Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

By Nathan C. Leites; Elsa Bernaut | Go to book overview
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Notes

CHAPTER 1
The Problem
1. The Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre, p. 37.
2. Ibid., p. 180.
3. The Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre, p. 18.
4. The Case of the Anti-Soviet "Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites," p. 34.
5. Cf. Chapter 4.
6. Cf. Nathan Leites, A Study of Bolshevism, Chapter XVIII, Section 3.
7. Stalin, Sochineniia, vol. 5, pp. 216-217.
8. One may perceive here an infiltration into Bolshevism of the very "circle spirit" in opposition to which the Bolshevik conception of a "Party attitude" had emerged in 1903-1904.

At the Second Party Congress Axelrod, Zasulich and Potresov had not been reelected to the editorial board of Iskra, which was henceforth to consist only of the reelected Martov, Plekhanov and Lenin. Lenin affirmed that Martov had split the Party out of dismay over the destruction of the personal "circle" of the six editors by the impersonal decision of the Congress. In a draft of a declaration to the Party in the summer of 1904, he described the conflict in the Party as follows:

"We have no Party-thus said to themselves the [Menshevik Iskra] editors participating in the palace revolution [establishing a Menshevik majority on the Iskra editorial board] speculating on . . . being irreplaceable. Among us a Party is emerging--say we, . . . among us young forces are multiplying that are capable of replacing the senile literary collegia, and to enliven them. Among us there are revolutionaries and their number is increasing who value the tendency of the old Iskra, which has educated them, more than any editorial circle."

-- Lenin, Sochineniia, 4th ed., vol. 7, pp. 418- 419.

As we shall see below (cf. Chapter 3), in the thirties the Stalin group--and to some extent the victims themselves--viewed the liquidation of the older cadres as the elimination of Party "boyars" who aggravated their "objective" uselessness by conceit. In 1934 Stalin mentioned types of executives "who retard our work, hinder our work, and hold up our advance":

"One of these types of executives is represented by people who have rendered certain services in the past, people who have become aristocrats. . . . They presume that the Soviet government will not have the courage to touch them, because of their past services. These over-conceited aristocrats think that they are irreplaceable. . . ." (Speech of January 26, 1934, at the Seventeenth Party Congress.)

-- Stalin, Leninism; Selected Writings, p. 354.

But at the same time esoteric Stalinism had come to stress that for any given historical period a closely knit group of leaders--which one might in Bolshevik language call a "circle" if one wanted to reject it--is irreplaceable.

A related Stalinist theme presented the process through which a leadership is rendered homogenous as an instance of a law of social metabolism, thus opposing the previous unqualified Bolshevik emphasis on continuity of leadership. In 1907, for instance, Lenin had ascribed to the Social Democratic Party not only a maximum of internal democracy in comparison with other parties, but also the "relatively greatest compactness, firmness and capacity to resist." He asked who had "created and transformed into reality" these properties of the Party and answered:

"This has been done by the organization

-401-

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