There are still many misconceptions about the Second World War, especially concerning the role of Stalin. The attempt to portray him as "a great war leader" is based on pure mythology. In fact, by his policies Stalin placed the USSR in the greatest danger.
Stalin and the Second World War
Stalin as Hitler's quartermaster
There are still many misconceptions about the Second World War, especially concerning the role of Stalin. The attempt to portray him as "a great war leader" is based on pure mythology. In fact, by his policies Stalin placed the USSR in the greatest danger.
By the end if the 1930s war had become an inevitability. Before he was struck down by a Stalinist assassin Leon Trotsky explained that all genuine Marxists must defend the Soviet Union, but he also explained that the only real defence of the USSR was the systematic preparation of the ground for the overthrow of capitalism in the West. The international working class must defend the USSR against imperialism, but the biggest danger to the Soviet Union was the Stalin clique itself. These words were shown to be absolutely correct in a short space of time.
Unlike Lenin, who stood for a consistent internationalist policy, Stalin's foreign policy was dictated by narrow nationalist considerations. It consisted in a series of manoeuvres with the imperialists that sacrificed the interests of the revolution in the West in the supposed interests of the Soviet Union. In reality, these manoeuvres did not remove the war danger but enormously increased it. Whereas Lenin and Trotsky based the foreign policy of the Soviet state on the perspective of world revolution, developing the Comintern for this purpose, Stalin distrusted the world working class and had no time for the Communist International. He treated the latter not as a vehicle for world revolution but as a mere pawn in the hands of Russian foreign policy. He used it like a dirty rag and then cast it aside contemptuously. In 1943 he dissolved it ignominiously without even calling a congress.
As always, the so-called realists always turn out to be the most hopeless utopians. The abandonment of the Leninist policy of revolutionary internationalism in favour of unprincipled diplomatic combinations placed the USSR in great danger. By constantly undermining the revolutionary struggles of the working class in China, Germany, France and above all Spain, Stalin created the conditions for the victory of fascist reaction in one country after another. The defeat of the Spanish working class removed the last obstacle in the way of a new European war. This made war against the USSR inevitable.
After the defeat of the Spanish working class, the bourgeois "democratic allies" of the USSR were actually encouraging Hitler to satisfy his appetite by turning eastwards. They had allowed him to rearm and occupy the Rhineland and Austria without a murmur. In 1938 the British Prime Minister Chamberlain signed the infamous Munich agreement allowing Hitler to swallow Czechoslovakia. The British ruling class was effectively giving Hitler the green light to attack the USSR. Fearing a German attack, Stalin hastily broke off his manoeuvring with Britain and France and signed a pact with Hitler.
The signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact in the autumn of 1939 was a slap in the face for the world working class and the international Communist movement. On the other hand, the denunciations of the Pact by the so-called "European democracies" were just so much hypocrisy. In diplomatic terms the actions of the USSR were of a purely defensive character. But the way in which Stalin conducted himself was really a betrayal. While it is permissible for a workers' state to engage in manoeuvres with bourgeois states, including the most reactionary ones, under no circumstances should diplomacy be conducted at the expense of the interests of the proletariat and the international revolution. In the last analysis diplomatic manoeuvres have a secondary importance and can at best bring temporary advantages.
Stalin believed that his manoeuvres would safeguard the Soviet Union from attack. His actions, as always, were based on narrow-minded calculations and completely ignored the working class of other countries, except as pawns in the diplomatic game. His conduct in relation to Hitler's Germany went far beyond what Lenin would have been prepared to tolerate. In the end it had the opposite result to that intended. By collaborating with Hitler, Stalin increased the danger a thousand fold. His actions effectively disarmed the Soviet Union, encouraged Hitler and disoriented the world working class in a moment of extreme danger.
The occupation of Poland, Finland and the Baltic states by the Red Army was undoubtedly also a defensive move, designed to strengthen the borders of the USSR. But the way in which it was done was typically bureaucratic and reactionary. In 1938 the Polish CP had been dissolved on the pretext that it had been penetrated by fascists. Nearly all its leaders, in exile in Moscow, were shot. To facilitate the division of Poland between Germany and Russia, Stalin was quite prepared to sacrifice the interests of the working class. Whereas Lenin always showed the greatest sensitivity in the question of the relations between the Russian and non-Russian peoples of the USSR, Stalin's narrow nationalism trampled over the national feelings of the peoples. The result of the Finnish adventure was that the Finns fought like tigers and the Red Army, weakened by Stalin's Purges, suffered heavy casualties and failed to achieve its objectives. This fact, more than anything else, convinced Hitler that the Red Army could not withstand an attack by the Wehrmacht.
After the signing of the Pact, Stalin and his clique went to the most incredible extremes to ingratiate themselves with the Nazis. The following extract from the diary of Hencke, a German diplomat, describing the banquet which celebrated the signing of the Pact shows the lengths to which Stalin was prepared to go to conciliate Hitler:
"Toasts: In the course of the conversation, Herr Stalin spontaneously proposed to the Führer, as follows: 'I know how much the German nation loves its Führer; I should therefore like to drink to his health.' Herr Molotov drank to the health of the Reich Foreign Minister and of the Ambassador, Count von der Schulenburg. Herr Molotov raised his glass to Stalin, remarking that it had been Stalin who--through his speech of March of this year which had been well understood in Germany--had brought about the reversal in political relations. Herren Molotov and Stalin drank repeatedly to the Non-Aggression Pact, the new era of German-Russian relations, and to the German nation. The Reich Foreign Minister (Ribbentrop) in turn proposed a toast to Herr Stalin, toasts to the Soviet government, and to a favourable development of relations between Germany and the Soviet Union - Moscow, August 24, 1939. (Nazi-Soviet Relations, pp. 75-6, reproduced in Robert Black, Stalinism in Britain, p. 130.)
Just before the Pact, in a gesture to please the anti-Semitic Nazis, the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Maxim Litvinov (who was Jewish) was replaced by Molotov. Even more incredible, Beria, head of Internal Affairs, issued a secret order to the gulag administration forbidding camp guards to call political prisoners fascists! This was only rescinded after Hitler's invasion of the USSR in 1941. Worst of all, German anti-fascists were handed over to Hitler. All this was no way to prepare the Soviet people and the workers of the world for the terrible conflict that was to come. The USSR was lulled into a false sense of security in the moment of greatest danger. Its defences were neglected and its armies were in the hands of incompetents, like Voroshilov and Budyonny, who were later described by a Soviet general as "cowards and bootlickers".
Stalin confided in his good relations with the Führer. He did not believe that Germany would now attack the Soviet Union. He even sent a message of congratulation to Hitler on the occasion of his entry into Paris. The trade between the USSR and Nazi Germany boomed. From the outbreak of the Second World War right up until June 1941 when Hitler attacked Russia, Nazi Germany received a large increase in exports from the USSR. Between 1938 and 1940 exports to Germany rose from Rbs85.9 million to Rbs736.5 million, which greatly assisted Hitler's war efforts. Trotsky characterised Stalin at this time as Hitler's quartermaster. This was quite accurate.
Stalin undermines the defence of the USSR
The defences of the Soviet Union had been completely undermined by Stalin and his criminal Purges. The great Soviet marshal Tukhachevsky was a military genius who concluded that the Second World War would be fought with tanks and aeroplanes. When Tukhachevsky and his comrades were murdered in the Purges, their place was taken by Stalin's cronies like Voroshilov, Timoshenko and Budyonny, who thought that the coming war would be fought with cavalry! The second-rate and inept Voroshilov was put in charge of the Defence Commissariat, surrounded by others of the same ilk. These creatures of Stalin were promoted to key positions not for their personal abilities but for their servile loyalty to the ruling clique.
Despite the fact that the combined firepower of the Red Army was greater than that of the Germans, the Purges had effectively crippled it by destroying the officer corps. This was the decisive element which persuaded Hitler to attack in 1941. At the Nuremberg trial, Marshal Keitel testified that many German generals had warned Hitler not to attack Russia, arguing that the Red Army was a formidable opponent. Rejecting these Hitler gave Keitel his main reason "The first-class high-ranking officers were wiped out by Stalin in 1937, and the new generation cannot yet provide the brains they need." On the 9th January 1941, Hitler told a meeting of generals planning the attack on Russia: "They do not have good generals." (Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 214.)
"In the final weeks before the Germans struck," writes George F. Kennan, "Stalin behaved very strangely. He seemed paralysed by the danger now advancing upon him. He resolutely refused to give any outward recognition of this danger, or to discuss it with foreign representatives. He apparently declined even to place the Soviet armed forces under any special form of alert. Neither Soviet officialdom nor the Soviet people were given any forewarning of the pending catastrophe. It was, therefore, against a startled and in many respects unprepared Russia that the full might of Hitler's war machine was launched in the early hours of June 22, 1941." (G.F. Kennan, Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1941, p. 113.)
Stalin's strange behaviour was quite in character. The legend of the all-seeing, all-knowing Leader is a myth that was created by the bureaucracy that needed to believe that their Boss was infallible. In reality Stalin was always a mediocre thinker, whose "wisdom" did not extend far beyond a vulgar empiricism, backed up by a large dose of cunning and a total lack of scruples in the pursuit of certain ends. His "Marxism" was of the poorest and most superficial kind, applied in the form of slogans and aphorisms as a priest scatters suitable quotations from the Scriptures to his sermons.
This is not the talent of a revolutionary leader but the petty wiles of a bureaucratic intriguer. Intrigues are at best the small change of politics. Only a provincial politician could mistake such tactic for something that can resolve fundamental problems. The ability to engage in manoeuvring has a relative importance in politics as in war. One must learn when to attack and when to retreat, how to feign a certain movement in order to deceive the enemy as to one's real intentions and so on. But to imagine that all this is decisive is to deceive oneself. In the small world of the bureaucratic apparatus, this seems terribly important and a sign of great intelligence. But on the vast arena of world politics it carries no more weight than the pathetic zigzags of a fly buzzing against a windowpane.
Hitler and Stalin
There have been many attempts to compare Stalin to Hitler. The intention behind such attempts is usually a malicious attempt to compare Communism to Fascism, and to attack the Soviet Union. Superficially there are many points of similarity between the totalitarian regimes in Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. But there is also a fundamental difference: Stalin's regime was a bureaucratic excrescence on the Russian workers' state and ultimately rested on the nationalised property forms established by the October revolution. Hitler's regime was based on capitalist property relations and reflected a monstrous expression of imperialist monopoly capitalism. That is why the war to defend the USSR was progressive whereas on the part of Nazi Germany it was reactionary.
The attempt to reduce great historic events to individual "personalities" is extremely superficial and usually reflects an incapacity to approach history from a scientific point of view. However, individuals play an important role in history and the clarification of the character and capabilities or limitations of leaders has a relative importance as part of the larger picture. Even here, however, the attempts to establish a likeness between Hitler and Stalin fail miserably precisely because it is impossible to understand the two men outside of their particular role in a given historical situation. In order to understand Hitler and Stalin it is not enough to catalogue their crimes and show that they used similar methods. Napoleon Bonaparte used similar methods to the Bourbon monarchs who replaced him, in the sense of repression and autocratic rule (the opportunist police chief Fouche served them both). But it is necessary to explain what class or social stratum they represented. Otherwise we get a kind of literary impressionism instead of accurate social characterisations.
Hitler was a monster, but he was a mass leader of the typical fascist type - a petty bourgeois adventurer who knew very well how to appeal to the enraged German middle classes who had been ruined by the collapse of German capitalism. He knew how to appeal to their hatred of the big banks and monopolies by resorting to a crude caricature of "socialist" and "revolutionary" jargon, while simultaneously flattering their sense of national pride and racial superiority and directing their hatred away from the German bankers and capitalist and towards the "enemy without" – the Jews and foreign powers, the Bolsheviks and the trade unions that were "destroying Germany". All this he did with a considerable degree of skill (though he stole most of this from Mussolini, who was more able). In his pursuit of power (assisted of course by the German bankers and capitalists) he showed energy and unswerving determination.
Here the question of individual characteristics is intimately connected with objective and class considerations. Hitler was the personification of the ruined petty bourgeois, driven mad by the crisis of capitalism. But his movement did not represent the German petty bourgeoisie but the big German banks and monopolies that financed it. Fascism is the distilled essence of imperialism. Its racial doctrines are merely the distilled essence of the imperialist conviction that some nations are destined to rule over others. The urge towards war flowed naturally from the position of German imperialism after 1919. Hitler merely gave to this objective reality a particularly feverish and insane character. Hitler's boldness (mixed with a large dose of adventurism) flowed from this. He pushed the bourgeoisie to one side and proceeded to rule without it, and even sometimes against it. But objectively, the Nazis expressed the need of German capitalism to expand into new markets and conquer colonies in order to escape from the crisis and break out of the straitjacket into which it had been forced by Britain and France after the First World War.
Hitler's intellectual crudeness was comparable to that of Stalin. Like Stalin he also resorted to intrigues and deceit as weapons. He effectively duped Chamberlain into thinking that he would make no further territorial claims after Czechoslovakia (at least none that would adversely affect British imperialism). But his preferred weapon was the crude employment of violence. It would never have occurred to Hitler to place any confidence in his manoeuvres. The mailed fist was always what determined matters, internally as well as externally.
Both Hitler and Mussolini had to come to power at the head of mass Fascist movements. They were both skilled in the arts of mass demagogy. They were adventurers and not averse to bold actions where necessary. Stalin was altogether different. He led no revolution. Mass actions were alien to him. A poor orator, his natural sphere of operations was in Party offices, at the end of a telephone line. Not for him the incendiary speech and the audacious theatrical coup. Stalin was the product of the bureaucracy that came to power by stealth when all the vital forces of the October revolution had been exhausted. His main instincts were those of a bureaucrat: caution, conservatism, and a tendency to resort to manoeuvre and intrigue to improve his position and destroy his enemies.
Unlike the German imperialist bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy of the USSR did not want war, but a peaceful life to get on with their administrative functions. Stalin wanted a war even less, since he feared that a war would undermine his position fatally. Stalin feared war with Germany because he was afraid that this could lead to his overthrow. He was particularly afraid of the military. He desperately desired peace, and thought they could get it by entering into an intrigue with Hitler. But by so doing Stalin and his clique fatally underestimated Hitler and made war inevitable.
Here again Stalin's national limitedness played a fatal role. That the objective situation of Germany made war inevitable was clear to anyone, but Stalin did not see that Hitler was determined to invade the Soviet Union and reduce it to a slave colony. But this should have been clear to anyone who had read Mein Kampf. Stalin never thought that Hitler would be so crazy as to begin a war on two fronts. This cautious bureaucrat imagined that Hitler would reason as he did. But Hitler the fascist adventurer thought on an entirely different wavelength. He was determined from the beginning to launch a devastating attack on Russia. Blinded by his easy successes in the West, he seriously underestimated the military potential of the USSR.
To his generals' objections, Hitler pointed to the poor quality of the leadership of the Red Army, as demonstrated by the disastrous Finnish campaign of 1939-40. And by his whole conduct Stalin did nothing to shake Hitler's conviction. Having destroyed the best cadres of the Red Army, Stalin placed such blind confidence in his "clever" manoeuvre with Hitler, that he ignored numerous reports that the Germans were preparing to attack. Once these illusions were destroyed by the ruthless march of events, Stalin's nerve cracked and he fell into a state of utter prostration.
By the middle of June 1941 Hitler had moved enormous military resources to the Soviet border. Four million German troops were amassed on the border ready to invade. There were also 3,500 tanks, around 4,000 planes, and 50,000 guns and mortars. Attempts were made to keep this mobilisation secret, but given its size, numerous reports from border units, the Soviet intelligence service, even officials of the British and US governments, were passed on to the Soviet government. Stalin refused to act on these reports, instead wrote on them "For the archives", and "To be filed". This was all confirmed by General Zhukov in his Reminiscences and Reflections.
In July 1941 Hitler's armies launched a devastating attack on the USSR, advancing on a 500-mile front. Even then Stalin refused to act. He did not believe Hitler would invade. This completely disarmed the Soviet Union in the face of Nazi aggression. When the Soviet military command asked for permission to put the Soviet troops on to alert, Stalin refused. "German planes increasingly broke into Soviet airspace," reports Air Marshal A. Novikov, "but we weren't allowed to stop them." (Quoted in Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 332.)
At the 20th congress of the CPSU in 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchov for the first time revealed the true situation: "Very grievous consequences, especially in reference to the beginning of the war, followed Stalin's annihilation of many military commanders and political workers during 1937-1941 because of his suspiciousness and through slanderous accusations. During these years repressions were instituted against certain parts of military cadres, beginning literally at the company and battalion commander level and extending to the higher military centres; during this time the cadre of leaders who had gained military experience in Spain and in the Far East was almost completely liquidated.
"The policy of large-scale repression against the military cadres led also to undermined military discipline, because for several years officers of all ranks and even soldiers in the party and Komsomol cells were taught to 'unmask' their superiors as hidden enemies. (Movement in the hall.) It is natural that this caused a negative influence on the state of military discipline in the first war period.
"And, as you know, we had before the war excellent military cadres which were unquestionably loyal to the party and to the Fatherland. Suffice it to say that those of them who managed to survive, despite severe tortures to which they were subjected in the prisons, have from the first war days shown themselves real patriots and heroically fought for the glory of the Fatherland; I have here in mind such comrades as Rokossovsky (who, as you know, had been jailed), Gorbatov, Maretskov (who is a delegate at the present Congress), Podlas (he was an excellent commander who perished at the front), and many, many others. However, many such commanders perished in camps and jails and the army saw them no more. All this brought about the situation which existed at the beginning of the war and which was the great threat to our Fatherland." (Special Report on the 20th Congress of the CPSU by N.S. Khrushchev, 24-25 February 1956.)
Although, at the time of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, the combined firepower of the Red Army was greater than that of the Wehrmacht, yet the Soviet forces were rapidly encircled and decimated. Incredibly there were no defence plans prepared in the event of a German attack. Many Soviet tanks were without their crews. Even when Hitler actually launched his offensive, Stalin ordered the Red Army not to resist. Thus, the mighty Soviet armed forces were paralysed for the first critical 48 hours. The Red Air Force was destroyed on the ground. In the first 24 hours, over 2,000 Soviet planes were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of soldiers encircled. Due to this confusion and paralysis at the top, huge swathes of territory were lost in the first few weeks. Millions of Soviet soldiers were captured with little resistance. The military catastrophe was vividly described by the Soviet war correspondent and writer K. Simonov in his book Zhiviye I Myortviye (translated into English as Victims and Heroes).
This unprecedented disaster was not the result of objective weakness, but of bad leadership. With proper leadership, there is no doubt that the German invaders could have been pushed back into Poland at the beginning of the war. A decisive defeat could have been inflicted on Hitler as early as 1941. The war could have been brought to an end far earlier, avoiding the horrific losses suffered by Belarus, western Russia and the Ukraine. The nightmare suffered by the peoples of the USSR were the direct result of the irresponsible policy pursued by Stalin and his clique.
The "great war leader"
After the war, strenuous attempts were made by the Kremlin to spread the myth of Stalin as a "great war Leader". This does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. We have already seen how Stalin's policies left the Soviet Union at the mercy of Hitler. When Hitler invaded, the Soviet leaders were in disarray. Stalin initially panicked and went into hiding. His actions amounted to total capitulation. Despite this he gave himself the title of "Generalissimo" and embellished his role in the Great Patriotic War.
The true position was expressed by Khrushchev in the following terms: "It would be incorrect to forget that, after the first severe disaster and defeat at the front, Stalin thought that this was the end. In one of his speeches in those days he said: 'All that which Lenin created we have lost for ever'. After this Stalin for a long time actually did not direct the military operations and ceased to do anything whatever. He returned to active leadership only when some members of the Political Bureau visited him and told him that it was necessary to take certain steps immediately in order to improve the situation at the front.
Typically, Stalin had the general in charge of the western front executed, blaming him for the defeat for which Stalin himself was responsible. Stalin belatedly ordered the release of thousands of Soviet officers who had been imprisoned in the Purges, but Medvedev points out that as late as "1942, Stalin ordered a large group of leading Red Army officers to be shot in the camps; he considered them a threat to himself in the event of unfavourable developments on the Soviet-German Front". (R. Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 312.)
In the end the USSR won the war against Hitler single-handedly. The British and Americans were mere onlookers in a titanic battle between the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany with the combined productive forces of Europe behind it. The glorious victory of the Red army is a testament to the colossal superiority of a nationalized planned economy which enabled the USSR to survive the first disasters and reorganize the productive forces beyond the Urals. By 1942 the economy was recovering fast. By 1943 the Soviets were out-producing and outgunning the enemy. The equipment and weapons produced by the USSR were of first-class quality, and were superior to that being used by the Germans or the British and Americans. This is the secret of their success. It gives the lie to the oft-repeated allegation that a nationalised planned economy is not capable of producing goods of a high quality.
Marshal Zhukov recalls:
"In 1943 our industry produced 35,000 high-class war planes, 24,000 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces. In this respect we were already far ahead of Germany, both in quality and quantity. The Nazi High Command issued a special order to avoid meeting engagements with our heavy tanks […]" (G. Zhukov, Reminiscences and Reflections, p. 214.)
However, even when the Soviet forces were able to go onto the offensive, Stalin played a negative and disruptive role, interfering with the military command and issuing orders that seriously increased the number of Soviet casualties. Stalin issued an order that "not a foot of land" was to be surrendered. This was an insane order since there will always be conditions when the army has to retreat to avoid encirclement and defeat. Here again the complex equation of war is expected to fit into the arbitrary decisions taken by the bureaucrat in his office without regard to the real conditions on the ground. As if this were not bad enough, the notorious Order 270 stated that no Soviet soldier could surrender and all who did so were to be regarded as traitors. Large numbers of Soviet soldiers who had been surrounded and captured in 1941 as a direct result of Stalin's bungling, found themselves under suspicion and sent to Siberia after the War.
Under the Boss' instructions, which overrode the views of his general staff, ill-prepared offensives were launched in conditions that could only end in defeat. In one such offensive, where Stalin ordered the defenders of Leningrad to break out of encirclement (an impossible task in the winter of 1941 when the city was besieged and starving) the Red Army suffered 250,000 losses and the German defences remained intact. There were many such instances that show the negative role played by Stalin during the war. The truth is that the war was won by the Soviet workers and peasants not thanks to but in spite of the Stalin regime. On the basis of terrible sacrifices, they demonstrated beyond question the viability of the new property relations established by the October Revolution. But they paid a terrible price with 27 million dead and a wholesale destruction of the productive forces.
Nevertheless the victory of the Soviet Union in the War strengthened the Stalinist regime for a whole period. In addition, the Stalinists took power in Eastern Europe and China, although these revolutions were deformed from the very beginning. They were based not on the workers democracy of 1917 but the bureaucratic totalitarian caricature of Stalin's Russia.
Stalin and the national question
Lenin hated Great Russian chauvinism with a passion and fought against it all his life. Stalin, on the other hand, based himself on it. He was himself a Georgian – a nationality oppressed by Russian tsarism for a long time. But just as the Corsican Bonaparte became the most passionate advocate of French centralism, so did Stalin embrace all the most negative features of Great Russian nationalism. In the autumn of 1945, in one of his victory speeches, Stalin referred to the leading role in the defeat of Hitler played by "the Russian people". This was a slap in the face for all the other peoples of the USSR who had fought against the Nazi invaders. It was also the announcement of a revival of Great Russian nationalism.
During the Revolution, most of the people of the Caucasus (except the Georgians who inclined to Menshevism) had supported the Bolsheviks, and they gained a lot from the Revolution. The Bolsheviks built roads and schools and brought civilization to the backward tribes of the Caucasus. They emancipated the women, who had been enslaved and oppressed. Ante Ciliga recalls a discussion at a Party school in Ingushetia in the late 1920s:
"A woman student of the school, chairman of a Soviet in an aoul of Kabardia, spoke in the course of the discussion. This fifty-year old woman expressed with serious enthusiasm, the hopes that mountain peoples were building on the Soviet Rule; with indignation she recalled the age-old oppression by the Czarist colonizers; at last, her eyes ablaze, she spoke of the emancipation of the Caucasian women, at one time uneducated and enslaved – an emancipation, all credit for which belonged to the October revolution." (Ante Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, pp. 42-3.)
But all these gains were undermined by Stalin. In the Second World War, he had whole peoples deported to the icy wastes of Siberia for alleged disloyalty. Seven nationalities – Volga Germans, Crimean Tartars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingushi, Karachai and Balkars - were deported en masse. No exceptions were made – Communists, trade unionists, even soldiers from the front line, decorated for bravery in their fight against Hitler's armies – all were loaded onto the trucks of Stalin's GPU and shipped off to the frozen wilderness of Siberia, where many died of cold and hunger. The total number of deportees exceeded one million. A bitter legacy of hate was left behind, the poisoned fruits of which are still producing suffering and death today.
The most poisonous expression of Russian nationalism is anti-Semitism. The Bolshevik Party waged an implacable struggle against this Black Hundred ideology and fought the racist mobs on the streets arms in hand. After the October revolution, many prominent leaders of the Soviet state were of Jewish extraction. This was not surprising since the Jews, as one of the most oppressed layers of society, had always played a most active role in the revolutionary movement.
As early as the late 1920s, the Stalinists were using anti-Semitic poison in their attacks against the Left Opposition. But this was done in whispers, not publicly. Such a thing would have been considered shocking at that time, when the traditions of Leninist internationalism were not yet dead. But with the advance of the Stalinist political counterrevolution, these anti-Marxist tendencies grew stronger.
After the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Litvinov, who was Jewish, was removed as foreign minister to please Berlin. There were thinly-veiled anti-Semitic tendencies emerging in the USSR before the German invasion. These tendencies had to be kept under control during the War. But they emerged with redoubled force after 1945. The Bolsheviks had allowed complete freedom for the development of Jewish culture. By 1949 all Yiddish publications were closed, as was the Yiddish theatre. A thinly disguised campaign of anti-Semitism was launched, using words like "rootless cosmopolitan" as a synonym for Jew. In 1953, almost all the leaders of Jewish culture in the USSR were shot. Mass arrests of Jews were taking place and this was only halted by Stalin's death.
The anti-Semitic tendency was exported to the other Stalinist Parties in Eastern Europe, where Stalin organized a series of show trials of the leaders of the "Communist" Parties, like that of Slansky in Czechoslovakia. Many of the defendants were Jewish. Most were shot. As a result, many of the Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union, who had seen the October revolution as their great hope, lost all faith in it and campaigned to go to Israel. The paradox is that at the time of the Revolution the Zionists had almost no support among the Jews of Russia, despite the terrible pogroms and oppression that characterised tsarist Russia. It took Joseph Stalin and the anti-Semitic poison propagated of the Great Russian bureaucracy to create sympathy and support for reactionary Zionism in the USSR.