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During the late twenties the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was shaken by a series of major internal conflicts. It had experienced the so‑called "Left Opposition" (led by Trotsky), the "Workers' Opposition" (Shlyapnikov, Medvedev, Kollontay), the "Democratic Centralists" (, Drobnis, Boguslavsky, Smirnov), the Leningrad "New Opposition" (1925), the Trotsky-Zinoviev Bloc (1926), and the "Right Opposition" (led by Bukharin, 1928‑29). As a result of this internal strife the Party became the battleground of mighty forces fighting for control both of theory and of actual power. A no less violent struggle was being waged inside the Party over the national problem. The struggle arose from the relationship between the national republics within the Union, and the existence of much national deviation and opposition in the Communist parties of those republics.
The Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, published in 1950,1 contains this laconic comment on the events in the national republics arising out of the struggle of the local Communist parties against centralist Moscow:
In several republics (the Ukraine, Belorussia and others) Party organizations relaxed their struggle against local nationalism, allowing it to spread to such an extent that it made contact with hostile forces, with interventionists, and became a threat to the state.2
True or not, the quotation from the Short History, which Trotsky called a "codified collection of falsifications,"3 reveals that the state of affairs it describes was so obvious that it could not be passed over in silence. It is sufficient to recall that in seven years the question of Ukrainian national opposition was discussed five times by the leaders of the Comintern at, among other places, the Fifth Congress p2 of that organization.4 National deviations and oppositions within the Communist Party in the Ukraine (Shumskism, Khvylovism, Volobuevism, Skrypnykism), the expulsion, in 1928, of the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine (KPZU) from the Comintern and, finally, the great purge and campaign of terror (1933‑38) are the main stages of the struggle of the Ukraine against the Kremlin.
There were two reasons for the origin of oppositionist movements within national Communist parties. First, the national republics, following the Revolution of 1917, enjoyed a certain measure of political and economic independence which the Bolshevik Party found it impossible to stifle. The Russian Communist Party, although centralist in nature, was forced to compromise with the national revolutionary forces in the non‑Russian republics and to make concessions to them in the cultural, political and economic spheres. The creation, in 1923, of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the result of the circumstances which made such compromise inevitable. After persistent demands,5 the non‑Russian republics were granted a constitution which guaranteed them equal partnership and limited independence within the Union, including the theoretical right of secession.
Second, the Russian Communist Party, having been compelled to compromise with the national republics, did not renounce its centralist principle. On the contrary, in order to retain control over the entire Soviet Union, it did everything in its power to uproot the centrifugal tendencies within the local Communist parties of the various republics. Implementing the Party statutes which, in the p3 same form, were binding on all national Party organizations, it conducted periodic purges designed to favor the centralist elements and to paralyze the national movements. This policy led to complex and tense relations between the center and the periphery. This conflict in the Ukraine was trenchantly described by an American observer, William Henry Chamberlin. "The Communist Party in the Ukraine," he wrote, "was subjected to more frequent and violent purges than the same organization in Russia, because the impulse to assert national independence frequently cropped up even among Ukrainian Communists."6 Similarly, Trotsky in an article "On the Ukrainian Question" wrote:
Nowhere do repression, purges, subjection and all types of bureaucratic hooliganism in general assume such deadly proportions as in the Ukraine in the struggle against powerless subterranean strivings among the Ukrainian masses toward greater freedom and independence.7
The consolidation of absolute power in the Kremlin resulted in the gradual transformation of the non‑Russian republics into administrative and economic provinces of Russia. Therefore the destruction of all national opposition in local Party organizations was conducted simultaneously with the liquidation of the inner opposition within the CPSU(b).
Having defeated Trotsky's "Left Opposition" at the Thirteenth Party Congress in May 1924, Zinoviev's "new Leningrad opposition" at the Fourteenth Party Congress in December 1925, the "Trotsky-Zinoviev Bloc" in November 1927, and Bukharin's "Right Opposition" at the Sixteenth Party Conference in April 1929, and having crushed a series of national opposition movements within Party organizations within Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, the Tatar Republic, and Armenia, Stalin emerged in 1930 as the sole master of the Party in which all power in the Soviet state is vested. In subduing the various opposition movements by terror and by use of the Party apparatus, Stalin must have realized that in order to maintain his position and to carry out his further plans, he must transform the Party into his tool. This was difficult as long as the old cadres, familiar with Stalin's insignificant role in the early history of the Party, were still alive. The relations between the Soviet republics and Moscow also had to be altered and the entire structure of the Soviet state drastically changed. In order to fulfill Stalin's objectives three conditions had to be met:
1) Centralization of the Party apparatus and elimination from it of the Bolshevik "Old Guard."
2) Complete subordination of the State administration to the Party.
3) Economic unification of all the national republics and their subordination to the Kremlin.
The Soviet history of the thirties bears witness to the execution of these plans. The resistance which arose was ruthlessly crushed. The Bolshevik "Old Guard" p4 was exterminated in Russia and the national republics,8 all traces of national autonomy were wiped out and all those who could not or would not comply with Stalin's policies were branded as "enemies of the people", "spies," "saboteurs" or "foreign agents" and were subsequently dispatched to oblivion by the GPU‑NKVD.
While still further concentrating all power in his hands, Stalin embarked on the industrialization of the country in order to bolster its economic strength and defensive capacity. To achieve this, it was necessary to "find the means."9 The means, indeed, were crucial. They had to be sought "only within the country itself."10 Workers and peasants alike were asked to sacrifice all their efforts, and often their lives, to enable Stalin to fulfill his dream.
1 Istoriya Vsesoyuznoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (bolshevikov), Kratky Kurs (History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) — a Short Course), Moscow, Gospolizdat, 1950. Hereafter cited as the Short History.
2 Ibid., p307.
3 Byulleten oppozitsii (Bulletin of the Opposition), Paris, No. 81, January 1940, p15.
4 For more material on the "nationalist deviation" in the CP(b)U in the twenties see:
Budivnytstvo radyanskoi Ukrainy, Zbirnyk (Construction of the Soviet Ukraine — A Compendium) — Part I, chapter V: "Zayava TsK KP(b)U do Vykonkomu Kominterna" (The Declaration of the CC of the CPBU to the Executive Committee of the Comintern), pp215‑28: "Rezolyutsiya plenumu VKKI pro rozlam u kompartii Zakhidnoi Ukrainy" (The Resolution of the Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern about the Split in the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine), pp255‑56; "Vidozva Kominternu" (The Proclamation of the Comintern), pp256‑58.
Kommunistische Partei der West-Ukraine (KPZU) — Die Ukrainische Nationale Frage (Materialen zur Frage der sogenannten ukrainischen Abweichungen "Schumkismus" in der Kommunistischen Partei der Ukraine und der Kommunistischen Partei der West‑Ukraine), Lemberg, im Selbstverlag des ZK der KPZU, 1928.
Ye. F. Hirchak, Shumskizm i rozlam v KPZU (Shumskism and the Split in the CPWU), Kharkov, Ukrainian State Publishing House, 1928.
Mykola Kovalevsky, Ukraina pid chervonym yarmom: Dokumenty, fakty (The Ukraine under the Red Yoke: Documents and Facts), Warsaw, Lvov, 1936 (Chapter: "Shumsky, Maskymovych pered sudom III Internatsionalu" (Shumsky and Maksymovych on Trial before the III International), pp59‑62; 63‑67.
Mykhailo Volobuyev, "Do problemy ukrainskoi ekonomiky" (Concerning the Problem of Ukrainian Economy), Bilshovyk Ukrainy (The Bolshevik of the Ukraine), 1928, No. 2, pp46‑72; No. 3, pp42‑63.
A. Richytsky, Do problemy likvidatsii perezhytkiv ta natsionaliszmu (Concerning the Problem of the Liquidation of Vestiges of Coloniality and Nationalism), Kharkov, 1928.
5 XII sezd Rossiiskoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (bolshevikov), Stenograficheskiy otchet 17‑23 aprelya 1923 g. (The Twelfth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), Stenographic Report, 17‑23 April 1923.) Moscow, Krasnaya nov, 1923, p705.
6 W. H. Chamberlin, The Ukraine — A Submerged Nation, New York, 1944, p55.
7 Byulleten oppozitsii, Paris, No. 77‑78, May, June, July, 1939, p5.
8 The history of the destruction of the Old Bolshevik Guard of the Party has been brilliantly analyzed by A. Avtorkhanov in his study Pokorenie partii (Subjugation of the Party), published in Posev (Sowing), No. 40‑52, 1950, and No. 1‑16, 1951. It first appeared in book form in French translation: Alexander Ouralov, The Reign of Stalin, London, 1953. Avtorkhanov's study is based primarily on his recollections, not on documentary sources.
9 Cf. Short History of the CPSU, p268.
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