units trailing in the panzers’ wake are Romanians and Italians, who aren’t really interested in dying for the führer. So in 1942, although Russian armies are encircled and their fighting ability destroyed, the troops get out and either go to ground or rejoin the Red Army later.
    What happens to the German plan?
    As Sixth Army advances, it has to protect its flanks, especially along the Don. So an ever-smaller part of the army is committed forward. After they clear the bend in the Don, they mount an offensive to seize the city. This is probably the most important point in the Battle of Stalingrad. They plan to seize the city by crossing the Don and advancing to the Volga in two pincers headed by panzer corps: get them into Stalingrad from the north and south, and seize it without a fight.
    What stops them?
    As soon as they launch their attacks, the Soviets begin counterattacks. They’re often suicidal and futile, but totally preoccupy the northern panzer corps and prevent it from turning any forces south toward the city. That leaves three German divisions in hedgehogs stretched along a 40-kilometer road. They never get into the factory district in the north end of the city, which becomes the site of the last battles. The southern pincer does what it is supposed to. But the Soviet reaction north of the city thwarts [Sixth Army commander Friedrich] Paulus’s plan.
    Where does that leave him?
    With one infantry corps—the only force he has to reduce the city. It has three infantry divisions in it, and a few other supporting groups—only one-third of Sixth Army. Since he can’t get into Stalingrad with his armor, he goes in from the west on foot—block by block, street by street. He does try to lead attacks with armor, until each of those panzer divisions is worn out. By the time he’s in the center city and trying to get into the north, German armor is gone and he’s in a slug match. By October 1942, his regiments are battalions, divisions are regiments, and Sixth Army is probably a corps.
    What is the Soviet strategy?
    To feed just enough troops into the city to keep it from falling. They are sacrificial lambs. Divisions that come in with 10,000 men have 500 the next day. Many divisions are fragments. The 13th Guards, always described as an elite force, was destroyed two months before; they’re sent in half-trained and one-third equipped. The 284th Rifle Division, popularized in the film Enemy at the Gates—only one of its three regiments has rifles. It’s like Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope. It was so brutal that Stavka, the Soviet high command, forbade A. I. Eremenko, Stalingrad front commander, and his commissar, Nikita Khrushchev, from crossing the river into the city: Stavka was afraid they’d develop an affinity with the poor troops dying there and decide to abandon it.
    How do the Germans react?
    For them it becomes a meat grinder. Every division they send in is weakened, so they have to pull new ones off the flanks. According to Sixth Army’s loss figures, most divisions go in rated combat-ready. Within a week, they’re rated either as weak or exhausted. The attrition rate is phenomenal. The Luftwaffe’s rubbling of the city only exacerbates things. In early November, they run out of divisions. It’s a true war of attrition.
    How do they maintain the offensive?
    They take all the engineer battalions out of Army Group B, which makes the final attack on November 11. So they have nobody to defend the Don, except Italians and Romanians. Hungarians are already in the line. Army Group B’s left flank is an allied army group. The Soviets understand that weakness from their intelligence, and that’s where they launch their counteroffensive.
    What kind of leader was Stalin?
    The myth is that Stalin micromanaged the first year, then at about the time of Stalingrad began deferring to his commanders, and thereafter the commanders fought the war under his general guidance. That’s wrong. He was hands-on throughout. In 1941, his stubbornness and insistence on fighting back cost him a lot, but also ensured that Hitler’s key assumption—that the Red Army would dissolve once it was smashed—didn’t happen. By 1942, after Leningrad and Moscow, Stalin and Marshal Georgi Zhukov think alike. They understand that even if you have to ruthlessly expend manpower, resistance will wear down a numerically weaker opponent. That tactic cost probably 14 million military dead—the price of defeating a more experienced, battle-worthy, savvy Wehrmacht.

    END QUOTE

  31. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: Tukachevsky was a loyal and long-serving military officer in the Red Army, who was “guilty” of nothing other than having clashed with Stalin during the civil war. He was innovative in terms of military strategy and advocated offensive operations..

    Unfortunately the book referred to is in Russian. I haven’t read it.
    QUOTE from http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=79&t=175735#p1563704

    Re: Tukhachevsky’s ideas to blame for shortcomings in 39-41?
    by Art on 27 Feb 2011, 15:16


    Could you be more specific regarding ideas? What do you mean exactly? As concerns non-apologetic interpretation ofthe role of Tukhachevsky,there is abook by late Oleg Ken “Mobilization planning and political decisions”:
    http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/4189400/
    It’s devoted tothe general topic ofthe Soviet Army development in late 1920′s-early 1930s as dependent on political situation. Thisbook has quite a lot of material onthe Tukhachevsky influence onthe modernization ofthe RKKA. Inthe ending part ofthe book (at least inthe earlier edition) Ken makes a comparison of Tukachevsky and Voroshilov, whomthe sees as major proponents of “progressive” and “conservative” parties insidethe army, ifone can put so. Ken doesn’t hidethe fact that his sympathies arewith Voroshilov. He depicts T. as a partisan of endless and unrestricted technical aggrandizement ofthe armywithout regard to economical capabilities ofthe country, a sort of kid who wants a new and fashionable toy regardless of how much it would cost to his parents. Onthe other side Voroshilov is seen as a more realistically mindedman who can think ofthe army inthe general context ofthe interests ofthe state. Moreover, as Ken notes that Voroshilov was able to understand thatthe strength ofthe army depends onthe people rather than on materiel,therefore he paid much attention tothe level of training and competence ofthe commanders, unlike “progressists” who couldn’t see people behind technical toys and newtheories of warfare. Yet, this view must be seen as an author’s personal opinion.
    There is also Rezun/Suvorov, but he shouldn’t be taken seriously. In generalthe real role of Tukhachevsky seems to be under-researched. He was in charge ofthe technical development ofthe army formany years.The fact is thatmany weapons (new tanks, new artillery systems, SVT rifle, Degtyaryov machinegun) were introduced tothe army after he was arrested, seemingly more than before. Which naturally brings question whether it was for objective reasons or had something to dowith T. I didn’t see good enough studies ofthe role of T. as a chief of technics.

  32. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: Tukachevsky was a loyal and long-serving military officer in the Red Army, .. He was ..most certainly not a “defeatist”.

    I haven’t been able to verify this quote but it is checkable.

    Genevieve Tabouis, subsequently related in her book, They Call Me Cassandra: -

    I was to meet Tukhachevsky for the last time on the day after the funeral of King George V. At a dinner at the Soviet Embassy, the Russian general had been very conversational with Politis, Titilescu, Herriot, Boncour… He had just returned from a trip to Germany, and was heaping glowing praise upon the Nazis. Seated at my right, he said over and over again, as he discussed an air pact between the great powers and Hitler’s country: “They are already invincible, Madame Tabouis!”

    Why did he speak so trustfully? Was it because his head had been turned by the hearty reception he had found among German diplomats, who found it easy to talk to this man of the old Russian school? At any rate I was not the only one that evening who was alarmed at his display of enthusiasm. One of the guests, an important diplomat grumbled into my ear as we walked away from the Embassy: “Well, I hope all the Russians don’t feel that way.”

    http://www.shunpiking.com/books/GC/GC-AK-MS-chapter20.htm

  33. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: He was .. most certainly not a “defeatist”.

    People here will probably discount this because they think that everything that Tukhachevsky said was due to torture. However, here it is anyway.

    “In his speech Tukhachevsky initially tried to refute the testimony that he gave during the preliminary investigation. He said that prior to Hitler’s fascist revolution in Germany he saw the Red Army’s most probable opponent as the Polish state, which it was quite capable of crushing. However with Hitler’s arrival in power the German army was expanded from 32 to 108 divisions. Combined, the German and Polish armies would have 60-62 more divisions than the Red Army. Tukhachevsky saw in this obvious disparity in the weight in armed forces of probable opponents the inevitable defeat of the USSR. This was his main reason for siding with counterrevolutionary military fascist conspiracy.”

    Marshal S.M. Budiennyi on the Tukhachevsky Trial. Impressions of an Eye-Witness
    http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/budennyi_klio12.pdf

  34. George Hallam on said:

    Mark P: Geoffrey Roberts, one of the most eminent military historians on the Eastern Front

    I have been reading Roberts’s stuff for a good many years and I have great respect for his work. However I don’t regard him as a ‘real’ military historian. He’s a very good historian who has written on military matters.

    He lacks the backround knowledge that allows him to write with such authority on, say, Soviet diplomacy.

    This show in his latest book on Zhukov which has lots of stuff on the man’s private life but is a pretty poor show on the military issues.

  35. George Hallam on said:

    George W: new book(s)

    David M. Glantz “Barbarossa Derailed: The Battle for Smolensk 10 July-10 September 1941 Volume 2. The German Offensives on the Flanks & the Third Soviet Counteroffensive, 25 August-10 September 1941″

    —a meticulous operational narrative covering a key Eastern Front campaign. In keeping with his works on Manchuria, Kursk, Rzhev, Leningrad, and most recently Stalingrad, he provides precise accounts of maneuvers down to the level of individual divisions, documented by lengthy excerpts from situation reports and operational orders from Germans and Soviets alike. Glantz does not pretend to offer personal touches or gripping man-on-the-ground accounts. He does operational history exclusively and he does it very well. He also does it quickly; his preface notes this massive book took him six months to complete (breaking the hearts of lesser historians).”

    http://www.carlisle.army.mil/USAWC/Parameters/Articles/2011summer/BookReviews/Glantz_Barbarossa.pdf

  36. Jellytot on said:

    I’d agree with pretty much all of #40.

    The Germans on the ground were shocked and deeply concerned at the toughness and tenaciousness of the Russian defence in 1941 and of the individual qualities of the Russian soldier, especially compared to what they experienced in The West a year earlier.

    “They’re retreating but they are fighting” was a constant refrain contained in letters back home.

  37. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: I’d have thought criticisms of Stalinism might have mentioned the 700,000 shot in the great purges, the massacre of all the Old Bolsheviks in the show trials, or the millions sent to labour camps, rather than import substitution.

    I wouldn’t expect you to think anything else.

    This is typical of the Left, except that you give a total for the number of execution in 1937-38 that is in line with the documentary evidence.

  38. George Hallam: He said that prior to Hitler’s fascist revolution in Germany he saw the Red Army’s most probable opponent as the Polish state, which it was quite capable of crushing.

    Interestingly, right up until the late 1930s, the United States saw their most likely military opponent as the UK, and they were primarily oriented towards a war in Canada.

  39. George Hallam on said:

    Jellytot: I’d agree with pretty much all of #40.

    Do you really think that?

    The implication of Glantz’s research is that Stalin has washed our feet in the blood that flowed from his ruthless policies.

  40. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: Interestingly, right up until the late 1930s, the United States saw their most likely military opponent as the UK, and they were primarily oriented towards a war in Canada.

    With all due respect US war planning in the 1920′s and early 1930′s was somewhat more academic than Soviet war planning.

  41. jack ford on said:

    Andy Newman: Interestingly, right up until the late 1930s, the United States saw their most likely military opponent as the UK, and they were primarily oriented towards a war in Canada.

    As it turned out WW2 bankrupted Britain and enabled the US to take the British Empire into receivership.

    The potential war aims of any of Britain’s early 20th century rivals are easy enough to imagine or, for that matter, to look up. First, the British Empire would have been dismantled, such portions of it as the conquering nation wanted would have been seized, other parts would have been allowed self-government under the overall control of the new imperial power, and a few token colonies would be left under British control where that suited the conqueror’s interests. Second, the British government would become a permanent and subordinate ally of the new imperial power. Third, Britain’s military would have been reduced to a fraction of its previous size, and the British government would be obligated to provide troops and ships to support the new imperial power when the latter decided on a military adventure. Fourth, Britain would be expected to pay a large sum of money as reparations for the costs of the war. Finally, to guarantee all these things, the British government would have been forced to accept an occupying force in Britain, and permanent military bases would be signed over to the new imperial power in Britain and its remaining colonies. That, by and large, is what happened to defeated nations in the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Now compare that list to the relations between Great Britain and the United States from 1945 to the present. That’s the thing that can’t be mentioned to this day in polite company: the British empire ended in the early 1940s when the United States conquered and occupied Britain. It was a bloodless conquest, like the German conquest of Denmark or Luxembourg, and since the alternative was submitting to Nazi Germany, the British by and large made the best of it. Still, none of Queen Victoria’s prime ministers would have tolerated for a moment the thought of foreign troops being garrisoned on British soil, which is where thousands of US military personnel are garrisoned. That’s only one of the lasting legacies of the Second World War.

  42. jim mclean on said:

    George Hallam,

    With all due respect War Plan Red which included the use of biological weapons against civilian areas of the British Empire (Canada really)was only put on hold in 1939. It is still to this day a sticking point in American / Canadian relations since it became public in the 70′s.

  43. George Hallam on said:

    jim mclean: War Plan Red which included the use of biological weapons

    I’m no expert in this area, but I think you may mean ‘chemical’ rather than ‘biological’.

  44. #58 Agreed. To my shame I wasn’t even aware that the main language there was a German dialect and I’ve even been there :(

  45. Jellytot on said:

    @51Do you really think that? The implication of Glantz’s research is that Stalin has washed our feet in the blood that flowed from his ruthless policies.

    I’ve pondered this question and the point you made after it.

    Firstly, the “washing out feet in blood” line is an emotive description that I’m sure we’ve all heard endlessly in relation to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. and, for me, it’s always had an air of hysteria about it. It’s inclusion here is somewhat curious and jarring. Worst of all it doesn’t explain much.

    The term “ruthless” is much more interesting. To state that Stalin was ruthless, both personally and politically, is probably true but in the context of Barbarossa I don’t see how he could have been anything else.

    The necessity for utter ruthlessness can only be understood through an understanding the nature and goals of German fascism and its plan for the Soviet Union. German Fascism was, as you would expect, a complex and multifaceted phenomena but it had a relatively few primary and overarching objectives which were, briefly, revenge against the forces it blamed for the defeat in WW1 and the ensuing revolutionary upheavals (both of which the fascist leaders had direct experience of), imposition of an all encompassing palingenetic ultranationalism in Germany and the creation of a German Empire in the East with the corresponding need to overrun and destroy the Soviet Union, all of which was bound together with a utterly paranoid and ultimately genocidal form of anti-Semitism.

    Stalin could not have been unaware of these goals (they were laid out in Mein Kampf). He also couldn’t have been unaware that when it ultimately came the fascist assault would be a conflict of utter brutality and extermination, with no quarter given and taken. Massive losses among the Russian population were a tragic given.

    Which brings us back to Glantz. I find that the portion of his research that you posted in #40 does not, necessarily, reflect all that terribly on Stalin and his leadership. Remember that this was all about ensuring the very survival of the Soviet Union, a state surrounded by implacable hostility, fighting an brutal and rapacious foe. Glantz’s research here seems concise, realistic and historically factual. I cannot see why it should be contentious to people from our (broad) political tradition. I’m interested to read why you feel it could be.

  46. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam: I wouldn’t expect you to think anything else.

    This is typical of the Left, except that you give atotal for the number of execution in 1937-38 that is in line with the documentary evidence.

    Yeah, fuck ‘the Left’, with their inconvenient ‘facts’. After all, Stalin just understood that the most dangerous anti-communists were the members of the Communist Party!

    So, do you think those killings did help the Soviet war effort, or do you just not care?

    At least Karl brought some sense to this topic.

  47. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil, GeorgeH has a David Irving approach to history.

    You won’t get any sense out of someone who quotes the hapless sycophant Budenny (Budenny favoured mounted cavalry over the tank for goodness sake!) as an authoritative source of information about Tukachevsky!

    Thankfully, idiots like him are a miniscule minority.

  48. Nadia Chern on said:

    Wow, I never expected to find such a weird discussion on this thread.

    Permit me to question a few things:

    1. Would GH not admit that Tukhachevsky was one of the pioneers of the military doctrine that became famous as blitzkrieg?

    2. Would GH not admit that this belief in highly mobile attacks in three dimensions (including air) would affect his enthusiasm for technical development as a necessity in the future of warfare?

    3. The collectivization of Soviet agriculture generated a famine in the Ukraine, the bitterness of which helped the German offensive during Barbarossa. Think about the number of Ukrainians that joined up and the Ukrainian death squads that supported the Einsatzgruppen.

    4. Do you really that a quote taken from a show trial is going to help substantiate a point?

    5. In GH’s extensive quoting of Glantz, there is no mention of the kessel attempted by the German 6th Army or its inversion by the Red Army. Equally, there is no mention of the military tactics that could have relieved the kessel. Given that supply lines might just be important in war, this seems a very large omission.

  49. Karl Stewart on said:

    I agree with your points 1, 2 and 4 Nadia.
    But I don’t agree with your direct linkage of agricultural collectivisation with the military reversals of 1941 at Point 3.

    Not that I’m uncritical of the manner of collectivisation, just that it took place a decade earlier and is a subject that merits its own, separate discussion.

    And I don’t think I understand the point you’re making at 5?

  50. George Hallam on said:

    Jellytot,

    Thank you for this serious response. There were three important meetings today, two of which i attended. When I have some time I will try to give you a serious response.

    The ‘washing feet in blood’ was a reference to Psalms 58 and 68. No offence intended. Obviously this I did not take the cultural divide seriously enough.

  51. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern,

    1. Not really.
    2. Possibly yes.
    3 . Statement one is false. Collectivisation only a contributory cause.
    4. False. Not a ‘show’ trial.
    5. Yes. but you need to read the book.

  52. Nadia Chern on said:

    Karl Stewart: And I don’t think I understand the point you’re making at 5?

    My point about the kessel is that the act of encirclement was hugely significant both to the initial German assault on Stalingrad and then to the Red Army’s ability to outflank the 6th Army and cut it off. All GH’s talk of the war of attrition is true but misses the point (after all historians and participants called Barbarossa ‘the war of annihilation’ from its beginning and this was a continuous strategy throughout the war). The key difference at Stalingrad was the ability to encircle the 6th Army with huge tank armies (interestingly, an idea of Tukhachevsky’s). It enabled the cutting of supply lines for the German forces.

    Beevor suggested that the 6th Army could have broken out of the kessel with more audacity by creating a fist of highly mobile tank units and probing for weaknesses though his argument was necessarily speculative.

    As for collectivization, the Ukraine suffered a horrific famine in 1931-2 (that nearly toppled Stalin as the Kirov group gained prominence in calling for an easing of the war on the peasantry) that left political scars that lasted a generation and economic backwardness that Khrushchev complained about as late as 1956. There are arguments that Russian agriculture remained depressed as late as the 1970s as a result.

    In the Ukraine, it led to a surge in Ukrainian nationalism with partisan units supporting the German forces. Given that the Ukraine was the ‘bread basket’ of Russia and the route to Caucasia, its loss to Russia was especially significant to the early stages of Barbarossa.

    It was also the largest concentration of the Jewish population in Russia and Ukrainian nationalists wasted no time in helping the SS forces round them up.

  53. Nadia Chern on said:

    George Hallam: 1. Not really.
    2. Possibly yes.
    3 . Statement one is false. Collectivisation only a contributory cause.
    4. False. Not a ‘show’ trial.
    5. Yes. but you need to read the book.

    Sorry George but there is nothing to debate here. If you seriously fail to realize that Tukhachevsky played a major role in conceiving Blitzkrieg doctrine and the nature of his trial and execution, I think you need to return to the books (plural).

    A note of caution is that military historians tend to be quite rightwing in their historical bias. Read them with this in mind.

  54. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks for that Nadia,
    I’m interested in what you’re saying about the group around Kirov becoming more prominent partly due to the brutality of the manner in which collectivisation was carried out.
    Do you have any more details on that? And of what alternatives were suggested?

    In respect to collectivisation, I judge that subject differently to the post-Kirov purges, which were a sycotic response to Kirov’s murder – probably a murder that Stalin organised himself.

    The collectivisation policy was a response to a concrete situation in which it’s difficult to see a “good” choice.

    The early Soviet Union initially adopted a “war communism” and then moved to the NEP and by the late 1920s, was faced with a sharp choice of either allowing the small-scale capitalism of the NEP to continue to develop or to shift the economy fundamentally in the other direction.

  55. Nadia Chern on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    I’m not making a judgement on collectivization per se just on its political effect in the Ukraine which was the key theatre of operation during the early stages of Barbarossa.

    Stephen Cohen’s biography of Bukharin is excellent on the period known as the ‘Moscow Spring’ when Kirov and other moderates moved against Stalin over collectivization. It was during this period that Bukharin was brought back into the orbit of the leadership. Kirov and his co-thinkers wanted a more NEP like policy in relation to agriculture and an end to the police terror with greater tolerance towards different views. It was the engineered character of the Ukrainian famine that most concerned them (it could have been far less severe).

    Of course, Stalin retained loyalties from the police apparatus and successfully used this to seize the initiative after Kirov’s murder.

  56. Graham Day on said:

    George Hallam: This was mainly provided by people who were promoted because of the purges.

    It was also provided by people like Rokossowski, who were purged and then rehabilitated.

    Karl Stewart: Tukachevsky … was innovative in terms of military strategy and advocated offensive operations

    The Red Army’s offensive doctrine was in large part responsible for the mass encirclements achieved by the fascists in 1941.

    Karl Stewart: Kirov’s murder – probably a murder that Stalin organised himself

    You’re aware that there is no evidence of this?

  57. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern: Sorry George but there is nothing to debate here. If you seriously fail to realize that Tukhachevsky played a major role in conceiving Blitzkrieg doctrine

    As an experiment I suggest you post something on the lines of “Tukhachevsky played a major role in conceiving Blitzkrieg doctrine” on one of the many military discussion sites. Then see what kind of reaction you get.

    (Hint: watch out for squalls.)

    If you do this I suggest that you don’t mention your politics (it would divert the discussion).

  58. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern: A note of caution is that military historians tend to be quite rightwing in their historical bias. Read them with this in mind.

    Top tip. Thanks.

  59. Karl Stewart on said:

    Graham Day: The Red Army’s offensive doctrine was in large part responsible for the mass encirclements achieved by the fascists in 1941.You’re aware that there is no evidence of this?

    Graham, the military reversals of 1941 took place a few years after Tukachevsky had been murdered.
    The reason for the early reversals were because the Red Army was not in a state of immediate battle-alert readiness, because Stalin refused to believe that Hitler was about to invade.
    The forward deployments of the Red Army were because of the Soviet Union’s territorial gains resulting from the 1939 Pact.

    You say there’s no evidence that Stalin organised Kirov’s murder – the circumstantial evidence is strong.

  60. Nadia Chern: A note of caution is that military historians tend to be quite rightwing in their historical bias. Read them with this in mind.

    Some are and some are not. The good ones tend not to be and there are quite a few good ones. Right wing bias is no more noticeable than in other branches of the study of history.

  61. Karl Stewart on said:

    Actually, call me reckless but do you know what? I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I actually do think Stalin organised Kirov’s murder.
    And hey, I think he might have had something to do with a certain murder in 1940 as well.

    (There, I’ve said it – I expect I’ll be sued for defamation of character now by the inheritors of Joe’s estate!!)

  62. Graham Day on said:

    Karl, it’s true that the Red Army wasn’t fully mobilised in August 1941. This was largely because the Soviets were well aware of the precedent of 1914, where the Tsarist mobilisation led directly to the war with Germany, and they were keen to avoid provocation.

    But the offensive doctrine led to a forward deployment strategy that abandoned previous prepared defensive positions and, in the event, led to serious setbacks on the frontier. Later, the determination to take the offensive led the (then fully mobilised) Red Army into the mass encirclement at Kiev.

    Did the Soviet Union make mistakes in 1941? Yes. Were they understandable? Yes. Were they less serious than the mistakes made by Great Britain and France in 1940? Yes.

    Karl Stewart: You say there’s no evidence that Stalin organised Kirov’s murder – the circumstantial evidence is strong.

    No, it’s really not.

  63. Jellytot on said:

    @63collectivization…led to a surge in Ukrainian nationalism with partisan units supporting the German forces…..It was also the largest concentration of the Jewish population in Russia and Ukrainian nationalists wasted no time in helping the SS forces round them up.

    As George states it should only be considered a contributory factor and Ukranian Nationalist sentiment would likely have aided the fascists famine or no famine. Remember that during the Russian Civil War some of the worst pogromist forces were those of Symon Petliura’s UNR army.

    Also many national minorities not directly impacted by famine aided the fascists including ethnic Russians in the POA. A primary motivational factor, especially for THE ex Soviet POW’s who became “Hiwis”, would have been mere survival rather than any ideological commitment to fascism.

    We should also recognise the many Ukranians, who would have experienced the famine, who became partisans and resisted the fascist occupation.

  64. Karl Stewart on said:

    So Graham, you don’t think it’s strange that his assasin was arrested inside the Smolny Institute a few weeks before the murder, carrying a loaded gun, and then released without charge and given his gun back??

  65. Nadia Chern on said:

    George Hallam,

    Ok, maybe so, though the point of comparison is not between Germany and Russia but with Britain and France in terms of the evolution of doctrine.

    The common emphasis of deep battle theory and blitzkrieg lies in the reliance on highly mobile armour and air forces. Whereas blitzkrieg sought to produce a narrow point of penetration in enemy lines, deep battle theory sought a wider series of such penetrations. What is common is the reliance on mobile units to push deep into enemy lines quickly.

    This does not leave your assertions about Tukhachevsky in any better shape, however. After all, deep battle theory is still considered key to the events of 1942-3 when the Eastern Front turned around. While the Moscow defence was not able to draw in large numbers of mechanized units (because they didn’t exist), Stalingrad was able to do so.

    By the way, when you note Tukhachevsky’s apparent mania for technology, you do know that he was Director of Armaments for the Red Army from 1931-7? Seems an eminently sensible mania in the circumstances to me.

  66. Karl Stewart on said:

    Sources?? Are you for real Graham?
    Do you seriously think I’m making all this up?

    Wasn’t the only witness to the murder killed a few days later in a “traffic accident” in which no-one else was injured?
    And the assassin was quietly shot without trial?

    Oh yes, and the person who was murdered would have replaced Stalin within months had he lived.

    Sources: Every account of this affair that’s ever been written – apart from the “History of the CPSU(B) Short Course”.

  67. Graham Day on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Yawn. Just give the one primary source you’re deriving this view from. Shouldn’t be hard… except that there is no credible source for thinking that Stalin had anything to do with Kirov’s murder.

  68. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern,

    It’s obvious you know more about military history than the average poster on this site. So let’s stop mucking about and have a serious discussion about tukhachevsky’s role in the development of Soviet doctrine.
    Yes, he did have a role, just nowhere as big as you seem to think.

    I will say more when I have time.
    There is a lot going on in Lewisham at the moment.

  69. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: Actually, call me reckless but do you know what? I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I actually do think Stalin organised Kirov’s murder.

    Laqueur, Walter ‘Stalin : the Glasnost Revelations’

    (ISBN 10: 0044407696 / ISBN 13: 9780044407690 )

  70. George Hallam on said:

    Jellytot: To state that Stalin was ruthless, both personally and politically, is probably true but in the context of Barbarossa I don’t see how he could have been anything else.

    ..when it ultimately came the fascist assault would be a conflict of utter brutality and extermination, with no quarter given and taken. Massive losses among the Russian population were a tragic given.

    I agree.
    Of course there was a choice. It was either to wage a ruthless, painful, struggle or to accept defeat and the extermination of the majority of the population.

    As the Americans say: “Life’s a bitch, but look at the alternative…”

    Jellytot: Which brings us back to Glantz. I find that the portion of his research that you posted in #40 does not, necessarily, reflect all that terribly on Stalin and his leadership. Remember that this was all about ensuring the very survival of the Soviet Union, a state surrounded by implacable hostility, fighting an brutal and rapacious foe..

    Perhaps. However, it seems that most people on this site lack the measure of detachment required to make such a judgement.

    Jellytot:Glantz’s research here seems concise, realistic and historically factual. I cannot see why it should be contentious to people from our (broad) political tradition. I’m interested to read why you feel it could be.

    From observation I find that what distinguishes people on “The Left” from other people is that they have a strong urge to moralise. Thus judgements are made by reference to some set of universal principles rather than the empirical reality.

    Shaw put it very well in ‘Man and Superman’

    “.. your pious English habit of regarding the world as a moral gymnasium built expressly to strengthen your character in, occasionally leads you to think about your own confounded principles when you should be thinking about other people’s necessities.”

  71. George Hallam on said:

    Nadia Chern: 1. Would GH not admit that Tukhachevsky was one of the pioneers of the military doctrine that became famous as blitzkrieg?

    The following is very crude but for the purposes of discussion it will do as a first cut.

    What was special about Soviet military doctrine?

    The distinguishing feature of Soviet military doctrine was the concept of the ‘operational art’ as a distinct level between the traditional categories of tactics and strategy.
    This ‘art’ was ability to transform battlefield successes (spatially) wider advances. These ‘operations’ which might each involve several should be designed to produce a strategic success in a given theatre.

    What factors influenced the creation of Soviet military doctrine?

    Soviet military doctrine, as it existed in June 1941, was the product of interaction of three main factors:
    1. The Tsarist Russian military tradition (including the painful experience of ‘modern’ warfare in the Russo-Japanese war 1904-05 and on the Eastern Front 1914-17);
    2. The Bolshevik political tradition;
    3. The Bolshevik Russian military experience of the Civil War 1918-22 and the war with Poland.

    How did Soviet military doctrine develop?

    Prior to June 1941 there were three stages or steps
    The first step was the debate the need for a unified military doctrine that was distinctively Soviet in character. The main proponent of such a doctrine was Mikhail Frunze. This was opposed by Trotsky. However, Frunze’s view prevailed and in January 1925 he became the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council.

    The second step was the establishment of the general strategic approach of the unified doctrine. After some debate a consensus emerged around the ideas of Alexander Svechin. These were to reject Clausewitz’s objective of the destruction of the enemy forces ‘decisive’ battles and to emphases the importance of the strategy of attrition. This approach of ‘outlasting the enemy’ required an industrialised economy and a government capable of mobilising the whole resources of the country. In turn, this implied the need for a population that was politically united and loyal.

    The third step was the working out the specific forms required to implement this general approach. This involved the creation of instructions and field regulation that incorporated the concepts of “deep operation” and “deep battle”. This was done in Provisional Instructions for Organizing the Deep Battle manual published in 1933 and the Provisional Field Regulations of the RKKA (P[olevoy] U[stav]-36), of 1936. The latter remained in force till 1944.

    Who were the key figures in developing Soviet military doctrine?

    Alexander Svechin, Vladimir Triandafillov, Georgii Isserson and Mikhail Tukhachevsky certainly stand out.

    I would argue that the first three can be said to have developed concept that were both new and useful. In contrast Tukhachevsky’s contribution was largely that of a collaborator.

  72. George Hallam on said:

    Omar: That Shaw quote is superb and hits the nail on the head.

    Top tip: never miss the opportunity to see a Shaw play.

    In “Major Barbara”, Undershaft, an armaments manufacturer, tells his son, who wants to go into politics:

    “I am the government of your country … When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman.”

  73. Jellytot on said:

    @87No conclusive documentary evidence has been discovered so far.

    John Arch Getty in his “Origins of the Great Purges” comes to pretty much the same conclusion:

    Page 207 “Appendix: The Kirov Assassination”

    He also tells us that even Trotsky regarded the act as the work of “misguided young opportunists”.

  74. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam:
    …it seems that most people on this site lack the measure of detachment required to make such a judgement.

    That’s a little harsh George. Considering the spectrum of politics represented on this site, people are more open to sober reappraisals of Soviet history than one might expect.

    Fantastically interesting discussion to read btw.

    As someone of very limited knowledge on these topics, I do have a question or two.

    When you say the Soviet ‘approach of “outlasting the enemy” required an industrialised economy and a government capable of mobilising the whole resources of the country’, I’m interested in knowing: (1) what was the time-frame Soviet officials foresaw as being needed to transition from a peace-time economy to a war-time one? (2) to what extent did the potential needs of a war-time economy factor into peace-time industrialisation?

    Because it’s always struck me as quite remarkable how both the Soviet and, to a lesser extent, British economies were able to turn themselves around so quickly and outproduce the German, when the German gov presumably had been planning for war for much longer, and in comparison with the Soviet economy, started from a far stronger basis.

    From an ‘ideologically neutral’ efficiency perspective, in my mind – and I might be wrong – this seems to speak to a fundamental incompetence on the part of the Nazi regime, alongside commendable foresight on the part of everyone else, esp. the Soviet gov. (Neville Chamberlain’s secret rearmament probably doesn’t get as much popular credit as it deserves either – no idea what the consensus among historians is on this.)

  75. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’m genuinely surprised to learn that anyone today seriously doubts that Stalin was behind the Kirov murder – but yes of course it’s theoretically possible that all of the circumstantial evidence could be a series of convenient coincidences.
    I’m afraid I don’t have any “documentary evidence” guys – I don’t know any more than the various historians who have written on the matter.
    My view remains that I think he probably was responsible, a view based on the circumstantial knowledge that is available to us.

    ———————-

    Anyway, back to the discussion of WWII, I think the “offensive military doctrine” doesn’t fully explain the initial catastrophic defeats.

    The politics of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact have been discussed previously and remains highly controversial in political terms.

    My view – a view shared by some – is that its political cost fare outweighed any military advantage, while others argue the reverse position equally strongly.

    But surely the “pro-Pact” advocates can see that any potential military advantage could only have been realised on the basis of taking the offensive?

    If we leave aside political considerations and judge the Pact purely on military grounds, then yes, it did give the Red Army the opportunity to deploy in forward and advanced positions.

    But how on earth is forward deployment strategically useful if it is not followed by the launch of an attack?

    From my viewpoint, it was the combination of firstly the political disorientation caused by the Pact itself, added to the contradiction in logic between the forward deployment and the passive inactivity that caused those early catastrophic defeats.

  76. Graham Day on said:

    Karl, I’m genuinely surprised to learn that anyone thinks that Stalin was responsible for Kirov’s murder, give the complete absence of evidence.

    The fact that the Red Army had an offensive doctrine just means they aimed to take the offensive whenever possible. This led them to take risks that led them into fascist traps. Passivity wasn’t the problem – quite the reverse.

    IIRC Geoffrey Roberts has a good discussion on the pact in his book “Stalin’s Wars”, I’d recommend it as a good read.

  77. Karl Stewart on said:

    Graham, maybe it was all the work of the “Trotsky/Fascist Bukharin-Zinoviev gang” and those delegates to the 1934 CPSU Congress?
    After all, they all “confessed” to it, and what better “evidence” than that?

  78. Manzil on said:

    Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.

    The very nature of the Soviet government by 1934 should make it obvious that, if Stalin was responsible for Kirov’s death, we likely wouldn’t have any concrete evidence of his guilt.

    We don’t know Stalin killed Kirov. But we do know that he was responsible for killing many, many other leading Bolsheviks on trumped-up charges, so it’s not as though Karl is maligning a saint here.

    What we can definitively say is that Stalin exploited Kirov’s murder for his own benefit.

  79. Karl Stewart on said:

    I can see how a pedant might say it’s never been proven conclusively, but to object to someone suggesting he’s probably responsible is strange.

    Anyway, it’s not worth spending too much time on the question of direct guilt or otherwise – this is, after all, one victim among many.

    But the impact this episode had in terms of which direction the Soviet Union subsequently took was, in my opinion, hugely significant.

    As you say, it’s the key pretext for the terroristic purges and it’s from that point on that we see the one-man dictatorship emerge.

  80. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil: What we can definitively say is that Stalin exploited Kirov’s murder for his own benefit.

    You can really only say that if you believe, despite the complete absence of evidence (and all the relevant archives were opened in 1991, there’s no reason to believe that any smoking gun wouldn’t have been found) that Stalin was involved in the murder.

    Here’s another perspective though… imagine you’re leading the world’s first socialist state, a state that is surrounded by enemies that have in the past not hesitated to use violence to further subversion. Germany has fallen to fascism and is re-arming, and it’s leaders are quite forthright in their aim of war on the Soviet Union. In that context, one of your closest associates is murdered in the heart of Leningrad, in a place which you’d expect to be secure. It’s not unreasonable to think that there might be plots, which require drastic action. After all, if Kirov can be murdered in the Smolny, maybe you’re next…?

    That’s not an excuse for the later excesses, but I think it’s a more credible scenario that the “popular” alternative. I think J Arch Getty provides some documentary evidence to support it (I don’t have the book on hand to check, so I could be misremembering). Apart from anything else, in 1934 Stalin really didn’t have to resort to subterfuge to remove any perceived threat.

  81. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: But surely the “pro-Pact” advocates can see that any potential military advantage could only have been realised on the basis of taking the offensive?
    If we leave aside political considerations and judge the Pact purely on military grounds, then yes, it did give the Red Army the opportunity to deploy in forward and advanced positions.
    But how on earth is forward deployment strategically useful if it is not followed by the launch of an attack?

    I’ve followed discussions on this topic over many decades but I can’t recall hearing this argument before. Of course, my memory isn’t what it was; the time was when I could have told you exactly how many tons of supplies per day an armoured division required to keep it operational.

    The main military argument for moving the frontier west was logistical.

    The Wehrmacht deployed ten armies for the invasion force of Russia. The standard requirement was one railway line per army. However, for Barbarossa there were only three main railway lines available…

    The total efficient range of the Wehrmacht’s lorries was 600 km, so their operational range was only 300 km (since after delivering supplies to forward units they would have to return to base to refuel). Of course, supplies could be transported greater distances but only by using lorries as fuel-carriers, thus reducing the capacity of the fleet.

    The new frontier was more than 300 km further to the west…

    See: Tooze (2006) ‘The Wages of Destruction’ pages 453-4.

  82. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.

    Agreed.

    Though one also has to take into account how hard people have been looking for evidence.

  83. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: That’s a little harsh George. Considering the spectrum of politics represented on this site, people are more open to sober reappraisals of Soviet history than one might expect.

    Yes, you may well be right.

    As you may be aware, I am quite active in a number of local campaigns. This involves working with people from across a wide spectrum of political views. Inevitably, differences arise. In the interests of unity I need to exercise restraint. The nice thing about this site is that I don’t have to worry about such things.

  84. Jellytot on said:

    @94My view remains that I think he probably was responsible, a view based on the circumstantial knowledge that is available to us.

    And, of course, you can hold that view but whether you are entitled to, based upon evidence avialable, or not is another matter. We can’t go on our “feelings” in regards to this.

    Any evidence, by it’s nature, would be circumstantial as there naturally would be no direct evidence in this case but circumstantial evidence can and frequently does provide rich evidence of probable guilt (plenty of guilty people are convicted on the weight of it), however, on the basis of ‘Kirov’ we have to give Stalin the benefit of the doubt and state that he probably wasn’t responsible as the evidence is so weak.

    Responsible historians like J Arch Getty are well worth reading in this regard (the appendix quoted above in #92 is available on google books). Something I never knew previously was the utter chaos and confusion that enveloped the various branches of the Soviet state in the immediate aftermath of the awful deed (including those you thought would have been in on it). This does not point to a well worked out and machiavellian plot by the upper branches of the State. This also accords with Getty’s very powerful overall thesis that the Purges generally had an air of chaos and confusion about them.

  85. Manzil on said:

    Graham Day,

    A fair point, taken on board.

    I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the anti-communist party. :P

    Equally I think it’s important to acknowledge that the concentration of power in the bureaucracy around Stalin, means that ‘drastic action’ in the defence of the state, and in the defence of the privileged position of the bureaucratic caste, come to be considered as synonymous.

    It is entirely plausible that Stalin’s government believed the purges were required to consolidate the existence of the USSR. But it is also true that it strengthened the personal dictatorship of Stalin.

    Certainly the events of the 1930s did not weaken Stalin’s hold, so it cannot be said that he had no interest, whatever the circumstances of Kirov’s death, in using it to launch attacks on perceived dangers to his rule. I grant that he may have readily viewed his course of action as being in the best interests of the state.

    While counter-factuals are inherently problematic, it does seem that whatever course the USSR took, the human cost would have been terrible, owing to the objective circumstances it faced, and that alternative programmes – such as of the Right Opposition – would likely have ended in the socio-economic disaster of the mid-1990s except in additional conditions of extreme international hostility.

    However, it is historical fact that in the aftermath of Kirov’s death, as he lay in state, Soviet newspapers were blanketed with officials and ordinary citizens’ praise for Kirov, anecdotes from his past etc. The funeral was an opportunity for mass, public grief. The killing was held as evidence of the need for stern measures against the supposedly entrenched enemies of the state.

    It is not conspiracy-mongering to state that, had a plausible reason for a renewed, massive campaign of terror been required, the execution of a popular, relatively moderate Communist leader was perfect.

    As you say, Stalin’s position by 1934 was such that an ‘excuse’ was not necessarily required for repression. On the other hand, his position was so deleterious to the project of socialism that I am not prepared to be offended on his behalf if many believe “Cui bono?” is an eminently reasonable attitude. Would anyone be surprised if Stalin, or elements of his dictatorship, had killed Kirov? This wouldn’t change anything; we know for a fact he did far worse things, and with less justification.

  86. Karl Stewart on said:

    Graham Day: in 1934 Stalin really didn’t have to resort to subterfuge to remove any perceived threat.

    Manzil:
    Graham Day, As you say, Stalin’s position by 1934 was such that an ‘excuse’ was not necessarily required for repression.

    I’m not sure I agree with this point. I think there were indications that Stalin’s power was beginning to slip gradually away from him and towards the group around Kirov.
    From Stalin’s prespective, the 17th Congress was quite alarming and had Kirov lived, Stalin would have become either an increasingly powerless figurehead or perhaps eventually have himself been pushed out.
    I think he was in a politically weakening position by late 1934 and that time was against him.

  87. Graham Day on said:

    Karl Stewart: I think there were indications that Stalin’s power was beginning to slip gradually away from him and towards the group around Kirov.

    Again, only if you ignore the historical record for fantasy…

  88. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil, your argument seems to boil down to “Stalin did a lot of bad things, this is a bad thing, therefore Stalin must have done it”…

  89. Graham Day:
    Manzil, your argument seems to boil down to “Stalin did a lot of bad things, this is a bad thing, therefore Stalin must have done it”…

    I don’t know if he did it or not. I don’t particularly care. Kirov’s death would have been far, far down the list of Stalin’s crimes. I am saying the ‘bad things’ (I love the awkward euphemism) that Stalin was responsible for constitute a ‘prior bad act’ it’s reasonable to consider. Accusations of complicity in the murder have not fallen from the sky into an otherwise unblemished lap. And that, given the nature of Stalin’s rule, I don’t feel the absence of hard evidence is either surprising, or confirmation of his innocence.

  90. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil: Accusations of complicity in the murder have not fallen from the sky into an otherwise unblemished lap.

    No, they haven’t. They’ve come in the context of 90 odd years of anti-communist propoganda. And the total lack of evidence does point to a different conclusion.

  91. Manzil,

    It is not conspiracy-mongering to state that, had a plausible reason for a renewed, massive campaign of terror been required, the execution of a popular, relatively moderate Communist leader was perfect.”

    Well yes it is conspiracy mongering because there is no evidence. To put the same argument across in a different way, some people think it is ‘proof’ that Bush blew up the two towers himself purely because it gave him the excuse to carry out the forgiven policy he wanted to and only benefited him. It’s not good enough.

    Karl we have been through the pact argument a million times, lets just agree to disagree!

  92. Karl Stewart on said:

    Hi GeorgeW,
    Fair analogy on the Twin Towers issue to a certain extent. I doubt there are many on here who’d agree with the so-called “truthers”.
    But I don’t think Bush was particularly keen on an invasion of Afghanistan before “9/11″ in any case.

    I think the difference is that we can see Stalin in struggle – and increasingly being frustrated – within the CPSU leadership over questions such as the speeding up collectivisation or retuerning to NEP policies and reconciliation or repression of oppositionists and after the murder, these issues are no longer matters for debate, but questions of absoute loyalty.

    I’d suggest an analogy for the political position Stalin was in by 1934 was perhaps similar to the position Mao was in by the early 1960s, after the “Great Leap Forward” and before the “Cultural Revolution” – this being Mao’s “Great Purge”.

    As we’re recommending books, the the main books I’ve read on this, I read The “History of the CPSU(B) Short Course”, then Isaac Deutcher’s “Stalin” biography and Robert Conquest’s account. And also a book called “The Essential Stalin” and a couple of volumes of the “Collected Works.”

    The Deutcher book is worth a read and so is Conquest, although of course all need to be taken with a pinch of salt, bearing in mind where they’re each coming from.

    (As an aside, I’d say the explanation of “Dialectical and Historical Materialism in the “History of the CPSU(B) Short Course” is the only readable and understandable explanation of this key theory I’ve ever come across and that section is certainly worth a read, although this book does go a bit nutty when it gets to the “purges.”)

  93. @ Graham Day – I was referring to Stalin’s widely documented killings and imprisonments of quite innocent people, which I don’t think it’s credible to dismiss as anti-communism, or to disregard as irrelevant when considering other aspects of his personal dictatorship.

    @ George W – To an extent. But in this case, we know that Stalin was guilty of the just what these theories accuse him of in Kirov’s case – of murdering fellow leading Communists to justify state campaigns of mass repression – except against Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov, Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Krestinsky, Rakovsky, etc. etc. etc. So, as I said before, I don’t know whether he had anything to do with it. I just find it odd anyone should care: as though we don’t know Stalin was responsible for much worse crimes.

  94. George Hallam on said:

    Jellytot: Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938.
    and
    Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives.
    Even 2nd hand hard copies of these tend to be pricey so if you can source them online then that would be to your benefit.

    Graham Day: And The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 ISBN 978-0300104073

    Don’t be coy, you two, tell people what these works say.

  95. George Hallam on said:

    I’ll make a start.

    In the appendix, “The Kirov Assassination”, of “Origins of the Great Purges” Getty discusses the theory that Stalin had Kirov killed. On the evidence available to him at the time (i.e. in the early 1980s). He concluded:

    “Neither the sources, circumstances nor consequences of the crime suggest Stalin’s complicity.” (first edition, page 210).

    Subsequently, it emerged that there had been three official Soviet, investigations into the possibility of Stalin’s involvement. The first two were in the 1960s: the Pel’she Commission and the Shvernik Commission. The third, from 1989 to 1991, was a Politburo Commission headed by A. Lakovlev.

    None of these investigation could find any evidence of Stalin’s complicity. None of the reports were published until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

    Getty summarised the findings of these reports in his essay “The politics of repression revisited” [in Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (1993)]. They substantially strengthen the view he formed during his original research for the “Origins of the Great Purges”.

    Finally in “The Road to Terror” Getty reiterates, in less detail, his summary of his “The politics of repression revisited”. I take this as an indication that no new evidence had come to light between 1993 and 2006.

  96. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.
    The very nature of the Soviet government by 1934 should make it obvious that, if Stalin was responsible for Kirov’s death, we likely wouldn’t have any concrete evidence of his guilt.

    Very true: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    However, the investigation have not been purely negative. We now know a lot more than we did before.

    Most importantly the commissions uncovered a source for the story that:

    Karl Stewart: Stalin’s power was beginning to slip gradually away from him and towards the group around Kirov.
    From Stalin’s prespective, the 17th Congress was quite alarming and had Kirov lived, Stalin would have become either an increasingly powerless figurehead or perhaps eventually have himself been pushed out.

    The evidence of this view turns on two points: applause for Kirov’s speech and the vote for the Central Committee.

    As far as the speech is concerned, all Kirov did was to praise the “secret police’s use of forced labour and ridiculed the oposition” (Getty: 1993, 45)

    On the election the story is that:
    During the elections to the party’s Central Committee Stalin received a significant number (over a hundred, although the precise number is unknown) of negative votes, whereas only three delegates crossed out the name of the popular Leningrad party boss, Sergei Kirov. The results were subsequently covered up on Stalin’s orders and it was officially reported that Stalin also received only three negative votes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/17th_Congress_of_the_All-Union_Communist_Party_(Bolsheviks)

    In 1960 a teller at the Congress, V. M. Verkhovykh, testified that “125 or 123” delegates voted against Stalin and that these ballots were destroyed. However, no supporting evidence was found.

    This issue was reinvestigated in 1989. The commission discovered that other ballot counting officials were question in the original investigation and none of them supported this story.

    This destroys the basis for Stalin’s supposed motive.

  97. Karl Stewart on said:

    George, quoting Getty at length as you do indicates nothing other than that Getty is advocating a particular position.

    Stalin argued that Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukarin were responsible for this murder.

    Deutscher implies Stalin’s responsibility, as did Kruschev.

    The questions you need to ask yourself are who is Getty? and why is he advocating this position?

  98. Karl Stewart,

    Getty is a serious historian who founds his arguments on very solid research.

    In so far as the revisionist historians have an agenda it seems to be disentangeling the history of the USSR from cold war claim.and counter claim

  99. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: George, quoting Getty at length as you do indicates nothing other than that Getty is advocating a particular position.

    The questions you need to ask yourself are who is Getty? and why is he advocating this position?

    Is that so?

    I first heard about Getty and his work on the, previously neglected, Smolensk archive in the mid-1970s. I did so because I had a couple of friends who happened to be in the Soviet Studies business.

    Their description of him was “a bright-eyed, eager-beaver, PhD student”, “keen to make his name”. The generally sloppy standards of ‘Cold War’ scholarship made it relatively to come up with new, rigorous and informative studies.

    At the same time it was, in academic terms, ‘politically’ risky. After all, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the main sponsors of academic research in Soviet Studies since the Second World War have been the British and US intelligence services.

    I think that Getty is a very hard-working and thoughtful scholar who loves his topic. He is politically naïve in a very American way (e.g. no experience of working class life, let alone the labour movement). He has been quite courageous in arguing for his findings though less so in recent years. At the same time he knows the rules of the academic game and has been careful never to go too far.

  100. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’m not claiming the Getty isn’t serious in his advocacy, or that he hasn’t put serious thought behind his opinions.

    But quoting him doesn’t “prove” or close down a political debate.

    It remains the case that prior to this murder, these political and economic questions were matters of serious political struggle within the CPSU leadership and that afterwards they became questions of loyalty or treason.

    It was a key turning point in the history of the Soviet Union.

  101. Karl Stewart: But quoting him doesn’t “prove” or close down a political debate.

    No, but it doeas raise the bar of evidence.

    For example, quoting Deutscher or Serge is persuasive only of how Deutscher or Serge themselves interpreted the contemporary accounts of events in the newspaper, and their own personal speculation based upon second hand newspaper accounts.

    Quoting Getty is more persuasive because it is an interpretataion of the evidence present in the archives of the CPSU, and the police and administrative organisations of the USSR themselves. What is more, Getty himself seems to have no political axe to grind, other than uncovering the truth.

    See the difefrence?

  102. Jelytot on said:

    @115I’d suggest an analogy for the political position Stalin was in by 1934 was perhaps similar to the position Mao was in by the early 1960s, after the “Great Leap Forward” and before the “Cultural Revolution” – this being Mao’s “Great Purge”.

    Attempts to directly correlate the GPRC with events in Russia at the end of the 30′s are problematic to put it mildly.

    There are very broad similarties in the extent that both were a by-product of relative isolation and a reaction to external threat, both real (Russia) and perceived (China). Also there are some parallels in the way that small things ‘snowballed’ and took upon a (chaotic) dynamic of their own in both phenomenons, although this latter point was much more evident in China.

    However, to state that it was just “Mao’s Great Purge” or that even the Purging aspect of the GPRC was the primary motivator to actually launching it, let alone its main essence, is ahistorical and factually incorrect.

  103. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    George, quoting Getty at length as you do indicates nothing other than that Getty is advocating a particular position.

    I only summarised Getty’s work because people were referring to it without explaining what he actually said.

  104. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’ve put forward the “bare bones” of an argument that I do strongly feel is right here, but clearly without sufficiently convincing substantiation.

    Thanks for the suggested reading – I need to try to get hold of some of these books, and also refresh on some of my previous reading and then return to this subject.

  105. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: But in this case [Kirov], we know that Stalin was guilty of the just what these theories accuse him of in Kirov’s case – of murdering fellow leading Communists to justify state campaigns of mass repression – except against Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov, Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Krestinsky, Rakovsky, etc. etc. etc. So, as I said before, I don’t know whether he had anything to do with it. I just find it odd anyone should care: as though we don’t know Stalin was responsible for much worse crimes.

    “It ain’t what folks don’t know that gets them into trouble. It’s what they know for sure when it just ain’t so.”

    (I used to think that Will Rogers said this, but it turned out that there is no evidence that he did.)

    The main original source of the story that Stalin instigated Kirov’s death was Alexander Orlov’s ‘The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes’. This was published in 1953, before most people reading this site were born.

    This means that the repression of Zinoviev et al and the murder of Kirov are already linked in peoples’ minds.

    Of course the two cases inextricably intertwined. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin, etc. were all charged with instigating a terrorist group which carried out the murder of Kirov. In fact, they publically confessed. This makes it problematic to make an appeal Zinoviev et al innocence as grounds for Stalin’s guilt in the case of Kirov.

    If Stalin murdered Kirov then he would have known that Zinoviev et al were innocent . This means their confessions were false and all the trials were a travesty. And since we know this then it’s only natural to suppose anyone capable of committing such an enormity would have murdered Kirov. In fact he must have murdered Kirov in order to frame his other victims.

    Conversely, if Stalin didn’t have Kirov murdered then we need to look at the trials again.

    Of course we know that the charges were false because they were all premised on the existence of a ‘parallel centre’ organised by a “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” that never existed and never could have existed.

    Well, we used to know that.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/broue/1980/01/bloc.html

  106. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam: This was published in 1953, before most people reading this site were born.

    Hell, that’s about five years before my father was born! :P

    I’ll have a read of that later, looks interesting. After a cursory glance, one question: if Broué’s thesis is that the purges of Old Bolsheviks weren’t irrational, were in fact justified by the existence of an anti-Stalinist opposition, doesn’t that support Karl’s point that Stalin’s position wasn’t as secure as imagined?

  107. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: if Broué’s thesis is that the purges of Old Bolsheviks weren’t irrational, were in fact justified by the existence of an anti-Stalinist opposition, doesn’t that support Karl’s point that Stalin’s position wasn’t as secure as imagined?

    Yes.

    Of course, I could go on to qualify this, but you’d only think I was prevaricating.

    The text for today is Matthew 5:37:
    But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

    So I will leave it at that for now.

  108. Karl Stewart on said:

    George Hallam: Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin, etc. were all charged with instigating a terrorist group which carried out the murder of Kirov. In fact, they publically confessed.

    No, they were tortured into a “confession”.

    George Hallam: This makes it problematic to make an appeal Zinoviev et al innocence as grounds for Stalin’s guilt in the case of Kirov. If Stalin murdered Kirov then he would have known that Zinoviev et al were innocent.

    No George: Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bujarin were not guilty of the crimes for which they were tortured into “confessing” to, irrespective of whether Stalin did or did not organise Kirov’s murder.

    George Hallam: If Stalin murdered Kirov then he would have known that Zinoviev et al were innocent. This means their confessions were false and all the trials were a travesty.

    Their “confessions” were false and the “trials” were a travesty. The “confessions” were tortured out of them and the “cases” against them were utterly illogical.

    George Hallam: Conversely, if Stalin didn’t have Kirov murdered then we need to look at the trials again.

    No George, we don’t need to “look again at the trials”. There is no link here. Stalin probably did organise Kirov’s murder, but even if he did not, then the “trials” remain one of the most barbaric and utterly irrational episodes in our history and there is no reason for us to revise that conclusion.

    George Hallam: Of course we know that the charges were false because they were all premised on the existence of a ‘parallel centre’ organised by a “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” that never existed and never could have existed.
    Well, we used to know that.
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/broue/1980/01/bloc.html

    This link goes to a lengthy account of how the various elements within the CPSU may or may not have attempted to unite their forces in 1932 to remove Stalin from power.
    Even if true, then this is a perfectly legitimate plan to organise a political struggle – and one which, in fact, actually strengthens the argument that Stalin was politically vulnerable at this time.
    There is nothing in this link that lends any credence whatsoever to the “treason with foreign fascist powers” which these people were later tortured into “confessing” to and then shot for, along with their families.

  109. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: Their “confessions” were false and the “trials” were a travesty. The “confessions” were tortured out of them and the “cases” against them were utterly illogical.

    START

    How do we know they were tortured?

    No rational person would, of their own free will, confess to a crime they hadn’t committed. We know that the defendants were innocent so they must have been forced. That would require torture. Therefore they must have been tortured.

    How do we know they were innocent?

    Their confessions were false and were tortured out of them.

    Let’s be clear about this. This torture was not administered as a punishment; it was done in order to break the will of the defendants.

    This was achieved so completely that the defendants became completely subservient for an extended period of time.

    They didn’t just sign a confession statement; they made a public verbal declaration in front of an audience that included foreign journalists, diplomats and at least one barrister.

    Of course, the testimony of these observers has been discredited by their failure to see that the defendants had been tortured.

    GOTO START

  110. stephen marks on said:

    Don’t feed the troll – I’ve said it before but arguing with the likes of Hallam is like arguing with a holocaust denier.

  111. George Hallam on said:

    “It appears that in late 1936 Ordzhonikidze had wavered in his judgment of his longtime subordinate, Piatakov. In a speech Ordzhonikidze gave in early December, he departed from his notes to say that he had spent many sleepless nights wondering how wrecking could have occurred in the Commissariat of Heavy Industry. He asked Bukharin, ironically, what he thought of Piatakov and appeared to agree with the reply that it was hard to know when the latter was telling the truth and when he was speaking from ‘tactical considerations.’ According to Bukharin’s wife, Anna Larina, Ordzhonikidze met with Piatakov in prison at this point and asked him twice if his testimony was entirely voluntary. Upon receiving the answer that it was, Ordzhonikidze appeared shaken. If he had doubts about a man he had worked with and trusted for years, those in the CC who were more distant from Piatakov certainly felt surer of his guilt… the question for members of the party’s elite would therefore have been not whether treason had existed but its present scope.”

    Robert W. Thurston. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1996
    page 46.

    I read this book when it came out but I don’t have a copy to hand at the moment so I haven’t checked this quote.

  112. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: arguing with the likes of Hallam..

    Milton ἘΙΚΟΝΟΚΛΑΣΤΗΣ

    “Neither was it fond ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king. I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better and more certain to attain it; for kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIIIth. did against Luther; but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a king, as not usually meeting with that force of argument in such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in legions, are but weak at arguments; as they who ever have accustomed from the cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries: nevertheless, for their sakes, who, through custom, simplicity, or want of better teaching, have no more seriously considered kings, than in the gaudy name of majesty, and admire them and their doings as if they breathed not the same breath with other mortal men, I shall make no scruple to take up (for it seems to be the challenge both of him and all his party) to take up this gauntlet..”

  113. Graham Day on said:

    Karl Stewart, Hallam backs up his argument with evidence, you seem incapable of discerning the difference between fact and opinion.

    If you want to make fatuous and offensive comparisons with holocaust denial, then frankly it’s your stance that’s more akin to the likes of Irving.

  114. Jellytot on said:

    @136Indeed, there is something of the “David Irving” about him.

    That’s a bit strong.

  115. There is no evidence that Bukharin was tortured. Evidence that counts against the torture hypothesis is that while in prison awaiting trial he wrote two substantial theoretical books that have since been published — ‘Philosophical Arabesques’ and ‘Socialism and Culture’ — and a novel.

  116. George Hallam on said:

    Graham Day: Hallam backs up his argument with evidence

    Thank you for saying this. I hope my thanks won’t be used to discredit you.

  117. Karl Stewart on said:

    Wow! Some pretty unbelievable stuff emerging here.
    I think it’s way, way overdue to take Stephen Marks’s tip and leave the rest of this debate to the nutters.

  118. Graham Day on said:

    Yes, Karl, it must be quite disturbing for you to see that your “knowledge” of Soviet history runs counter to much of the available evidence.

  119. stephen marks: Don’t feed the troll – I’ve said it before but arguing with the likes of Hallam is like arguing with a holocaust denier.

    And

    Karl Stewart: Indeed, there is something of the “David Irving” about him.

    It seems you have found yourselves up against someone who has actually done a fair bit of reading of the research, and argues on the basis of the evidence. Oh, how terribly unfair it is that such means are being used to challenge your point of view.

    Your response is to call Mr Hallam a ‘troll’- a rather peculiar insult, given that the editors of this forum do not seem averse to his posts- and to liken him to a ‘Holocaust denier’.

    A comparison which only works if:

    (a) there is an equivalence between Nazism and Soviet communism,

    and

    (b) holocaust deniers rely on well researched historical evidence.

    Are you suggesting that either is the case?

  120. Karl Stewart:
    I’d say the explanation of “Dialectical and Historical Materialism in the “History of the CPSU(B) Short Course” is the only readable and understandable explanation of this key theory I’ve ever come across…

    Never read the book, but, aside from the historical inaccuracies, seem to remember Hobsbawm (in Age of Extremes perhaps) was full of praise for its style. A paedological masterpiece/paedologically brilliant was the verdict I remember him passing.

    On the question of Soviet revisionist historiography, I’ve only dipped into it, but those making some quite fantastic claims about George’s method should really make an effort to acquaint themselves with the post-1991 scholarship, esp. Getty. Research based on archival records has overturned a lot of Cold War conjecture, in the process showing how much of our knowledge has been based on the rather fanciful tales of exiles, who knew how to milk their stories for all their worth. (I remember one such example from Getty, though not the names: in short, one of our main sources about the Purges had been the testimony of an exile who claimed he worked for the Moscow Police, in a relatively high-up position – when this story was checked against the archival record, it turned out he’d been an administrative clerk in some little backwater, who would have been privy to next to nothing.)

    On Getty, he does seem more a ‘truth seeker’ than someone with an ideological axe to grind, though someone well aware of where the line is and when not to cross it. A while ago I read about a heated exchange he’d had with a ‘Stalinist’ historian who’d done much research in the German archives which had shown that the Nazis had penetrated the Soviet military up to the highest levels. Getty accepted this, but broke with the other fellow because the other fellow was less circumspect in the conclusions he drew – basically he said ‘hey, look, Stalin wasn’t talking shit after all, there really were conspiracies which reached up to the highest echelons’.

    Never been able to remember the guys name though, anyone recognise the story? I seem to think it was Gunther something, in my head I’ve got Gunther Bischoff, but he’s an Austrianist and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t him. (Have never been able to remember where I first read about this either.)

    Such an imprecise memory at such a young age! :(

  121. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: On Getty, he does seem more a ‘truth seeker’ than someone with an ideological axe to grind, though someone well aware of where the line is and when not to cross it. A while ago I read about a heated exchange he’d had with a ‘Stalinist’ historian who’d done much research in the German archives which had shown that the Nazis had penetrated the Soviet military up to the highest levels. Getty accepted this, but broke with the other fellow because the other fellow was less circumspect in the conclusions he drew – basically he said ‘hey, look, Stalin wasn’t talking shit after all, there really were conspiracies which reached up to the highest echelons’.
    Never been able to remember the guys name though, anyone recognise the story?

    This is very interestion. Thank you for mentioning it.

    I’m afraid I can’t help. But passing on stuff like this very useful.

    It makes the discussion less of a dialogue of the deaf and more an opportunity to learn something new.

  122. #142 People have written books while in prison under very harsh circumstances, and so I feel this proves little either way.

    On the other hand I think the problem with Karl’s position is that it may be based on an uncritical acceptance of Krushchev’s line after 1956.

    While clearly a far more benign regime, I suspect that it was no less open to manipulating the facts to suit than was the one it replaced.

    To consider this possible based on actual evidence it is not necessary to join Harpal Brar’s Stalin fan club- far from it.

    A question to Karl- who do you think weas responsible for the Katyn massacres? And why do you think this?

  123. Vanya: A question to Karl- who do you think weas responsible for the Katyn massacres? And why do you think this?

    Is there any reason to think it wasn’t the NKVD? Genuine question.

    I remember reading translated minutes of the CP Politburo where it ordered the shooting of the Polish POWs. Is there information to think these were forgeries?

    This is akin to the show trials question. Why do we think the Soviets didn’t oversee Katyn? They were overwhelmingly soldiers, police and upper-class functionaries and landowners. Given the history of Polish anti-Communism and the nature of the pre-war Polish regime, I can see an argument to be made, given the dire circumstances the USSR faced, for extreme measures – certainly more than in other documented cases of Soviet wartime repression e.g. wholesale deportations of its own people etc.

    Presumably the argument would be that the Nazis intended to split the USSR from its allies. But that is to mistake the relationship between the anti-fascist forces. By 1943 especially it should be clear (despite sections of the German officer corps hoping that the West would ‘realise’ the threat posed by the USSR) that there was no chance of breaking their common front. On the other hand, it makes complete sense for the Stalin government to have acted in the way that it is alleged to have done.

  124. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Is there any reason to think it wasn’t the NKVD? Genuine question.

    Obviously, this is a thinly veiled attempt to make me appear as both a nerdy gun-nut and a paid apologist for the Soviet Union.

    However, since you ask.

    One reason to doubt NKVD involvement was the ammunition used. How is you knowledge of the history of European small arms?

    Here is a report of the German police of 10th June 1943

    “A certain number of spent pistol cartridge-cases with the stamp ‘Geco 7,65 D’ were found beyond the area of the graves; some single spent cases were found among the bodies in the graves. With a few exceptions, all the bodies show pistol-shots in the head; generally the place of entry of the bullet is below the protrusion at the back of the skull and the exit is in the forehead above the eye. (Cf. detailed photographs and the report of the medical expert. Professor Dr. Buhtz. as well as the evidence of a Polish doctor, Wodziriski.) In many instances the bullets had not left the skull. The calibre of the bullets found, 7.65 mm., would account for the damage to the skulls. The ammunition used was manufactured by the German firm of “Genschow”. According to information given by the German High Command on May 31, 1943 (Ch.H.Rust und Befehlshaber des Ersatzheeresi. ammunition for pistols of that calibre and actual pistols were supplied to Soviet Russia and Poland. It remains to be established whether the ammunition and pistols came from Russian dumps or from Polish equipment captured by the Russians when they overran the eastern part of Poland.”

    http://www.allworldwars.com/Katyn-Files.html

    The penultimate sentence is not consistent with Herr Genschow ‘s letter of the 31-05-43.

    I will provide further details.

  125. Feodor #150: A while ago I read about a heated exchange he’d had with a ‘Stalinist’ historian who’d done much research in the German archives which had shown that the Nazis had penetrated the Soviet military up to the highest levels. Getty accepted this, but broke with the other fellow because the other fellow was less circumspect in the conclusions he drew

    I think this is a garbled version of a tale I’ve seen in a couple of online forums that Getty fell out with Grover Furr when Furr (allegedly) claimed that Getty thought the conspiracies alleged in the Moscow Trials were real or substantially so. If it’s Furr you’re thinking about, he has done a lot of research on material from Soviet archives, but not as far as I know ‘in the German archives’.

  126. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil,

    This is a machine translation of what the head of Genschow said in May 1943
    [Verdersher] Of [markt] 5/6.
    To your letter: -118-/43
    KTI from 26.5…
    Our designation: G/D
    Berlin [SW 68?], 31.5.43
    To [markgrafenshtrasse] 77
    Concerning: Pistol ammunition of caliber 7,65.
    Returning the materials transmitted to us (1 cartridge, 2 cases even 1 bullet), we report that, judging by the marking on the headers of cases, these cartridges had to be produced by our plant in [Durlakhe] in 1922-1931 yr.
    Is applied the outline sketch, on which you can see marking [coinage, stamping] on the headers of cases, which was being used in the recent decades for our pistol cartridges.
    To establish, where were delivered the pistol cartridges, with which the discussion deals, it is impossible. In the years in question our pistol cartridges were delivered practically into all European countries – in any case, pistol cartridges of caliber 7,65. Up to 1928 they took place of delivery in the large volumes and into Russia, in that number of delivery of the cartridges of the caliber indicated. After 1928 deliveries into Russia continued, but as rule, in small volumes.
    Up to 1930 were achieved the deliveries, also, into Poland – possibly, also in small volumes.
    As rule, pistol cartridges of such type constantly were delivered also to coastal states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.
    [The note of translator. “Randstaaten” (in the German text misprint - “Randstatten”) I transferred as “coastal states ", but there is another term for the designation of the countries in the prewar time - “[limitrofy] indicated”.]
    In the present time of the detail of deliveries cannot be established , since the documentation of customers as a result of the period of its storage reduced of up to 5 years is already destroyed.
    [Khayl] Hitler!
    Gustav [Genshov] and to.,

    Note: Genschow makes no mention of the export of pistols to the Soviet Russia or anywhere else. Genschow made ammunition not guns.

    In 1951/2 a US Congress select committee held hearings on the Katyn affair. Genschow gave evidence.

    The following is from: http://www.archive.org/stream/katynforestmassa05unit/katynforestmassa05unit_djvu.txt

    Mr. Flood. Did it ever manufacture pistol ammunition of the
    caliber of 7.65 ?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes.

    Mr. Flood, Is that a very common type of caliber for pistol
    ammunition ?

    ]Mr. Genschow, It is a very common type.

    Mr. P’lood. What was the trade-mark of the pistol ammunition on
    that caliber?

    Mr. Genschow, The trade-mark was changed several times in the
    course of the years.

    Mr. Flood. Will you give us some of the trade-mark names ?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes. The cartridges of the shells of this pistol
    ammunition carried, since the year 1933-34, the word “Geco’” on the
    bottom of the shell, and underneath the “Geco” was “7.65″”,

    Mr. Flood. Can 7.65 ammunition of the type manufactured by this
    firm be used in various kinds and makes of pistols?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes, it could; because it was a standard type of
    cartridire which could be used in very many different makes of pistols.

    Mr. Flood. Was it used internationally by various nations, police,
    or srmed forces, in pistols ?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes; certainly,

    Mr. Flood. Did this firm ever export pistol ammunition of the
    caliber 7.65 to Eastern Europe?

    Mr. Genschow, Yes; that is the case.

    Mr. Flood. Do you know what caliber of ammunition was used and
    what kind of pistol was used by the NKVD or the GPU from the year
    1933 until the end of the war?

    Mr. Genschow. No; I do not know that also, because since 1928
    we did not export large quantities of pistol ammunition to Soviet
    Russia;

    Mr. Flood. Did you export any quantities of 7.65 pistol annnunition
    to Soviet Russia ?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes; before 1928, somewhat larger amounts.

    But I wish to point out that at that time the stam]i on the bottom of
    Ihe cartridge was different from tlie one I stated before, and after
    1928 the (|uan(ities which were exported were small.

    Mr. Flood. But there were some quantities shipped to Soviet Russia
    after 1928, of 7.65 anuuuiiil ion bearing the “Geco” trade-mark?

    THE KATYN FOREST MASSACRE 1579

    Mr. Genschow. Yes.

    I %A’ish to point out that the trade-mark which was used before
    1933-34, when the Latest trade-mark was introduced, also had the
    word “Geco” in it and “7.65.” There was only the addition of two D’s
    slightly underneath the right and left end of the word “Geco.”

    Mr. Flood. So that the trade-mark ”Geco,’” regardless of the other
    details you are giving us, was on 7.65 ammunition shipped to Soviet
    Russia for some time ^

    Mr. Genschow. Yes. Most probably, it may be that some deliveries
    took place in former years, before we put the word “Geco” on the
    bottom of the cartridges. There may have been some older deliveries
    many, many years ago, where it only stated “7.65″ with a “D” under-
    neath.

    Mv. Flood. Can you keep 7.65 pistol ammunition for any length
    of time if it is properly cared for ^

    Mr. Genschow. If you store it properly and if the cartridges re-
    main in their original packings, you can safely store it for 10 to
    20 years.

    Mr. Flood. Did you ship any ammunition to other eastern European
    countries, other than Soviet Russia ?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes : in particular, to the three Baltic States.

    Mr. Flood. What do you mean by the three Baltic States?

    Mr. Genschow. Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    Mr. Flood. Did you ever ship any 7.65 pistol ammunition to the
    three Baltic States?

    Mr. Genschow. Yes ; I did export quantities which were consider-
    ably larger than those going to Soviet Russia, although not unduly
    large.

    Mr. Flood. What do you consider a small shipment in the number
    of units f

    Mv. Genschow. We did not export more than two or three thousand
    rounds to Soviet Russia after 19-28 ; but to the Baltic States, to my rec-
    ollection, we exported approximately 50,000 rounds to each of the
    three.

    Mr. Flood. Did you ever export any pistol ammunition to Poland ?

    Mr. Genschow. We did not export any pistol ammunition to Poland
    during the time under review because conditions for such exports
    were not advantageous. We did, however, export shells and bullets
    separately to that country; which however, were marked differently
    so as to distinguish them from our original make which we used to
    export.

    Mr. Flood. Did you ever export any 7.65 pistol ammunition to
    Poland from 1933 up to 1940 ?

    INIr. Genschow. I do not recollect. I do not think that we did it.

    Mr. Flood. What about from 1923 to 1940 ?

    Mr. Genschow. It may be, but I do not recollect that because we
    had to stop our exports of ammunition to Poland all of a sudden
    owing to new customs regulations having come into force in Poland.
    But I do not recollect the year when that happened.

  127. Mainwaring (Capt.) on said:

    Manzil: George Hallam: How is you knowledge of the history of European small arms?
    They tend to be attached to small hands?

    Stupid boy!

  128. Apparently the ‘bullet theory’ has been repeated by a Russian historian in a Russian daily paper the Nezavisimaya Gazieta:

    “claims that the Soviet NKVD secret police could not possibly have been responsible for the mass murder of over 20,000 Polish officers in 1940.

    The author of the article Aleksandr Shirokorad claims that the massacre could not have possibly been the doing of the NKVD since the ropes used for tying the victims’ wrists and bullets were not those used by the NKVD.

    He also claims that the shooting technique used was apparently alien to the NKVD.

    Contrary to most historians opinions, the murders, claims Shirokorad, must have been the work of the Nazis.

    There has already been a series of four articles in the Russian press questioning the truth about Katyn events recently, the last one being inspired by the Oscar nomination for Andrzej Wajda’s film Katyn.

    Moscow has refused to define the murders in Russia and Ukraine as ‘genocide’ or regard them as war crimes.”

  129. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam: It all comes down to import substitution.

    Ha!

    Fascinating though this all is, I would like to reaffirm that generally speaking, I do consider you to be both a gun-nut and an apologist, but I’m guessing you take some pride in both those labels. :)

    The interview with Genschow surely isn’t decisive one way or the other though, and certainly isn’t proof of innocence – he confirms at one time the ammunition did go to the USSR, it could be stored for significant lengths of time, and he’s not even sure of the dates he exported to either Poland or the USSR.

  130. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: The interview with Genschow surely isn’t decisive one way or the other though, and certainly isn’t proof of innocence – he confirms at one time the ammunition did go to the USSR,

    That’s evidence for you. Things are seldom as clear cut as one would wish.

    What Genschow does make clear is that the Soviet Union did not import more than two or three thousand rounds of 7.65 ammunition after 1928.

    Now let’s do some economics.

    Consider two concepts used by economists:
    ‘complementary’ goods and
    the ‘durable/non-durable goods’ distinction

    Complementary goods are goods that is typically used in conjunction with one another product, such that, a change in the demand for one good results in a change in the demand for the other. For example strawberries and cream, gin and tonic,wine and wine glasses, cars and petrol, printers and toner cartridges, videos and video players, etc., etc. As wine has becomes more popular the more wine glasses are sold. As videos have gone out of fashion so the demand for video players has collapsed.

    The ‘durable/non-durable goods’ distinction.
    Ultimately, nothing lasts, but for practical purposes we can distinguish between things which “get used up” or are discarded after use (consumables) and items that are used time after time (durable or capital goods).

    Of course many durable goods require non-durable goods to make them work. For example, cars require fuel. This means that the durable and non-durable components are ‘complementary’ goods. Consequently a change in the demand for one good results in a change in the demand for the other.

    Now let’s apply this to the case of 7.65mm cartridges.
    Ammunition is a consumable. It’s use requires a gun.
    7.65mm cartridges require a gun of the same calibre.

    A gun is a durable good.

    So, Watson, what can we deduce from the fact that the Soviet Union ceased to import 7.65mm cartridges?

  131. Manzil on said:

    Well, apart from the fact you’re a patronising tosser, you can’t really deduce anything from that – there’s no certainty to anything you’ve said, just a lot of supposition and filling in the blanks.

    Your smoking gun doesn’t actually prove what you say it does. You don’t have enough solid information. Insecure attempts at talking down to people on the internet notwithstanding.

  132. George Hallam on said:

    George Hallam: Ammunition is a consumable. It’s use requires a gun.

    That should be:

    “Its use requires a gun”

    Apologies to the Apostrophe Society.

  133. “Well, apart from the fact you’re a patronising tosser…”

    Now,now Manzil, George H is just old-school. I imagine him polishing his monocle and lighting his pipe whilst looking up all this information in his vast library for our benefit.

  134. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Your smoking gun doesn’t actually prove what you say it does. You don’t have enough solid information. Insecure attempts at talking down to people on the internet notwithstanding.

    I apologise if I have offended you.

    I don’t regard the evidence I have present as being conclusive.

    You ask if there were any reasons for thinking that it wasn’t the NKVD.

    I just did that.
    No offence was intended.

  135. Feodor on said:

    Ken MacLeod:
    I think this is a garbled version of a tale I’ve seen in a couple of online forums that Getty fell out with Grover Furr when Furr (allegedly) claimed that Getty thought the conspiracies alleged in the Moscow Trials were real or substantially so. If it’s Furr you’re thinking about, he has done a lot of research on material from Soviet archives, but not as far as I know ‘in the German archives’.

    The name does ring a bell or two, and after looking up his Wikipedia page, it does seem like the man in question. Cheers Ken, I’ve been trying to remember that for ages! :)

    And I accept that I may have garbled the story, or perhaps that it was deliberately distorted by whomever was telling it. Nevertheless, I’m as sure as I can be that one of the things said was that he’d done work in the German archives. When I’ve got time, I’ll have to have a look over his back catalogue.

  136. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya, I think Nazi Germany was responsible for the Katyn massacre.

    Noah, Of course there is no moral equivalence between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
    The two are polar opposite extremes.

    But I do see a similarity in mindset in attempts to “prove” the jews weren’t massacred and attempts to “prove” that there was any credence at all to the “verdicts” against the Soviet communists who Stalin murdered.
    It is those who try to make this case who are, whether conciously or not, assisting in the manufacture of a “moral equivalence.”

  137. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam,

    No worries, I’m just a prickly git sometimes. I take it back.

    As I said before – this really is interesting. My knowledge of Katyn basically extends to having sat through the Polish flick a few years ago. Didn’t even know there was a reason to think it wasn’t the Soviets.

    What about the documents handed over by the Russian government in (I think) 1991 to Walesa, showing Stalin authorised Beria to oversee the killings? Just Yeltsin’s forgeries?

    @ Omar – Quite!

  138. Personally I cannot make up my mind who is responsible. There is evidence that can be used to suggest either side. Noone can say for a fact it was either side, it just depends on belief.

    There was no conclusive proof until the documents released by the Russians in 1990. Even the British government officially stated there was no proof to support either story until 1990 and this document seemed to end the debate.

    Yet this document has now been said to be itself false-’the typewriter argument’

    http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/pol/discuss_katyn041806r.html

    We have already mentioned the ‘bullet argument’.

    Now I cannot find a proper source for this but apparently Goebbels wrote in his diary:

    “Unfortunately, German ammunition has been found in the graves at Katyn … It is essential that this incident remains top secret. If it were to come to the knowledge of the enemy the whole Katyn affair would have to be dropped.”

    A argument against Soviet blame comes from a certain Romuald Swiatek in ‘The Katyn Forest’ (Panda Press, London 1988) and appeared to hate the Soviets, having served 7 years in a labour camp in Russia. He overheard Germans and Poles state either their involvement or knowledge of Nazi guilt to each other:

    “I am far from trying to exonerate the Soviet system. I was myself an innocent victim and it is only due to the death of a tyrant that I was saved. I also got to know the whole of the criminal history of the Stalin times, and know that many hundreds of thousands were shot and many millions were sent to Siberian labour camps from which only small numbers returned. And if I stand in their defense it is only to correct false opinions in the case of Katyn as I know that the information spread was done so in bad faith and by irresponsible people”.

    There was also a German soldier at a trial in a Soviet military court in Leningrad in 1946 who stated that it was the Germans who did it and he admitted to burying bodies at Katyn. But he changed his story in later life. His retraction was then either correct and his confession the result of fear of torture by the Soviets or false and the effect of Cold war politics.

    It seems to me that there is no real solid proof either way. It is like the Reichstag fire, it depends who you believe. I would like to think the Soviets are innocent. But then again having read about atrocities committed by the Poles against red sympathizers during the civil war, and given the general war time conditions, I might be wrong.

  139. I’m genuinely undecided on the question of responsibility for Katyn.

    Karl, why do you believe that so much evidence and ‘admissions’ have been forthcoming from Russian sources to the effect that it was the.NKVD?

    Why is it less convincing than crimes of Stalin that were revealed in the Krushchev era?

  140. stephen marks on said:

    That the CP Politbureau minutes are now available showing the ordering of the shootings, as Manzil says, and that Russia has formally apologised seems as smoking a gun as one could wish for. But in addition, we know that the Wehrmacht did in fact treat the Polish prisoners it took in 1939 as PoWs, with at least some broad general conformity to the Geneva Conventions, while on the Russian front after 1941 neither side did so.

  141. Feodor on said:

    Vanya:
    I’m genuinely undecided on the question of responsibility for Katyn.

    I was under the impression that this issue – alongside responsibility for the Reichstag fire (!?) – was settled long ago. I don’t really see what would be gained from admitting to it in 1991 – far better not to exacerbate tensions with Poland, I would have thought. And if the issue is settled, then the more interesting question is how high up the chain of command responsibility goes.

  142. #173 The fact that the Germans treated some Poles as PoWs doesn’t prove they didn’t shoot others. Many survived Soviet detention to fight alongside the Red Army, which doesn’t prove Stalin didn’t do it either.

    #174 Accepting responsibility for Katyn would, I would have thought, have had a placatory effect in Poland.

    I don’t have enough knowledge on this subject and I do intend to do some research myself. One question that occurs to me is whether there is evidence as to where the victims were taken prisoner and when. That could be more pusuasive evidence one way or another than the provenance of 7.65 pistol ammunition.

  143. Vanya:
    #174 Accepting responsibility for Katyn would, I would have thought, have had a placatory effect in Poland.

    I can see the merit in that argument. Yet most Poles I’ve met consider it the icing on the cake, the greatest crime in a long list committed against them. In 1991, however, after almost 50 years of socialist rule, I don’t think it likely that many Poles would have questioned the official interpretation.* So why give them the extra ammunition?

    *I have no proof of that, btw, just think it unlikely.

    Good point about where they were taken prisoner.

  144. Karl Stewart: a similarity in mindset in attempts to “prove” the jews weren’t massacred and attempts to “prove” that there was any credence at all to the “verdicts” against the Soviet communists who Stalin murdered.

    The only similarity is in your own mind.

    No doubt very many of the people killed in the USSR especially in the late 1930s were entirely innocent, and were victims of a state of paranoia.

    However, it would be most unlikely that this paranoia has no basis whatsoever in reality.

    If foreign imperialist intelligence agencies were not trying to subvert the Soviet Union at that time, they would not have been doing their job. And surely we know from Western experience that being a communist (or former communist) is not an innoculation against having a relationship with capitalist state security services.

    So there is no particular reason, except to defend an a priori belief which you feel the need to hold to, or for wider political reasons, to reject out of hand a consideration of research into this matter.

  145. @ Stephen Marks 173 & 178.

    Up to now I’ve been open minded re: responsibility for the Katyn massacre.

    I’ve seen on the web, the documents you refer to, and if genuine of course they settle the matter.

    No doubt, as otherwise it would be suspected they are forgeries, they have been subjected to rigorous forensic analysis- I wonder if you could provide the relevant sources / links.

  146. stephen marks on said:

    As I understand from Wikipedia, these and other documents were supplied by Yeltsin to the Poles. So if they were forged, they would have been forged by order of Yeltsin, which I think is unlikely – or by his predecessors, and then found in the files by him, which is surely even more unlikely.

  147. stephen marks on said:

    I was not aware before reading this thread that there was any serious question as to Stalin’s responsibility for Katyn. While Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source, it can be a useful first port of call, and its entry on this is particularly well sourced. It seems the Russians handed over the whole file on Katyn to the Poles which includes the document I linked to above and several others.

    Other points to emerge include;

    - none of the documents found on the bodies date from later than 1940. The Germans of course did not occupy the area till 1941

    - ‘An investigation conducted by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004), has confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres. …In November 2010, the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordered the massacre’

    - on the use of German weapons; ‘The executions were usually performed with German-made 7.65 mm Walther PPK pistols supplied by Moscow, but 7.62x38R Nagant M1895 revolvers were also used.[31] The executioners used German weapons rather than the standard Soviet revolvers, as the latter were said to offer too much recoil, which made shooting painful after the first dozen executions’.

    I am not aware that the Germans did commit mass shootings of Polish officers after they had been taken prisoner and sent to PoW camps, as opposed to what may have happened before then. As to motive, as the Soviets did intend to recreate a Polish state under Soviet influence after the war they had an obvious interest in eliminating those members of the Polish elite who were not prepared to cooperate with the USSR. The Nazis had no such intention and were therefore not interested in separating anti-Nazi Poles from potential collaborators – though in fact even openly Fascist Poles were usually unwilling to collaborate with the Nazis.

    Of course as Mark Mazower has pointed out [Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (Allen Lane, 2008)] among themselves Nazi geostrategists were freely speculating about the prospect of sending the Poles and Czechs the same way as the Jews after the war had been won. But that was for later.

  148. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: ‘The executions were usually performed with German-made 7.65 mm Walther PPK pistols supplied by Moscow

    I have just had a leaflet pushed through my door that headed “Labour council leads the fight to save Hospital” that informs me that Lewisham’s Labour Mayor “Sir Steve” and “local councillors” have been at the forefront of the campaign to save our local hospital which is under threat because of the government’s attempt to save a PFI deal (instigated the Labour government).

    As someone who has been closely involved with the campaign I can assure people on this site that this is not an accurate an accurate account. I have worked closely with several members of the Labour party and I have no hesitation in commending their work; they have made an important contribution. As far as Labour’s 39 Lewisham councillors are concerned, it is certainly the case that some (four or five) have done some work. However, it would be a gross exaggeration to say they have played a prominent, let alone, a leading role.

    I shall not allow, what I regard as, this piece of blatant opportunism to interfere with my work with Labour Party members, councillors, or, indeed, the Labour Mayor himself.

    However, I must warn readers that my posts may be slightly more acid and patronising than usual.

    The Walther PPK did not go into production until 1931. Due to the Soviet government’s policy of import substitution trade in ‘consumer’ goods (hand guns would count as such) was shrinking. Following the Nazi ‘revolution’ Soviet-German trade declined even further.

    So how and when were these expensive PPKs aquired? And why did they come with old ammunition?

  149. stephen marks on said:

    This is desperate stuff George. Do you really think that handguns for the security forces would have been classified as ‘consumer goods’? I thought the Second Amendment was to the constitution of the USA, not the USSR!

  150. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: This is desperate stuff George. Do you really think that handguns for the security forces would have been classified as ‘consumer goods’?

    As far as classifying handguns as ‘consumer goods’, this is just a matter of economic terminology. The distinction is with ‘producer’ or ‘capital’ goods.

    In their drive to industrialise the Soviets needed to use their scarce foreign currency to buy the maximum amount of producer goods. It made no sense to import things for ‘final use’ that they could make themselves.

    I recognise that there is certain piquancy in using neo-classic economics to defend the NKVD. I had hoped reader would appreciate this. But there it is:
    “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Matthew 7:6

    On the other matter, you have misinterpreted my attitude. I am detached and methodical; not “desperate”.

    I have been very careful not to give my personal view of this case. That is for another time. My concern has been to present the evidence in relation to one small aspect, i.e. weapons used.

    Of course, I knew just mentioning this weak link in the case against the NKVD would produce a furious response.

    See this exchange in 2004:

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=41962

  151. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Is there any reason to think it wasn’t the NKVD?

    Unlike the leading industrial countries, Tsarist Russia did manufacture a large range of small arms. As far as handguns are concerned the seven-shot, gas-seal Nagant M1895 (the standard issue service revolver of the Imperial Russian Army and the police) was virtually all they produced.

    As a result there was a trade in imported handguns.

    Accounts suggest that during the Civil War CHEKA operatives were equipped, in addition to the Nagant M1895, with a wide variety of foreign handguns. No doubt this would have included a number of 7.65 x 17 automatics.

    This plethora of weapons and calibers would have posed logistical problems that administrators would, in all probability, have been keen to sort out. Apart from this, as far as 7.65 x 17 automatics are concerned, the ending of imports of ammunition would have made it impractical to continue using such weapons.

    By the late 1930’s there was no longer any need for foreign handguns. There was the TT-33, (chambered for the high-powered 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge) and the smaller TK-26 (6.35×15 cartridge). The latter had been approved in 1926 and from the evidence of the serial numbers 210,000 had been produced by 1930.

    http://www.russianrevolvers.com/kopovin/TKKorovin.html

  152. George Hallam on said:

    George Hallam: Tsarist Russia did manufacture a large range of small arms

    That should be “Tsarist Russia did not manufacture a large range of small arms”

  153. Francis King on said:

    The best starting point for anyone who wants to find out about the Katyn events is this translated collection of documents from the Soviet archives: Anna M. Cienciala, Natalia S Lebedeva and Wojciech Materski, Katyn. A Crime Without Punishment, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2008. Reading the documents it contains helps explain why there is no “debate” among serious historians about who killed the Polish officers, any more than there is a “debate” among serious biologists about the merits of Intelligent Design.

  154. George Hallam on said:

    Francis King: Reading the documents it contains helps explain why there is no “debate” among serious historians about who killed the Polish officers, any more than there is a “debate” among serious biologists about the merits of Intelligent Design.

    Shouldn’t that be “the merits the heritability of acquired characteristics”?

  155. Francis King,

    For someone who isn’t a serious historian please enlighten me. I can’t say either way but every time someone declares there is no debate, presumably that the soviets did do it, I get questions in my head. The issue with the bullets, the claim that the incriminating parts of the Beria document were written on a different typewriter to the last page with his signature, in a font not available to him. It has been suggested that a mini industry producing forgeries of stalin era documents was running in Russia in the early 1990s churning out documents that have since been proven false-using too modern technology, stamps…etc There’s the accounts where people have witnessed Germans admitting involvement. There is the Goebbels quote.

    It is a little too murky for me to accept either version as true.

  156. George Hallam on said:

    Francis King: there is no “debate” among serious historians about who killed the Polish officers

    Yes, Inspector Japp, “the Russian”, as you English call them, are the obvious suspects.

    Yes, they have “the motive”. More than one, the hatred of class and revenge.

    Yes, they have “the opportunity”; the victims are their prisoners held in a remote place.

    But, mon ami, you are overlooking one important fact, the only hard fact we have in the case:
    Have you not forgotten the report of the Boch policeman? What did it say? Ah! I have it before me:

    “A certain number of spent pistol cartridge-cases with the stamp ‘Geco 7,65 D’ were found beyond the area of the graves; some single spent cases were found among the bodies in the graves. .. In many instances the bullets had not left the skull. The calibre of the bullets found, 7.65 mm., would account for the damage to the skulls. The ammunition used was manufactured by the German firm of “Genschow”.”

    So what of “the means”. What of the weapon of the murder?

    This has been puzzling Poirot…

    How did the murderer get the gun?

    Once we know this, then, and only then, Japp, mon petit chou, we will have solved the case.

    Use the Little Grey Cells, Mon Chéri.

  157. Francis King on said:

    George W – I can only suggest you read that book, weigh it up, and then see what questions remain unanswered for you. Similarly, try to get hold of Goebbels diaries and read the entry regarding Katyn in its full context.

    More generally, for those fans of the method of “argument” based on quibbling about minor details, I can only say: learn from the masters!
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989226