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Part I
Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine
by Hryhory Kostiuk

published in the U. S. A. by
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Part II
Chapter 1

Part One
Stalinist Centralism and the Ukraine

 p74  Chapter XVI

Parade of the Victors and the Vanquished

The Twelfth Congress of the CP(b)U

Two months after the November Plenum, the Twelfth Congress of the CP(b)U was held in Kharkov January 18‑22, 1934. Pravda, in a leading article, "To the New Victories of the Bolsheviks of the Ukraine" (January 18), stressed the "huge successes in all branches of life in the republic and the achievements of the new methods of management." This was the first time in four years that the CP(b)U had received any word of official recognition. The masters of the Kremlin were obviously pleased with the results of Postyshev's purges in the Ukraine.

The Twelfth Congress marked no new developments. Everything that had to be decided, had been decided previously at the November Plenum. The Congress itself served as an assembly of the "purged" CP(b)U and provided an opportunity for all the members to become thoroughly acquainted with the new Postyshev course. The significance of the Congress was made clear in the following ways:

1) It unanimously confirmed and approved the resolutions of the November Plenum, and thus legalized Postyshev's regime.

2) It revealed that the star of the first secretary of the CP(b)U, S. U. Kosior, was on the wane. The political report of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U was read to the Congress not by Kosior but by Postyshev,1 which was indicative of the latter's ascendancy. The shift also meant that the apparatus of the CP(b)U was gaining the upper hand over its ideological leader. This change of emphasis in the Party command was further strengthened by Stalin at the Seventeenth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b).

3) The Congress showed its profound reverence for and obedience to Postyshev. According to Pravda, as soon as Postyshev's name was mentioned by the first speaker, H. Petrovsky, "all rose and applauded."

4) The most characteristic feature of the Twelfth Congress was its spirit of servility to Stalin. This was particularly obvious in the resolutions of the Congress2  p75 and the article "The Bolsheviks of the Ukraine — to the Central Committee of the All‑Union CP(b) and to Stalin."3 Here the obsequiousness of the Party organization in the Ukraine reached staggering proportions. Among the epithets given to Stalin in the report of the Twelfth Congress we find the following: "the greatest man of our time," "the beloved leader and teacher of the proletariat of the world," and "our great, beloved Stalin." The sentimental and turgid verbiage of the report was a true mirror of the new ruling bureaucracy in the Soviet Ukraine.

How was it possible that the same CP(b)U which had received Postyshev so coolly in 1933 now wildly cheered him? The purge of the Party in 1933 alone cannot explain this. The reason is to be found in the new balance of forces within the CP(b)U as it was established by Postyshev. While it would be true to say that from 1917 to 1933 the most influential group, although not on every occasion, was composed of the Ukrainian Communists from Skrypnyk's camp, strengthened by the Borotbists and Ukapists, now, after Skrypnyk's fall, their opponents in the CP(b)U, the Russophile centralist group, came to the fore. The representatives of "Russian great power chauvinism"4 who formed the majority of delegates at the Congress felt that Postyshev's new policy offered them an amnesty. The fall of Skrypnyk, their greatest enemy, gave them a new lease on life. They offered, therefore, their unquestioned support to the new protector of Russian chauvinists and opportunists in the Ukraine, and the resolutions of the Twelfth Congress expressed a vote of complete confidence in Postyshev and approved, or rather applauded, his policy set out during the November Plenum. The only new decision of the Congress concerned the transfer of the Ukrainian capital from Kharkov to Kiev. This was done in order "to bring the government of the Ukraine and its central Party apparatus close to the major agricultural areas in the Right-Bank Ukraine, and also to speed up national cultural construction and Bolshevik Ukrainization, based on industrialization and collectivization."5 The move was planned for the fall of 1934.

Having fulfilled the purpose of their existence (to endorse Postyshev and to glorify Stalin), the delegates to the Twelfth Congress dispersed to prepare for another spectacular puppet show — the Seventeenth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b).

The New CP(b)U

What effect did Postyshev's policy have on the national Ukrainian cadres in the CP(b)U? By "national cadres" we mean all those Ukrainian Communists (the ex‑Borotbists, ex‑Ukapists, and Skrypnyk's group) who while subscribing to internationalism believed in the right to national self-determination. For them, true internationalism meant the end of national oppression everywhere. Any attempt  p76 to abrogate national rights was viewed by them as a betrayal of the Revolution. It is important to bear in mind that this national trend in the CP(b)U did not only include Ukrainians. Apart from such prominent Ukrainian Communists as Skrypnyk, Shumsky, Khvylovy, Kulish, Lyubchenko, Kotsyubynsky, it counted among its supporters several Jews (Yakir, Ravich-Cherkassky, Kulyk, Lifshits, Feldman, Hurevych), Russians (Popov, Volobuyev, Shvedov), Germans (Shlikhter, Bon, Yohansen), Poles (Skarbek, Shmayonek, Kvyatek), and members of other nationalities.

It would be false to suggest that all these men were liquidated by Postyshev, although many of them were purged. Many of those who were retained in the CP(b)U became, as a result of the purges, loyal supporters of the new policy, while others (Zatonsky, Lyubchenko, Khvylya) were won over by receiving the posts formerly occupied by their rivals. Could it be possible that pursuit of personal gain blinded these men so much that they failed to grasp the nature of Postyshev's policy? Did they not realize that, as representatives of an independent tendency in Ukrainian Communism, they themselves might, in turn, come under attack from the ruling centralist clique?

There is good reason to believe that the Ukrainian Communists who remained were not blind to the facts, but that they regarded the situation in 1934 as not entirely hopeless for their cause. They took up Postyshev's challenge, confident that they would be better trustees of the Ukrainian Communist ideas than Skrypnyk had been in the past. They, therefore, participated actively in the reformed Central Committee, and were nourished by the pious hope of all fellow-travellers that a day would come when their point of view would find more sympathy in the Kremlin than the words of its own emissaries to the Ukraine.

The most gifted of these Ukrainian Communists, Panas Lyubchenko, succeeded in obtaining nomination as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. Of the twelve members of the Politburo of the CP(b)U (Demchenko, Zatonsky, Sukhomlin, Chubar, Chuvirin, Kosior, Petrovsky, Sarkis, Yakir, Balitsky, Khataevich, Postyshev) only the last three were outspoken enemies of the Ukrainian Communists.

The Ukrainian group also had four (Shlikhter, Lyubchenko, Chernyavsky, Popov) out of five candidate members in the Politburo. It appeared therefore, that the Ukrainian Communists were not defeated; they still had numerical preponderance. This view proved to be quite illusory, and not very long afterwards all of them paid for this dream with their lives.

The new Politburo did not completely stem the growth of Ukrainian culture and literature. The forces of Ukrainian Communism revived after the blow they suffered in 1933. Moreover, they were strong enough to corrupt even men like Postyshev. For failing to hold the resurgence of these forces, Postyshev as well as all the prominent members of the Ukrainian government and the CP(b)U itself fell into disfavor in 1937.

 p77  The Seventeenth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b)

Three days after the end of the Twelfth Congress of the CP(b)U, the Seventeenth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b), known in official Soviet history as the "Congress of the victors," was convened in Moscow. In his lengthy report to the Congress, Stalin repeated the conclusions he had reached at the January Plenum of the Central Committee of the All‑Union CP(b).6 They could be summarized in two points: 1) the USSR had been transformed from an agricultural into an industrial country, while agriculture itself had become mechanized and collectivized, 2) the socialist system had become dominant throughout the entire economy of the country. This led Stalin to remark that the USSR had "already entered into the period of socialism."7

It is outside the scope of the present study to scrutinize this contention. Let the economists and the historians pass judgment on whether Stalin's achievement should be called socialism, state-capitalism, or something else. Only after such an analysis will it be possible to say whether this claim to victory was justified.

There is no doubt, however, that the Seventeenth Congress marked a true victory for Stalin as far as his own position of power was concerned. This victory can be attributed to the following measures, taken previously, which were openly or tacit­ly approved by the Congress:

1) The liquidation of all opposition within the All‑Union CP(b) with the help of a central Party apparatus — the new Stalinist bureaucracy.

2) The liquidation of all national deviations within the local republican branches of the All‑Union CP(b), one of the most dangerous of them being Skrypnyk's group in the CP(b)U.

3) The designation of national deviation rather than Russian chauvinism as the chief threat to the Party, and the Soviet state. This marked a victory for the Russian centralist elements in the All‑Union CP(b).

4) The centralization of the Soviet economy.

5) The success­ful terrorization of the peasantry and the working class. The peasants were chained to the collective system and the workers to the Stakhanov system.

The victory of the Stalinist oligarchy was confirmed in Stalin's own words. He told the Congress that this victory "did not happen of itself," but was won by the Party. Its "power and authority," he admitted, "have grown to an unprecedented degree; now everything, or almost everything, depends upon it."8

 p78  The delegates to the Congress must have realized very well to just what an "unprecedented degree" the power and authority had increased. The new Party bureaucrats were only able to express their most fervent gratitude to their new leader. Following his speech they tried to outdo each other in glorifying bureaucratic absolutism and its creator, Stalin.9 In voicing their adulation of the man whom Trotsky described as "the second-rate figure of the proletarian revolution,"10 they pledged themselves to carry out faithfully anything their new master might decree.

The Author's Notes:

1 "Sovetskaya Ukraina na novom podeme" (The Soviet Ukraine in a New Advance), Pravda, January 24, 1934; Visti, January 24, 1934. Postyshev's supremacy over Kosior was largely due to his "apparatus" — the men he brought with him from Moscow or found ready to serve him in the Ukraine. One heard a great deal about "Postyshev's men," just as one heard of "Kaganovich's men" or "Ordzhonikidze's men," all of them being, of course, "Stalin's men." Obviously, Postyshev, much more than Kosior, had learned from Stalin the secret of success.

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2 Pravda, January 23, 1934.

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3 "Bolsheviki Ukrainy — TsK VKP(b), tov. Stalinu," Pravda, January 20, 1934.

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4 Cf. Leytes and Yashek, op. cit., pp293‑303. In the history of the Party, the following members were branded as Russian chauvinists by the CP(b)U in the pre‑Postyshev era: Dashkovsky, Lebed, Larin, Mashkin, Malitsky, Antonov-Ovseyenko, and Muravev.

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5 Pravda, January 22, 1934.

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6 Cf. "Itogi pervoi pyatiletki" (Results of the First Five-Year Plan), Pravda, January 10, 1933.

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7 XVII sezd VKP(b) (Seventeenth Congress of the All‑Union CP(b)), Moscow, 1934.

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8 Ibid., p33.

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9 See, in particular, the speeches by Molotov and Kuybyshev (on the Second Five-Year Plan), and Kaganovich (on organization of the Party and the State).

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10 Byulleten oppozitsii, No. 46, December 1935.

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