Beria vs. Stalin: "Western" Marxism vs "Russian" Marxism

- Peter Myers

Date anuary 8, 2003; update February 13, 2019.

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Isaac Deutscher wrote that the Bolshevik Government, in its first years, was run by "emigres had lived many years in the West", who looked down on Russian "backwardness" and pursued "internationalist" politics:

"... they were Marxists in partibus infidelium, West European revolutionaries acting against a non-congenial Oriental background, which ... tried to impose its tyranny upon them. Only revolution in the West could relieve them from that tyranny ... "

"No sooner had Bolshevism mentally withdrawn into its national shell than this attitude became untenable. The party of the revolution had to stoop to its semi-Asiatic environment. It had to cut itself loose from the specifically Western tradition of Marxism ... "

Beria and Gorbachev attempted to return to this "Western" Marxism: each emphatically rejected Stalin. But Deutscher was a Jewish Trotskytist, and this "Western" Marxism is Trotskyism by another name.

Stuart Kahan wrote in The Wolf of the Kremlin, (William Morrow and Company, New York, 1987):

{p. 256} Stalin was about to launch a new terrorist campaign against the party's higher-ranking members, and it appeared that no one was safe, least of all those with Jewish connections. They would be the targets for the upcoming purges.

Besides Molotov, Voroshilov had married a woman of Jewish extraction, Beria's mother was half-Jewish, Khrushchev's son-in-law was of Jewish origin, and Lazar himself was a Jew. {endquote} kaganovich.html

Pavel Sudoplatov wrote in SPECIAL TASKS (1994, 1995):

"In May 1953, two months after Stalin's death, Zoya Zarubina, who had become a dean of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages and a party secretary, heard at a confidential party meeting that Beria was concealing his Jewish origins. He was arrested two months later." (p. 307) sudoplat.html

UPDATE February 13, 2019.: Peter Deriabin on Beria's Attempt to Seize Power

(1) Sudoplatov's Beria
(2) Walter Duranty, USSR: the Story of Soviet Russia
(3) Stalin and Beria as a Team
(4) Ludo Martens on Beria
(5) Isaac Deutscher, Russia After Stalin With a Postscript on the Beria Affair
(6) Mikhail Heller & Aleksandr Nekrich on the successor-governments following the death of Stalin
(7) Peter Deriabin on Beria's Attempt to Seize Power

(1) Sudoplatov's Beria


Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov

with Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schecter

Foreword by Robert Conquest

(Little, Brown and Company, New York 1994, 1995):

{p. xiii} INTRODUCTION {by} Jerrold L. and Leona P. Schecter

{p. xvi} Beria, argues Sudoplatov, was an innovator who would have brought ahout the unification of Germany in the 1950s, avoiding the crises that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall. In the few short months between Stalin's death and his arrest by Khrushchev's supporters, Beria had begun emptying the Gulag and urged that political prisoners he released. Sudoplatov rejoiced in the freeing of his friends, mostly Jews who had been purged from the intelligence service during the so-called Zionist conspiracy. Sudoplatov's Beria is part monster and part reformer, too strong for Stalin's other heirs to let him live. Khushchev successfully destroyed Beria and then created a historical image, still popularly held, that it was primarily Beria who shared with Stalin culpability for the crimes that preceded Khrushchev's leadership.

{end Introduction by Robert Conquest; the remainder of the book is by Sudoplatov}

Sudoplatov on Beria: sudoplat.html.

(2) Walter Duranty, USSR: the Story of Soviet Russia, Hamish Hamilton, London 1944.

{p. 103} To the Western world it seemed that the bitter and protracted conflict inside the Communist Party which followed Lenin's death, was mainly a struggle for power, for the inheritance of Lenin's mantle, between two rivals, Stalin and Trotsky. In reality the conflict began much earlier and covered much wider ground than a quarrel of individuals. I have already mentioned the deep-seated jealousy and ill feeling between the "Western exiles," the small group of Bolshevik leaders who had lived in Switzerland, France and England during the decade of repression from 1907 to 1917, and those of their comrades who had stayed in Russia as desperate champions of an illegal and "underground" movement. Secondly, there was a sharp divergence of views in the Central Committee itself, not so much about principles as about methods, persons and timing, that is, how the principles should be applied, and by whom and at what moment. Official Bolshevik records show that such divergences had always been a feature of discussions in the higher ranks of the Party, that they had existed, sometimes to a damaging degree, during the period between the abdication of the Tsar and the seizure of power in November, 1917.


(3) Stalin and Beria as a Team

From :

{start} New Economic Policy 1921-1928

Domestic Policy : Party Purges, Kulak Famine and the Gulag

J.V. Stalin, as GENERAL SECRETARY of the Communist Party, with BERIA, head of the secret police, closely cooperating, was the most powerful person in the Soviet Union. Yet the office of general secretary was not defined as such; it had been Stalin who had filled the office with this power. In order to secure the power against actual or potential political rivals, Stalin had them, one by one, over a period of several years, arrested, accused of counterrevolutionary activities or conspiracy in SHOW TRIALS, sentenced and eiled to Siberia or executed : KAMENEV and SINOVEV in 1934 (Siberia) and 1936 (shot), TUKHACHEVSKY (1937, shot), BUKHANIN (1938) etc. The persecution was not limited to the top level; supporters of those sentenced in show trials were eliminated in PARTY PURGES conducted again and again. Anybody suspected of having supported one of those deemed counterrevolutionaries or dissidents were in danger of being deported, down to school children who had written essays on the history of the revolution. The minimum age for the death penalty in 1935 was lowered to 12 years. The Siberian prison system, referred to as the GULAG, in 1938 had an estimated 3 to 5 million inmates, mostly political prisoners; conditions were horrible, many did not return (here lack of nutrition and exposure to the extreme climatic conditions, as well as lack of medical care were the main killers).

The KULAKS, landowning peasants reluctant to give up their farmland and join a Kolkhoze, were expropriated, but excluded from the kolkhoze. Thus deprived of their livelihood, the authorities at Stalin's order, did nothing to prevent the KULAK FAMINE of 1933, a mass starvation neither caused by war nor by misharvest. Stalin prohibited any food shipment into the affected areas (mainly UKRAINE). When western relief organizations offered help, Stalin refused, denying the problem to exist. Some refugees reached the west, though. The number of victims is estimated at over 6 million. With some legitimation Stalin could claim that the living standard of the Soviet industrial worker had risen ("life has become merry", 1935). Yet shared housing was still normal, a bicycle a valued possession; the demand for personal privacy was condemned by the Communist Party as "petit-bourgeois mentality", and rejected.

In 1936 the TRANSCAUCASIAN REPUBLIC was dissolved into the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani SSR. The Soviet Union declared to be against IMPERIALISM, and established numerous autonomous republics (ASSRs) for ethnic minorities, for instance the KARELIAN ASSR in 1935, the KOMI ASSR in 1936, the MORDOVIAN or MORDVINIAN ASSR in 1934 etc.; later in the 1930s, however, a RUSSIFICATION policy was pursued. Certain ethnicities, such as the Crimean Tatars, became the object of MASS DEPORTATION.

{end of text}

(4) Ludo Martens on Beria

Ludo Martens writes in his online book Another view of Stalin (Copyright © 1995 John Plaice) at

Stalin's death

{my comments are in curly brackets}

A few months before Stalin's death, the entire security system that protected him was dismantled. Alexandr Proskrebychev, his personal secretary, who had assisted him since 1928 with remarkable efficiency, was fired and placed under house arrest. He had allegedly redirected secret documents. Lieutenant-Colonel Nikolay Vlasik, Chief of Stalin's personal security for the previous 25 years, was arrested on December 16, 1952 and died several weeks later in prison.

P. Deriabin, Watchdogs of Terror: Russian Bodyguards from the Tsars to the Commissars (1984), p. 321; cited in Bland, op. cit. , p. 24.

{Bill Bland, The "Doctors' case" and the death of Stalin (London: The Stalin Society, October 1991)}

Major-General Petr Kosynkin, Vice-Commander of the Kremlin Guard, responsible for Stalin's security, died of a `heart attack' on February 17, 1953. Deriabin wrote:

'(This) process of stripping Stalin of all his personal security (was) a studied and very ably handled business'.

Deriabin, op. cit., p. 209; cited in Bland, op. cit., p. 27.

Only Beria was capable of preparing such a plot.

On March 1, at 23:00, Stalin's guards found him on the floor in his room, unconscious. They reached the members of the Politburo by telephone. Khrushchev claimed that he also arrived, and that each went back home.

Deriabin, op. cit., p. 300.

No-one called a doctor. Twelve hours after his attack, Stalin received first aid. He died on March 5. Lewis and Whitehead write:

'Some historians see evidence of premeditated murder. Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov sees the cause in Stalin's visible preparation of a purge to rival those of the thirties'.

J. Lewis and P. Whitehead, Stalin: A Time for Judgment (London, 1990), p. 279; cited in Bland, op. cit., p. 34.

Immediately after Stalin's death, a meeting of the presidium was convened. Beria proposed that Malenkov be President of the Council of Ministers and Malenkov proposed that Beria be named Vice-President and Minister of Internal Affairs and State Security.

Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, op. cit., p. 324.

During the following months, Beria dominated the political scene. 'We were going through a very dangerous period', wrote Khrushchev.

Ibid., p. 331.

Once installed as head of Security, Beria had Proskrebychev, Stalin's secretary, arrested; then Ryumin, who had led the inquiry into Zhdanov's suspicious death. Ignatiev, Ryumin's boss, was denounced for his rôle in the same affair. On April 3, the doctors accused of having killed Zhdanov were liberated. The Zionist author Wittlin claimed that by rehabilitating the Jewish doctors, Beria wanted to 'denigrate ... Stalin's aggressive foreign policy against the West, the United States and Great Britain primarily'.

Wittlin, op. cit., p. 388. {77. Thaddeus Wittlin, Commissar: The Life and Death of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria (New York: Macmillan, 1972)}

Still in April, Beria organized a counter-coup in his native region, Georgia. Once again he placed his men at the top of the Party and the State. Dekanozov, later shot along with Beria, became Minister of State Security, replacing Rukhadze, arrested as 'enemy of the people'.

Bland, op. cit., p. 46.


(5) Isaac Deutscher, Russia After Stalin With a Postscript on the Beria Affair, Hamish Hamilton, London 1953:

{p. 30} In later years, when economic reconstruction was under way and the ruling group might have met with more popular support, its members were already fixed in undemocratic habits of government and had a stake in persisting in those habits. It is as a rule easier for any government or party to move away from a democratic principle a thousand miles than to go back to it a single yard.

{Deutscher implies that the USSR was "democratic" before Stalin, i.e. in its "Trotskyist" period. This view, coupled with his castigastion of Stalin, shows that he is a Trotskyist}

Stalin was not inclined to go back a single inch. He identified himself wholeheartedly and unreservedly with the development towards autocracy. He became its chief promoter and its chief beneficiary. Unswervingly he remoulded the Leninist State into a new, authoritarian-bureaucratic shape.

He had even less hesitation in breaking away from the revolutionary internationalist aspect of Leninism.

During the Leninist period he had, like every other Bolshevik, expounded the view that the Russian revolution could not be self-sufficient, and that its future depended on the progress of world revolution. He emphatically repeated this even shortly after Lenin's death, saying that socialism could not be built up in a single isolated country, especially in one as 'backward' as Russia.

Even while he was reiterating this Leninist axiom, world revolution was to him merely an abstract idea. The immediate reality in which he was wholly immersed, and to which he genuinely responded, was the Russian revolution. The other party leaders, who as emigres had lived many years in the West and had been impressed by its seemingly powerful Marxist movement, could argue with great sincerity that international communism had first claim on Soviet Russia, or even that the interests of Soviet Russia had to be subordinated to those of world revolution. To Stalin this reasoning was little better than a mental aberration of emigres, on whom the West had cast a magic spell, depriving them of any sense of reality.

{p. 31} Instinctively he adopted an attitude towards which the Russian revolution was in any case drifting, an attitude of national self-centredness and self-sufficiency. To many rank and file Bolsheviks world revolution had become a lamentable myth by 1924, while the building of socialism in Russia was the exacting and exhilarating experience of their generation. Despite all his verbal tributes to Leninist internationalism, Stalin became the chief mouthpiece of this sentiment. He elevated the sacred egoism of the Russian revolution to a supreme principle - this was the real meaning of his idea of 'socialism in one country'. He was determined to make the sacred egoism of the 'only proletarian State in the world' the guiding idea of international communism as well. Whenever the interests of foreign communism clashed or appeared to clash with those of the Soviet Union, he sacrificed foreign communism.

By the middle of the 1920's Bolshevism had virtually solved its dilemma of 'liberation' versus 'containment' in favour of containment. World capitalism was not to be allowed to overlap the frontiers of the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union was not to forgo even the slightest chance of an understanding with any bourgeois government, even if such an understanding could be bought only at the price of 'betraying' foreign communism. Fascist regimes, bourgeois democracies, and Oriental reactionary dictatorships - all were equally good, or equally bad, as partners in trade and diplomatic bargaining.

The Communist International still proudly claiming to be the vanguard of world revolution became the rearguard of Stalin's diplomacy. It was used as an instrument of Soviet pressure upon capitalist governments rather than as a militant movement fighting for their overthrow.

'Socialism in one country' was in effect the formula in which Bolshevism, under Stalin's leadership, intimated its readiness for self-containment to a world which was anyhow bent on containing it. Thus the statesmen of

{p. 32} the Western world understood the formula; and most of them applauded Stalin's victory over Trotsky, in whom they saw the hateful incarnation of all the world-revolutionary aspirations of early Bolshevism. (Little did those statesmen expect that one day they would feel threatened by a revolution carried on the point of the bayonets of Stalin's armies!)

As long as Bolshevism hoped and believed that its ultimate salvation would come from abroad, it remained in a sense elevated above its Russian environment. It did not feel dependent on that environment only. It could afford to express its disdain for native 'backwardness', for Russia's semi-Asiatic outlook, and for her Tsarist past; and nobody vented that disdain more often and with less inhibition than Lenin did. During the early years of the Soviet regime, the Bolshevik leaders had the feeling that they were Marxists in partibus infidelium, West European revolutionaries acting against a non-congenial Oriental background, which temporarily restricted their freedom of movement and tried to impose its tyranny upon them. Only revolution in the West could relieve them from that tyranny; and that it was about to do so was beyond doubt.

No sooner had Bolshevism mentally withdrawn into its national shell than this attitude became untenable. The party of the revolution had to stoop to its semi-Asiatic environment. It had to cut itself loose from the specifically Western tradition of Marxism. It had to lay itself open to the slow, persistent infiltration of native backwardness and barbarism, even while it struggled to defeat that backwardness and barbarism.

The adjustment began in the early part of the Stalinist era, and it did so in every field of activity: in the method of government, in the approach to problems of culture and education, in the relations with the outside world,

{p. 33} in the style of diplomatic dealings, and so on. The process of infiltration was gaining momentum throughout the Stalinist era; and it reached a grotesque climax just at its end.

This does not mean that Bolshevism surrendered to its native environment. On the contrary, during the greater part of the Stalin era Bolshevism was as if at war with it - industrializing, collectivizing, and modernizing it. In a sense, Bolshevism has 'Westernized' the essential framework of Russian society. But it could do so only by itself becoming 'Orientalized'. This mutual interpenetration of modern technology and Marxist socialism with Russian barbarism formed the content of the Stalin era.

Shortly before his death Lenin had a premonition of the shape of things to come. He recalled the familiar historical phenomenon when a nation which has conquered another nation culturally superior to it succumbs to the political and cultural standards of the conquered. Something similar, so Lenin argued, may happen in class struggle: an oppressed and uneducated class may overthrow a ruling class culturally superior to it; and then the defeated class may impose its own standards upon the victorious revolutionary forces. In a flash of extraordinary foresight, Lenin had the vision of his disciples, the former professional revolutionaries, adopting the methods of government and the standards of behaviour of the Tsars, the feudal boyars, and the old bureaucracy. Lenin warned his followers against this danger; but up to a point he himself furthered it. He argued, for instance, that in order to prepare Russia for socialism industrially, technologically, and educationally, Bolshevism must drive barbarism out of Russia by barbarous methods, as Peter the Great had done in his time.

This obiter dictum, one of Lenin's many and sometimes contradictory sayings, became Stalin's guiding principle. He had none of the qualms about barbarous methods which beset Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders; and he had no hesitation in proclaiming that the driving

{p. 34} out of barbarism in a barbarous manner was no mere preliminary to socialism - it was socialism itself.

To sum up: the transition from Leninism to Stalinism consisted in the abandonment of a revolutionary internationalist tradition in favour of the sacred egoism of Soviet Russia; and in the suppression of Bolshevism's pristine attachment to proletarian democracy in favour of an autocratic system of government. The isolation of the Russian revolution resulted in its mental self-isolation and in its spiritual and political adaptation to primordial Russian tradition. Stalinism represented the amalgamation of Western European Marxism with Russian barbarism.

A brief historical digression may perhaps be permitted here.

We have seen that Marxist communism had had its cradle in the industrial West. A Western philosophy (Hegel), a Western political economy (Ricardo), and the ideas of Western Utopian socialism (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen) had nursed it. Marxism claimed to make articulate theoretically and to express politically the revolutionary aspirations of Western industrial workers. During many decades it then strove to convert and conquer the West through the exertions of the Western working classes. By the turn of the century great labour movements had sprung up all over Western Europe, which marched under Marxist banners and solemnly vowed to use their first opportunity to carry out proletarian revolutions.

Yet this apparent success of Marxism was spurious. More than a hundred years after the message of the Communist Manifesto had first resounded throughout the world not a single proletarian revolution has triumphed in the West. Not even a single full-scale attempt at such a revolution, an attempt genuinely backed by a majority

{p. 35} of the working class, has taken place in the West, apart from the Commune of Paris, defeated in 1871.

Instead Marxism has spread to the East; and by the efforts of the intelligentsia and a young and small working class it has conquered primitive peasant nations, from whom it had expected little or no response, and whom it had not considered capable of initiating a socialist order. At the middle of this century Marxism has become in a sense displaced from the West and naturalized in Russia and China. Where it has survived as a mass movement in the West, in France and Italy, it has done so in its 'Orientalized' form; and it exists there as a broad reflex of the Russian metamorphosis of Marxism.

In the East Marxism has absorbed the traditions of Tsardom and of Greek Orthodoxy. It has indeed become so thoroughly transformed that the West has almost forgotten that Marxism is its own authentic product and has come to treat it almost as if it were an exotic Oriental religion. In its prevalent Stalinist version Marxism has very nearly ceased to understand the West, and has itself become incomprehensible to the West. So profound has become the displacement and transformation of the greatest revolutionary and international movement of our age.

A striking parallel to this is found in the fortunes of early Christianity, which came into being as a Judaic 'heresy', as one of the extreme sects in the Synagogue, wholly in character with old Biblical tradition, and bent on converting to its beliefs primarily the Jews. Yet it was not given to Christianity to convert the people from whose midst its Man-God and its Apostles had come. Instead, Christianity moved into a disintegrating pagan world, whose mind was no longer dominated by the old gods, where Jupiter's thunder no longer made men

{p. 36} tremble, and Neptune was no longer able to shake the seas.

It was in the temples of the old Graeco-Roman deities that Christianity made its conquests; and it began to breathe the air of their temples, to absorb and assimilate pagan myths, symbols, and beliefs. It came to dominate its new environment while it was adapting itself to it. It ceased to be a Jewish heresy; it ceased to live on the Nazarene memories of the Old Testament and on Jewish oral tradition. It ceased to understand the Jews and it became incomprehensible to the Jews. From the Judaic creed of the oppressed it became the religion of the Roman Casars. But converting the Casars, it also became converted to Caesarism, until the Holy See became an Imperial court, and until the hierarchical habits of the Roman Empire became its ecclesiastic canons.

In Christianity this evolution lasted centuries; in Bolshevism - only decades. If Lenin was the St. Paul of Marxism, who set out to transplant the movement from its original environment into new lands, Stalin was already its Constantine the Great. He was, to be sure, not the first Emperor to embrace Marxism, but the first Marxist revolutionary to become the autocratic ruler of a vast empire.

{p. 174} Fighting for the life of the revolution and for its own life, Lenin's government broke that promise. It destroyed Soviet democracy and banned all parties; but it still preserved democracy within Bolshevik ranks. Yet it could not allow the Bolsheviks the freedom which it had denied to others. Lenin proceeded to restrict inner party democracy, and Stalin abolished it.

The reverse process can begin only with the infusion of democracy in the Communist Party. Only from there can freedom of expression spread to other bodies, covering an ever wider range, until a fully fledged Soviet democracy comes into being, backed by a high industrial civilization and by an up-to-date socialist system.

Historically, the Communist Party has lost its own freedom because it denied it to others. When at last it regains freedom it cannot but return it to others.

This great goal still looms only dimly on a distant horizon. To come nearer to it, Russia needs peace, peace, and once again peace. However half-hearted the intentions of the Malenkov government may have been and whatever its ultimate fate, it already has the historic distinction that it has taken the first steps which should lead towards democratic regeneration.

For decades freedom was banned from Russia because it was, or was supposed to be, the enemy of socialism. If Russia had been free to choose her own road she would hardly have marched in the direction in which Bolshevism has led her. But freedom may once again become the ally and friend of socialism; and then the forty years of wandering in the desert may be over for the Russian revolution.



BERIA'S downfall, announced on 10 July, marks the end of a distinct phase in Russia's political evolution after Stalin.

During that phase, which lasted from March till the end of June, the advocates of reform at home and conciliation abroad were on the ascendant, while the diehards of Stalinism and the 'anti-appeasers' were compelled to yield one position after another.

The East German revolt of 16 and 17 June brought into play a new factor which discomfited the reformers and conciliators and allowed their opponents to strike a counter-blow, the first since Stalin's death. Inside the ruling group a coalition of the most diverse groups and interests raised the cry: 'Enough of "liberalism"! Enough of appeasement! Enough of the betrayal of Stalinist orthodoxy!' To the world's amazement, Beria, Stalin's countryman, henchman, admiring biographer, and for many years chief policeman, was denounced as the arch-traducer of Stalinism.

The Beria affair is undoubtedly an incident in the personal rivalry between Stalin's successors. It represents one stage in the process by which a candidate for the vacant post of the autocrat may strive to eliminate his competitors. But personal rivalry is only one of the elements of the drama: and in itself it is of secondary importance. More significant is the conflict of principles and policies hidden behind the clash of personalities - the world is interested in the policies rather than the personalities which are going to emerge victorious.

{p. 176} Let us briefly survey the trend of Soviet policies since Stalin's death in order to see which are the major issues at stake.

From March to the middle of June one domestic reform followed upon another in close succession. The Stalin cult was virtually abolished. A campaign of 'enlightenment' was in progress, designed to make it impossible to replace that cult by the adulation of any other Leader. The administration was being overhauled and shaken from its Byzantine-totalitarian rigidity. A fairly comprehensive amnesty was decreed. The frame-up of the Kremlin doctors was declared null and void. The inquisitorial methods of the political police were bluntly condemned. {Yet Beria had been in charge of them} The rule of law was proclaimed. Strong emphasis was placed on the constitutional rights of the citizen. Newspapers asked almost openly for the abolition of censorship and official control. (The Literary Gazette, for instance, frankly demanded that the Soviet theatre be allowed to manage its own affairs without outside interference, a demand which nobody would have dared to raise during the Stalin era and which obviously set an infectious example to others.) The need for the 'monolithic' outlook was implicitly or even explicitly questioned at almost every step. Free expression of views was encouraged; and the holder of unorthodox views was no longer labelled an enemy, a traitor, or a foreign agent. High officials were demoted merely on the ground that they abused their power and acted unconstitutionally; no predatory or counter-revolutionary intent was attributed to them. The relaxation of the over-centralistic method of government was noticeable above all in the dismissal of Russifiers from high office in the Ukraine, in Georgia, and other outlying Union Republics. Russification was emphatically disavowed. Together with the cessation of anti-Semitic incitement these moves promised a new and hopeful beginning in the treatment of the smaller nationalities.

{Before Stalin, the Jewish Bolsheviks dominated by rallying minority peoples against the Russians: convergence.html; Stalin reversed this process, introducing Russification, e.g. in the Central Asian parts of the USSR. In the West, Jewish Communists have similarly promoted ethnic minorities against the "Anglo" majority, even to the point of weakening the cohesiveness of the society}

Last but not least, the government ordered a revision

{p. 177} of the targets of the current economic plans. Consumer industries were to raise their output. A higher standard of living and contentment of the masses were obviously regarded as vital preconditions for the success of the new policy.

A new spirit made itself felt in the conduct of foreign affairs. Moscow consistently exercised its influence in favour of a truce in Korea; and not even Synghman Rhee's provocations diverted the Russians (or the Chinese or the North Koreans) from this path. In Europe Malenkov's government began, as it was forecast, 'to explore the lines of retreat from Germany'.

It is enough to recall here the moves made by Soviet diplomacy only during the week which preceded the Berlin revolts:

After General Chuikov had been recalled from Berlin the whole policy of the Pieck-Ulbricht government was dramatically reversed. The 'iron curtain' between Eastern and Western Germany was nearly demolished. Labour policy was revised. The struggle between the government and the Evangelical Church was called off; and the Church regained its former privileges. Collectivization of farming was stopped. The farmers who had fled to Western Germany were invited to come back and take possession of their property. Private capital was also invited to return to industry and trade.

From the Russian viewpoint these moves made no sense at all unless they were part and parcel of a policy calculated to bring about the unification of Germany and the withdrawal of occupation armies. There was little doubt in Berlin that Moscow was really prepared to abandon the government of Pieck and Ulbricht. So strongly indeed did Soviet representatives in Berlin encourage this belief and so frankly did they negotiate with non-Communist leaders about a change of the regime that by this alone the Russians themselves unwittingly induced the people of Berlin to descend upon

{p. 178} the streets, to clamour for the resignation of the Communist government, and to storm that government's offices. 'Russia is willing to abandon her puppets - let us remove them at once!' this was the idea behind the German revolt.

In the same week, on 10 June, Moscow established diplomatic relations with Austria and proclaimed an end to the regime of occupation there. Restrictions on inter-zonal traffic were abolished in Austria as well. And on the same day, as a side-line, Moscow solemnly renounced all its claims on Turkey, the claims that had played a fateful role in the opening phases of the cold war.

What was surprising in all these developments, domestic and foreign, was their extraordinary consistency and apparently frictionless progress. Stalin's successors showed no sign of hesitation in pursuing the new course. They betrayed no second thoughts. They seemed to bask in the glory of unaccustomed generosity.

Was it possible, one wondered, that the die-hards of Stalinism and other opponents of 'appeasement' should be so weak and discredited that they were unable to put a brake upon the new course? Or were they perhaps retreating tactically and merely waiting until the new policy had run into serious trouble?

Where did Beria stand in all this? To which faction did he belong? In watching the Russian scene it is not difficult to arrive, by processes of deduction and analysis, at a definition of the broad viewpoints and political conceptions contending for acceptance by the ruling group.

Nor is it very difficult to see the sectional interests and aspirations reflected in the competing conceptions. The broad forces aligned with, or arrayed against, one another throw their shadows sharply enough even across the veil of secrecy that surrounds them for the outsider to be

{p. 179} able to guess the approximate disposition of those forces. But only in exceptional cases is it possible to venture even a guess about the attitude of this or that official personality on any specific issue.

In Russia After Stalin the supposition was expressed that 'in the inner councils of the party Beria did not necessarily represent the anti-liberal attitude of the police', that he may, on the contrary, have acted against the 'die-hards of the police' as one of the promoters of reform.

This supposition appears to have been borne out by the facts in the meantime. In the last period of his activity Beria represented the curious paradox of a semi-liberal police chief in a totalitarian state. The period up to the East German revolt might indeed be described as Beria's Hundred Days.

Beria took upon himself the responsibility for two major political acts, two unforgivable 'crimes' in the eyes of the die-hards of Stalinism and their associates. First, he humiliated the political police when he exposed its practices in connection with the 'doctors' plot'. Next, he offended, 'Great Russian chauvinism' when he, the Georgian, called for an end to Russification in Georgia, in the Ukraine, in the Baltic lands, and in Central Asia.

Both these acts, the former more explicitly than the latter, had ostensibly been endorsed by the other party leaders. But as Minister of the Interior Beria was identified with these acts more closely than anyone else. No wonder that some of the old hands of the political police, resentfully straining to recover their sacred right to extort 'confessions' from their victims, and the Great Russian chauvinists, joined hands to wreak vengeance on him.

Beria was less directly associated with the conduct of foreign affairs; but, as a member of the Politbureau (now the Praesidium), he exercized a strong influence in that field, too. Bolshevik foreign policy has never been made

{p. 180} by the Foreign Minister of the day, Molotov, Vyshinsky, Litvinov, or Chicherin - it has always becn the prerogative of the Politbureau. That foreign and domestic policies are closely interdependent has been an axiom. The man in charge of domestic security must therefore have had a considerable say in foreign affairs as well. Beria certainly had a decisive say in the affairs of Eastern Germany and generally of Eastern Europe, which had a direct bearing on Russia's internal security, on the one hand, and on diplomacy, on the other. Thus his opponents could easily blame him for 'appeasement' as well as for the domestic reforms.

From March to June Beria acted in close alliance with Malenkov. Together they swayed the Praesidium, probably against Molotov's and certainly against Khrushchev's opposition or semi-opposition. Jointly they represented the strongest bloc of power within the Praesidium. The new policy aroused great hopes and was undoubtedly very popular; and as long as this was so, nobody could challenge Malenkov's and Beria's joint authority.

(Against this interpretation the old argument may be advanced that under a totalitarian regime the states of the popular mind and the social, cultural and moral trends at work in society are of no political importance. In his criticism of Russia Afer Stalin, Mr. George F. Kennan, for instance,writes that the 'majority of students of modern totalitarianism ... feel that if the ruling group remains united, vigilant and ruthless, it need not defer extensively to, or be seriously influenced by, subjective feelings within the populace at large'. And again: 'In general, totalitarian leaders who retain their internal unity and their ruthlessness can scoff at subjective states of the popular mind. ...' (My italics- I.D.)

Mr. Kennan's words, written before Beria's fall, reflected an assumption that there was no need for Western policy to take into account any genuine divisions within the Soviet ruling group, because no such

{p. 181} divisions existed. This assumption has been proved wrong. But what conclusion is to be drawn from the fact that the Soviet ruling group does not 'remain united' and does not 'retain its internal unity' ? Surely the 'subjective states of the popular mind' do acquire some political significance thereby? And those states of mind may in part even account for the differences within the ruling group itself?)

From the beginning, however, the forces opposed to the Malenkov-Beria policy were formidable. The old hands of the political police were not idle. Some party stalwarts were shocked by the all round break with the old-established canons of Stalinism. Some chiefs of armed forces pondered with alarm the implications of the quasi-liberal reforms: Would the reforms not cause a slump in labour discipline and imperil the armament programmes? By dint of tradition the army has been the mouthpiece of 'Great Russian chauvinism' and has viewed with suspicion and hostility the 'centrifugal' nationalisms of the outlying Republics. Some marshals and generals could not adopt a favourable attitude towards a foreign policy obviously directed towards an eventual withdrawal of the occupation armies from Germany and Austria.

But the coalition of shocked Stalinist diehards, resentful policemen, and anxious generals was helpless as long as the new policy was triumphantly carried forward on a tide of popular enthusiasm. The first hitches apparently occurred on the home front. To judge from circumstantial evidence, labour discipline did slump in industry, and collective farms lagged with food deliveries. But these hitches were either not serious enough to permit the opponents of the new policy to launch a frontal attack on it, or else they did not provide convenient ground for such an attack.

It was Eastern Germany that gave the opponents of the new policy the opportunity they had eagerly awaited.

The Germans who on 16 and 17 June descended upon

{p. 182} the streets, clamouring for the dismissal of the government of Pieck and Ulbricht, assailing the People's Police, and meeting Russian tanks with a hail of stones, did in fact bring about an upheaval; but the upheaval took place in Moscow, not in Berlin.

Almost certainly a cry against 'appeasement' went up at once within the walls of the Kremlin. Army chiefs could now argue that it was the army that had to bear the consequences of the neck-breaking political experiments started by the civilians; that order reigned in Eastern Germany as long as General Chuikov ruled there with an iron hand; that the trouble began as soon as the general had been replaced by Semyonov, as High Commissioner, and a civilian regime had been established; and that then it was the army that had to rescue that regime.

Starting from the German issue the critics could turn against the new policy as a whole. They could point out that not only Germany but the West at large was receiving Russian concessions as proof of Russian weakness; and that Washington in particular was using these concessions as the starting point for an intensified onslaught on Russia's positions in Eastern and Central Europe.

Moreover, the ruling group saw that the new policy was indeed becoming a source of weakness for Russia: it plunged the whole of Eastern Europe into a turmoil; it caused a rapid deterioration in Russia's bargaining position; it tempted American diplomacy to pass from 'containment' to 'liberation'; and it threatened to rob Russia of the fruits of her victory in the Second World War, without any compensating gains.

The 'appeasers' may still have argued that the new line had not yet been given a chance; that it would be wrong to abandon it immediately after it had encountered the first difficulties; and that only by persisting patiently in the policy of concessions could the Soviet Government reap its benefits.

{p. 183} But after the earthquake in Eastern Germany, after the tremors in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, after all the calls for a tough policy which resounded from Washington, the argument against 'appeasement' carried more weight in the Kremlin.

In Russia as in the United States there exist groups which hold the view that all peace-seeking is futile; these groups regard with Schadenfreude any setback suffered by the conciliators. The position of such groups was now greatly enhanced: the advocates of a tough policy in the West had effectively played into their hands.

There is no reason, however, to assume that after 16 and 17 June these extremists became the real masters of Soviet policy. The core of the ruling group still consists of men prepared to seek agreement with the West. But even the men of the 'centre must have been affected by the arguments against 'appeasement'. They had to admit that the conduct of Soviet policy since Stalin's death was rather inept in some respects.

Thcy had to admit that Moscow was over-hasty in making concessions and over-zealous in demonstrating its willingness to make further and more far-reaching concessions. Official spokesmen had many times confidently stated that the government would never accept Washington's demand that Russia must yield substantial ground before the West opened negotiations. In fact Malenkov's government behaved as if it had tacitly accepted that demand - it did make concessions in advance of negotiations.

Even from the viewpoint of the Soviet appeaser the initiation of the mild course in Eastern Germany turned out to have been 'premature'. It provoked a near collapse of the Communist regime there.

From the Soviet viewpoint it would have been justifiable to take such risks only after the West had agreed to an all-round withdrawal of the occupation armies. The undoing of the Communist regime in Eastern Germany would then be the price Russia paid ...

{end of quotes}

(6) Mikhail Heller & Aleksandr Nekrich on the successor-governments following the death of Stalin

Mikhail Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich, UTOPIA IN POWER: the History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present, translated by Phyllis B. Carlos (Hutchinson, London, 1985).

{p. 512} CONFUSION AND HOPE 1953-1964


After Stalin's death, Malenkov seemed to be the natural successor, having become the main political figure in the party during Stalin's last years. At the Nineteenth Party Congress in 1952, for the first time since the Fourteenth Party Congress of 1925, someone other than Stalin gave the Central Committee main report. It was Malenkov. A photograph of Malenkov with Stalin and Mao Tse-tung appeared in every newspaper on March 12, 1953, next to Mao's article, which said: "We profoundly believe that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Soviet government with Comrade Malenkov at its head will undoubtedly be able to continue the work of Comrade Stalin." This was tantamount to an assertion of Malenkov's right to the succession.

Malenkov offhandedly brushed aside Khrushchev's proposal that they meet to discuss how and by whom affairs would be conducted in the future. "We'll all get together and then we'll talk," he retorted, departing from Stalin's dacha after the physicians had certified Stalin's death. Khrushchev said nothing but took his own measures: he removed some important archives to his own offices at the Central Committee and began to prepare for the decisive battle for power.

{p. 513} At the joint session of the Central Committee and the leading government bodies on March 6, 1953, Khrushchev gained his first important victory: he was released from his duties as secretary of the Moscow Committee with the recommendation that he concentrate on work at the Secretariat of the Central Committee. Neither Malenkov nor Beria, who had become allies since the time of the "Leningrad affair," saw in Khrushchev a serious rival. Both were directing their thoughts toward seizing control over the state apparatus. Both committed a serious error when they overestimated the significance of their respective posts as head of government and head of the secret police and underestimated the importance of possessing control over the party apparatus. It was the personality of the head of government - not the post of chairman of the Council of Ministers - that was important for holding power. As chairman of the Council of Ministers, Stalin remained the all-powerful dictator. Malenkov occupied this post, but he was not a dictator - he was only the prime minister.

Khrushchev did not try to contend for the premiership. Contrary to his nature, this time he was patient enough to wait. As far as he was concerned, Malenkov was no danger to him. The danger lay in an alliance between Malenkov and Beria. Khrushchev was the embodiment of the party apparatus and understood perfectly well the mood of the regional secretaries, who had now become the real power locally. They wanted to be free from fear and from surveillance by the chiefs of local state security agencies. They were loyal, but they desired greater independence in deciding local matters and a guarantee of personal security. For them, as for Khrushchev, the most dangerous man was Beria, whom the majority of party leaders and the military bureaucracy hated.

After Stalin's death, Khrushchev very rapidly managed to separate the power of the party and the power of the government. On March 14, 1953, Malenkov at his own request was released from his duties as secretary of the Central Committee, but he remained chairman of the Council of Ministers. Khrushchev in effect became first secretary of the Central Committee. This office, abolished after the Nineteenth Party Congress, was officially reinstated in September 1953.

On March 15, 1953, the fourth session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR confirmed the new government leadership. Voroshilov was elected to the nominal, yet honorary post of chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

{Voroshilov and Molotov were in the Jewish faction. In Special Tasks, Sudoplatov says that their wives were Jewish, p. 288 footnote 4: sudoplat.html. On Beria's belonging to the Jewish faction, see ibid., pp. 287-8, 296, 298, 306. On Kaganovich being Jewish, see ibid., p. 300. Mikoyan was also in the Jewish faction; he had been involved in the plan for a Jewish republic in the Crimea: ibid., p. 288 n4.}

Malenkov was named chairman of the Council of Ministers; Beria, Molotov, and Kaganovich {all in the Jewish faction} became his first deputies, and Bulganin and Mikoyan were made deputies. The first "triumvirate" - Malenkov Beria, and Molotov - had come to power, although Molotov was actually shunted aside to the realm of foreign policy.

{p. 515} In 1954 the tax on cows and pigs was abolished. By this time the tax on the private plot had decreased by some 60 percent as compared with 1952. The effect of these measures was staggering: the countryside and the cities located close to rural areas ceased to experience acute food shortages, although the situation remained grave enough. But above all, the peasants

{p. 516} once again began to believe in the government and in the possibility of an improvement in their bleak existence.

It is easy to imagine what the results of a total restructuring of agriculture might have been if granting relative freedom in the use of the private plot, which represented only 2 percent of all cultivated land in the Soviet Union, changed conditions so quickly.

On April 4, 1953, a report was published, without any commentary, by the Ministry of Internal Affairs: the "doctors' plot" had been concocted as a provocation by the former leadership of the former Ministry of State Security, and the accused were innocent of any crimes. This was an astonishing announcement, for Ignatiev, the former chief of state security, had been made a secretary of the Central Committee immediately after Stalin's death. He could not have been elected to the Secretariat of the Central Committee without Khrushchev's consent. But Ignatiev bore direct responsibility for the preparation of the doctors' trial. Did Khrushchev have anything to do with this affair? The question is all the more justified, because Ignatiev was never called to account for his actions, and after he was relieved of his duties as secretary of the Central Committee he was named first party secretary of Bashkiria. Be that as it may, the MVD's April 4 announcement had enormous political significance as a declaration of a break with the previous practice of lawlessness and terror. Many families of those arrested as "enemies of the people" saw the potential for obtaining a review of the accusations and convictions of their relatives. The procuracy of the USSR and Flrty agencies were deluged with hundreds of thousands of individual petitions to review the cases of people who had been convicted.

Later, after Beria's arrest, it was contended in party circles that Beria had not submitted this communique to the Secretariat of the Central Committee for approval; otherwise, it would have been published under the name of the entire government - not just the Ministry of Internal Affairs - and it would have been formulated differently. Indeed, that was probably the case. The MVD communique created a new, immense, and rather undesirable problem for the new leadership: the rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people who disappeared during the Stalin terror. There was probably not one major party or government figure who was not involved, either directly or indirectly, in the massive crimes of the Soviet regime or, at a minimum, who had not derived some profit for himself during the terror of the 1930s and 1940s. Now the number of Beria's enemies in the leadership had increased substantially, since many were in danger of being exposed. In the meantime, Beria gave the order to free the families of members of the leadership who had been arrested and sent to the camps during the last years of Stalin's life. Beria personally

{p. 517} officiated when Molotov was reunited with his {Jewish} wife, P. S. Zhemchuzhina, who had been sent to a camp just before Stalin's death. At the same time, he gave the order to free the former minister of state security, Abakumov, who had landed in prison as a result of the "doctors' plot." N. D. Yakovlev, a marshal of the artillery, and his son, as well as aviation Marshal Novikov, who was arrested after having been denounced by Vasily Stalin, were also released from prison.

For a short while, Beria's name became fairly popular among the intelligentsia and the urban population in connection with the April 4 communique. Beria and the "triumvirate" made a clever move in combining the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the Ministry of State Security to create a reconstituted Ministry of Internal Affairs. The frightening words state securit disappeared in a short time, creating the illusion of change and causing a storm of applause among leftist intellectuals in the West.

But these hopes were premature, as evidenced by the decree of the Supreme Soviet on the amnesty of March 27, 1953. This decree, incorrectly called the Voroshilov amnesty (Voroshilov signed it as chairman of the Supreme Soviet Presidium, but it had been drawn up with Beria's active participation), released from prison all those who had received sentences up to five years, sometimes up to eight years, as well as certain categories of invalids, minors, and women. The amnesty did not affect political prisoners.

In the summer of 1953 masses of criminals who had been freed from the camps by the March decree filled the cities. Even in Moscow it became dangerous to go out at night because one could easily be robbed or killed. Ministry of Intemal Affairs troops were brought into Moscow and mounted patrols appeared. Later, after his removal, Beria was accused, among other crimes, of intending to use criminals released from prison to seize power.

Beria became popular in the non-Russian republics. His name symbolized a turning point in nationalities policy, toward granting more rights to the union republics. The central committee plenums of each of the republics condemned the Great Russian policy. At the Ukrainian Central Committee "grave distortions" in nationalities policy were discussed. Melnikov, chief of the Ukrainian Communist party, was reproached in particular for the fact that workers from other provinces of the Ukraine had been sent to work in supervisory capacities in the western Ukraine and because, to all intents and purposes, education in the Russian language had been introduced at all institutions of higher learning in the western Ukraine. A similar discussion took place at the plenum of the Lithuanian Central Committee: the inadequate promotion of Lithuanian nationals to supervisory positions was criticized. During this time open protests against Russifi-

{p. 518} cation could be heard without exception at every non-Russian national party's central committee plenum. ...

Beria, who was guilty of a multitude of crimes against humanity, was the driving force in the first "triumvirate," as can be concluded from the charges leveled against him in the letter by the Central Committee, addressed to members of the party organizations and to them alone, which followed Beria's arrest. It turns out that it was Beria who defended the idea of international detente, the reunification and neutralization of Germany, reconciliation with Yugoslavia, the granting of further rights to the republics, an end to russification in the cultural arena, and the advancement of members of non-Russian nationalities to local leadership posts. The Central Committee letter also pointed to the extraordinary activity of Beria, who

{p. 519} had inundated the Presidium of the Central Committee with all sorts of projects.

Molotov, the third member of the triumvirate, was made minister of foreign affairs, as we have said. An expert in cold war tactics, he now had to normalize relations between the Soviet Union and the Western nations, particularly the United States: these relations had become severely strained over the Korean war and the German question. The new govemment's program was revealed as early as Malenkov's speech of March 15, 1953. Besides the usual assurances of the USSR's peaceful intentions, the speech contained an indirect appeal to the United States, inviting it to reevaluate U.S.-Soviet relations.

The U.S. government reacted without equivocation, although without haste. In a speech on April 16, 1953, which contrary to the usual practice was published in its entirety in the Soviet Union ten days later, President Eisenhower affirmed: "We welcome every honest act of peace. We care nothing for mere rhetoric." More concretely, he proposed the following: to make peace with honor in Korea; to conclude an agreement on Austria; and to create a broad European association which would include a reunified Germany. He also pressed for the complete independence of the Eastern European states, arms limitation, and the intemational control of atomic energy. Pravda's commentary on April 25, 1953 ("On the speech of President Eisenhower"), was very mild in tone. The Times of London praised Pravda's article: "The article as a whole represents the calmest, clearest, and most rational statement of Soviet policy that has appeared for many a long month." The reaction of the British government, too, was positive. Prime Minister Churchill declared, "We have been encouraged by a series of amicable gestures on the part of the new Soviet government," and proposed to convene a summit conference.

The results of this shift in Soviet foreign policy were not slow in coming. On July 27, 1953, the armistice was signed in Korea and the war was over.

The echoes of Stalin's death, Beria's arrest, and the press campaign in defense of legality reached the ears of millions of prisoners languishing in Soviet concentration camps. They began to go on strike and revolt everywhere: in the Komi republic (Vorkuta), the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia, and Kazakhstan. The most important was the uprising at Kengir in the spring and summer of 1954,28 in which 9,000 male prisoners and 4,000 female prisoners took part.

An attempt by the Kengir camp administration to provoke the common criminals against the politicals unexpectedly set off a general strike and

{p. 520} an uprising by both categories of prisoners. The revolt continued for forty-two days. The prisoners presented demands of a political and social nature, including a call for review of all sentences and a general amnesty, implementation of an eight-hour workday, conversion of "special regime" camps into regular ones, removal of prison numbers from clothing, and improvement of living conditions. They also demanded a meeting with a representative of the Central Committee. Their slogan was: "Long live the Soviet constitution." Several years later, a human rights movement adopted the same slogan.

On Moscow orders, 3,000 soldiers with tanks were sent against the Kengir prisoners. The unequal battle, which began at dawn on June 26, 1954, lasted for more than four hours. The prisoners put up a desperate resistance, hurling Molotov cocktails at the tanks. Their strength won out, however. The prisoners were defeated by the overwhelmingly superior force of the state. The most active rebels were arrested, convicted, and sent to Kolyma.

During this revolt, a solidarity strike was declared on June 10 at the Dzhezkazgan camp. After June 26 the punitive detachment with its tanks turned to Dzhezkazgan. The 20,000 prisoners there were not prepared to do battle; they surrendered.

However, the forty-two days of revolt at Kengir were not in vain. There were changes in the lives of the prisoners: now they began to work at 8 AM, instead of 6, and they worked until 5 PM. The bars on the windows of the barracks, torn off during the revolt, were not replaced. Numbers were removed from prisoners' clothing. Some imprisoned invalids and juveniles were released, and others had their sentences reduced.

Two years before the revolution in Hungary, Soviet prisoners revolted in the camps. At the time their heroic feat went unnoticed by the rest of the world, but theirs was a historic deed, for they partially defeated the terrorism, the exploitation of prisoners, and the arbitrariness that had been rampant in the camps for years. The Resistance movement of prisoners in the Soviet camps also helped make possible the dramatic developments at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU.

Stalin's death and the first steps toward liberalization undertaken by the new Soviet leadership found an immediate echo in the Soviet Union's satellites in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Disturbances began everywhere, and the struggle between the old Stalinist leadership and the anti-Stalinists intensified sharply. Only Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria remained more or less calm. In Albania, Enver Hoxha, a staunch Stalinist, had already dealt with all likely and unlikely opposition beforehand. In Romania and Bulgaria, too, the Stalinists held the reins of government

{p. 521} firmly in hand. It was only later, after the Twentieth Party Congress, that the anti-Stalinist forces were activated in those countries.

The first serious disturbance in the socialist bloc occurred in Czechoslovakia in early June 1953. Its immediate cause was the monetary reform of May 30, 1953, which seriously affected the workers' already low standard of living. On June 1 disturbances broke out at Plzen; at the same time a general strike was called in the coal mines of Moravska Ostrava. In Plzen 5,000 demonstrators burst into the town hall and ripped down the portraits of Stalin and Gottwald. Troops summoned to the scene refused to fire on the demonstrators. Demands were made for free elections, and the names Masaryk, Benes, and Eisenhower drew strong applause. No one, however, called for the overthrow of the government. The movement was spontaneous and had no leaders. There was not even any bloodshed: after the troops refused to open fire, special police forces were called in, but they met with no resistance. The unrest in Czechoslovakia was an indication of the discontent brewing against the policies of the Communist party that had seized power in February 1948.

Agitation against the government's economic policy was also the cause of an uprising in East Germany in June 1953. The industrialization and forced collectivization carried out by the East German government led to a massive flight of the population from East to West Germany. The government's response was to increase obligatory deliveries of produce from the peasant households and to force payment of taxes in arrears. In April 1953 distribution of ration cards for foodstuffs to "alien class elements" or to inhabitants of East Berlin employed in the Western sector of the city were terminated. At the same time pressure was put on the workers to increase labor productivity. At the end of May 1953 the Council of Ministers of the GDR issued a decree increasing production norms by 10 percent. Population flow to the West increased. During the first five months of 1953 190,000 people left East Germany for West Germany, as opposed to 182,000 during all of 1952.

At exactly the same time, Moscow received word that the situation in Hungary was deteriorating. The new Soviet leaders insistently advised their satellites to change economic policies immediately, to cease pressuring the workers, peasants, and middle strata of society, and to renounce their costly and unjustifiable programs of industrialization. During the Stalin era the satellites had tried to copy "big brother" in every possible way, utterly ignoring the economic realities of their countries.

Under pressure from Moscow, the Central Committee of the East German Communjst party adopted a resolution condemning their former economic policy, admitting serious errors, and revoking all the unpopular measures

{p. 522} of the previous months. On the list of errors committed and measures for their rectification, however, no mention was made of the increased production quotas. The resolution was followed by the announcement that these quotas would go into effect precisely on June 30, 1953. On June 16 the workers of East Berlin responded with an immediate work stoppage and mass demonstrations. Thousands of workers converged on the main government building in East Berlin, demanding that the new quotas be withdrawn and prices lowered. They presented political demands as well: the dismissal of Walter Ulbricht, leader of the party, and the reunification of Germany, followed by free elections. The next day, a general strike began in East Germany, and disturbances broke out in a number of other cities, including Leipzig, Dresden, and Magdeburg. Workers in these cities attacked police stations and prisons, freeing political prisoners. As many as 100,000 people took part in these actions.

In order to suppress the incipient general insurrection in the GDR, the Soviet authorities brought in tanks. The Soviet troops were aided by the GDR police. According to some sources, nearly 500 people were killed. The Soviet government portrayed this bloody suppression of a workers' uprising in the GDR as the liquidation of an attempted fascist rebellion. Even more than thirty years later, the Soviet people still do not know what happened in East Germany in June 1953.

The new Soviet leadership observed events developing in Hungary with great uneasiness. The leader of the Hungarian Communist party, Matyas Rakosi, was conceivably the most devoted to the Soviet Union of all the leaders of the socialist countries. He sought to imitate Soviet policies in every respect. As a result, by the early 1950s Hungary was in a disastrous situation economically and politically.

Rakosi and the other Hungarian leaders were summoned to Moscow in the spring of 1953. The Soviet leaders demanded from Rakosi an end to the unwarranted, adventuristic course of superindustrialization and forced collectivization. Moscow insisted on a reorganization of the leadership, the resignation of Rakosi as prime minister, along with the ministers of heavy industry and defense, and the condemnation of past errors. Imre Nagy, an old Comintern member, was named to take Rakosi's place as the head of government; Nagy was considered a moderate and in fact had opposed Rakosi's policies. The Hungarian Politburo accepted the resolution forced upon it but kept its contents secret, getting away with publishing a nebulous communique. But Nagy, who had been placed at the head of the government, embarked on a policy similar to the NEP.

Rakosi remained at the head of the party, and soon a bitter struggle developed in the Hungarian leadership. Nagy was accused of rightist de-

{p. 523} viation and removed from his post as prime minister in April 1955. But at the same time the rehabilitation of the victims of the Rakosi regime had begun, paralleling developments in the Soviet Union. In Hungary, unlike in the Soviet Union, many were restored to their positions in the Communist party. Hungary became the scene of a broad movement for liberalization, which won the support of the entire intelligentsia, from students to writers. Social organizations and circles of various kinds made their appearance, as did magazines and anthologies by writers and artists of a liberal bent. Works that developed a point of view critical of the situation in socialist Hungary were published. A spiritual revolution had begun in Hungary.

On July 10, 1953, Soviet newspapers announced Beria's arrest. The groundwork for Beria's removal had been laid by Khrushchev, in a deal with the other members of the Presidium of the Central Committee. The arrest was carried out by the military group, headed by Marshal Zhukov and assisted by Ivan Serov. Beria's fall brought the end of the first triumvirate. The prestige and influence of Khrushchev, the organizer of the plot against Beria, increased significantly. Malenkov, without Beria's support, came to depend all the more on Khrushchev, who very quickly assumed control of the party apparatus. Khrushchev was not yet able to dictate his own decisions, but even Malenkov could no longer act without Khrushchev's consent; each still needed the other's support. Khrushchev controlled not only the party apparatus; the army, which he had used to eliminate Beria, was also behind him. Zhukov, Konev, Moskalenko, who had directly executed the logistics of Beria's arrest, as well as Marshal Bulganin, who was utterly devoted to Khrushchev, were assigned to the most important political and strategic area - the Moscow Military District.

The official trial of Beria and his accomplices was held in December 1953. (Beria was already dead, although the people did not know this.) Among other things, he was accused of organizing "a group of anti-Soviet conspirators whose aim was to seize power and to restore the rule of the bourgeoisie." It is doubtful, however, that Beria would have sought to restore power to the bourgeoisie rather than for his own dictatorship.

At the same time Beria was declared to have been an agent of British intelligence since 1918. He was tried and sentenced to death along with several other high-ranking members of state security, including some former ministers and their aides. In 1954 Ryumin, the man personally responsible for the "doctors' plot," was tried and shot. The same fate later befell the former minister of state security, Abakumov, who was found guilty, among a multitude of crimes, of fabricating the Leningrad affair.

After Beria's removal, the state security establishment was reorganized.

{p. 526} However, when the question arose of rehabilitating those guilty of "counterrevolutionary crimes," nothing could be done without a general resolution on a government-wide scale. In 1953 some 4,000 people were released. According to the most cautious estimates, there were 8-9 million prisoners in the camps. Although from 1953 through 1955 prison conditions were eased, the problem remained unsolved. The release of prisoners continued, but during 1954 and 1955 only 12,000 people were released and rehabilitated. In 1955 amnesty was declared for those who had collaborated with the Germans in 1941-1944. German prisoners were liberated the same year, in connection with West German chancellor Adenauer's visit to the Soviet Union. In 1956 the Japanese prisoners of war were freed.

After the Twentieth Party Congress, rehabilitation took on a massive character. Special rehabilitation commissions were created endowed with the power to liberate prisoners on the spot, in the camps themselves. The overwhelming majority of surviving prisoners were freed in 1956, the year of the congress; many were rehabilitated posthumously, but this process continued for many long years. The problem was particularly difficult with regard to those who had participated in opposition groups. No opposition leaders were rehabilitated, although, gradually many of the victims of the trials of 1936-1938 were posthumously cleared of the charges against them. Bukharin, Rykov, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and some others remained "guilty," although their innocence of the crimes they were accused of, such as plotting to assassinate Lenin in 1918 (Bukharin), espionage and organizing terrorist activities (Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Bukharin), and sabotage (all of them, plus Rykov), was absolutely clear and was confirmed by the rehabilitation of their "accomplices."

The rehabilitation was necessary not only to those directly affected and their families. It also had enormous significance for the population as a whole. The moral conscience of society was awakened. Candidates for elections to party committees and trade unions were recommended on the basis of their moral values.

The survivors, raised from the dead, rehabilitated and returned to their lives and families, played a major role in exposing the lawless nature of the Soviet state and the immorality of its social system. But was this true only of the Soviet system? The events in Eastern Europe demonstrated that the problem was significantly larger: it was a matter of the socialist system in general and the legitimacy of its existence. In the fall of 1954 facts concerning the tortures used by Polish state security received wide pub-

{p. 527} licity. At the same time, Wladislaw Gomulka, one of the most prominent Polish Communists, was released from prison. In January 1955 the state security agencies in Poland were abolished, and those guilty of torture were brought to trial. ...

During this time Khrushchev climbed steadily higher. At the Central Committee plenum in September 1953, where he gave the main report on the agricultural situation, Khrushchev was formally appointed first secretary of the Central Committee, which confirmed his leading position in the party. ...

At the Central Committee session of January 1955, Malenkov was criticized for giving priority to light, not heavy industry and for his errors in directing agriculture in the early 1950S. In February 1955 Malenkov submitted his formal resignation from his post as prime minister. In it, making a public "self-criticism," he admitted his mistakes and explained that he had not been trained adequately for a role as a government leader.


(7) Peter Deriabin on Beria's Attempt to Seize Power

The Secret World

by Peter Deriabin and Frank Gibney

Ballantine Books, New York 1959

{p. 198} The Kremlin doctors were arrested in the fall of 1952, after the State Security had spent a year working up a case against them. The Doctors' Plot was one of the most enigmatic happenings of the modem Time of Troubles. It was announced in January 1953 as the conspiracy of some highly-placed physicians to assassinate prominent members of the Party and the Army. Most of the physicians were Jewish, a fact which was no coincidence. It was undoubtedly an effort by elements in the regime to release some of the growing popular unrest of the last Stalin days through the traditional escape valve of anti-Semitism.

Although the new Deputy Minister, Ryumin, and, his sides had spent a year fabricating the "plot," they had acted with great secrecy. As close as Deriabin was to the inner circles of the State Security, he did not hear of this until Dr. Egorov, the chief of the Kremlin Medical Directorate, was removed from his post. The Doctors' Plot spelled more trouble for the State Security, or at least the surviving Beria men at its head. As nearly as can be learned, it was an attempt to undermine Beria's position by impugning the vigilance of the State Security. For its "disclosure" was followed by a heavily stimulated press campaign demanding to know why the doctors had been "allowed" to pursue their nefarious ends, etc. It was probably instigated by A. N. Poskrebyshev, the head of Stalin's personal secretariat, who grew increasingly powerful as the dictator weakened. But it backfired on its instigators, since it was so palpably untrue. Beria and his henchmen counter-attacked, so to speak, inside the Central Committee, and the decision was made to release the surviving doctors even before the death of Stalin.

{that statement is puzzling; the doctors were scheduled to go on trial 2 weeks after the death of Stalin}

On March 6, 1953, the death of.Stalin was announced to the people of the Soviet Union. No one knows to this day to what extent his associates helped along the course of his final illness. It is a fact that the Deputy Commandant of the Kremlin, Major General Kosynkin, in charge of operational arrangements for guarding Stalin, died of a heart, at-

{p. 199} tack two weeks before Stalin. Or so the announcement said. Poskrebyshev, the head of the secretariat, disappeared the night of Stalin's death. He has never been heard of since. "Kolya" Spiridonov, Kosynkin's boss, speedily put in for retirement on grounds of illness. He was allowed to leave the Kremlin and Moscow in May.

While the members of the Praesidium began preparations for the fight for succession the death of Stalin was the signal for a significant number of State Security officers to come out of the obscure positions where they had been hiding. Lieutenant General Rumyantsev, for example, had been relieved of his post as head of Stalin's bodyguard in 1944, after a mistake in railroad routing arrangements. He became once more a man to be reckoned with inside the Kremlin. Major General Kuzmichev, Beria's faithful henchman, was released from his 1952 imprisonment and put in charge of the entire Guard Directorate. Beria himself openly took over as Minister of State Security.

The worried professionals inside the State Security breathed a sigh of relief on the news of Beria's appointment. They trusted him as a man who knew their problems and as an excellent administrator. They were quickly deceived. In the struggle for power inside the Kremlin, Beria put all his hopes in his ability to use the State Security mechanism in his own interests. His only immediate interest in the State Security, therefore, was to insure its corporate loyalty.

The resulting upheaval was worse than anything inside the State Security since the late thirties. Officers were removed wholesale at all levels. The transfers in Berlin, although an admittedly critical area of the State Security's operations, give a fair idea of the magnitude of the changes; out of 2800 officers and other employees there, 1700 were transferred, recalled from Germany, or dismissed from the service.

Obscure lieutenant generals whom everyone had forgotten, men dismissed for drunkenness, graft, or worse, were pulled out of the woodwork by Beria and put into positions of authority. The only criterion of choice was their personal loyalty to him. Members of minority racial groups - Letts, Byelorussians, Caucasians, and Central Asians - were put in charge of State Security installations in their respective

{p. 200} republics, a step which did not endear Beria to the great majority of Russians inside the Moscow headquarters. Most ominously Beria ordered Colonel Karasev, the chief of the Second Technical Support Section, as the wire-tappers were euphemized, to wire the offices of all other Praesidium members, conspicuously including Malenkov, then the Party leader. He set about removing and appointing State Security leaders without the normal process of checking with the Central Committee. He attempted to interfere in Communist Party appointments, with varying success, and gave area State Security officers orders to keep close watch on all Party officials in their areas. One of these was the head of the Kamenets-Podolsk Oblast Directorate in the Ukraine, Major General Strokach, who happened to be friendly with his local Party secretary. "I can't understand it," he told his Party friend; "I received an order by telephone today from Beria, telling me to keep a check running on you." When the Party secretary called Moscow the cat was out of Beria's bag.

This was the last obvious tip-off that Beria was playing a dangerous lone game for power. He was the front-runner and the other members of the Praesidium set out to bring him down. Their trusted ally in this process was Beria's principal deputy, Sergey Kruglov, who was assigned to report on his boss's movements. Kruglov wired Beria's office as efficiently as Beria had wired the others, using trusted technicians from the MVD, where he had formerly commanded.

On the night of June 26, 1953, Deriabin was leaving the State Security offices when he noticed some Army tanks cruising through Mayakovsky Square. It was an unusual sight, there being no parade on the next day to justify their appearance. He decided that there must have been some transfer of armored units in the forces around Moscow.

The next morning he found out what the tanks had been up to. He ran into a friend of his named Igoshin, who supervised, among other things, recruiting for Beria's personal bodyguard in the Guard Directorate. "Have you heard the news?" Igoshin asked. "Our boss was arrested last night."

By evening on the 27th the information was current among high-placed State Security officers in Moscow.

{p. 201} Beria had been called to the Praesidium offices on the morning of the 26th to answer some questions. When he entered the conference room in the Kremlin, Marshal Klimenfly Voroshilov walked in directly behind him, bearing a warrant for his arrest. "In the name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics," he said, "Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria is hereby placed under arrest." The other members of the Praesidium questioned Beria throughout the day about his plans for seizing power, then sent him off to Lefortovo Prison. His most trusted deputy, Colonel General Bogdan Z. Kabulov, was arrested at 6 p.m. the same day by the disloyal deputy, Kruglov.

It developed that Beria had planned a coup of his own for the 27th. He had won over Colonel General Artem'ev, Commander of the Moscow Military District, or at least neutralized him. By the 26th Artemev had sent almost the entire Moscow garrison off to Byelorussia on maneuvers. This left Beria's MVD and State Security troops theoretically in command of the city.

Unknown to Beria, however, and thanks to Kruglov's efficient wire-tappers, Bulganin, acting for the rest of the Praesidium, had called in the Kantemirovskaya Division to Moscow. This was an armored command not subordinate to Artem'ev. It was this division's tanks which Deriabin saw late on the night of the 26th. To support their armor Bulganin summoned some of Marshal Semen Timoshenko's troops from the Byelorussian Military District. Beria!s putsch was licked before he moved.

The arrest of Beria was not made known to the Soviet public until July 10. By this time a two-month purge of the State Security was in full swing. All chiefs of directorates and their deputies and chiefs of sections were removed; but the purge did not. reach into the lower or middle ranks. Five high-ranking officers, including the former Mininster, Merkulov, were arrested along with Beria and Kabulov. They were all shot together in December 1953.

Before the execution Beria was interrogated repeatedly by General Roman A. Rudenko, the Chief Prosecutor of the U.S.S.R., assisted by various technical interrogation specialists from the State Security.


Isaac Deutsher does not admit that the Bolshevik Government had a Jewish leadership. Without that admission, one cannot make sense of Stalin.

Bertrand Russell, having made a trip to the USSR in 1920, wrote, in The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (George Allen & Unwin, London 1975), p. 354:

"Bolshevism is a close tyrannical bureaucracy, with a spy system more elaborate and terrible than the Tsar's, and an aristocracy as insolent and unfeeling, composed of Americanised Jews. No vestige of liberty remains, in thought or speech or action." russell.html.

The same letter appears in volume two of the hardback, 3-volume edition of Russell's autobiography, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1914-1944, (Little, Brown & Co., Boston 1968), p. 172.

The Jewish identities of Lenin and Trotsky: lenin-trotsky.html.

Yet, prior to his trip, Russell had been sympathetic to Bolshevism, even regretting that the Bolsheviks had failed in their uprising in Germany. In his book Roads to Freedom, published in 1918, he wrote,

"If the Russian Revolution had been accompanied by a revolution in Germany, ... the idea of fraternity might have ... entered the world of practical politics ... A simultaneous revolution in Germany and Russia would no doubt have had such an effect, and would have made the creation of a new world possible here and now." (Unwin paperback, London 1977, p. 120).

So, when Deutscher says that Marxism was brought to Russia from the West, what it means - given Russell's evidence - is that it was brought by Jews. Stalin, and he alone, wrested their power from them and returned it to the Russian people.

Isaac Deutscher on the Great Purges: deutscher.html.

Making Sense of Stalin: stalin.html.

Beria's role in the murder of Stalin: death-of-stalin.html.

Gorbachev's program shares many similarities with Beria's. Making sense of Gorbachev: convergence.html.

David Ben-Gurion's vision resembles Beria's (scroll down): bengur62.jpg.

The CIA infiltrating the Left: cia-infiltrating-left.html.

Now that the Cold War is over, the West is in the grip of a Trotskyist cultural revolution like the one the Jewish Bolsheviks brought to Russia. But we do not have a name for it, because we associate "Communism" with Stalin: new-left.html.

I was part of the "New Left", but have turned against it because of its homogenization of the sexes: engagement.html.

Back to the Zionism/Communism index: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.