by Ernie Trory
Secret Documents, translated by Michael Lucas, published by Northstar
Every country has its files of secret documents: confidential military
files, internal security files and cabinet papers or their equivalents.
From time to time, when there is a change of government or when it is
felt they can no longer embarrass the government of the day, some of
them are released.
After the Russian revolutions of 1917, the Soviet government published
the texts of all the secret treaties signed by the overthrown Czarist
regime, much to the embarrassment of capitalist governments throughout
In 1956, at a secret session of the 20th Congress of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), with the heIp of a number of
undocumented statements carefully prepared for him by Pyotr Pospelov,
Khrushchev launched an attack on Stalin and succeeded for a time in
The credibility of these statements has always been questioned by
Marxist-Leninists and now, with the opening of the NKVD-KGB files and
the publication of the personal files of J V Stalin in such periodicals
as the Military Historical Journal, Questions of History and Istochnik,
the truth is beginning to emerge.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Lucas for gathering together and
translating an important selection of this material in his book Secret
Of particular interest is Materials of the February-March 1937, Plenum
of the Central Committee of the CPSU, published in the journal Questions
of History in 1995. This includes a speech by Stalin in which he urges
his comrades to understand what capitalist encirclement means and not to
be lulled into a false sense of security as a result of the economic and
social victories of socialism.
"The truth is that even among the capitalist stales there is disunity.
These capitalist states send spies into each other's territory......
Markets, conquest and competition for markets sometimes bring these
countries to war with one another.... Why should the capitalist
countries treat us any less cruelly than they treat each other .. . Why
should they send into our country fewer spies than they send into one
another's? As long as there is capitalism, they will keep sending into
our midst spies, assassins, saboteurs and provocateurs."
Stalin then goes on to deal with the changing face of Trotskyism. After
their political defeat some seven or eight years earlier, the
Trotskyists changed their tactics. Stalin explained that they no longer
propagated their political tendencies openly, that they hid their true
identity, pretending to be more Bolshevik than the real Bolshevik in order to
provide cover for their anti-state activities:
spies, agents, killers...
'They are without principles, diversionists, spies, agents, killers, a
band of die-hard enemies of socialism and of the working class, working
for the secret services of foreign countries."
You have to read the whole speech, which runs to 22 pages, to get the
full impact. "Can you wonder," asks Michael Lucas in a note at the end
of this section, "why Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev did not want
this document published?" They were the enemies that Stalin was warning
his comrades about.
Other sections give details of connected activities, such as those of
the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists in alliance with the German
SS during the war; the activities of dissident elements in the hands of
the German Reich, including the treachery of Leonid Khrushchev, Nikita's
son, who, in a prisoner of war camp, tried to get Soviet POWs to desert
from the Red Army; and the anti-state activities of M N Tukhachevski.
Leonid Khrushchev was subsequently tried and sentenced to death by a
Military Tribunal. Khrushchev appealed to Stalin to intervene but Stalin
told him: "The guilt of your son is indisputable and I have no
jurisdiction or right to overrule the sentence as prescribed by the
Military Tribunal ."
Stalin's son Vasili was also captured during the war. The Nazis offered
him in exchange for General Paulus, captured at Stalingrad. But Stalin
replied: "All Red Army soldiers are: my sons, I cannot choose one over
the others." Only a father would understand what courage that took.
Of further great interest is the stenographic report of a meeting of
propagandists in Leningrad on the Ist October 1938, including the text
of a long speech by J V Stalin (32 pages) on the then recently published
History of the Communist Partv of the CPSU(B): Short Course, which was
banned in the Soviet Union in its original form from 1956 onwards. The
stenographic report was eventually published in the Russian journal
Archives of Leaders at an unspecified date, probably between 1991 and
Because Stalin's speech was given to a relatively small circle of
propagandists and ideological workers, and was not intended for general
consumption, it contained forthright criticisms of some previously
published textbooks, histories, and reminiscences.
"People and our party cadres did not know whom to believe or learn from
- was it Yaroslavsky, Pospelov, Knorin, Bubnnov, or Popov or someone
else?'' But the History of the CPSU(B), he said, has been sanctioned by
the Central Committee and recommended to party members, cadres and party
There is no doubt that Stalin believed The History of the CPSU(B) to be
a very important theoretical contribution to the study of Marxism
-Leninism and that Khrushchev banned it for that very reason. The book
was published in more than one edition. If you are thinking of
purchasing a copy, make sure it is an edition published before the end
of 1953. It was republished in 1960, but with alterations and additions
approved by Khrushchev that devalue it.
It is impossible to do justice to Secret Documents in the small amount
of space at my disposal. I could write a feature article on any one of
its thirteen sections. I have had to leave out the testimony of Vasili
Pronin, Chairman of the Moscow Soviet from 1939 to 1945, and his
description of the leadership of Stalin throughout the siege of Moscow
with never a thought of leaving for a safer haven.
I have had to leave out an interesting section on the Katyn Forest
massacre: and much else that I would have liked to write about. But I
hope I have written enough to convince you that this book will help you
to understand how socialism was destroyed in the USSR, and how not
to allow it to happen to us when the time comes.