"LYSENKO, VIEWS OF NATURE AND
REDUCTIONIST BIOLOGY AS A KHRUSCHEVITE
First published in pamphlet format in Toronto; September 1993.
PART (IV) THE POLITICAL STRUGGLE
LENIN, ULTRA-LEFTISM AND SCIENCE:
"It is often said that Soviet leaders were eager
from the start to impose peculiarly Marxist ideas on natural science, and
for this reason favoured cranks like Williams and Michurin. That is simply
not true. "
THE POLITICAL CLIMATE TO
SCIENCE AND AGRICULTURE IN THE USSR 1917-36.
From an early period on its history, The CPSU(B) recognised the need
to recruit specialists in all fields, even if these specialists were non
- Communists. As Lenin put it :
"Communism cannot be built without a fund of knowledge,
technology, culture, but they are in the possession of bourgeois specialists.
Among them the majority do not approve of the Soviet regime, but without
them we cannot build Communism."
Cited by Joravsky p.27.
Such was the simple and stark reality. No amount of wringing
of hands could create de nouveau a "virgin intelligentsia", uncontaminated
by a previous life under Capital. It should be recalled also, that Lenin,
following both Engels and Marx, had also predicted that the capitalist
mentality took generations to become dye-in-the wool changed. Of course
this meant the stark reality would be faced by the infant socialist state
for some time:
"Lenin chastised the "pseudo-radical"party comrades
who contended that it was possible to surpass the bourgeois system without"learning
from bourgeois specialists" and without working along with them for a long
period of time."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.120.
The old Tsarist established, Academy of Sciences,
and its members, were initially wary of the Bolsheviks. But very soon they
accepted the new state and the Permanent Secretary S.E.Ol'Denburg
sought an accommodation with the State, despite much criticism from some
of the more reactionary scientists. By early 1918:
"President Karpinskii (of the Academy).. replied
to an enquiry by A.V.Lunacharskii, the new Soviet commissar of education,
that the Academy in keeping with its tradition of service to the state,
would help develop the productive forces for national needs. In response
the Government began releasing funds for the Academy's operation".
Graham, Loren S. 2. "Science in Russia and the Soviet
Union. A short History." Cambridge, 1993, p.84.
From now on, the Bolsheviks ensured that the Academy could
continue its work. A special decree from Lenin ensured adequate supplies
of printing paper, a difficult commodity in the embattled Socialist state.
New funding was given for various projects. For instance for the study
of natural resources in the USSR. This was considered by both the Bolsheviks
and the prominent scientists V.I. Vernadskii a key issue for the Soviet
state that had never been adequately funded and resourced by the Monarchists.
So, the old Monarchist Commission for the Study of the National Productive
Forces (KEPS), was actively expanded and diversified. Key figures of the
Bolsheviks such as Maxim Gorky, the noted writer acted as intermediaries
with the Party (Vucinich, Ibid, p.104-108).
The State did not simply adopt a "laissez-faire" attitude
to science organisation, but the academics and scientists were critically
involved in the new bodies and the planning of initiatives. This did not
mean that the scientists for their part did not simply keep their mouths
shut. Some, particularly Pavlov and Vernadskii were quite proudly anti-Communist,
in their philosophical and political differences with the Communists, as
we shall see.
But, in short, Lenin's injunction regarding the Academy
of Sciences to A.V.Lunacharskii (Commissar for education), was being
followed. This was to ensure:
"That all government plans for the future of the academy
must be based on ; "prudence, tact, and extensive knowledge."
Cited, Vucinich, Ibid, p.94.
A.V.Lunacharskii himself expressed a tersely sarcastic and
realistic view of the matter:
"Just what could we demand of the Academy ? That it
suddenly, all in a big crowd transform itself into a Communist gathering,
that it suddenly cross itself in a Marxist fashion, put its hand on CAPITAL,
swearing it is a genuine Bolshevik?.. Everyone knows that a genuine conversion
of this sort could not be.."
Cited, Graham 2, p.274.
Though his line would change later, for the time being, Lunacharskii's
common sense line was clearly the same as Lenin's own line. This can be
further illustrated with Lenin's reactions to the Chairman of the Central
Committee of The Proletkul't Movement in 1922.
Proletkul't was a general cultural and literary
movement of a generally Ultra-Left orientation. In September 1922, its
Chairman, V.Pletnev, wrote in Pravda an article entitled: "On the Ideological
Front". Here he charged the USSR to create a new Proletarian culture. For
him science and technology were part of the cultural artifacts that needed
to be overhauled. But the movement concentrated on art and poetry in its
The following long passage from Graham, deserves full
quotation, because it is highly reminiscent of many of the attitudes struck
verbally later. These attitudes would be used to justify the very bellicose
approaches of some of the Lysenkoists :
"Pletnev denied that his view was a destructive one-
'we will preserve the material creations
of bourgeois culture,'
he reassured his readers- but he called for the destruction
of the ideology on which these monuments stood, replacing the individualist
principles of bourgeois culture with the collectivist ideology of the proletarian
culture.. the proletariat was not interested in 'science for science sake',
but instead in making science a direct servant of the proletariat's needs..
Pletnev called for a socialised science that would reveal:
'the interconnectedness of things',
and would create a unique scientific methodology that
would simultaneously be easier to master than the:
'old arid, specialised disciplines
taught in the traditional universities'.
The new science would differ from the old in:
'its' essence, method, form and scale'..
Practical experience not diplomas, would be the qualification
for the new scientists and engineers."
Graham 2, Ibid, p. 88-9.
Lenin's attitude to these various statements, may be taken
as a marker for the attitude of the Socialist state at this juncture. Having
long been critical of Ultra-Leftism ("An Infantile Disorder", according
to the title of his famous and strategically valuable book for the Communists
when it came out), Lenin had also already been critical of the literary
line of Proletkul't. But this issue was potentially much more serious
than the arts and poetry:
"Pravda ran replies.. including from N.K.Krupskaia
(Lenin's wife) and Ia. A. Iakovlev. We know that Lenin himself became
agitated about Pletnev's views, since a copy of the article was later found
with his sarcastic remarks in the margins. One of Lenin's comments inquired
what percentage of Pletnev's loyal proletarians knew how to build locomotives;
another ridiculed his belief that scientists would always think in terms
of immediate practical needs, and still another disputed Pletnev's contention
that the proletariat was capable of producing thorough its own efforts
the new engineers with whom Pletnev was so enamoured. Lenin had earlier
defended bourgeois specialists from attacks on the left, and he had also
warned the critics of the Academy of science not to harm it."
Graham 2, Ibid, p.89.
In fact Lenin had already dealt severely with the line of
Proletkul't at the Eight Party Congress. Here he had attacked A.A.Bogdanov
(another leader of Proletkul't) on whether or not a socialist state could
be built without "bourgeois" science. At the Congress, Lenin had rejected
categorically with Bogdanov's view. For this reply to Proletkul't Pravda
article, Ia. A. Iakovlev and Krupskaia were heavily involved.
It is of interest that Iakovlev later became a key force,
behind Lysenko's increasingly virulent attacks upon other types of non-Lysenkoist
science. We will see, that it would appear that Iakovlev 'forgot' his earlier
words, and Lenin's injunctions, at a later critical stage. For now in 1922,
Iakovlev simply reiterated Lenin's line saying:
"The very question of Soviet power is a question of
studying at the feet of the professor, the engineer, and the public school
teacher who were inherited by us from capitalism."
Cited, in Graham 2, Ibid, p. 90
The international significance of the October Revolution
meant of course, that many eyes were on the Soviet Union. No doubt this
fact also contributed to the tactics of the Bolsheviks in fostering Science.
In fact after the 1925 Academy 200th Anniversary was celebrated with an
International meeting where many distinguished foreign scientific luminaries
William Bateson, even then beginning to light
his fire underneath Paul Kammerer, wrote to "Nature" upon his return from
"The revolutionary Government is perfectly sincere in
its determination to promote and foster science on a very large scale.
Signs were not wanting that science especially perhaps in its applications,
is regarded by the present governors of Russia as the best of all propaganda.
It was interesting to hear the faith that the advancement of science is
a first duty of the State proclaimed by professional politicians."
William Bateson, "Science In Russia", Cited, Vucinich,
Ibid, p. 116-7. Nature 116: no 2923 (1925):681-683.
The issue that Bateson alluded to, of a Pure versus Applied
science was also an acute observation. The fact that the division between
the two is at best arbitrary, and at worst impossible to anticipate until
the fruits of "Pure" research are realised, was understood by the Bolsheviks.
Again, resisting the pressure of pseudo-Radicals from the Proletkul't,
the Bolsheviks stopped the proposed transfer of all science research institutes
to industrial plants. In the words of F.E.Dzehrzhinskii, the Chairman
of the VSNKh, it would :
"narrow the horizons of scientific enquiry;"
Cited p. 120 Vucinich, Ibid.
Of course the need for involvement of scientists in the new
State extended to agriculture as well as other fields. But, after the Bolshevik
Revolution, there was great pessimism concerning the possibility of an
increase in arable land of the USSR. Several agronomists disagreed with
Lenin' views that:
"In West Siberia there is a huge area of first class
land inaccessible to us because it lies far from the communications network."
Lenin, Cited by McCauley, Ibid, p.17.
In addition, the Commissariat of Agriculture contained many
Social Revolutionary party members who disagreed:
"P.Mesyatsev, an official spokesman.. stated in O Zemle,
published by the RSFR Commissariat of Agriculture in 1922 that:
'The reserves of land, usable as arable without much
outlay, in the outlying parts of the country, must be accepted as by and
But Party officials actively approached sub-specialists in
all possible areas of science and technology. In biology and agriculture
(just as in all fields of culture and science), not all specialists were
hostile to the Bolsheviks. Williams, Tulaikov, Timiriazev, Vavilov and
Michurin actively approached the Bolsheviks to help. President Kalinin
in 1922 addressed agricultural specialists saying:
"What we need is a burning faith that our Republic,
which is backward in agricultural matters, will not only be able to catch
up with the agriculture of Western Europe, but will.. surpass it."
Joravsky, p. 26
It is certainly ture, that some specialists complained of
the "barbarization" of science. President Kalinin retorted at the
Agricultural Academy in 1923:
"There must be barbarism, so that from this soil, democratic,
simple science can emerge."
And indeed, some of the Bolsheviks were not inclined to listen
to the specialists. During this period, some beyond Proletkul't, wished
to promulgate a narrow and rigid line. In particular this type of view
was expressed by A.Shliapnikov, of the Ultra-Left Workers Opposition,
who argued that the workers were being pushed aside by the specialists.
(Cited Graham 2, Ibid, p. 270).
But clearly, on the whole there was a concerted attempt
to enrol the scientists and the technicians into a societal drive forwards.
In general there was not an attempt to strait jacket the scientists. In
general irrespective of a scientists political view point, so long as they
contributed to the societal effort to build socialism, they were valued.
Kalinin himself, who had defended "barbarization" against
the specialists in 1922, later spoke highly of agriculturists in 1924 at
"Agronomists were "vozhdi i obshchestvennye deiatelli
("chiefs and social leaders"), honorific terms usually reserved for Communist
officials. Kalinin expressed a cheerful indifference even to anti- Communists
political feelings as long as the specialists who expressed them work conscientiously
at his profession."
Joravsky, Ibid, p 29.
By January 1929, at the All Union Congress of Genetics and
Breeding, there were many expressions of support for the party's efforts
in the countryside. The respected botanist, Nikolai Vavilov definitely
aided, and propagandised for the Bolshevik union with agriculture. The
"Party chiefs.. S.M.Kirov.. and N.P.Gorbunov,
who was still, as he had been under Lenin, the highest official for science
and technology, expressed their complete confidence in the ability of the
scientists to help achieve the agricultural goal of the 5 year Plan - a
35% increase in average grain yields per hectare."
We have met Vavilov before in the Discussion about his "Law
of Homologous Variation". (See above). However incorrect he was on that
question, he was a progressive. From early on, Vavilov was enthusiastic
about the Bolsheviks. He placed himself at their disposal:
"Only 30 years old in 1917 ..(he) lectured ..at the
Saratrov Agricultural Institute.. on the task ahead.. the fusion of all
disciplines bearing on agriculture, the collection of plants and experience
from all countries, the planned and rational utilization of the plant resources
of the terrestrial globe'. He declared that the new science of genetics
showed men how:
'To sculpt organic forms at will,' and constant forms
at that. In the near future man will be able, by crossing, to synthesise
such forms as are entirely unknown in nature. Biological synthesis is becoming
as much a reality as chemical."
Joravsky, Ibid. p. 31
Vavilov was asked to become the Director of the Institute
of Applied Botany in Petrograd (subsequently VIR, the All-Union
Institute of Plant Industry) and ultimately chief organizer of the
Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences. At the time his theory was
criticised only by Iu A.Filipchenko, and the embryologist MM
Zavadovskii. Given the full support of the State, Vavilov created centers
of advanced research that international opinion respected, and which are
It should not be thought that his devotion to the Bolsheviks
was a sham. Vavilov is on record as having pleaded with the emigre
geneticist Dobzhansky to "go home and help the great cause" (p.36 Joravsky).
He was later harassed and removed from his positions of eminence.
But he was publicly attacked by Lysenko for "impracticality";
"idealism"; and for maintaining close ties with Western scholars.
Shortly after, in 1940 he was arrested on charges
of spying. In July 1941, he was tried on charges of spying for England
and deliberate sabotage. He died during his life term, in 1943.
Up to the years 1928-29 then, it is widely agreed
that the specialists were allowed their free hand. The controversy around
what took place in the Soviet Union starts from this point. There is first
a claim that the views of Lenin and Stalin diverged on the issue. Namely
on how to work with what were effectively the psychological remnants of
the old bourgeois inclined scientific community. It will become important
to this work to ask:
"Was there any essential difference between Lenin
and Stalin on this issue? "
It seems that commentators appear to be somewhat confused
on this. On the one hand they recognise the continuity in thought processes
by stressing Lenin AND Stalin's policy :
"Lenin and Stalin's policy of preserving the old forms
of intellectual and cultural institutions inherited from Tsarism had by
1929, survived the criticisms from the left and was firmly ensconced. The
militants still nursing grievances against these institutions, correctly
saw that the conversion of the older scientists to the service of Soviet
socialism was at best partial, but they were not able to enact a fundamental
reform of science in the Soviet Union. Science that was traditional in
its assumptions continued to prosper, interrupted only occasionally by
2.Graham, Ibid, p. 98.
On the other hand most historians continue to maintain
that Stalin "Controlled" science. This Control the allegations go, began
in the years after the "Great Break" (veliki perelom). This term is meant
to stand for the:
"Vast campaign of cultural and economic transformation
.. that swept thorough Soviet industry, where private enterprise was eliminated
and the first 5 Years plan was initiated; Soviet agriculture where the
collectivization program was launched and Soviet education artistic, and
Graham, 2, Ibid, p. 93-4.
In fact the more perceptive of the bourgeois historians (indeed
including Graham himself) see that there was a more complex reality underlying
the so called Cultural Revolution than Stalin's whims and power
"The Cultural Revolution has appeared to most historians
in the West as being entirely the creation of Stalin.. It is clear that
in the initial phase Stalin was not running an exhibition with the control
of a puppeteer, but was unleashing powerful semi-autonomous forces, those
revolutionary groups who believed that the reconstruction of Soviet society
had been delayed during the 20's and who now seized the opportunity to
act in accordance with their conviction that bourgeois institutions must
Graham, 2, Ibid, p. 94
But what was the motor for these "semi-autonomous forces"?
This is completely missed by even the best of these historians. Some such
as Sheila Fitzpatrick take a superficial view that:
"It was a struggle waged by the young against old, and
junior against senior.. with aggressive, disorderly, anti-authoritarian
and iconoclastic instincts.. a militant confrontation of the class enemy.."
Cited, Graham 2, Ibid, p. 94.
These historians simply ignore or cannot see, one essential
This is that Stalin was increasingly hampered in his
political agenda, by a hidden coterie of revisionists who wished to resurrect
private enterprise and the profit motive.
Indeed as Fitzpatrick suggests, there was an increasingly
bitter class battle going on. But she and the bourgeois historians only
see the smoke and hear the gun. They do not see which sides many of the
camouflaged fighters were on. It is assumed as always that if anyone was
firing it had to be Stalin.
Unless this basic wrong assumption is appreciated, then
the shifting sands of Soviet politics over the period leading up to Stalin's
death cannot be safely traversed. This will become clearer as we examine
the Leningrad Affair, later.
In fact it was Lunacharskii, not Stalin, who
fired the first shots at the scientists by calling them "supercilious
mandarins in science", for not voting A.M.Deborin, N.M.Lukin, and V.M.Friche
into the Academy of Sciences as full members. Lunacharskii's advocacy of
these members ensured that they were duly elected, following a newly ordered
election. (p.126, Vucinich, Ibid).
It appears that after this, there was a purge of
the members of the Academy of Sciences. Many members were relieved of their
titles, and some were exiled, a few were apparently not heard from again.
In the latter category were such medieval historians S.F.Platonov, M.K.Liubavskii,
and V.N.Peretts (See Vucinich, Ibid, p.127).
Certainly Deborin was groomed by and was a member
of the "Communist Academy". After Lenin's reply to Proletkul't,
this organisation clearly could not become the most effective vehicle for
Ultra-Left views on the intelligentsia.
For the scientists this became the organisation known
as The Communist Academy.
During the early period of the Bolshevik Revolution and
during Lenin's leadership, there was a conscious policy of drawing the
bourgeois specialists into the fray. In fact the CPSU (B) established a
precedent of working well with bourgeois specialists. The relationship
was successful in the goal of aiding socialist progress. By 1929, the stage
was set for an intensification of a hidden battle to overcome the political
agenda of Socialism.
But socialist development meant relations in the countryside
with the peasantry as well. Naturally the nature of this relationship would
change over time.
Moreover the whole harnessing of the intelligentsia, hinged
on how the relation of science to society would evolve over time.
ULTRA-LEFTISM IN LINGUISTICS,
AND THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY
As discussed above, the conventional wisdom is that
Stalin imposed a dogmatic "Communist structured proletarian science". But
in fact Stalin stopped attempts to build up a "Pure Communist" rival to
the "Bourgeois" Academy of Sciences:
"Founded in June 1918, the Socialist (later Communist
Academy) of Science ultimately developed a small section in the Natural
Sciences, and more than one commentator saw it as a rival to the "bourgeois"
Academy of Sciences It was never able to compete successfully with the
older academy in the natural sciences. In the social sciences it enjoyed
a period of flowering in the 20's.. Stalin abolished the Communist Academy
Graham 2, Ibid, p. 86.
Graham alleges that this was because Stalin:
"Did not like independent minded Marxists offering
views on social issues that might challenge his own."
p.86, Ibid, Graham.
But this preconcieved conjecture does not easily fit with
the other parts of an emerging picture of a conscious planned series of
attempts to subvert the state.
We suggest that the Communist Academy developed an
anti-Marxist line that was openly (and not in subterfuge as suggested by
most of the bourgeois literature) fought by Stalin.
The direct evidence for this is the attacks that Stalin
launched on the Linguistic school centred upon the Theories of N.Y.Marr.
Stalin's attitude to this and the timing of his critique of Marr, are a
valuable source of evidence on his reasoning upon science.
The Communist Academy of the Social Science was founded
in 1918, and was heavily associated with E.A.Preobrazhenskii, who
"Marxism in Russia is the official ideology of the victorious
proletariat; the Socialist Academy is the highest scientific institute
of Marxist thought.. It recognises only the branches of socialist science
which are anchored in Marxism... the theory of historical materialism is
more important for the social sciences than the laws of Kepler and Newton
are for physics.."
Cited, Vucinich, Ibid, p.81.
Concordant with this, the Communist Academy was charged to
form the understanding of science and society consistent with Marxism-Leninism.
In fact the Communist Academy became little more than a :
"Library and a debating club, meeting infrequently and
suffering from ambivalent goals and internal fragmentation."
But in 1923, it became rather more energized, and undertook
"Criticise the leading scientists who either displayed
philosophical aloofness or opposed Marxist thought. The distinguished members
of the Academy of Sciences served as particulary attractive targets for
Vucinich, Ibid, p. 83.
The most prestigious members of the Academy of Sciences at
this stage were definitely anti-Marxist, and included V.I.Vernadskii
and I.P.Pavlov. Both had expressed their anti-Marxism. The Communist
Academy attacked them, and the Academy of Sciences as an institution itself:
"V.I.Vernadskii was accused of flirting with Bergsonian
Vitalism and of challenging the notion of the material unity of the
universe, firmly built into Marxist ontology.. The famed neurophysiologist
I.P.Pavlov was the target of numerous innuendoes depicting him as the mastermind
of recurring efforts to make the study of conditioned reflexes the only
basis of scientific sociology and social psychology.. M.N.Pokrovskii,
President of the Communist Academy made no effort to disguise his view
of the Academy of Sciences as a sanctuary of bourgeois thought and an institutional
antitheses to Marxist plans for organised research."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.83
The leading intellectual force of the Communist Academy,
as well as Preobrazenskii already mentioned, was not Stalin, but in fact,
"The Communist academy provided a forum for a group
of Marxist theorists led by Leon Trotsky, who contended that the excessive
worship of Pavlov's theories worked against the burgeoning efforts to effect
a fruitful synthesis of Marxism and Freudianism. Pavlov's publicly expressed
aversion to the use of revolutionary methods as a tool of resolving socials
conflict was directed against the political strategy of the Bolshevik party.
N.I.Bukharin a member of the Communist Academy wrote a lengthy article
refuting Pavlov's claims that the October Revolution was a historical anomaly."
p. 83, Vucinich, Ibid.
Despite this, it is well known that the Bolshevik Government,
(in both the Lenin and Stalin years) protected and aided both Vernadskii
and Pavlov in their research, recognising the validity of their science.
Pavlov in particular was greatly aided in his researches by both Lenin
and Stalin after him. That Pavlov's research saw the legitimacy of environmental
and organismal interaction, and this was congenial to Marxism-Leninism
does not alter the fact that a gifted researcher was given full rein.
In truth, the Communist Academy had great difficulty in
obtaining a unified approach amongst its members as to the correct way
in which to interpret the modern developments in the sciences from Marxist
perspective. It was itself riven between those castigated as "Mechanists"
led by L.I.Aksel'rod and A.K.Timiriazev and the self styled "Dialecticians",
led by A.M. Deborin.
The battle between the two wings drew not only the attention
of Stalin, but also that of Vernadskii. This old "relic" of a scientist,
who was actively still studying and fighting for his vision saw the two
orientations from the perspective only from that which would help
science. It seemed that he:
"concluded that the philosophical stance of the (so
called) mechanists was more realistic and more in tune with the spirit
of twentieth century science. The mechanist orientation he said, was more
satisfactory because it was further removed from Hegelian idealism and
was closer to 18th Century materialism, which was based on the achievements
and the logic of science and did not try to impose its authority on science."
P. 151, Vucinich.
In fact it became inevitable, that Vernadskii was attacked
by Deborin, on the grounds that he advanced philosophy in contradiction
to dialectical materialism. As Vucinich says:
"That Vernadskii survived the attacks led by Deborin
was proof of the willingness of the authorities to tolerate selected established
scholars, in the natural sciences, despite demonstrative refusals to make
dialectical materialism part of their thinking."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.152.
But as we discuss below, Stalin had already identified the
views of the Deborin group as an expression of "Menshevizing Idealism,"
there is a greater significance in Deborin's attacks on Vernadskii.
Not for the first time, it became obvious that simply
using the terms Dialectical Materialism in an analysis did not make it
dialectical, nor materialist. Clearly Stalin cannot have been in support
of attacks launched upon Vernadskii.
The CC of the CPSU(B), at that time still under the control
of a predominantly Marxist-Leninist group, led an open attack upon Deborin
in the pages of the theoretical journal: "Under the Banner of Marxism":
"The organ defended the "general party line" and fought
the two categories of philosophical deviationism:
'the mechanical revision of Marxism, as the main danger
at the present time, and the idealistic distortions of Marxism by the Deborin
Deborin quickly admitted his errors.. particulary his 'unsupportable'
assertion that while Plekhanov was primarily a theorist, Lenin was first
of all ' a practical person, a revolutionary, and a leader." Vucinich,
Ibid, p. 151.
Both Deborin and his ally N.I.Bukharin tried to make
amends for their characterisations of Lenin as a man of action, and not
a theorist. For instance at the 10th anniversary of Lenin's death in 1923,
both gave major eulogies of Lenin stressing his theoretical acumen. For
Bukharin this was the first time, that he had publicly paid credit to Lenin
for his theoretical contributions (See p. 158, Vucinich).
Despite this, the Communist Academy, continued to develop
an Ultra-leftist line on several issues. The figure of M.B.Mitin
now begins to surface repeatedly, especially in the debates on Lysenko
himself (See below). Here it should be noted that he became now a leading
"interpreter" of the relevance of dialectics to natural science. The thrust
he used at this stage was to emphasise Lenin's view in "Materialism and
Empirio-Criticism", that "too much mathematics" was equivalent to "formalism".
(Vucinich, Ibid, p. 154).
It is hardly necessary to point out that a tactic was
being used that would later become a concious strategy, of hiding an attack
behind a Personalty Cult.
Here the Cult erected was of Lenin, later this would
be of Stalin.
This enshrined a supposed view, and took it completely
out of context to justify its application to unwarranted situations. For
clearly Lenin, the author of "Empirio-criticism" had not had fundamental
objections to mathematicians.
That Stalin at least, appreciated the significance of
the build up of the personality Cult is clear when he pointed out to Lion
Feuchtwangler in an interview, that the Cult was being built without his
participation by "those who would use it to discredit me". In fact the
most nauseating toady in all the effusions surrounding the Cult, was Nikita
Khrushchev. His role in the disintegration and hidden attacks on th
Soviet sate are discussed below. For a brief catalogue of Stalin's comments
on the Cult, please see Appendix.
BUT What was Stalin's attitude
to the Communist Academy?
Why do we assert thta Stlain repudiated Deborin?
Well fortunately, we have a very good Test
Case, one that even begins to look beyond the fact (significant
just in itself) that in 1938 the Communist Academy was closed.
This is the school of linguistics
that was built up within the Communist Academy.
The critique levelled at it by Stalin has received too
little attention within the debate on Lysenko. Perhaps, because this entails
actually reading Stalin (Naturally the heavens forbid that scholars should
read Stalin as they might then be contaminated somehow).
For his work "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics",
does pose problems for the key underlying paradigm of most current historians.
Stalin's text is very far from a doctrinaire and shrill
attack on a "Classless" science. In fact the pamphlet is a sharp attack
on the mindless, mechanical introduction of Class issues into a scientific
debate on the origins of languages.
This trend had been started by N.Ia.Marr (also
translated as N.Y.Marr), who was a member of the Academy of Science
from 1912-1934 when he died. In 1930 he became a party member and in 1931
became a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and achieved
the Lenin medal for achievement in science.
"Because of certain rudimentary similarities between
his views and Marxist theory, Communist scholars were quickly accustomed
to treating his theory as Marxist linguistics. Marxists were attracted
to his Japhetic theory, which sought a common base for Caucasian and Semitic
languages, and for all languages of the world-the ideas of common origins
and evolutionary unilinearity having been firmly built into Marr's thought
and into Stalin's internationalism of the 1930's."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.185.
This development was fostered and directly supported by the
Communist Academy. Its President, Pokrovskii ensured that N.Ia Marr
was made a member of the Communist Academy; and Marr in fact became the
head of the subsection "of materialistic linguistics". Pokrovskii's commitment
was emphatic :
"As stated correctly by a Leningrad comrade, Marr's
theory must recognise Marxism as its general philosophical and sociological
base and Marxism must recognise the Japhetic theory as its special linguistic
Cited, Vucinich A, Ibid. p.186.
What was Marr's theory, and what
did Stalin think of it?
In examining Marr we can test
two overall assumptions.
Firstly How "rigid" was Stalin on his application
of principles of dialectical materialism to a general scientific problem
Secondly, how "rigid" was Stalin in conceding
that in science there has to be back and forth, debate, full intellectual
cut and thrust ?
The discourse "Concerning Problems in Linguistics," was
written in the form of questions from "younger comrades", and Stalin's
responses. It would appear that Stalin had been approached by students
to enter the debate.
As regards to the matter of the
general behaviour to be followed in science, Stalin's point is quite clear.
"Question: Did Pravda act rightly in starting
an open discussion on problems of linguistics?
It must be remembered that this work was originally published
in Pravda in 1950.
This timing is extremely significant, for it came after
Lysenko was effectively and exclusively ruling the roost in genetics (See
below). Stalin's words in linguistics, are pertinent to understanding how
he may, or may not have supported Lysenko:
Answer : Yes it did. It has been brought out
in the first place that in linguistic bodies both in the center and in
the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men
of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet Linguistics,
even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called "new doctrine" in
linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles.
Valuable workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their
posts or demoted for being critical of N.Y.Marr's heritage or expressing
the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed
to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified
acceptance of N.Y.Marr's theories. It is generally recognised that no science
can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom
of criticism, But this generally recognised rule was ignored and flouted
in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a closed group of infallible
leaders, who having secured themselves against any possible criticism became
a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased."
Stalin, J.V. "Concerning Marxism in Linguistics", Contained
in Stalin, J.V. "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics," Foreign languages
Press, Peking, 1972, p.29-30.
In the same section, Stalin also states that besides exposing
the fact that there was an extremely unhealthy climate in linguistics ('A
Regime' as Stalin called it), there was a second reason why it was
good to ventilate these issues openly. This was in order to clarify the
controversial areas, from the scientific point of view:
"The usefulness of the discussion does not end here.
It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out
the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal question of linguistics which
prevails among the leading circle in this branch of science. Until the
discussion began the "disciples" of N.Y.Marr kept silence and glossed over
the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion
started silence became impossible and they were compelled to express their
opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out the in N.Y.Marr's
teachings there area a number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems
and sketchy propositions.
Why, one asks, have N.Y.Marr's "disciples" begun to talk
about this only now, after the discussion opened?
Why did they not see to it before?
Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and
honestly, as befits scientists?"
J.V.Stalin, Ibid, p.31.
In the same section Stalin points out that, so far had
Marr's elevation gone, that any words of Marr, were considered valuable.
So much so, that when even the author Marr himself discredits one of his
own textbooks, his followers insist on its continued use. That Stalin sees
the potential for mischief (Sabotage) here is evident, but he allows that
knowing the underlying sincerity in the "comrade", this was an honest mistake:
"If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade
Meschaninov and the other linguistic leaders I would say that such conduct
is tantamount to sabotage."
p. 30, Ibid.
But what leads to this rather unhappy and unscientific
state of affairs? Stalin incredulously and pointedly asks about the
origins of this "arbitrary" "regime", phrased with the following:
"How could this have happened? It happened because the
Arakcheyv regime established in linguistics, cultivates irresponsibility
and encourages such arbitrary actions."
Ibid, p. 30.
It helps obviously, to know that Arakcheyv was a:
"Reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, responsible
for an unrestrained, dictatorial police state warlord despotism and brutal
rule enforced in Russia in the first quarter of the 19 th century."
Editors notes to J.V.S. Peking Edition cited above, p.55.
But then how are we to characterise Marr, according to
"Save us from N.Y.Marr's "Marxism"! N.Y.Marr did indeed
want to be, and endeavoured to become, a Marxist, but he failed to become
one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar
to the "proletcultist' or the "Rappists". "
Ibid, p. 31.
The general relationship of The Communist Academy to Proletkul't,
lies in their common Ultra-Left wing approach to the intelligentsia. But
an even greater link between them, lies in their equal and joint
attempts to apply a mechanical simplistic reductionist Marxism, to
issues that required much deeper thought and analysis, that required a
truly dialectical understanding. In this Marr was characteristic.
Stalin asked "Wherein did Marr's errors lie "? And
he answered as follows:
"N.Y.Marr introduced into linguistics another and also
incorrect and non-Marxist formula regarding the "class character" of language,and
got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics
cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary
to th whole course of the history of peoples and languages."
Ibid, p. 31.
Moreover Marr's style and behaviour was "immodest" and
"Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest boastful,
arrogant, tone alien to Marxism and tending toward a bald and off-hand
negation of everything done in linguistics prior to Marr. Marr shrilly
abused the comparative historical method as "idealistic". Yet it must be
said that, despite its serious shortcomings the comparative-historical
method is nevertheless better than Marr's really idealistic four-element
analysis, because the former gives a stimulus to work latter only gives
a stimulus to loll in one's arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup
of the celebrated four elements...
To listen to Marr, and especially to his disciples, one
might think that there was no such thing as the science of language, that
the science of language appeared with the "new doctrine" of Marr. Marx
and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism
was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy,
in earlier periods."
Stalin, Ibid, p. 31-2.
Stalin did not reject all that Marr had said, as a later
clarification in reply to further questions that his remarks had prompted:
"Of course the works of Marr do not consist solely of
errors. Marr made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics
elements of Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent
theory of language, But Marr had certain good and ably written works, in
which he , forgetting his theoretical claims , conscientiously and one
must say, skilfully investigates individual languages, In these works one
can find not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly these valuable
and instructive things should be taken from Marr and utilized."
Stalin, "Concerning Certain Problems of Linguistics,
Reply to Comrade E.Krasheninnikova", Contained in "Marxism and Problems
Peking, Ibid, p.39.
We have examined how Stalin viewed Marr, and what he at least
said about the scientific method - the "clash of opinions".
There is not a little in the "arrogant tone" of the
linguistics regime, that reminds one of the tone of the Lysenko Biology
But unlike Vucinich and Loren, we cannot stop here. Vucinich,
for instance sees an economics debate in which Stalin was overtly taking
sides. However he states that the positions taken in the debate "were immaterial"
Both Vucinich and Graham, and for that matter Joravsky,
acknowledge that Stalin did take an open position on the Linguistics debates.
But only Joravsky recognises that the admontion on "The Arakcheyev Regime,"
may be significant. However, even he does not explain the nature of the
debate itself, and the underlying links to the Ultra-Leftist Communist
Academy - and its real significance in the class battles within the USSR.
But to illustrate that Stalin was not a crude "Reducer
to A Single Class Reality", we have to discuss his actual concrete objections
to the Japhetic School of Marr.
"Question : Is it true that Language is a superstructure
of the base?
Only by understanding this, can it be seen that Stalin
did not advocate a crude "Marxist Levelling".
Firstly Marr, argued that language was a "superstructure
on the base". This was a mechanical translation of the Marxist view that
all the phenomena of a class society reflect the underlying economic structures.
Stallin analyses this by the question and answer method:
Answer : No, it is not true.
The base is the economic structure of society as the
given stage of its development. The superstructure us the political, legal,
religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political legal
and other institutions corresponding to them.
Every base has its own corresponding superstructure,
the base of the feudal system has its superstructure its political legal
or other views, and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base
has its own superstructure, so has the socialist base...
In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure.
Take for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course
of the past 30 years the old capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia
and a new socialist base has been built. Correspondingly the superstructure
on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created
corresponding to the socialist base.. But in spit of this the Russian language
has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution... Langauge
is not a product of one base or another, old or new within the given society,
but of the whole course of history of the society ad of the history of
the bases for many centuries.. Langauge was created for by some one class,
but by the entire society, by the hundred of generations".
Stalin, Ibid, p. 3-6.
Secondly Marr argued that there were "class
languages", and that now there was a "proletarian" languages pitched
against a "bourgeois" language. Stalin disagreed:
"Question: Is it true that language always was
and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is
the single and common langauge of a society, a non-class langauge common
to the whole people?
Answer : "The first mistake is that ..our comrade
are confusing langauge with superstructure.. since the superstructure has
a class character, langauge too must be a class langauge, and not a language
common to the whole people..
The Second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive
the opposition of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the
fierce class struggle between them, as meaning the disintegration of society,
as a break of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that since
society has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but
only classes, a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary.
If society has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to
the whole people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes
and "class languages".
Naturally every "class langauge" will have its own "class"
grammar- a "proletarian" grammar or a "bourgeois" grammar. True such grammars
do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry these comrades: they believe
that such grammars will appear in due course.
At one time there were "Marxists' in our country who
asserted that the railways left to us after the October Revolution were
bourgeois railways, that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them,
that they should be torn up and new "proletarian" railways built. For this
they were nicknamed" troglodytes"..
Stain, Ibid, p.16-7
Finally on Marr's mechanical insistence that there
were "stages" in language development, Stalin was equally blunt:
"It is said that lat the theory that languages develops
by stages is a Marxist theory, since it recognises the necessity of sudden
explosions as a condition for the transition for a language from an old
reality to a new. This is of course untrue for its is difficult to find
anything resembling Marxism in this theory..
Marxism does not recognise sudden explosions in the development
of languages, the sudden end of an existing langauge,and the sudden erection
of a new langauge.
Lafargue was wrong when he spoke of a sudden
"linguistic revolution which took place between 1789 and 1794 in France"
(See Lafargue's pamphlet The French Langauge Before and After the Revolution).
There was not a linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden one, in France
at that time..
Marxism holds that transition for a language from an
old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion, of the
destruction for an existing langauge and the certain of a new one, but
by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality and hence
by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality"..
"It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades
who have an infatuation for expulsions that the law of transitions from
an old quality to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not
only to the history of the development of languages; it is not always applicable
to other social phenomena of a base or superstructural character. It applies
of necessity to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not
necessarily apply to a society which has no hostile classes.."
Stalin, Ibid, p. 27.
Finally, critics of our general position (By now it
shoudl be clear to the reader) may well argue that it is odd that Stalin
should be so vociferous on this question, but was not so upon Lysenkoism.
Where they will argue, is the equivalent flaming gun of Stalin, firing
We should conjecture as to why did Stalin feel that he
could pin down Marr's weaknesses, and not let us say, those of Lepishinskaii?
We argue that Stalin had a specialist knoweldge in this arena.
From the pure bourgeois paradigm, the whole episode on
Linguistics cannot be explained. After all, Marr's views, by rights should
have been so congenial to the "Mythical Stalin" - the one these historians
have erected. After all, what could be more plain to the "dogmatic" and
"Mythical Stalin", than that everything
in society was a product of class warfare ?
Those who castigate Stalin's understanding of philosophy
as Class Reductionist do not, and cannot explain his refusal to jump onto
Marr's bandwagon. This would appear to be a perfect one from the standpoint
of the usual Paradigm.
It cannot be irrelevant that one of Stalin's first
theoretical books had been : "Marxism and the National Question."
Indeed it had been this book written in 1913, that had
fbeen praised by Lenin. One could be forgiven for guessing that this work,
allowed Stalin the critical scientific insights into the technicalities
that allowed him to open an attack.
BUT - In biology,
he did not have the critical insights. But he saw the debate proceeding.
The complexity of this debate has already been outlined, both "sides" had
good points. Ultimately, Stalin would commission assessments, as discussed
below from specialists in the field such as Sukachev.
Undoubtedly there was a natural and fertile basis for
Ultra-left tendencies in USSR society. It appears that both Lenin and Stalin
actively fought off the worst of these. These tendencies had the objective
effect, of alienating significant sections of the populace. Thereby weakening
the alliance that the working class and the Bolsheviks had constructed,
with the peasantry, and also the intelligentsia.
Collectivisation was potentially destructive of the link
with the peasants. Work in the Sciences potentially jeopardised the link
with the intelligentsia.
Both Lenin and Stalin fought the excesses in both arenas.
But these excesses represented forces that would at times overwhelm a correct
THE PERIOD OF COLLECTIVIZATION
- ROLE OF LEFTISM
Collectivization during the period 1928 onwards, faced
obstacles from several sources, including economists. Stalin:
"Told a conference of agricultural economists that their
studies were being proved useless but practical Party workers in the countryside,
who were pushing collectivisation much faster than any economist had believed
Stalin Cited by Joravsky, p.37 Stalin XII,141-172.
This was a Test of Practice; one that parallelled Stalin's
Civil War advice to Lenin, which was reprinted in Pravda:
"The naval specialists declare that taking (the fortress)
by sea subverts naval science. All I can do is bemoan so-called science.
The swift taking of the Fortress is explained by the roughest intervention
on my part.. I consider it my duty to declare that in the future too I
will act in this way, in spite of all my reverence for science."
Joravsky p.38. Cited Stalin IV, 261.
Specialists also saw the need for significant change in the
"The scientists.. called attention, in their resolutions,
to the gap between agricultural scientists and peasant practices and made
recommendations.. to overcome it."
The theoretical complications and the hesitancy of the specialists
could be discussed and overcome. But putting into practice even a correct
policy is fraught with complications.
The general climate was prone to an Ultra-Leftist deviation.
As Stalin himself pointed out in "Dizzy With Success", there was
a drift towards excess zeal. Stalin's strictures were directed against
enforced collectivization and attacks on the peasantry mounted by a few
In addition vastly exaggerated, and impossible claims
were being promulgated for agricultural possibilities. If these forecasts
could not be achieved, a danger of discrediting the Party was possible.
"Many leading scientists were the active agents of the
utopian fever. Even N.K.Koltsov, the dean of experimental zoologists,
whose intellectual independence repeatedly angered the Bolsheviks published
enthusiastic articles on the great opportunities presented by collectivization..
Tulaikov (a soil scientist) said:
'Under the social scheme that we have outlived, we extracted
from agriculture perhaps 230 % of what it could yield with a rationally
organized utilization of the forces of nature.. we will strive to achieve
at the 20 th jubilee of the new life in our country, an inversion of the
figures just cited."
Party officials were equally over confident. Iakov
a. Iakovlev, the Chief Party propagandist for agrarian problems forecast:
"A doubling of grain yields within a decade and criticised
unnamed specialists who had predicted an increase of only 6-11%. The conservatives
..prodded by impatient Bolsheviks raised their most optimistic forecast
to an 19.4 % increase in grain yields within 5 years, whereupon Iakovlev
denounced them again for caution unbecoming to revolutionaries. Declaring
his faith in revolutionary fantasy (fantastika) he insisted on a
doubling of grain yields within a decade.."
The potential loss of creditability, from making "fantastic"
predictions is clear:
"This put technical and scientific specialists in a
strange position.. Ia.A.Iakovlev's avowedly fantastic proclamation in 1928..that
yields could be doubled in 10 years.. translated into the official goal
of a 35 % increase in the first Five Year Plan.. It proved to be.. beyond..
farmers thrown into violent confusion. Officials.. were provoked to angry
tirades on the disloyalty of the intelligentsia."
Joravsky p. 65
Taken in conjunction with other evidence of destroying from
within, it is likely that some of the hyperbole of some individuals pushing
this Leftist deviation, was motivated by the desire to actively destroy
collectivization. Clearly some of the enthusiasm was genuine. But when
expressed so incautiously by high party officials, this "fantastic projections"
could not have been so innocent.
Moreover it cannot be discounted that there was a more
active sabotage proceeding. Undoubtedly the manner in which Collectivisation
was performed displayed a high degree of Ultra-leftist excess. The manner
in which the peasantry were sometimes maltreated, was not according to
the manner in which Lenin and Stalin had wanted.
It is very clear that it was Stalin who called a halt
to this potentially explosive process, one that was alienating the peasantry
from the Bolshevik party.
It was Stalin who drew the Party back from this danger.
Instead he drew it back to the prior stated path of a Voluntary collectivisation.
This required the demonstration in practice of the superiority of the collective
system. As opposed to what was happening - an enforced collectivisation
of even small scale farmers. The reservoir of the poor peasantry support
for the Bolsheviks was potentially being subverted into an active antagonism.
Stalin ended this by his speech "Dizzy With Success".
One of the manifestations of Leftism was excessive projections
of agricultural yields. This may have aided the enemies of socialism, by
alienating peasants, and by showing "failure".
COLLECTIVISATION- YEARS OF
The alliance between the proletariat and the poorest section
of the peasantry was critical to forming the mass that would win the socialist
revolution. In the minds of the leaders of the Bolshevik party, revolution
depended upon the alliance, a strategy designed by Lenin. Stalin saw the
situation as follows:
"In 1917, the peasant problem in Russia became a matter
of.. urgent importance, for in the days of the proletarian revolution the
question of the dictatorship of the proletariat- how it was to be established
and maintained, what allies the proletariat could find- had become actual..
The Leninist answer is that as regards the exploited majority of the peasants,
there exist revolutionary possibilities which can be turned to account
in support of the dictatorship of the proletariat..... the labouring masses
of the peasantry must be supported in their fight against oppression."
J.V.Stalin, "The Peasant Problem", "In Foundations of
Leninism." Contained in "Leninism", Translated Eden and Cedar Paul. New
York, 1928 p.122-23.
After the revolution, the long Civil War funded by imperialism,
and consisting of imperialist invasions into the USSR, led to a great disruption.
Undoubtedly this led to famines and food shortage, such as in the Volga
Famine of 1921. This was hardly surprising, on top of the ravaging that
had followed the First World War. But by 1921, the Civil War was won by
the Bolsheviks, and the alliance between the poor peasantry and the proletariat
survived. Overt imperialist invasion into the USSR was clearly futile.
But, with the revolution and then the Civil War over,
there came a retrenchment. The Retreat, as Lenin called the New Economic
Policy (NEP), allowed a stocktaking. Despite this, a new reality existed
in the USSR, moving towards socialism. Stalin cites Lenin in the years
of the NEP, to point out that Lenin had by this time thought that a full
scale socialised society was imminent and possible in the USSR:
"All the means of large-scale production are in the
hands of the State and the powers of the State are in the hands of the
proletariat; there is the alliance of this same proletariat with the many
millions of middle and poor peasants.. have we not the already here and
now all the means of making out of the cooperatives( which in the past
we treated as trading concerns, and which even today we have a certain
justification for treating similarly under the new economic policy), out
of the cooperatives alone-have we not all the means requisite for the establishment
of a fully socialised society ?"
Lenin (Works Russian Edition, vol xviii, Part II, p.140.Cited
by Stalin, in Ibid, p. 133.
As the revolution became consolidated,
the countryside came to play a critical role in discussions about the future
of socialism for two reasons.
Firstly, there was a great reservoir
of rather richer peasants, the so called kulaks, who were hostile to socialism.
The peasantry was not just a single whole, but consisted of strata. These
strata were originally described by Lenin, and not by Stalin and sharply
distinguished between the rich peasantry, and the above mentioned poor
and middle peasants. It would be this issue that would consume the future
debate on collectivisation.
Immediately after Lenin's death, the various shades of
opinion were openly in conflict.
Thus Preobrazhenskii, (whom we met with the Communist
Academy) was in alliance with Trotsky, and wanted to "squeeze" the
Bukharin on the other hand exhorted the peasantry
to "enrich themselves." Stalin's views are quoted above, and consisted
of wanting to move to a voluntary collectivisation (See below).
Secondly there was the pressing need
for grain, meat and other agricultural produce that the proletariat in
the towns needed for food. These facts form the basis for various distortions
that need to be discussed. It is the ensuing period Collectivisation that
has come to be radically distorted for propagandistic ends by "historians".
The major distortion has been
to deliberately confuse the Volga famines of 1921, for "alleged" famines
These later famines of course implicate socialism following
Bolshevik survival to the 1930's. These allegations have long been used
to attack the USSR of Stalin's administration. This tactic has a long and
dishonourable history, that starts with the yellow rags of the Hearst
It extends (to use an appropriate metaphor for this work!)
in a "genomically Weismmanian unchanged form", through the generations
down to the present day Robert Conquests.
Douglas Tottle has
traced the detailed lineage of Conquest's ancestors in "Fraud, Famine and
Fascism", (ISBN 0919396-51-8). This exposes fabricated "eye witness" accounts,
and the substituion of Famine Pictures, from the Volga Famine of 1921 for
a supposed 1935 Ukraine Famine.
For this "1935 Famine" of course, Stalin is held responsible.
Thus, photographs authenticated by reputable sources (including
Dr.Fridtjof Hansen's International Committee Russian Relief in Geneva)
as originating from either the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Tottle, Ibid p.9)
or the Volga Famine of 1921 (p.22, 31), were palmed off on the world as
being from 1930's in the Ukraine. How did this happen ?
The Hearst Press had a long history of scurrilous and
fraudulent reporting antedating the Russian Revolution. Harper's Weekly
refused to print allegations from the Hearst Library during the First world
"Suspecting Hearst was using mythical correspondents
to send out fake despatches, stating as much on October 15th, 1915."
Tottle, Ibid, p.15.
Actually, the British and French Governments had banned the
Hearst Press from the use of their cables and mails. Whereas the Canadian
Government went further, and actually banned Hearst papers, and charged
a fine and imprisonment for being in possession of them.
The Hearst Press however continued to perpetrate fraud.
For example in the case of Thomas Walker. Many
of the quoted individuals who purported to be in the Ukraine at the time
of the alleged Famine were not there at all, including the charlatan Thomas
Walker (Tottle, Ibid, p. 11). Walker was a "correspondent" of the Hearst
Press, supposedly sent to the Ukraine. His articles appeared in the Chicago
American and the New York Evening News, and were syndicated the world over.
Allegedly he witnessed horrendous sights.
Louis Fischer, tracked down his entry and exit
visas to Russia, showing that Walker had only had a total stay of 5 days.
In that 5 days, it was physically impossible for Walker to have covered
the distances, that he claimed he had!
It then emerged that Walker was in fact an escaped convict
Robert Green. The New York Times reported that he had escaped from
a prison term of 8 years for fraud, and that he had previous convictions
for violations of the Mann White Slave Act in Texas (Tottle Ibid, p. 9-11).
Walker's documentary "photos" (As noted above, these were
in reality from the Volga Famine of 1921 and from the period of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire) subsequently re-surfaced repeatedly.
In fact they then were so "useful" that they served as
templates for both German and Italian fascism. The Hearst campaign of fraudulent
allegations of Famine and Genocide began in fact on his trip to Nazi Germany,
where Hearst met Hitler. The fake photos were prominently shown
in the Nazi Organ: "Voelkicsher Beobacter", and were republished
by Dr.Ewald Ammende (p.24). The same photos are variously used to
support "Famines" of 1932, 1933, or 1934. They are credited at various
times to Walker, a Nazi Dr.Ditloff and unknown (Ibid, p.29). It further
emerges that Ammende held posts with the counter-revolutionary Estonian
and Latvian Governments (p.31).
During this same trip, while Hearst's press was racily
retelling of the famine, the French Premier Edouard Herriot, on
October 1st, 1934 was reported in Herald and Examiner as saying:
"The whole campaign of the subject of famine in currently
being waged. While wandering around the Ukraine, I saw nothing of the sort."
Tottle, Ibid, p. 15.
In fact long after the exposure fo the fakes, both in the
"respectable press" (eg "The New York Times") and in the Left wing press
(should this be termed "The unreliable press?" - Hardly given the "reliability"
of the Hearst Press!) of "The Nation", Walker's
photos continue to be used by Harvard University's Ukrainian Studies Fund
and the Ukrainian Nationalists (Tottle, Ibid, pp.7; 24; 12).
As Tottle says:
"While the average person might understandably despair
at this confusing tangle of documenting evidence, one justifiably expects
historians to verify and authenticate source material, Thus its rather
astonishing that Harvard University's Dr. James E. Mace played a
significant role in all of the above books."
Tottle, Ibid, p. 30.
Other historians disagree with Mace. As for instance, the
reputable mainstream historian, J.Arch Getty who
"The intentional famine theory has not been generally
accepted outside of the circles of exiled nationalists."
Arch Getty, "Starving the Ukraine", London Review of
Books, January 22, 1987, p.7.
This brings us to the disgruntled Ukrainians, and
the trail of photos then extends to SUZERO (Ukrainian Association
of Victims of Communists terror) and DOBRUS ( Democratic Organisation
of Ukrainians Formerly persecuted By the Soviet Regime in USA). These are
the publishers of "The Black Deeds of the Ukraine".
Unfortunately, these organisations conceal pro-Hitler
fascists, such as Petro Pavlovich (alias Apollon Trembovetskyj) who
refers in Ukrainian print-but not in the English print - to : "Stalin the
Jewish moron." (Tottle, Ibid, p. 37).
In fact, the well known fascist sympathies of many of
the Ukrainian extreme nationalistic right-wingers, allowed an easy entry
of Hitler into the Ukraine. This bedrock of anti-Bolshevism, fuels the
propaganda claims that are ongoing.
Alongside all this is the usually unchallenged view that
between 1 million and 10 million deaths occurred. Here the first "landmark"
claim was by the historian Dana Dalrymple (Dana
G.Dalrymple, "The Soviet Famine of 1932-34", Soviet Studies, January 1964,
Oxford. pp 259-260).
He simply "averaged" figures of "reliable sources"..
Such as Thomas Walker, open fascists, the pro-fascist
Archbishop of Canterbury (who had publicly proclaimed his "greatest
sympathy" with Herr Hitler's remarkable revolution in every facet of German
life), the Austrian Cardinal Innitzer (who struck a deal with Hitler,
and instructed Catholics to vote for the "man whose struggle against Bolshevism,
corresponds to the voice of Divine Providence) and so on ! (Tottle, Ibid,
And from there we soon find Robert
"In very large measure the area study programs developed
in the American universities in the years after the war were manned, directed
or stimulated by graduates of the OSS- a remarkable institution, half cops
and robbers and half faculty meeting. it is still true today, and I hope
it always will be, that there is a high measure of interpenetration between
universities with area programs and information gathering agencies of the
government of the US."
This historian now works from effectively an offshoot
of the US military Office of Strategic Services (OSS),
at Harvard University the Ukrainian Research Institute (URI). That this
construction on the URI is not unreasonable, is implicitly acknowledged
by no less than the former US Statesman McGeroge Bundy who said:
Cited by Tottle, Ibid, p.58.
From Ford, C : "Donovan of OSS", Boston, Little, Brown
and John, 1970, p.111.
Again, both the exhibitions sponsored by the URI, and the
books published in association with it, have the same linages.
All track back to Ammende, Ditloff and Walker (Tottle,
ibid, p. 61)!
Many of the figures associated with the books etc are
themselves derived from ex-fascists such as Walter Duschnyck (Tottle,
Duschnyck's estimate of Ukraine famine deaths by census
data recording a decline in the "anticipated" increase in population (Of
course this a completely hypothetical number!) tallies a total of 7,500,000
However these have been challenged on methodological grounds
by US sociologist Albert Szymanski :
"This estimate assumes:
(1) that even in conditions of extreme famine instability
and civil war, peasants would conceive at the same rate as in less precarious
(2)That abortion or infanticide did not significantly
(3) that there were as many women of maximum reproductive
age in 1932-33 as before or after. All of these assumptions are erroneous.
All peasants have traditional techniques of birth control and are thus
able to limit their reproduction to a significant degree; it is the economic
benefit attendant upon having a large family which is operative-a factor
not applicable during famine- not ignorance of birth control.. Further
legal abortion was so widely practised in this period that the in 1936,the
State banned it as part of the campaign to increase the population."
Tottle, Ibid p.71. Albert Szymanski,"Human Rights in
the Soviet Union", London, Zed Press, 1984, p.225
And by the historian S.G.Wheatcroft :
"As is well known the First World War and the early
years of the 1920's would have caused a great gap in births in these years.The
age cohort born in 1914 would have been 16 in 1930 and so would just have
been entering the period of major reproduction. Consequently Lorimer and
others have concluded that the age structure of the population would have
led to a decline the births throughout th early 1930's and until the missing
populations born into the 1914-22 age cohorts had passed on well into the
Cited Tottle, Ibid.p.71. S.G.Wheatcroft: "On Assessing
the size of Forced Concentration camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1926-56",
Soviet Studies, April 2, 1981, p.285.
Thus to Conquest.
His "Harvest Of Sorrow", Edmonton, 1986, hails directly
from the hallowed traditions that have been briefly outlined above. The
book was launched together with a film Called "Harvest of Despair", which
collectively caused quite a stir. In fact the film was put to very good
But..... In the construction of the film, open
fraud has been confirmed:
"As the "Toronto Star" November 20th, 1986 reported:
"Researcher Marco Carynnik who says he originated the
idea of the film, says his concerns about questionable material was ignored.
Carynnik said that none of the archival film footage is of the Ukrainian
famine, and that "very few photos from 32-33", appear that can be authenticated.
A dramatic shot a the end of an emaciated girl.. used in the promotional
material, is not from the 1932-1933 famine Carynnik said."
Cited Tottle, Ibid, p. 79
The use of Fraud was justified for "visual impact," by Professor
Orest Subtelny at York University.
Conquest is the scholarly component
of the propaganda barrage.
"According to the London Guardian, Conquest was formerly
employed by the British Secret Service's Disinformation project, the Information
Research Department (IRD). Key IRD targets were the "Third World" and "the
Russians." Embassies had IRD men who undercover who planted materials with
local journalists and opinion formers, materials admitted by former 'senior
officials' to be heavily "slanted".
Who is he? Well now he is Harvard
as a "Scholar". What has he been before?
The Guardian also states:
'IRD also encouraged book production described in Whitehall
as 'cross fertilisation'. Robert Conquest.. frequently critical of the
Soviet Union was one of those who worked for IRD. He was in he Foreign
Office until 1956."
Tottle, Ibid, p.86. Guardian, London, 27th January 27th,
Given this genealogy, we do not need any further now to delineate
how unreasonable, let us say how unscientific, each of Conquest's claims
We will quote however a comment on the methods of Conquest
from a respected historian, Arch Getty Jr who
believes that Conquest 's method is to elevate rumour and hearsay to a
historical truth :
" Grand analytic generalizations have come from second-hand
bits of overheard corridor gossip. Prison camp stories ("My friend met
Bukharin's wife in a camp and she said..") have become primary sources
on Soviet central political decision making.. the need to generalize from
isolated and unverified particulars had transformed rumours into sources
and has equated repetition of stories with confirmation".
Arch Getty Jr, J : "The Origins of the Great Purges",
Cambridge, 1985, p.5.
THE CRISIS IN POST WAR AGRICULTURE
AND THE STALIN PLAN
TO TRANSFORM NATURE
After the growth of the population in the USSR by 1929
to 12% more than in 1917, and with an area of grain under production only
90 % of the pre war figure, and a continued increase in land parcellation
(24.5 million households in 1928), the move to collectivisation by Stalin
was totally necessary. This resulted in an immediate increase in the
Expansion of the Sown Area.
This is depicted below in Table
One drawn from McCauley, Martin. "Khrushchev
and the Development of Soviet Agriculture." London 1976. p. 25.
% Total Increase Increase On
The State Farm
North and Central
Southern (Ukrainian SFR,
Central Black Earth,
Middle and lower Volga,
north Caucasus, Crimea)
Eastern (Urals, Bashiria,
West and East Siberia,
Yakutia, Far East)
Central Asia &
McCauley's Source: Summary of Fulfilment of the First
5 Year Plan for the Development of the National Economy of the USSR (Moscow
There has been some dissension as to whether or not the
policy of collectivisation had adequately dealt with the agricultural problems
of the USSR.
"By the great expansion of acreage under collective
cultivation and the imposition of very low prices on the produce of that
acreage, the government achieved its main goal : enough grain was delivered
to the state each year.. The Bolsheviks had reason to begin, as early as
1932, the periodic boasts that they had solved Russia's grain problem.
In other senses they could not .. overlook the fact that grain yields per
hectare had declined. The average for the periods from 1930-1934 was ..14%
lower that the average for 1925 -1929."
However, even hostile forces to Stalin are forced
to acknowledge that in general the measures were successful:
"Even as critical an expert observer of the Soviet agricultural
scene as Naum Jasny could not deny that:
'The socialization drive in Soviet agriculture achieved
to a large extent its major purpose of serving as a basis for the industrialization
Harry Shaffer in : Soviet agriculture, an assessment
of its contribution to economic development. Ed Harry G Shaffer. Kraeger
Press London, New York 1977. p.62.
But even before the Second World War and the consequent
devastation of the USSR, there was a continuing need to expand the area
of arable land. Stalin pointed out in 1929:
"The question of cultivating unused and virgin land
is of tremendous importance for our agriculture.. the pivot of the revolutionary
movement in Russia in the old days was the agrarian question.. one of the
aims of the agrarian movement was to do away with the shortage of land.
At that time:
'There were many who thought that the shortage of land
was absolute, ie. that there was in Russia, no new land suitable for cultivation.
And what has actually proved to be the situation?.. Scores of millions
of hectares of free land were and are still available in the USSR. But
the peasants were quite unable to cultivate unused and virgin lands, they
longed for "soft" land for the soil which belonged to the landlord, for
soil which could be tilled with the aid of peasant implements by individual
labour. It is not surprising therefore that our Grain Trusts.. equipped
with tractors, is now able to place under cultivation some 20 million hectares
of free land.. unoccupied by peasants and unfit for cultivation by individual
labour with the aid of small wretched implements."
Cited by M.McCauley, p.23.
Thus the innovations such as the Machine and Tractor Stations.
There is little doubt that in the countryside, these averted
the potentially crippling lack of suitable machinery. But a further impetus
towards farm expansion was now present. Despite theblatant lies that
we discussed above on the so-called "famines", it was true that a serious
situation existed in agriculture. A potential famine in the Ukraine,
did exacerbate the crisis in the countryside. In the winter of 1927-28
5 million hectares of winter wheat perished. By the Summer 1928, a large
"Toyed briefly with the notion of treating winter wheat
that could be planted in the spring but they dropped the notion as impractical.
The scientists at the meeting had also tried to overcome the belief of
many practical delegates that certified pure breeds of wheat were more
susceptible to winter killing than the mongrel peasant varieties.. Iakovlev
the chief of agricultural journalism and propaganda had given public support
to this..belief.everybody (including Iakovlev) agreed, on the extreme difficulty
of solving.. winter killing.
'One must not shut one's eyes to the great difficulties,
to the enormous amount of work that alone can lead to a basic solution
of the most important tasks'..
Disaster struck again.. about 7 million hectares of winter
wheat perished in the winter of 1928-9." Joravsky, p.61.
The dire straits of the Ukraine were conducive to the support
of Lysenko, who had :
"A plan of action.. "super-early sowing ", and "sowing
close to the winter."
Lysenko now moved from obscurity in Azerbaidjan to the All-Union
Institute of Plant Breeding In Odessa, the most important center of agricultural
research in the Ukraine. It is in this background context of a post war
demand for land, and an agricultural crisis, that the Plan to Transform
Nature should be considered.
Williams, has largely now been forgotten by
modern eco-scientists, but is generally remembered by political theorists
who largely ridicule him. Yet it is noteworthy in these days of the so
called "Greenhouse Effect", how modern his concepts sound:
"V.R.Williams, (was a) politically reliable soil scientist
who kept his job (as Rector) at the Petrovskaia Agricultural Academy when
it was reconstituted as the Moscow Agricultural Institute. Grandly disdainful
or ignorant of the accumulating complexities in soil science, agricultural
chemistry, and ecology, he tied everything from solar radiation to soil
structure into one great devolutionary process that would produce a universal
desert unless the world's farmers checked disaster, by planting grass."
Williams even after his retirement, was a member of the Agricultural
"Where he kept insisting that his simplistic scheme
of crop rotation (termed Travople) must be applied all over. But
the overwhelming majority of soil scientists and crop specialists were
against him, and the Bolshevik government deferred to them (until the 1930's)."
Joravsky, p. 29.
But Williams was opposed by a number of scientists primarily
by Tulaikov and Prishianokov. The latter is remembered particularly
for his insistence upon the need for fertilizers. The problem of this proposed
policy, was that the resources of the State at that time, simply could
not allow that avenue. Nonetheless, both these experts had more sway than
Williams initially. Tulaikov was sent by the Party to the USA to examine
the US dept Agriculture's farms:
"In 1928.. Tulaikov proposed a Soviet version of the
giant grain farms in the semi-arid plains of North America. A special commission,
established directly by the Politburo with Kalinin as Chairman, endorsed
the proposal. Stalin himself was sufficiently impressed to quote Tulaikov..
to the CC. Huge State farms were established on marginal land to work as
"grain factories". Following simple grain-fallow rotations, ignoring Williams
pleas for grass and livestock and crop diversification.. the initial results
in the Soviet Union were interpreted as success, though the Agency in charge,
the Grain Trust, ended each year in the red. Stalin had decreed that profit
(rentabel'nost) was not to be calculated for each individual enterprise..
the cost of production in 1929-30 declined from 10.6 rubles to 8.4 rubles
per centner of grain.. but by 1932 reached 22.9."
However, instead of increased production, a decline in the
land productivity followed. Tulaikov suggested that the decline was due
"Poor management.. slovenly labour, too few supplies
..and too many weeds..."
In this setting, Williams remarks on "the land being too
dry anyway", took root. At the Conference on Drought Control in October
1931.. travopol'e was pushed.
The Williamites won the right to try the system on 20
state farms and on 20 Machine and Tractor Stations (MTS). This was a
specialist issue on which the party stood aside, while the specialists
"The major officials who spoke ..Iakovlev, Kalinin,
and Molotov - held to their policy of allowing specialists to decide
such matters. Molotov in fact expiated on the practical benefit of free
debate among specialists."
It is of obvious interest, that current Western texts on
soil management cite practices quite similar to Williams. Thus J.H.Stallins
when discussing soil conservation in areas of wind erosion says:
"In the Great Plains.. the safest practice is to return
all fields West of the 20 inch rainfall belt..to grass, at best on a rotation
basis for a period of 5-7 years. Such a rotation is more likely to maintain
much needed crop stubble and other residues for wind protection to improve
soil structure and to promote other favourable conditions than is the conventional
cropping system ..."
Stallings JH, "Soil Conservation"; New Jersey 1957. Prentice
- Hall Inc; p.248.
In fact, contrary to the agricultural crisis being the fault
of Stalin's policies, Western authorities suggest that it was since Khrushchev
led the abandonment of the rotational scheme of Williams, that major agricultural
deficits began in the USSR:
"The virtual abolition of the grass land system of crop
rotation (ie.Travopole system of Williams) without enough fertilizer and
cultivation equipment to make such an undertaking a halfway acceptable
risk proved costly in the long run in terms of soil deterioration and depletion
of fertility that is not easy to restore."
Harry Shaffer p. 69. In "Soviet Agriculture.
An assessment of its contribution to economic development ".
McCauley compares the similar Northern areas of Saskatchewan Canada
and Kazahkstan USSR, and finds similar weather and land problems. He points
"A most striking difference in the agronomical practices
between the two areas under study is the amount of clean fallow regarded
as necessary in Saskatchewan. It averages between 30- 4 % even higher in
certain parts. The Soviets employed 10-15 % during the Khrushchev years."
Much scorn has been heaped on the ambitious proposals post
Second World War, to transform the Steppes of Russia from a hostile wind
swept area to an arable farming area. These plans were termed the "Stalin
Plans to Transform Nature".
But modern Western sources acknowledge the general value
of wind breaks:
"The utilization of trees as windbreaks in humid areas
where wind erosion constitutes a problem is relatively simple."
p.257 J.H.Stallings Op Cit.
"Shrubs and tress make good windbreaks and add greatly
to a North Dakota homestead.. windbreaks and tenacious grasses and shrubs
are especially effective.. rye planted in narrow strips across the field
is sometimes used on peat lands. All of these devices for wind erosion
control whether applied in arid or humid regions and whether vegetative
or purely mechanical are after all, but phases of the broader problem of
soil moisture control."
The German invasion of the USSR had wreaked an utter devastation.
There was an urgent need post Second World War to extend agriculture, after
the Second World War, into wherever possible.
"The sown area of the vast RSFR in 1945 was 25 million
Ha less than in 1940. In the USSR the sown area decreased by 36.6 million
Ha between 1940 and 1945. In Kazakhstan the drop was 770,000 ha."
The Nature and Properties of Soils. p.565-4. Nyle
C Brady. Cornell University and USAID. McMillan New York 1984.
The Virgin Lands of the Steppe were a possibility. But the
practical problems of the land concerned had to be tackled:
"Agriculture in the steppe area of the European part
of the Soviet Union, especially in the areas to the East and South East
of the river Don, is affected by dry winds (sukhovei) coming from the desert
and semi-desert areas of Central Asia. Consequently drought is one of the
great problems of these regions. Besides drought, low level fertility and
wind erosion have to be combatted. The solution of these problems was to
be found in a complex system of afforestation measures for the preservation
of moisture in the soil, and increase in the number of ponds by bring and
the construction of reservoirs, measures for the introduction of rotation
in grain and fodder crops (Travople) and other ameliorative measures.."
McCauley, Martin. "Khrushchev and the Development of
Soviet Agriculture." London 1976. p. 31.
The Plan called on the Travopole system to be made compulsory.
"Relied.. on the planting of protective tree belts in
areas suffering from water or wind erosion.. in the Volga Basin, and the
Caspian Sea area, Voronezh to Rostov-on-Don, the Northern Donets to the
Don, Krasnodar krai,the Crimea and the Southern Ukraine. .. and in Asiatic
Russia, Vishneveya Hills -Orenburg-Urals-Caspian Sea.. the implementation
met with mixed fortunes. The survivors proved valuable as wind breaks and
contribute to the anti-erosion struggle. The plan, put into action in 1949,
lost impetus after Stalin's death.. Khrushchev turned a deaf ear to those
who feared the spread of erosion to the large expanses of newly cultivated
soil in the East.. it took Khrushchev a decade to realise that Kazakhstan
was a dry farming area."
In addition there were massive plans for irrigation that
were canaceled after the death of Stalin:
"Would provide.. 6 million ha.. and 22 million ha of
extra grazing land, mainly in the semi- deserts and deserts north and east
of the Caspian.. none of the irrigation projects.. received much official
backing...The opposition to the scheme was demonstrated after the death
Unfortunately not all the wind breaks survived. They had
been planted under Lysenko's direction that they be planted in cluster.
Lysenko had ("dialectically") argued that under Mutual Aid, the
saplings themselves would allow the best to survive. This was of course
a mistaken theory, it has to be acknowledged. But despite Lysenko's naiviete,
the scheme planted some 5.7 million hectares of protective trees and:
"There has been considerable debate about the effectiveness
of these tree belts which now present a familiar landscape to a traveller
in the countryside."
Cited Durgin Jr, F.A. p. 126. in Stuart R.C."The Soviet
Rural Economy"; 1984.New Jersey.
Nonetheless the scheme made a great deal of sense and was
in fact really contributing to relief of the agriculture. This became clear
after Stalins' death. By 1953 :
"Socialist agriculture had been able to extend the sown
area by about 40 million ha."
McCauley , p. 32.
It has been claimed that Soviet agriculture was destroyed
by Stalin, using Lysenko's incorrect theories. Leaving aside the issue
of how widely Lysenkoist practices were actually implemented on farms,
the figures for agriculture do not support the contention.
Table 2 below shows the yields of wheat, relative to
the base years 1926-1928, for the USA and the USSR.
It is drawn from Levins and Lewontin, Ibid, p. 190, and
was complied from the U.S.Bureau of the Census, 1975. Obviously the figures
for the war years show the expected devastation in the Soviet Union due
to the ravages of the War. Thereafter, in the only reasonable years that
could be in any way attributable to Stalin's "terrible influence" : There
does not appear to be the relative impoverishment of supply the anti-Stalin
propagandists complain of. Subsequent to Stalin's death even, the supply
from the farm was not a problem. Of course then the socials effects of
the resurrection of private property makes an enormous impact upon the
distribution of the available supply.
TABLE 2.Comparison USA &
USSR Wheat Yields By Year
100 (6.69 bu/acre)
Thus the allegation that USSR agriculture was severely
damaged under Stalin is incorrect. According to Lewins and Lewontin, who
are certainly not proponents for Stalin, the figures for the 1930's
may be overestimated; but the figures for the post war years and the base
years are not affected. They conclude:
"There is no evidence that Soviet agriculture was damaged."
Lewins and Lewontin, p.19-1.
Khrushchev charged in his "secret speech" that Stalin had
neglected agriculture and could not see the importance of updating it.
This is quite false, as Stalin attacked backwardness in agriculture saying
"It would hamper the continued growth of the productive
forces of our country more and more as time goes on."
Cited by Durgin, p.138.
In fact amounts spent under Stalin on agriculture were rising
until his death:
"The trend toward an increasing share of investment
clearly began a decade prior to Stalin's death.. The rate of increase in
agriculture's share slowed abruptly and came to a halt in the years following
Khrushchev reverted to an older debate, and was pushing the
extended use of fertilizers, even though the chemical industry at that
time was not able to provide enough. He campaigned heavily against Travopole.
Unhappy consequences flowed from Khrushchev's bias against bothTravopole
and his stopping of the irrigation programme:
"The widespread damage caused by the dust storms of
1960 and 1962 brought the problem of wind erosion to the attention of a
wide public.. water erosion is a widespread scourge affecting almost 50
million ha of the European part of the RSSR.. The Ukraine suffers considerable
annual damage. Of a total of 42 million ha inspected.. 13 million were
affected.. it was calculated that throughout the USSR 500 million tonnes
of topsoil were washed away annually."
As McCauley sadly says:
"Such official neglect is even more surprising when
one recalls that many of the pioneers of the study of soil were Russian.
Soil science is replete with Russian words now accepted in other languages."
Following the Second world war, the pressure on agriculture
was met very well.
Contrary to revisionist and bourgeois charges, Stalin's
agricultural policy was functioning well.
Appropriate measures were instigated for control of drought
and wind erosion in the Virgin lands program. A generally correct policy
was on the whole followed, with the exception of the Lysenkoist
Nonetheless, even the Stalin Plan itself was in broad
terms, quite appropriate. The Stalin Plan rested on ecological principles
that subsequently have become commonplace and accepted.
Evidence that Khrushchev opposed these plans in general,
is consistent with the view that Khrushchev was certainly associated with
a countryside plan to disrupt harmony in the countryside. We are forced
to try and understand Khrushchev's motives.
THE STRUGGLE ON AGRARIAN POLICY.
Stalin versus Khrushchev and
That there was an inner party struggle between revisionists
like Khrushchev and the Marxist -Leninists led by Stalin, has become very
clear to a number of non-Marxist historians. It is of course well recognised
amongst the very few Marxist-Leninists that support Stalin. It is then
of interests, that "semi-Marxists" who have repudiated Stalin, claim there
is no difference between Khrushchev and Stalin, other than Feudal Boss
mentality; this paints a picture of them fighting for the personal fiefdom
of the Soviet Union completely divorced from any essential political difference.
In reality, the issues that divided Stalin and Khrushchev,
all revolve around that of the profit motive in regulation of production.
This is another way of saying the issues revolved around
the class struggle. Having built a socialist state (this point will of
course be contended by the semi-Marxists and Trotskyites. We cannot deal
with this contention here.)
"Khrushchev himself championed the village improvement
program in speeches.. abridged in Pravda on March 4 1951.. Stalin decisively
intervened in the matter of rural reconstruction on March 5 1951. At his
behest, the editors of Pravda informed readers that, through an oversight..
word had been omitted that Khrushchev's article of the previous day was
offered only for purposes of discussion and did not express.. official
Stalin wished to maintain a socialist state. Khrushchev
and his allies wished to reintroduce profit as a regulator of production.
In agrarian policy, the conflict is indicated clearly
by academic historians:
Sidney Ploss; "Conflict and Decision Making in Soviet
Russia. A case study of agricultural policy 1953-1963"; Princeton, 1965.
"Some members of the Politburo.. urged that the traditional
course be modified in the direction of increased reliance on economic levers..
and relaxation of central controls over kolkhozes.. this was current among
leaders.. like.. Voznosensky.. and Khrushchev.. opposed by Malenkov and
Beria." Ploss Ibid. p.28.
This author does not accept that inclusion of Beria in that
role. Further data is needed here, since Beria's overall role was quite
radically different to the others noted. The others were clearly enemies
of both Stalin and socialism. Beria was clearly an anti-Khruschevite. Leaving
that aside, the general point made by Ploss is correct.
These policies of the Khruschevites tended to increase
the demand for consumer light industry; that section of renascent
USSR capitalists whose interests Khrushchev served. In addition it served
to "enrich" the peasant and reinforce individual small scale capitalist
tendencies in the countryside. Voznosensky, a key ally of Khrushchev
was heavily involved in these agitations :
"The policies of one-cow-per-house-hold, commercial
trade, and the small work unit in grain farming were..led by Khrushchev
Ploss Ibid. p.39-40.
"N.A.Voznosensky.. promoted greater material encouragement..
defense of the collective farmers rights to conduct private activities
and enhanced autonomy and payment for on the spot technicians."
Moreover, some powerful agrarian party officials supported
Khrushchev. Moreover the Khruschevites dominated the 1947 CC Plenum :
"Within the CPSU(B) CC Plenum in February 1947, Andreyev
promoted the same views.. and with Dronin (a key Khruschevite supporter
from the Ukraine).. authorized incentive driven "link" in grain farming.
Still another concession to peasant self-interest which resulted from the
Plenum was broader allowance for consumer cooperatives to act as commission
agents in disposing of kolkhoz surpluses in urban markets. The cooperative
shops paid higher than official state purchase prices for foodstuffs bought
under decentralized procurement and offered urban consumers an alternative
to the free kolkhoz market in supplementing their purchases. In the early
part of 1947, 19,000 commission shops opened."
This tendency to enrich the individual elements in the
countryside was resisted by Stalin:
"Stalin came forward at the 1947 Plenum with one of
his rare overt interventions of the day. Andreyev revealed.. that Stalin
recommended that agricultural experts not working in farms and MTS, but
in administrative posts remote from the barnyards should receive a quarter
less pay than those in operational jobs."
p.33 Ibid. Ploss.
Shortly after, Stalin attacked Voznosensky, identifying
him with the attitudes favouring capitalist resurrection.
(See below The Leningrad Affair, extracted from W.B.Bland;
" Restoration of capitalism in the USSR." London 1979).
It is now well known that Khrushchev following Stalin's
death, managed to effect changes in the direction he had argued unsuccessfully
against Stalin earlier. The earliest charges were made in the countryside.
Thus Khrushchev dismantled the machine and Tractor Stations in the countryside
(MTS), and actively promoted the proponents of light industry over
and above that of heavy industry.
Bourgeois commentators see the struggle between the Marxist-Leninist
and the revisionists led by Khrushchev, as being hinged on how hard to
"squeeze" the peasant.
It is alleged that Stalin wished to squeeze the peasant,
and that his resistance to "consumerism" or light industry was based on
In fact, Marxist-Leninist resistance at that time to further
expenditure on light industry was based on the overwhelming necessity to
increase the heavy industrial base in order to improve the well
being of the people. This is made clear by Stalin in his last known work,
one written to rebut many of Voznosensksy's revisionisms, "Economic
problems of socialism" :
"Insuring the maximum satisfaction of the continual
growing material and cultural needs of society - that is the goal of socialist
production: a continuing growth and development of socialist industry on
the basis of an even higher technology that is the means for its attainment."
J.V.Stalin p.78 Cited Durgin p.121.
As Durgin states, writing in 1984:
"This postulate.. is one that the current generation
for US economists has come to recognise.....in the new "supply side" economics.."
Durgin points out:
"One of the most salient and overlooked features of
the post-Stalin era has been the ever decreasing share of GNP going
to consumption and the ever increasing share going to investment ..consumption's
share fell from 62.4% of the total in 1950 under Stalin to some 56.5% in
1974 under Brezhnev. Investments' share during the same period doubled,
rising form 14.8% of the total to 28.4%. The "imbalance".. of the Stalin
years seems not to have improved, but rather in a certain sense have worsened."
p. 119. F.A.Durgin Jr. "The relationship of Stalin's
death to the economic change of the post-Stalin era"; In R.C.Stuart. "The
Soviet rural economy"; New Jersey, 1984.
The myth that Stalin starved the workers and peasants, and
decreased their living standards is untrue. In fact Stalin was appropriately
allowing consumption to rise, under socialist control. Durgin concludes:
"All of the Stalin 5-Year Plans called for significant
increases in consumption. While consumption 's share of the national income
during the First 5 year Plan was to fall from 77.4 to 66.4 %, in absolute
terms it was to increase by some 75%. The Second Plan called for a 133
% increase in the output of consumer goods and a two fold increase in the
urban workers consumption of food and manufactured products.. The priority
that Stalin gave to consumption in the post war period..was also high."
Durgin, Ibid. p.121-122.
It is notable that during his lifetime, Stalin fought against
each of these retrogressive steps introduced by Khrushchev.
It is of further interest that Khrushchev emerged in
the post Stalin years as a major supporter of Lysenko; actively intervening
in Lysenko's difficulties with those who did not wish to see the demise
of more classical gene research.
The inner party struggle between revisionism and Marxism-Leninism,
in agrarian policy was very acute. It took the form of a struggle over
the allocations to be made to light versus heavy industry; and the extent
to which private property type relations with the peasantry were to be
encouraged. Stalin resisted the encroachment of these private relations
in the countryside.
THE LENINGRAD AFFAIR - VOZNOSENSKY'S
In 1948-9, during Stalin's lifetime a serious attempt
was made to initiate the kind of "economic reforms" that would have led
to the restoration of an essentially capitalist society in the USSR. Precisely
these same reforms, with the process of capitalist restoration was ultimately
started by the Khrushchev regime, to be completed under the Brezhnev regime.
These economic "reforms" were carried out on the theoretical
inspiration and under the leadership of Nikolai Voznosensky - a
member of the Central Committee of the CPSU since 1939 and of its Political
Bureau since 1947, who had held the posts of Chairman of the State Planning
Commission since 1937 and of Deputy "Prime Minster" since 1939. We have
of course, already met Voznosensky. He was an ally of Khrushchev in the
battles in the countryside to restore capitalist relations.
In 1947 Voznosensky published a book by entitled "The
War economy of the USSR during the period of the Patriotic War", a feature
of which was the author's claim that the distribution of labour "was" (meaning
"should be") determined by the "Law of values" (meaning the profitability
of individual enterprises and industries). Voznosensky therefore demanded
that the prices of commodities should be "market-prices", based on their
values or "Prices of production" (the latter term being defined by Marx,
in his analysis of capitalist economy, as cost of production plus an average
profit). He therefore emphasised the need to enhance the role of "cost
accounting" (accounting based upon the profitability of individual enterprises
and industries) in the organisation of production, together with that of
economic incentives in the form of bonuses to the personnel of enterprises:
"The most elementary law governing the costs of production
and distribution of goods is the law of value.. In Socialist government
economy the law of value signifies the need to calculate and plan in terms
of.. money the costs of production.. The State plan in the soviet economic
system makes use of the law of value to set the necessary proportions in
the production and distribution of social labour and the social product..
The law of value operates not only in the production but also in the exchange
of products.. Prices.. in the Socialist economy too are nothing but the
monetary expression of the value of the product, or its cost of production
and, in the final analysis, of the quality of socially necessary labour
expended on its production.. The law of value operates.. also in the distribution
of the various branches of the Soviet Union's national economy.. The following
distinguishing feature must be noted as regards the planning and organisation
of production at Soviet industrial enterprises during the war economy period..
strict cost accounting, profit and loss accounting and reduction of the
costs of production. A highly important lever making for increased production
is the creating, through a system of premiums (bonuses Ed) of a personal
incentive to raising output.. Scientific socialism.. does not deny the
significance in Socialist economy of the law of value, market prices and
profit and loss accounting.. As for profit and loss accounting in Soviet
economy not only does it not run counter to the Socialist system of economy
but serves as a substantial stimulus to the development of Socialist production,
inasmuch as it contributes to a growth of profits."
N.Voznosensky: "War Economy of the USSR in the period
of the Patriotic War" Moscow. 1948. p. 116,117, 118,121,138, 139.
Roy Medvedev testifies to the "popularity" of Voznosensky's
book among a section of Soviet economists:
"Voznosensky's book.. soon became popular among economists.
Some of its theses began to appear on the same level as these from Stalin."
R.Medvedev : "Let History Judge"; London. 1972, p.482.
Stalin's strong objections to the Voznosensky's economic
theses were made public only more than 4 years later, in 1952- the significance
of the delay will be discussed below - in his "Economic Problems of
Socialism in the USSR," a significant part of which was devoted to
a refutation of these theses (though without naming Voznosensky as their
author). Stalin empahsises the continued need to develop heavy industry
and not to concentrate on the light industry - although the latter was
"It is sometimes asked whether the law of value exists
and operates in our country under the socialist system. Yes it does exist
and does operate. Wherever commodities and commodity production exist,
there the law of value must also exist..
Does this mean that.. the law of value.. is the regulator
of production in our country ? No, it does not. Actually the sphere of
operation of the law of value under our economic system is strictly limited
and placed within definite bounds..
Totally incorrect too, is the assertion that under our
present economic system. the law of value regulates the 'proportions' of
labour distributed among the various branches of production.
If this were true, it would be incomprehensible why our
light industries, which are the most profitable, are not being developed
to the utmost, and why preference is given to our heavy industries which
are often less profitable and sometimes altogether unprofitable.
If this were true, it would be incomprehensible why a
number of our heavy industry plants which are still unprofitable are not
closed down, and why new light industry plants, which would certainly be
profitable .are not opened.
If this were true, it would be incomprehensible why workers
are not transferred from plants that a less profitable, but very necessary
to our national economy to plants which are more profitable, - in accordance
with the law of value which supposedly regulates the 'proportions' of labour
distributed among the branches of production..
The law of value can be regulated for production only
If profitableness is considered not from the standpoint
of individual plants or industries and not from the period of one year,
but from the standpoint of say, 10 or 15 years, which is the only correct
approach to the question, then the temporary and unstable profitableness
of some plants or industries is beneath all comparison with that higher
form of stable and permanent profitableness which we get from the operation
of the law of balanced development of the national economy and from economic
J.V.Stalin: Economic Problems of the Socialism in the
USSR. Moscow, 1952, p.23, 25, 27-9.
But there was an active and organised Opposition group around
Voznosenky. The controversy around Voznosensky's theses were by no means
an academic one, since using his authority as Chairman of the State Planning
Commission, Voznosensky had already proceeded to initiate an"economic reform"
designed to bring these into effect.
In taking this step Vosnosensky did not only have the
public support of many leading economists - many of those who publicly
supported his economic theses, such as Leontiev and Gatovsky,
naturally played a leading part in supporting the these of Liberman
which paved the way for the precisely similar "economic reform" carried
out under the Brezhnev regime. He was also assured of the powerful support
in the highest ranks of the Party and State apparatus, particularly in
Leningrad. Among those openly associated with Vosnosensky's "economic reform"
of 1948-9 were:
Aleksei Kuznetsov, who had been First Secretary
of the party in Leningrad from 1945-1946, when he was appointed a Secretary
of the Central Committee;
Grigori Popkov, First Secretary of the party
in Moscow and also a Secretary of the Central Committee;
Mikhail Rodionov, "Prime Minister " of the
Aleksei Vosnosensky (Nikolai's brother) who
had been Rector of Leningrad University from 1944-1948, when he was appointed
Minister of Education of the Russian Republic.
Ivan Golikov, President of the Supreme Court;
Colonel-general Ivan Shikin, Head of the chief
Political Directorate of the Soviet Army.
Among other prominent figures associated with Vosnosensky
who supported his economic theses more discreetly was Alexsei Kosygin,
later "Prime Minister" of the USSR, who had been Director of the October
Spinning Mill in Leningrad in 1937-8, "Mayor" of Leningrad in 1938-9, "Prime
Minister" of the Russian republic in 1943-6, and Minister of Light Industry
of the USSR from December 1948, and who had been a member of the Political
bureau of the CC of the party since 1948:
"Vosnosensky's ally in economic reform seems to have
been Alexsei Kosygin".
M.Kaser,"Comecon", London, 1967, p. 23
"A Russian defector who was in Leningrad at the time (1948-9)
and was in close contact with Kosygin during his visits to the city reports
that Kosygin became drunk at a birthday party he attended late at night
and referred to Stalin as a 'pockmarked bastard' adding words to the effect
that the Soviet Union could become a great country .. if only the dictator
could be removed. There is no reason to doubt this story."
By this time opposition views were being quite openly expressed
in Party and State circles in leningrad. This was demonstrated during a
visit to the Soviet Union in January 1948 by a Yugoslav delegation headed
by Milovan Djilas.
M.Page,"the Day Khrushchev Fell"; New York; 1965;p.186-7.
This was two months before the Soviet Government recalled
its miliary and civilian experts from Yugoslavia, and four months before
Yugoslavia was expelled from the Communist Information Bureau for, among
other things pursing a line which:
"Can only lead to Yugoslavia's degeneration into an
ordinary bourgeois republic, to the loss of its independence and to its
transformation into a colony of the imperialist countries."
Communist Information Bureau: Resolution on Yugoslavia,
June 1948, in J.Klugmann :"From Trotsky to Tito"; London; 1951; p.11.
Naturally the reception of the Yugoslav delegation in Moscow
was cool. The delegation was, however , warmly received by Party and state
circles in Leningrad:
"Djilas, Koca Popovic and Vukmanovic expressed a wish
to visit Leningrad. they were warmly welcomed there, given a villa and
received by Popkov, the Secretary of the Regional committee."
V.Dedejier, "Tito Speaks"; London, 1953; p.321-2.
Djilas himself describing the delegations' visit to Leningrad,
pays tribute to the "simple humanity" of the party and state officials
in that city, with whom he felt he could "very quickly arrive at a common
"The trip to Leningrad.. refreshed us and brought us
some relief.. Our encounter with Leningrad officials added human warmth
to our admiration. They were all, to a man, simple educated, hard-working
people.. but they lived lonely lives.. We got along with them easily and
quickly.. We observed that these men approached the life of their city
and citizens.. in a simpler and more humane way that the officials in Moscow.
It seemed to me that I could very quickly arrive at a
common political language with these people.. indeed I was not surprised
to hear two years later that these people had failed to escape the mills
of totalitarianism just because they dared also to be men.."
M.Djilas: "Conversations with Stalin"; Harmondsworth;
The cordial realities between the Yugoslav delegation and
the party and state officials in Leningrad did not go unnoticed in Moscow:
"At the occasion of his last visit to the USSR, Comrade
Djilas, while sojourning in Moscow went for a couple of days to Leningrad,
where he talked with Soviet comrades.. Comrade Djilas has abstained from
collecting data from these leading officials of the USSR, but he did so
with the local officials in Leningrad organisations.
What did Comrade Djilas do there, what data did he collect?..
We suppose he has not collected data there for the Anglo-American or the
French Intelligence Services."
CC, CPSU: Letter to the CC, CPY, May 4th, 1948, in "The
Correspondence Between the CC of the CPY and the CC of the CPSU(B); Belgrade;
1948; p. 52.
The new paragraph quoted from this letter takes on a new
significance when it is recalled that by 1949, the leaders of the CPY were
being accused of being, not merely counter-revolutionaries who aimed to
restore capitalism in Yugoslavia, but active agents of the Western powers,
engaged in espionage and plotting within the socialist countries. The Cominform
resolution on Yugoslavia of november 1949 thus referred explicitly to:
"The transformations of the Tito-Rankovic clique into
a direct agency of imperialism."
Communist Information bureau; resolution on Yugoslavia,
November 1949, in J.Klugmann, Ibid, p. 112.
Of further political significance in the connection with
the "Leningrad Affair" is Sulzberger's report of 1956 that:
"Party leaders now confide that .. Vosnosensky and Kuznetsov
.. were in 1949 .. trying to establish a Communist organisation in the
Russian Soviet Republic.. with headquarters in Leningrad instead of Moscow."
C.L.Sulzberger:"The Big Thaw", New York; 1956;p.47-8.
It is against this political background, as well as in conjunction
with Vosnosensky's economic theses that we should view the "economic reforms"
introduced by the State Planning commission headed by Vosnosensky, which
came into effect on January 1st, 1949. By this measure whole sale prices
were "reorganised" to bring them into line with their values or "prices
of production" (cost prices plus an average rate of profit) . As a result:
"The prices of many basic material and freight charges
increased to double or more."
R.Conquest:"Power and Policy in the USSR", London; 1961;
Some Western economists saw the significance of the "economic
reform" at that time:
"The planning authorities in the Soviet union have ..
clearly.. decided that .. the functional use of the price mechanism is
a necessary precondition to a sound and smoothly working economy." M.C.Kaser:"Soviet
planning and the Price Mechanism", in "Economic journal", Volume 60; March
But some weeks after the introduction of the Reforms, there
was a counter attack by the opponents of Vosnosensky. On March 13th, 1949,
it was announced that Nikolai Vosnosensky had been "released" from his
state post as Chairman of the State Planning Commission and replaced there
by Maksim Saburov. Furthermore Mikhail Rodionov had been released
from his state post as "Prime Minister" of the RSFSR and replaced by B.Chernousov.
On March 15th, it was announced that Petr Popkov had
been "released" from his state post as member of the Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet, being replaced by Vasily Andrianov.
On March 15th, 1949, it was announced that Ivan Goliakov
had been "released" from his state post as President of the Supreme Court.
On July 15th, 1949, it was announced that Aleksei Vosnosensky
had been released from his state post as Minister of Education of the RSFR.
On January 15th, 1950 a decree of the Presidium of the
Supreme Soviet restored the death penalty (which had been abolished in
May 1947) for treason and certain other crimes against the state.
And in two stages, on January Ist and July Ist, 1950,
the Vosnosensky economic reforms" of 1949 was nullified.
This appears to have been the sum total of all that was
published in the Soviet Union at the time concerning the counter-attack
launched against the opposition group headed by Vosnosensky.
But in February/march 1949, Aleksei Kuznetsov was removed
from the post of Secretary of the CC of the Party; Nikolai Vosnosensky
was removed from membership of the Political bureau of the CC; Peter Popkov
was removed from the post of First Secretary of the Leningrad organisation
of the party; and Ivan Shikin was removed from the post of Head of the
Chief Political Directorate of the Soviet Army.
And in December 1949, Grigori Popov was removed from the
post of First Secretary of the moscow organisation of the party and of
Secretary of the CC of the Party (in both of which posts he was succeeded
by Nikita Khrushchev).
In Leningrad most of the leading Party and state organs
were restaffed. Frol Kozlov told the 19th Congress of the CPSU in
October 1952, that in that city:
"Recently more than 2,000 persons .. have been promoted
to executive positions.."
Speech at 19th Party Congress, CPSU(B). In Pravda, October
Cited, By R.Conquest: Ibid, p.100.
By July 1949, Voznosensky had been expelled from the party
since a resolution of the CC (unpublished at that time) dated July 13th,
1949 refers to him without the appellation "comrade".
Some members of the opposition group were transferred
to minor posts for a time: Kuznetsov to be Secretary of the Far Eastern
Bureau of the CC, Popov to a "responsible job in city construction", Vosnosensky,
however was not given such a post, and remained at home working on a new
exposition of his economic views to be entitled "The Political Economy
In November/December 1949, Vosnosensky, Popkov, Popov,
Rodionov, Goliakov and Shikin were arrested, and in 1950 tried on charges
which in the case of Vosnosensky himself, including the passing of secret
papers of the State Planning Commission to a foreign state (V.Kolotov:
Article in "literaturnaya Gazeta" (Literary Gazetter) November 30th, 1963,
in R.Medvedev: Ibid, p.482.)
Some of the defendants in the "Leningrad Affair"- including
Nicolai Vosnosensky, Kuznetsov, Popkov and Rodionov - were sentenced to
death and executed on September 30th 1950. Others survived, to be
released and "rehabilitated " by the post-Stalin leadership : Popov was
appointed Ambassador to Poland in March 1953, and Shikin was awarded a
medal in December 1954.
Alexsei Kosygin escaped prosecution:
"On the intervention of Mikoyan and Malenkov who argued
with Stalin that he was completely loyal."
M.Page, Ibid, p.186.
But after the 19th Congress of the CPSU(B) in October 1952,
Kosygin was demoted from full membership of the new Presidium -
despite the increase in the membership of this body from 12 to 25.
Stalin's role in the counter-attack
In view of Stalin's known opposition to the economic these
put forward by Voznosensky, there is no reason to doubt the truth of Khrushchev's
assertion - in his " secret speech" to the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B)
in February 1956- that the counter-attack against the group headed by Voznosensky
was initiated by Stalin :
"The 'Leningrad Affair' was also the result of wilfulness
which Stalin exercised against party cadres.. Stalin personally supervised
the 'Leningrad Affair'.. Stalin ordered an investigation of the 'affair
of Voznosensky and Kuznetsov".
N.S.Khrushchev :"Secret Speech" to 20th Congress, CPSU(B),
in the "Dethronement of Stalin", Manchester; 1956; p.23-4.
In view of the fact - referred to in the introduction- that
at this time Stalin and his political allies were in a minority on both
the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) and its Political Bureau, there is
also no reason to doubt Khrushchev's statement that the counter-attack
was launched outside these organs :
"Had a normal situation existed in the party's Central
Committee and in the Central Committee's Political Bureau, affairs of a
political nature (the 'Leningrad Affair') should have been examined there
in accordance with party practice and all pertinent information assessed..
Stalin personally supervised the "Leningrad Affair" and the majority of
the Political Bureau members did not, at that time know all the circumstances
in these matters.. It is a characteristic thing that the decision to remove
him (Voznosensky) from the Political Bureau was never discussed but was
reached in devious fashion. In the same way the decision concerning the
removal of Kuznetsov and Rodionov from their posts."
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 23, 31.
Khrushchev gives no details as to the "devious fashion" in
which Stalin and his colleagues secured the removal of the group headed
by Voznosensky from their party and state posts, without this having been
first approved by the Central Committee or its Political Bureau. It may
be assumed, however, that they adopted a similar procedure to that which
they had used successfully in similar circumstances in the 1930's.
The first step in this process was that the General Secretary's
personal Secretariat, headed by Aleksandr Poskrebyshev, operating
as an intelligence service outside the control of the oppositionist majority
would carry out its own investigation into the activities of the persons
suspected of treason. If the results of this investigation were positive,
the evidence would then be passed over to the official state security organs.
Even if these organs were headed by concealed oppositionists
(as in the Yagoda/Yezhov period of 1934-38) or by sympathisers with
the Opposition (as in the Abakumov period of 1946-52, under discussion
here) the heads of these organs were then faced with the choice either
of pursuing their own investigations and acting upon the evidence, or of
risking their exposure as accomplices of traitors.
As a matter of policy agreed among the concealed oppositionist
conspirators, they invariably chose the firs course. backed by the decision
of state security organs that a prima facie case had been made out against
the persons concerned, Stalin, as General Secretary of the CPSU, then felt
in a strong enough position to take emergency action in the name of the
Central Committee- dismissing them from any responsible Party posts they
might hold and recommending to the appropriate state organs their dismissal
from responsible state positions.
This is, doubtless, what Khrushchev meant in complaining
, in his "secret speech" to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, about Stalin's:
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 7.
and of his:
"many abuses , acting in the name of the Central Committee,
not asking for the opinion of the committee members nor even of the Central
Committee's Political Bureau."
Of course, this emergency action on the part of the General
Secretary required ratification by the Political Bureau and the Central
Committee. But this faced the oppositionist majority with the choice either
of endorsing the action that had been taken or of risking their exposure
as accomplices of traitors. As a matter of agreed policy, they invariably
chose the first course of action. As Khrushchev expressed it :
"Such conditions put every member of the Political Bureau
in a very difficult situation.. You will understand how difficult it was
for any member of the Political Bureau to take a stand against any one
or another unjust or improper procedure."
N.S.Khrushchev. Ibid, p.9.
N.S.Khrushchev. Ibid, p. 31.
The Conspiracy of Silence
The question remains to be answered : who was responsible
for the conspiracy of silence which surrounded the dismissal of Voznosensky
and his colleagues from their party posts, the arrest and their trail?
Clearly, Stalin and his political allies, being strongly
opposed to Voznosensky's economic theses, could only be assisted in their
attack upon these by the public announcement that their author had been
charged and found guilty of treasonable crimes against the Soviet state.
The concealed oppositionists and Stalin's political allies,
had an opposite interest, since the oppositionists favoured Voznosensky's
economic theses, which they intended to revive as soon as circumstances
made this practicable. Having a majority on both the Central Committee
of the CPSU(B) and its Political Bureau, they used this majority to limit
as much as possible the adverse effects on their position arising from
their forced ratification of the "purge" initiated by Stalin: they secured
the adoption of resolutions which forbade publication of the dismissal
of Voznosensky and his group from their party posts, their arrest and trail,
together with any official denunciation of Voznosensky's economic theses.
Thus on July 13th, 1949, the Central Committee of the
CPSU adopted a resolution withdrawing the dismissal of the Editor of the
magazine "Bolshevik" and several members of its editorial board
for having published "excessive praise" of Voznosensky's book:
"The editors of the "Bolshevik" permitted a serious
mistake when it opened its columns to sycophantic praise of the booklet
by N.Voznosensky 'The War Economy of the USSR during the Patriotic War',
advertising it without any grounds as a textbook and as a 'profound scientific
CC of CPSU(B): Resolution of July 13th 1949, in "Pravda"
(Truth), December 24th, 1952, In : R.Conquest : "Power and Policy in the
USSR", London, 1961, p.104)
This resolution, like others adopted by the Central Committee
at the time on the "Leningrad Affair" was not published at the time.
Only on December 24th, 1952- more than three years later was
a section of it cited in an article in "Pravda" by Mikhail Suslov.
The first published criticism of Voznosensky's economic
theses appeared also in 1952, when Stalin seized the opportunity afforded
him by his allotment of the "harmless" task of writing a criticism of a
draft textbook on political economy to denounce these, but without naming
Voznosensky as their author.
It was about this time- the autumn of 1952- that a Kremlin
radiologist, Dr.Lydia Timashuk, wrote to Stalin accusing a number
of Kremlin doctors of being involved in an opposition conspiracy which
had resulted in a the murder of a number of Soviet leaders who had been
closely associated with Stalin-including Andrei Zhdanov and Aleksandr
Scherbakov - by means of criminally wrong medical "treatment".
It was in the atmosphere of the investigation into this
case, in which it was widely rumoured that a number of prominent Party
and state leaders were suspected of involvement, and immediately following
the public trial in November 1952 of Czechoslovak Party and state leaders
(headed by Rudolf Slansky and Vladimir Clementis), in which the
defendants admitted to treason in Yugoslavia, that the concealed oppositionist
majority on the Central Committee of the Soviet Party and its Political
Bureau were forced into permitting the majority to secure a reversal of
the policy of "silence" in relation to the "Leningrad Affair" which had
been in force since 1949.
On December 24th, 1952, as has been said , an article
by Mikhail Suslov was published in the official paper of the CC of the
CPSU, "Pravda", quoting for the first time from one of the CC resolutions
three years earlier in connection with the "Leningrad Affair" and, again
for the first time, denouncing Voznosensky's economic these by name as
"This booklet of Voznosensky's ('The War Economy of
the USSR During the Patriotic War') confused the solution of problems of
the political economy of Socialism, represented a hotchpotch of voluntarist
views on the part to be played by plans and the state in Soviet society
and fetishism of the law of value, which was allegedly the governor of
the distribution of the national economy of the USSR."
M.Suslov, Article in "Pravda" (Truth) December 24th,
1952, In R.Conquest : Ibid, p. 103-4).
Following the publication of this article, and intensive
ideological campaign was launched against Voznosensky's economic theses.
On January 9-11th, 1953, as conference of nearly 1,000
economists deemed it opportune to condemn the error made by those of their
number who had supported Voznosensky's economic these. On January 12th,
1953, an editorial in "Pravda" compared the struggle against Voznosensky's
economic these with that waged against :
"The Trotskyite adventurers and right capitulators."
Editorial "Pravda", January 12th, 1953, in H.E.Salisbury:"Moscow
Journal"; Chicago; 1961; p.312.
On January 28th, 1953 the journal "Kommunist" (Communist)
denounced by name a number of economists and philosophers for their support
of Voznosensky's economic theses.
But, the campaign directed against Voznosensky came to
an abrupt halt following the death of Stalin on March 5th, 1953.
Twenty-one months after Stalin's death, in December 1954,
the still concealed oppositionists in the leadership of the Soviet party
and state felt their position to be strong enough to take their revenge
upon Viktor Abukumov, who had been Minister of State Security at the time
of the "Leningrad Affair".
On December 24th, 1954, it was announced that Abukumov,
together with five other leading officials of the security organs in 12949-50,
had been tried in secret by a military tribunal of the Supreme Court for
"treason and political sabotage". All had been found guilty; four including
Abukumov, had been sentenced to death and executed; two had been sentenced
to long terms of imprisonment. The official announcement declared that
"Had fabricated the so-called Leningrad Affair".
Keesing's Contemporary Archives" Volume 10; p.13,978.
Fourteen months later, the opposition leaders felt secure
enough to throw off their masks of having been Stalin's "loyal collaborators".
At the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B) in February 1956, First Secretary Nikita
Khrushchev in his "secret speech" accusing Stalin of the "murder" of many
"good Communists", described Voznosensky and Kuznetsov as :
"Talented and eminent leaders;"
N.S.Khrushchev: "Secret Speech", 20 th Party Congress,
CPSU, In The Dethronement of Stalin", Manchester 1956; p.23.
"Innocently lost their lives;"
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 23.
"The so called 'Leningrad Affair'.. was fabricated".
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 24.
"Persons who innocently suffered are now rehabilitated
and honour has been restored to the glorious Leningrad Party organisation.
Abukumov and others who had fabricated this affair were brought before
a court in; their trial took place in Leningrad and they received what
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 24.
Of course, as a surviving member of the Opposition conspiracy
who escaped detection during Stalin's lifetime, Khrushchev was bound to
present the liquidation of those of his fellow-conspirators who were detected
as "unjust" and the result:
"Of odious falsification, and of criminal violation
of revolutionary legality".
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 14.
It must, therefore be considered a notable tribute to Stalin's
integrity, that even Khrushchev felt compelled to admit that Stalin acted
in these cases from the highest motives, believing - and from the standpoint
of Marxism-Leninism, correctly believing - that he was acting in defence
"All this which we have just discussed was done during
Stalin's life under his leadership and with his concurrence; here Stalin
was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interests
of the working classes against the plotting of enemies and against the
attack of imperialist camp. He saw this from the position of the interest
of the working class, of the interest .. of the victory of socialism and
communism.. He considered that this should be done in the interest of the
party, of the working masses, in defence of the Revolution's gains."
N.S.Khrushchev, Ibid, p. 32.
Again, the failure of bourgeois commentators to appreciate
the significance of the intervention of Stalin, in the writing of "Economic
Problems of the USSR" is astounding.
Thus bourgeois commentators read into this attack on
the re-emergence of profit motives in the Soviet Union as a type of hubris
on Stalin's part being unable to accept other economists of stature in
the USSR. Or else the hubris of being "Authoritative".
It is no surprise that for instance Vucinich, in his description
of Stalin's supposed control of all Sciences including economics states
"There is no need here to present a detailed account
of Stalin's theory of the economic foundations of Soviet socialism."
Vucinich, Ibid, p. 243.
Vucinich's evaluation is of course coupled to his view that
Stalin was making dogmatic interventions into Linguistics and biology at
the same time. His evaluation in essence is designed to present Stalin's
book as an anti-Cosmopolitan stance. It seems completely to miss the broader
implications of the struggle to Restore Capitalism, to use Bland's words.
Vucinich simply sees a "narrow-minded-ness" in the work:
"Its real importance was not in the ideas that it presented
but in the authority vested in it. It became the official blueprint for
Soviet society, and it made true research in general economic and sociological
theory- dying since the early 1930's -totally unnecessary.. Stalin's notion
of Soviet society as an entity unburdened by conflict between the "forces
of production" and the "relations in production" implied that Soviet social
scientists could not earn anything from bourgeois sociologists and economists,
who live in a socioeconomic formation dominated by "irreconcilable conflict"
at its very base. "The Economic Problems of Socialism" eliminated an arterial
bridge between Western and Soviet thought."
Vucinich, Ibid, p. 243.
In relation to Lysenkoism, the main lesson of the Leningrad
Affair are clear. This is that there was a very bitter class struggle going
on in the USSR at the highest levels of the CPSU. It now of course, becomes
critical that judgement on whether or not Stalin supported various lines,
be passed NOT purely on the basis of "apparent support" from the CPSU(B))
More targeted questions need to be asked. These include:
"Who supported what lines, and at what times?"
(V) The LYSENKO DEBATES:
THE ATTITUDE OF THE CPSU(B)
AND STALIN TO LYSENKO:
"The wavering progress from science to quackery and
back again to science can hardly be attributed solely to Stalin's personal
opinion.. Fantasies are unavoidable if Soviet history is explained by simple
reference to Stalin's omnipotent free will."
Joravsky; Ibid; p.63-4.
Having reviewed the theory of the Lysenkoists in part 2, we have noted
certain similarities to dissenting genetic views in the West. However,
we have not disguised the fact that there are certain highly questionable
features of the theory of Lysenkoism. But even more seriously, there were
political features that indicate an extraordinary movement took place under
the name of Lysenkoism. This movement outflanked those who wanted to take
a different, or even a more considered approach to genetics.
It is agreed by observers that
this movement had two key features.
Firstly, this movement had the appearance of
sponsorship by the highest levels of the CPSU (B). Given the imprateur
of the CPSU (B), this approach led to a cult of authoritarianism in biology
built up around Lysenko. This led to a distortion of the original Marxist-Leninist
approach towards non-Bolshevik scientists. In the turmoil, one serious
consequence was that certain incorrect and mechanically materialist theories;
sometimes promulgated by opportunists, were given sway.
One such was Olga Lepishinskaia (See Part two) who claimed
that she could grow cells out of non-cellular matter such as egg yolk.
Her claims were put in a manner that proclaimed a monopoly of wisdom. The
tactic espoused here was to use a crude reductionist materialism to attack
the waverers. This was particularly successful as the problems of genetics
were as discussed in Parts 1 and 2 quite difficult to solve, due to their
complexity. Later Oparin, an undoubted dialectician in science would attack
Objectively this process could only undermine the CPSU(B)'s
long standing good relations with the honest non-communist scientists and
Secondly, some aspects of advances made by modern
day genetics were bypassed in the Soviet Union. We have argued that certain
parts of Lysenkoism were theoretically correct, particularly the insistence
on the importance of change. On the other hand we have shown that there
was a tendency to "Throw out the baby with the bath water" during
the process of rejecting the worst of ecclesiastical genetic theory.
One has to acknowledge, that retarding the forces of science
development, was objectively a disruption of the socialist forces.
If there needed to be a dialectical fusion of Lysenkoite
change, and "genetic" particularity, this could not be achieved in the
shrill attack climate that Lysenko created.
It is obviously of interest then,
to answer how this Lysenkoite tendency was supported and by whom.
Clearly these are political questions, that cannot
be answered by an examination of the theory of genetics. Most prevailing
opinions are that the Lysenkoists were supported by the ubiquitous Stalin.
In fact, as we discuss below there is surprisingly
little (if any) data for this assertion, other than Lysenko's own claim
that Stalin had personally endorsed him.
On the other hand there is evidence that Stalin fought
against dogmatism in science.
Before passing to this, we must paint the background a
bit more sharply.
For no less important than the above considerations, is
the evidence that the Cult of Personality (Obviously an anti-Marxist-Leninist
feature) was resisted vigorously by Stalin.
Stalin himself pointed out in an interview with Lion
Feuchtwangler, in a prescient remark that the revisionists were building
up the Cult of Personality in order to discredit him, Stalin. Many quotes
show a consistency in Stalin's approach to this, and are carried in the
Appendix. Of course the prevalent paradigm either ignores these, or says
that this is further evidence of Stalin's duplicity.
It is proposed that accepting that Stalin fought the Cult
of Personality, and that it was not created by him changes radically the
interpretation of events. The most obsequious of the fawners such as Khrushchev,
were later to reveal themselves as the most vicious anti-Stalin individuals.
The erection of the Cult of Personality allowed them cover, and as Stalin
said, further cause by which to damn Stalin.
If this analysis is correct, it is of course interesting
that the Academy of Sciences USSR played :
"No small part in building the Cult of Personality to
its staggering proportions.. the Anti- Genetics Conference held on August
24-26 1948, which acknowledged and ratified the victory of Lysenkoism,
thanked Stalin for his help in fighting reactionary and alien forces..
At the end of 1949, the Academy held a lavish celebration of Stalin's 70th
birthday. A telegram.. stated that.. every science reflected his " guiding
ideas and "creative genius". M.B.Mitin noted that Stalin's writings
marked a "new phase in the development of M-L philosophy." He argued that
they advanced the guiding principles of the M-L interpretation of the:
'weltanschauung problems of physics, biology, and other
and supplied the most effective ammunition for the war against
Cited p.245. Vucinich. "The Empire of knowledge. Academy
of Sciences USSR 1917-1970." London, 1984.
The timing of the rise of Lysenkoism is of course key in
considering the forces backing it. In fact it appears that by late 1947,
Lysenko's political standing was much lower than before the war (According
to Graham 1, Ibid. p.218).
By December 1936, a conference had been held to discuss
the "Two Trends in Genetics". Loren R. Graham observes that:
"The edited report of this conference, later withdrawn
from circulation by the Soviet Government, is one of the most interesting
sources for the history of the Lysenko Affair. Appropriately entitled "Controversial
Question of Genetics and Selection," it is, despite the editing, by no
means a document of pro-Lysenko propaganda."
Graham 1, Ibid, p. 215.
Some of those that identified the virulence of the debate,
had realised that underlying it, there was a potential to ignore some possible
real benefits. This included A.S.Serebrovskii who said :
"Under the supposedly revolutionary slogans "For a truly
Soviet genetics," "Against bourgeois genetics," "For an undistorted Darwin,"
and so forth, we have a fierce attack on the greatest achievements of the
20th century, we have an attempt to throw us backward a half-century."
Graham 1, Ibid, p. 215.
But the objective weakness of this counterattack, was the
anti-dialectical framework of its key supporters. Thus H.J.Muller
commented at the conference that:
"The gene was so stable that the "period between two
successive mutations is on the order of several hundred or even thousands
Graham, Ibid, p. 217.
Of course, in the light of such remarks, it was not of any
help that the great Muller had come to the Soviet Union from America to
"help socialist science".
In fact Muller who later won the Nobel Prize, was an
extremely unfortunate ally (to say the least) for those who wished to fight
After all, he had just published a book "Out of the Night"
where he argued that in a socialist state there was a real value in eugenics
for humans. (Graham 1 Ibid, p. 212)
The subsequent rise of Lysenkoism then came at a period
of heightened class struggle in the Soviet Union. It coincided with the
break up of the Cominform by the expulsion of the Yugoslavs, and the Inner
party struggle against Khrushchev. Lysenko gave a great deal of credit
for his rise to prominence to Ia.I.Iakovlev (Graham 1, Ibid. p.
214). But it was also critical for him that Lysenko received the support
and intervention of I.I Prezent and Mitin.
This support transformed Lysenko from the farmer-vernalizer
to the ambitious reformer of Genetics:
"Prezent - (was) in contrast to Lysenko a member of
the CPSU(B) and a graduate of Leningrad University. Prezent had once thought
that Mendelian genetics was a confirmation of dialectical materialism,
but he later diverged from the "formal genetics on the most cardinal questions"..
Prezent is frequently described both within and without the Soviet Union
as the ideologue who was primarily responsible for systematically formulating
Lysenko's views and for attempting to integrate them with dialectical materialism...
The fact remains that not until Prezent became his collaborator did Lysenko
make an attempt either to connect his biological views with Marxism or
to oppose classical genetics. The joint publication in 1935 by Lysenko
and Prezent of "Plant Breeding and the Theory of Phasic Development of
Plants" marks an entirely new stage in the development of Lysenko's career."
Graham 1, Ibid, p. 209.
As noted above, within the Academy of Sciences, Mitin,
Mark Borisovich (1901-87) prominently built up the Cult of Personality
around Stalin. The "Great Soviet Encyclopedia informs us of the raw details
of this individual:
"Mitin graduated from the philosophy division of the
Institute of the Red Professoriat in 1929. He served as deputy director
of the Communist Academy, deputy director of the Institute of Philosophy,
editor in chief of the journal " Under the Banner of Marxism " (1939-44).
From 1950-1956 he was editor of the newspaper "For a lasting Peace, for
a Peoples' Democracy"; from 1956-1960 chairman of the All-Union Society
for the Dissemination of Political and Scientific Knowledge; and from 1960-1967,
editor in chief of the journal Problems of Philosophy. Since 1967 he has
been chairman of the Scientific Council on Foreign Ideological Trends of
the Social Sciences Section of the Presidium of the AN USSR.. In 1943 Mitin
was awarded the State prize of the USSR for his work in producing the History
of Philosophy (19840-43).Elected a member of the Central Committee of the
CPSU at the 18th through 20th Party Congresses."
"Great Soviet Encyclopedia," Volume 16: New York, 1977;
But this little vignette, does not situate the man in the
time. In fact M.B.Mitin was primarily a philosopher, but one who was in
severe struggle against an opposing faction.
The trends represented by Mitin were opposed by the
undoubted allyof Stalin, Andreii Zhdanov.
The field of the battleground became philosophy.
The conflict within the realm of philosophy reflected
the deadly battles against revisionism. Mitin suffered a blow when Zhdanov
removed him in 1944 as editor with P.F. Yudin, of Istoriya filosofii
(History of Philosophy). The details of the struggle discussed below are
drawn from W.G.Hahn's history:
"Postwar Soviet Politics The Fall of Zhdanov and the
Defeat of Moderation, 1946-53." Ithaca, 1982.
Hahn's interpretations of the key players should however
be slightly modified.
These modifications must account for the reality that
Zhdanov and Stalin were Marxist-Leninist allies against the revisionist
attempts to subvert Socialism.
Hahn places Zhdanov in a struggle somehow against Stalin.
In Hahn's view, Malenkov and Zhdanov were engaged in
a struggle against each other for Stalin's approval. But clearly, Zhdanov
was a Marxist-Leninist as judged by his actions, and Malenkov was not.
Obviously Hahn cannot appreciate this, for this requires an explanation
of history that transcends one based only on an individual personal conflict.
Thus the battle between Mitin, Yudin on one hand and Zhdanov's
group with B.M.Kedrov and G.F.Alexsandrov on the other, erupted
openly in 1944. The ostensible cause was the 3rd volume of Istoriya
filosfii (History of Philosophy) :
"As head of OGIZ and director of the Institute of Philosophy,
Yudin had rushed through the 3rd volume in hopes of winning a Stalin Prize.
Mitin as chief Editor of Pod Znamenem marksizma and deputy director of
Institute of Philosophy had protected the new volume from criticism. Initially
they were successful.. and won the Stalin Prize.. Praise for the 3rd volume
stopped abruptly however, when an editorial article in the April issue
of Bolshevik (no, 7-8, 1944) entitled "On shortcomings and errors in the
describing the history of German philosophy of the end of the 18th and
beginning of the 19th centuries" attacked the third volume for failing
to expose the fact that Hegel had been a blatant German racist and nationalist.
The article accused the authors of overlooking Hegel's statement that wars
played a positive role in unifying and strengthening countries as well
as his notion that German people were a chosen people called upon to rule
other peoples, apparently including the Slavic peoples.. The Bolshevik
article announced that the Stalin Prize Committee had reconsidered its
earlier award and now had decided that the prize applied only to the first
W.G.Hahn, Ibid, p.71-2.
The CC of the CPSU(B) condemned the Third volume and removed
Mitin and Yudin from leadership of the editorial board Pod Znamenem
Marksizma, and shortly thereafter the journal ceased publication. They
were also ousted from the Institute of Philosophy where they had been the
Director and Deputy Directors. OGIZ was attacked by CC decree and Yudin
criticised for irresponsible leadership.
The Institute of Philosophy was taken over by B.M.Kedrov
and G.S.Vasetskiy. Agitprop Chief G.F. Alexsandrov wrote in 1946 Istoriya
zapadnoyevropeyskoy filosofii (History of Western Philosophy), and under
the promotion by Kedrov, this won a Stalin Prize. But now Yudin and Mitin
counterattacked by forcing a critique on Alexsandrov himself. It is alleged
by Hahn that:
"Stalin suddenly criticized the book for shortcomings."
W.G.Hahn, Ibid, p.73
But as Hahn admits:
"The nature of Stalin's objections is unclear since
the criticism was never made public."
W.G.Hahn, Ibid, p.73.
Given the subsequent events led by Zhdanov, it is reasonable
to assert that Stalin is unlikely to have been targeting Alexsandrov for
anything other than legitimate errors. As Alexsandrov himself admitted
in self-defence, he had made an error:
"Perhaps the most important theme in the subsequent
criticism was Zhdanov's statement that by not including Russian philosophy
in this book about Western philosophy, Alexsandrov, intentionally or not,
had belittled the role of Russian philosophy- a criticism Alexsandrov acknowledged
Hahn, Ibid. p.73-4.
But though Mitin and Yudin were fervently attacking Kedrov
and Alexsandrov, they did not completely succeed in demolishing their opponents.
Zhdanov had ensured a full Second debate, saying that
the CC wanted to have a fuller account as so few people had been able to
speak and get their views published previously.
Of itself, this is another indication that the bourgeois
mythical caricature, of "Stalin crushing all debates"; is incorrect.
This open process led to an attack on Agitprop,
which was now charged by Mitin and Yudin, as being monopolized by Alexsandrov
and his allies. It appears that in this attack they were successful:
"Toward the end of these discussions, on 24th June,
Zhdanov delivered a speech in which he harshly criticised Alexsandrov for
personal shortcomings as well as errors in his book, He admitted that a
small group was monopolizing philosophy and noted that the older philosophers
(ie Yudin and Mitin) were rebuking the younger (ie Alexsandrov and Kedrov)
for lack of militancy.. This monopoly soon ended. After the debate, Alexsandrov
was removed as Chief of Agitprop and as chief editor of Kultura i zhizn,
a new group of leaders took over."
Hahn, Ibid. p.77
But the balance was effectively struck by a new journal:
"Although the Moderate clique (ie Kedrov etc) was thus
on the defensive during the June 1947 debate and suffered a serious setbacks
immediately afterward, it did win one very notable victory. During the
debate, Kedrov appealed to Zhdanov personally to help create a journal
especially for philosophers.. Zhdanov was reluctant at first, citing the
sad experience of Pod znamenem marksizma and Mitin and Yudin ignored the
Hahn Ibid, p.77.
However, Zhdanov was later to change his mind and actually
did create a vehicle for Kedrov:
"Despite initial hesitance, Zhdanov soon changed his
mind..and the CC quickly created such a journal. Moreover Kedrov was named
as Chief editor of Voprosy filosofii."
Hahn, Ibid, p.77-8.
Problems of philosophy; or Voprosii filosfii seems
to have been targeted at the views represented by the Mitin faction.
But only three issues appeared before the death of
A.Zhdanov in 1948:
"The striking aspect of these three issues is that they
contained the most unorthodox articles on the philosophy of science during
the period from the end of the war until Stalin's death. Rather than being
rigidly ideological - as the current interpretation of the Zhdanovschina
would suppose - they were .. genuinely innovative."
Loren Graham 1, p.446. Science and philosophy in the
Soviet Union. New York, 1974.
Subsequently Mitin became a major champion of Lysenko in
the journal Literatunaya gazeta:
"Lysenko's campaign .. developed in Literatunaya gazeta
the organ of the Writers Union..(where) Mitin was added to the editorial
board.. and was the editor in charge of science."
Hahn, Ibid, p.79.
It was then in the pages of the Ultra-Left controlled
Literatunaya gazeta now attacked both the Kedrov camp and any who challenged
"On 29 the November 1947, professors I.Shmalgauzen,
A.Formozov, D.Sabinin and S.Yudintsev sent an article to Literaturnaya
gazeta objecting to Lysenko's views.. The paper published the article,
but simultaneously ran a pro-Lysenko piece by scientists A.Avakyan,
D.Dolgushin and others. ..B.Zavadovskiy wrote:
'There exists the incorrect idea that anyone who criticises
Lysenko thereby joins in a common front with formal geneticists and other
Morganist, one-sidedly denying that Lysenko had any kind of scientific
merit at all.'
The debate continued with a long article by Mitin (27.12.1947)
in which he defended Lysenko, assailed Zavadovskiy and Shmalgauzen, and
also attacked biologist A.Zhebrak for publishing an article in the
American journal Science, thus joining with "reactionary" American scientists
in their attempt to discredit Michurinism.."
Hahn, Ibid. p.80.
Lysenko himself also acknowledged the help of Ia.A. Iakovlev.
He had been after December 1929 the people's commissar of agriculture.
Readers will recall that his views in 1922 expressed to Pravda, followed
Lenin's line of learning from the scientists.
But other significant names that supported Lysenko are
more conjectural. The known supporters of Stalin were few, and included
Andreei Zhdanov, Lavrenti Beria and Molotov. As far as these figures
are concerned, did their actions or word show any relation to Lysenko?
Only Zhdanov can be said to have been directly concerned in the Lysenko
In fact, neither Andrei Zhdanov (in charge of Agitprop)
nor his son Iurrii (in charge of Agitprop science) were by any means,
totally committed to Lysenko:
"According to Medvedev, Lysenko sent a long memo to
Zhdanov in mid-1947, asking the latter to support his viewpoint, This appeal
initiated a high level study of the situation in biology. However instead
of backing Lysenko, Zhdanov according to Medvedev, Zhdanov attacked Lysenko
at Orgburo meetings in the Spring of 1948 and proposed removing him as
head of VASKhNIL."
Cited Hahn, Ibid, p. 95.
Graham comments that:
"Until the month of Zhdanov's death, however natural
scientists escaped the rule by decree that obtained in other cultural fields."
Cited by Hahn, Ibid, p.19
Iurrii Zhdanov, a chemist became the head of the Science
section of the Central Committee's Agitprop. In this capacity he supervised
Voprosy filosfii and "Must have sanctioned the unorthodox articles by Kedrov,
as well as the resistance to Lysenko by Soviet biologists." (Hahn, Ibid,
Iurri publicly criticised Lysenko on his leadership of
the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences and on his views of intra-specific
competition. Iurrii Zhdanov's attitude to authority in science was expressed
in a May 1948 article on scientific creativity. In it he castigates a "proprietary
attitude toward science" :
"A proprietary attitude toward science - when a scientist
looks upon other people trying to conduct research in the same area with
unhealthy jealousy, when he tries to use his position and authority to
hinder the development of other directions in his are of science - cannot
and must not take place in our science. We recall the fervent and even
startling words of I.V. Michurin:
'My followers must outstrip me, contradict me, even
demolish my work, while at the same time continuing it. Progress is created
only by means of such a consistent demolishing of (earlier) work."
Cited L.Graham. Ibid, p.445.
To this author's eyes, I.Zhdanov's views on "proprietary
attitudes" certainly reads rather like Stalin's views on the clash of views
in science, and his strictures upon Arakcheev regimes in linguistics (See
As far as the Party functioning evidences, the Lysenkoists
were supported against the disdain of more orthodox scientists. But also
the Lysenkoists were not themselves exempt from stricture :
"Scientists were directed to recognise the supreme practical
importance of agrobiology to abandon their "seignorial" (Russian = barskoe)
disdain of it, and find a place for it within biology. The Lysenkoists
were asked to desist from anti-intellectual - makhaevskie
was Mitin's word - efforts to suppress genetics."
Joravsky D, Ibid, p.109-110.
This seems to be a balanced position, which would
have meant that all views in genetics (other than openly eugenicist views
of course) could be heard. However, following the 1948 Conference
there was a major change in the fortunes of the Lysenkoists.
They now appear to have had a virtual monopoly on
positions of any importance in the field of genetics and biological science.
But Iurri Zhdanov was clearly opposed to the imposition
of a monopoly position. Despite this he was forced into a partial recantation
of his opposition to Lysenko.
A letter from Iurrii Zhdanov to Stalin was unveiled
on the final day of the Lenin Academy Agricultural Sciences conference
in 1948. It had originally been written in June, following attacks on Iurri
for having criticised publicly Lysenko. Its impact given its content was
devastating to any opposition to Lysenko:
"To Comrade Stalin :
In a paper on controversial questions of contemporary
Darwinism given at a school for lecturers, I certainly made a number of
1. The very attitude of this paper was mistaken. I obviously
underestimated my new position as a member of the CC's staff, underestimated
my responsibility, did not realize that my statement would be appraised
as the official view of the CC; ...
3.My sharp and public criticism of Academician Lysenko
was a mistake.. I do not agree with certain theoretical propositions of
Academician Lysenko.. but criticism of these deficiencies should not be
done in the way that I did in my paper.. I consider it my duty to assure
you, Comrade Stalin, and
in your person the CC of the CPSU(B), that I have been
and remain an ardent Michurinist. My mistakes derive from an insufficient
preparation for the struggle for Michurins' teachings. All this is because
of inexperience and immaturity. I will repair my mistakes in my work."
Cited Graham 1, Ibid. p.445-6.
Though the issue has been remarked widely by bourgeois commentators,
some of its implications have been missed. These remarks can be construed
as an apology motivated by the issue of democratic centralism; ie
over the question of joint outward unity despite inner dissent.
These remarks appear clearly NOT to be a recantation
over the theoretical issues. In fact the very clear refusal to acknowledge
that Lysenko was theoretically correct, suggests that there was an ongoing
battle behind the closed doors of the politburo. This became resolved very
For following Andreii Zhdanov's death just after the
conference, there was a sea change in the attitudes of Voprosii filosfii.
Within a week, Pravda carried an article attacking the
editorial position of voprosii filosfii, and thereafter the editors were
changed. The attack was headed by M.B.Mitin, who it will be recalled
had been opposed by Zhdanov.
The only plausible conclusion to these various shifting
events, is that there was a split within the CC as to the degree of support
to give to Lysenko, and most importantly to his campaign to dominate Genetics
in the Soviet Union. The statements made that Stalin directed support for
Lysenko are unclear in the evidence provided.
But in fact Georg Malenkov confirmed Lysenko's
statement, that the CC of the CPSU (B) had supported Lysenkoism. At the
19 th Congress of the CPSU (B) in October 1952, he said :
"The intervention of the CC of the CPSU(B) in many fields
of science has helped to unveil practices and traditions alien to the Soviet
people.. the well known discussions in philosophy, biology, physiology,
linguistic and political economy have unveiled serious ideological digressions."
A. Vucinich. The Empire of knowledge. Academy of sciences
USSR 1917-1970. London, 1984. p.246.
This certainly acknowledges the reality of the conflict.
But it gives no clues as to who in the CPSU(B) was saying what.
But of course, though the equation is made by the majority
of bourgeois historians that Stalin WAS the CC of the CPSU(B), we
know from the Leningrad Affair, that this was not the case.
Malenkov later within a few months of Stalin's death showed
his allegiance to the consumer goods capitalist wing of the revisionists.
On Aug 8th, 1953 as Prime Minister, Malenkov told the Supreme Soviet:
"On the basis of the success achieved in the development
of heavy industry, all the conditions exist for a sharp rise in the production
of consumer goods. However while the output of means of production as a
whole has risen in the last 28 years by almost 55 times, the production
of consumer goods during the same period has only increased 12 times, which
cannot be considered satisfactory. Hitherto we have had no possibility
of developing light industry and the food industry at the same rate as
heavy industry. We must therefore in the interests of ensuring a more rapid
increase in the standards of life for the people, promote the development
of light industry by every means."
"Speech to Supreme Soviet." Compass, Communist League,
London, UK. In the "Class basis of Sakharov's liberalism." p.30
We have no clear record as yet, that Stalin supported Lysenko.
Though Graham certainly maintains that Stalin did. Graham takes this stance
despite the paucity of evidence that this was the case, and neglecting
signficant clues to the contrary.
Until recently, the closest we were able to come to any
conclusion that Stalin did support Lysenko, was the intervention of Stalin
at a speech given by Lysenko. This was in February, 1935, at the Second
All Union Congress of Collective Farmers and Shock Workers. When during
his speech, Lysenko:
"Apologised for his lack of ability as a speaker, saying
he was only a "vernalizer", not an orator or a writer. At this point Stalin
broke into the speech crying, "Bravo Comrade Lysenko, bravo!".
Graham 1, Ibid, p. 214.
There is of course. the further allegation that the message
at VashKil read out by Lysenko was overtly sanctioned, and even some allege,
to have been written by Stalin. While it is possible that this was indeed
the case, the Cult of Personality enshrined by the revisionist had effectively
ensured that the word of Stalin did not necessarily emanate from Stalin
himself (See Appendix).
In his latest book (Graham 2, Ibid), Graham does state
that a claim has been made at a recent conference, that Lysenko's sppech
to the Lenin Academy, in 1948 has been found with phrases editorially inserted
by Stalin. This claim has however not been authenticated. If it is even
true, it may be simply have been a means of correcting the tilt towards
a reductionism in the Morganism direction. Of this reductionism we have
seen enough evidence in parts one and two. It is dubious in the extreme,
at least for this author, that Stalin would sanction a disemboweling of
the new advances in genetics. He had not tolerated such a disemboweling
in physics, nor in linguistics.
Whatever else, one can hardly say that either of these
instances, amount to conclusive evidence for Stalin's support of Lysenko,
to suppress genetics. There is however some significant contrary evidence.
Again it is indirect, but in as much as Stalin urged an openness in science,
it is very significant.
Thus initially before 1948, as Joravsky (an anti-Stalin
writer) makes plain, Stalin's speeches and writings show nothing to suggest
that the Lysenkoists were to be the only voice in genetics.
"The Polish radical Machajki argued that the proletarian
movement should get rid of intellectuals as they were trying to become
a new ruling class. When Stalin wished to ease up on the intelligentsia,
as he did in 1939, he denounced makhaeschina and spetseedstvo (literally
In fact Stalin opposed "eating specialists" :
Cited Joravsky, p.109-110.
Furthermore, a year before Stalin's death,
the ban on inbreeding was lifted. (Joravsky p.290).
Following the victory of the Lysenkoists at the 1948 Congress,
for some considerable time there was a silencing of the opposing views
in science and genetics. But significantly, it is after this time
that Stalin attacked despotism in science, in the discussion on linguistics
as noted above, with very strong language:
"Arakcheev regime" was his actual term, after
the tsarist minister whose name had become an eponym for stupid bureaucratic
Cited Joravsky p.150.
We have already reviewed some of this in connection with
The Communist Academy and Linguistics (See above). Stalin's words were
prompted by the state of affairs in Soviet linguistics, and not those in
biology. But obviously given the context and the state of affairs of biology,
his words carried a message for all sciences :
"No science can develop and prosper without the clash
of opinions, without freedom of criticism. But this generally recognized
rule has been ignored and violated in the rudest way. A closed group of
infallible leaders has been created, which, insuring itself against any
possible criticism, has begun to act in a wilful high handed manner."
Stalin, Op cit.
As a matter of fact, this reads very similarly to the words
of Iurri Zhdanov cited above. Zhdanov was talking about biology and Stalin
was talking about linguistics. Stalin's attack was directed at the linguists
headed by Marr, who had argued that there was a common base for
all the Caucasian languages. They claimed as a base the Japhetic theory
which emphasised the social-class nature of language :
"Marr's theory became the central theme of the Marr
school in linguistics, which.. succeeded in suppressing - but not eradicating
- the most formidable enclaves of organized opposition.."
It is equally significant in relation to Lysenko, that
shortly before Stalin's attack, Voprosy filosfii edited by Mitin, M.B,
(remember - Lysenko's staunchest theoretical supporter- a "dialectician"
not a biologist) had written in praise of Marr that:
"Based on a theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin,
the new theory of N.Ia. Marr and his followers has been a powerful weapon
in the struggle for Marxism-Leninism and dialectical and historical materialism,
and against idealistic pseudoscience in the field of linguistics."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.242.
Thus again it appears that Mitin devalued the potential
of dialectics by debasing it into a rude and mechanical materialism. In
the case of linguistics, the reductionist attempt was explicitly challenged
by Stalin. This has been discussed in detail above.
That this reductionist challenge by Stalin did not appear
in print as being directed at the crude reductionism in biology, does not
mean that Stalin would have been in agreement with it. Taken in conjunction
with the other information, it is likely on the contrary that Stalin would
not have been in favour of a mechanical materialism in any field including
It is usually alleged that only upon Stalin's death,
was there "allowed" a critique of Lysenkoism to take place. The facts show
that the actual beginnings of the exposure of the worst excesses of Lysenko
occurred before Stalin's death.
In fact it is likely that along with the attack on
distortions in both Linguistics and Economics, Stalin was preparing an
onslaught on the positions of the revisionists in all other arenas. But
differently from the lingusitics debate, this was being conducted by scientists
in the field of either biology, or physics:
"Although it is frequently said that the possibility
of mounting a serious attack on Lysenko after 1948 became possible only
subsequent to Stalin's death, significant published criticism appeared
shortly before the Soviet leader's demise in March 5th, 1953. Beginning
late in 1952, the publications Botanical Journal and the Bulletin of the
Moscow Society of Experimenters of Nature, both under the editorship of
V.N.Sukachev carried a long discussion of Lysenko's views including
both support and criticism. The controversy spilled over into other journals
and even the popular press. It may not be merely coincidence that both
publications.. were the organs of scientific societies.. The Botanical
Journal in particular organized a thorough discussion of Lysenko's opinion
on species formations and examined in detail a number of claims promoted
by followers of Lysenko concerning species transformation. In an article
in the November -December 1953 issue, A.A.Rukhian revealed as a
fraud the case of a hornbeam tree changing into a hazelnut, which had bene
reported by S.K.Karapetian in Lysenko's journal Agrobiology. The
branch of the hornbeam that had supposedly changed into a hazelnut was
actually grafted into the fork of the hornbeam.. The result was the elimination
of Lysenko's important pieces of evidence and a severe blow to his standing."
Graham 1, Ibid. p.239-240.
Though we have not in this work dealt with the issue of physics
and other natural sciences, these too had been under the vicissitudes of
the intense class struggle. Here also, there was a "fight-back" before
not after Stalin's death :
"There were other notable attempts to resist the (Stalinist-sic
- read mechanical reductionists-Editor) onslaught.. A.D.Landau chose to
fight the ideological critics by ignoring their protestations, even their
demands that he publicly renounce indiscretions in his statements on philosophical
issues. V.A.Fok, G.I.Naan, and A.D.Aleksandrov defended Einstein's epoch-making
contributions at emu when (Stalinist-sic-read mechanical reductionists-Editor)
philosophers emphasised the urgent need for a Soviet theory of relativity
unburdened by heavy reliance on mathematical formalism..'
Vucinich, Ibid,p. 359.
Stalin's death was to be a very
timely release from exposure for the revisionists.
So much so, that it has to be postulated that Stalin was
murdered. The evidence for this has been recently reviewed by Bland, and
cannot be pursued here. But to complete the links between Lysenkoism and
the rise of revisionism, it is necessary briefly to review the post-Stalin
history of Lysenko and his key supporter, Mitin.
In essence, there was massive support of Lysenko by Khrushchev.
After the attacks launched upon Lysenko which, as noted above, began in
Stalin's last year of life; the pressure had became intense to depose Lysenko
as head of biological thinking in the USSR:
"By the end of 1955 more than 300 persons had signed
a petition requesting Lysenko's removal from the post of the President
of Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In later months, during 1956
and 1957, the stream of criticism grew and seemed to many people irreversible..
Lysenko stepped down from the Presidency of the Academy in April 1956."
Graham Ibid. p.241.
But then came Nikita Khrushchev.
Lysenko justified his new life, by work on fertilisers :
"The rebirth of Lysenko in the late fifties seems to
be most closely connected with the personal favour of N.Khrushchev, curried
assiduously by the agronomist.. The Soviet fertilizer industry was not
sufficiently developed to provide the large quantities of mineral fertilizers
needed by agriculture.. Lysenko received the best and fullest support in
constant touch with the agricultural bureaucracy that was controlled by
his followers.. this extraordinary position coupled with Lysenko's undisputed
talents as a practical agronomist, resulted in his farm being among the
several outstanding ones of the region in terms of crop production."
Graham, Ibid, p.242.
That Lysenko was a clever opportunist at times cannot
This was already a changing of stripes, if his view on
Williams is remembered. But this could and did go further. Thus Lysenko
now supported Khrushchev even where it meant contradicting himself in his
some of previous core work. We discussed the previous views of Lysenko
on hybrid corn above in part 2, where he had criticised the use of hybrids.
And we reviewed some geographical data that suggested further reasons that
would support not being in favour of hybrid corn. However now that Khrushchev
was so enthused by the USA agriculture, he swung 180 degrees:
"Khrushchev had.. been deeply impressed by the use of
hybrid corn in North America and promoted its use in the virgin lands being
opened.. Lysenko swallowed his earlier objections to hybrid corn and announced
square-cluster method of planting.. the agronomist Lysenko accepted Khrushchev's
criticisms.. and promised better results.. At the 20 th Party Congress
in 1956 Lysenko announced,
"I am in full agreement with the evaluation of seed-growing
and the ways of improving it that Comrades N.S.Khrushchev and N.A.Bulganin
set forth in their reports. Production of high-yielding hybrid corn seed
is particularly important."
Graham 1, Ibid. p. 243.
Marxist-Leninists will recognise the historical importance
of the Twentieth party Congress.
It was here that Khrushchev unmasked his revisionism,
with his open and fierce attack in the so called "Secret Speech", aimed
Immediately after this, Khrushchev protected Lysenko
against Lysenko's attackers at the Botanical journal and the Bulletin of
the Moscow Society of Experimenters of Nature.
The editor of this journal, V.N.Sukachev was replaced.
But Lysenko's practical failures in the production of
high yield milks and in chicken farming were danger signs. His fate was
sealed after Khrushchev's removal from power on October 15th,
1964. Lysenko was increasingly subject to theoretical attacks. An investigation
into Lysenko's Lenin Hills Farm was conducted by the Presidium of the Academy
of Sciences of the USSR. This checked in detail the records going over
all the raw data. The committee concluded that the profits of the farm
were genuine but were due to the exceptional supports and given to the
Farm by Khrushchev's patronage. But no evidence was found for the breeding
success of Lysenko's methods, particulary for cows. Furthermore it appeared
that Lysenko had sold his cows around the country and that this had ruined
herds of higher purity.
Lysenko's career was finally over. In the current disintegration
of Russia, some of his scientific enemies are now finding voice and depict
some of the bitterly unfair treatment they received (See Graham 2).
Mitin fared somewhat better:
"L.F.Il'ichev an his group (F.N.Fedoseev G.P.Frantsov,
and A.M.Rumiantsev) were responsible for calculated efforts to preserve
a place of honour in the Academy for M.B.Mitin.. In July 1961, a united
session of the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Law and the editorial
Board of Voprosy filosofii celebrated Mitin's sixtieth birthday. On that
occasion Fedoseev.. delivered the main oration, in which he praised Mitin
for major "contributions' to the formation and evolution of the Leninist
phase of Marxist thought and to the application of the principles of dialectical
materialism to modern science."
So does revisionism honour its real heroes, in the end the
revisionists do not let them go unsung. The days of working covertly were
gone, in the post Stalin revisionist newly capitalist state.
The heavy handed monopoly of science by revisionist cliques
that became characteristic of the USSR in the late days of Stalin; was
in fact resisted by both Stalin and his most able lieutenant Andreii Zhdanov.
These Marxist-Leninists were opposed by representatives
of the hidden revisionists who wore a cloak of Ideological Purity. These
revisionists took a generally correct Marxist-Leninist line and pushed
it to absurdity.
In biology, the confusing state of limited knowledge allowed
them particular scope. A generally correct line of dialectics - recognition
of the importance of change in biology, was accepted by Lysenko. But this
generally correct line was used to justify extrapolation to incorrect stances.
These stances denied any role for other interpretations, and forced the
creation of scientific monopoly.
Stalin and Zhdanov strived for an open approach that allowed
frank and hard discussion, but one that by no means excluded any alternative
point of view. This can be particularly illustrated with reference to the
struggle over linguistics.
In biology, the distortions of the class struggle ended
up in objectively retarding the socialist forces in the development of
biology. There is no doubt that the Lysenkoist monopoly had major consequences
in retarding the further development of the USSR science, and possibly
agriculture, in later years.