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John G. Wright

How Stalin Cleared Road for Hitler

(November 1941)

From Fourth International, Vol. 2 No. 9, November 1941, pp. 270–272.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One of Stalin’s most brazen lies is that by signing the pact with Hitler he had gained and used precious breathing space to bolster the industry and defenses of the USSR. Just the contrary is true. What might indeed have been such a breathing space was utilized by the Kremlin solely in the interests of perpetuating its own rule. Instead of being strengthened the Soviet Union was still further undermined by Stalinism precisely in the period of the Stalin-Hitler pact (1939–1941).

Stalin himself presented the world with incontrovertible proof of this during the sessions of the Eighteenth Party Conference which convened in Moscow in February 1941. The Kremlin’s implacable censorship succeeded in partially suppressing the truth by keeping the issues of the official Moscow press from reaching this country; and by prohibiting even the text of its own laws for this period from being, transmitted abroad. After almost a year’s delay issues of Pravda are at last available.

The conditions had become so grave that Stalin’s personal organ was itself compelled to reveal the economic chaos into which his leadership, his policies and bureaucratic regime had plunged the country.

From the vast quantity of available material we select only several items from Malenkov’s report to the Eighteenth Party Conference. (Stalin preferred to keep mum throughout the sessions.)

Malenkov’s report constitutes, in and of itself, an indictment of Stalin’s regime. It is a confession of bankruptcy.

What was the keynote of Malenkov’s report? In the language of Stalinist double-talk it reads: “The impermissible utilization of the productive capacities of our enterprises.”

To drive home his point to the assembled bureaucrats, Malenkov singled out the conditions in the Soviet cement industry.

“The productive capacity of the cement industry,” said Malenkov, “is growing from one year to the next. In 1936 the productive capacity of all cement plants was 6,701 thousand tons; in 1937 it rose to 7,024 thousand tons; in 1938 to 7,604 thousand tons; in 1939 – 7,967 thousand tons; and in 1940 – 8,206 thousand tons.

“Meanwhile the utilization of these productive capacities during these years has been dropping systematically. Thus if the productive capacity of cement factories in 1936 was utilized 88% in 1936, which is very poor, then in 1937 this utilization was still poorer, being only 77%; in 1938 it was 75%; in 1939 – 65%; and in 1940, all told only 64%.” (Pravda, February 16, 1941)

What Malenkov’s Report Revealed

At first sight the full implication of this mass of statistics tends to escape the reader. They are almost incredible. Let us take, for example, the official admission that throughout 1939 1940 the cement industry had been operating at or below 65% capacity. Translated into ordinary language this means that more that one-third of the Soviet cement plants were standing idle during these years. What can this denote if not a condition verging on economic collapse?

But the data supplied by Malenkov provide much more significant information. To bring it out most graphically we have compiled a table based on the Kremlin’s own statistics. (We have added a third set of figures relating to the actual output. Malenkov carefully evaded specifying these figures, but they are implicit in his own data, and therefore are as authoritative and official as those which he did cite.)



Productive Capacity
(in thousands of tons)

(in %)

Actual Output
(in thousands of tons)













By performing a simple arithmetical operation we now learn that: under Stalinism, while the productive capacity of Soviet cement industry expanded from 1938 to 1940 by 602 thousand tons (8,206 minus 7,604), the actual output declined by 451 thousand tons (5,703 minus 5,252) in the same period.

More Plants, Less Production

Under Stalin the addition of new plants instead of increasing Soviet production resulted in – decreasing it! Expressed here in terms of tons of cement is the irreconcilable conflict between the needs of Soviet economy and the fetters of Stalin’s regime. The Kremlin bureaucracy was strangling Soviet industry on the eve of the invasion just as it is now strangling the struggle on the military arena.

It is hardly necessary to stress the importance of the cement industry so vital not only for peace-time production but for the requirements of Soviet defense (roads, armament plants, field defenses, etc.). Malenkov himself complained: “After all, comrades, cement, it seems, does not play the least and last role in our capital construction.”

To what extent is it permissible to apply the conditions prevailing in the cement industry to other branches of Soviet economy? Stalin-Malenkov and Co. do not dare cite comprehensive figures for production. However, in his report Malenkov did not mention a single branch of industry which had functioned satisfactorily. Whenever he did refer, in passing, to other branches, it was only to reveal conditions still more appalling. For instance, in mentioning the timber industry, Malenkov remarked that its productive capacity had been “utilized only 41 per cent.”

“And, after all, comrades,” commented the reporter, “timber is very very much needed by our industry and transport.” Lumber is needed not only in production but for mass consumption. But the needs of the Soviet consumer never did enter into the calculations of the bureaucracy.

Among the “industrial cities in which big enterprises are concentrated and which do not fulfill their productive quotas,” Malenkov himself listed the following: Gorki, Dnepropetrovsk, Stalingrad, Kalinin, Chelyabinsk, Tula, Yaroslavl, Stalino, etc.

All of Malenkov’s admissions, “omissions” and evasions plus the fact that the official press had been filled for months prior to the Conference with data, “alarm-signals” and fulminations concerning the lag in coal, steel, iron, rolled steel, oil, etc. – all this enables us to state with complete assurance that the conditions revealed by Malenkov in the cement industry were not an exception but the rule for Soviet industry as a whole. Despite the untold billions of rubles pumped by the Kremlin into new plants, equipment, etc.; despite the monstrous pressure exerted by the Kremlin on the workers (the June, 1940 anti-labor laws, the introduction of child labor by ukase of October 2, 1940, etc., etc.); despite bestial repressions and purges, or rather precisely because of all this – Soviet production had been not only stagnating but declining catastrophically throughout the period of the Stalin-Hitler pact. This is how Stalin was “strengthening” the USSR!

The Cause for the Collapse of the Third Five-Year Plan

While piling up disproportion upon disproportion in its “planning,” the bureaucracy further disrupted production by such methods as these:

“It happens frequently,” reported Malenkov, “that scarce and highly specialized equipment, complex industrial aggregates, big lathes are either not used for the purpose for which they are intended or are made to operate with inadequate loads. Simple operations are performed on such specialized equipment or tiny details are manufactured which could be more rationally produced on small and simple machines.”

As an illustration, Malenkov cited the fact that the biggest lathes were “not infrequently, used to manufacture details the size of tea saucers.”

On February 18, Pravda, commenting on the Conference, declared with an air of hypocritical amazement:

“During yesterday’s sessions (of the Conference) the delegates adduced astonishing facts concerning incompetence in relation to technology.”

This “incompetence” was generalized by Malenkov in the following terms:

“In many enterprises equipment, raw materials and tools direly needed by our industry are piled up anywhere, everywhere; they become spoiled, they grow rusty and are rendered worthless.”

In Stalinist double-talk “many enterprises” really means all enterprises. Malenkov himself blurted this out when he told the delegates at the Conference to supplement his words by their own experience:

“Facts relating to this state of affairs,” he said, “you, comrades, can find in the enterprises of your own oblast (regional district) and city districts.”

Pravda took further note of “incompetence” by stating editorially:

“We still have not a few leaders who think nothing of producing worthless goods, of violating technological standards; people for whom dirt in production is a normal condition of production.” (Pravda, February 15, 1941)

Stalin’s Rule – The Reign of Filth

Malenkov, in an excess of zeal, developed this point in much greater detail:

“In many of our enterprises, guilds, factory areas and yards, in depots, railway shops, power stations, railways, sea and river ports, there is a reign of filth. Workplaces, equipment, tools and raw materials are kept carelessly.”

And further:

“Examples of bureaucratism, red tape, failure to check orders, and so forth exist unfortunately in every People’s Commissariat.”

The only thing left out in this catalogue is – the Kremlin. By admission of its own mouthpiece, the regime of the Kremlin can be properly characterized only as: The Reign of Filth!

Is it to be wondered at that under such conditions, production drops to 65%, 41% of capacity and even lower?

Among the most significant passages in Malenkov’s report are those dealing with the problem of industrial stoppages, breakdowns, accidents, etc. As is well known, the GPU has framed up and executed thousands upon thousands of Bolsheviks, collaborators of Lenin, heroes of the Civil War for acts of “sabotage and wrecking.” But who was really responsible?

Again, we give the floor to Malenkov.

“Equipment which is left unattended,” he thundered, “equipment which is not kept in conditions of necessary cleanliness and orderliness often refuses (sic) to function.

“Accidents and catastrophes are inevitable wherever there is no cleanliness and order.”

To find the chief saboteur and wrecker in the USSR one need look no further than the Kremlin. Stalin and his clique – here is the fountainhead of this bureaucratism; of this reign of filth; of these “refusals” of equipment to function; of these “inevitable” accidents and catastrophes – in short, of all the evils and misfortunes that have befallen the land of the Soviets.

Stalin’s Thieves Plunder Industry

To believe Malenkov, one of the chief reasons for failures in industry really lies in the sphere of faulty bookkeeping.

He cited a director of a non-ferrous metallurgical plant who asked for information concerning the amount of unfinished products on hand in one of his departments.

“The bookkeeper’s office,” reported Malenkov, “gave him the figure of 81.8 tons; the planning department set the figure at 47.7 tons; the records of the department itself fixed it at 51.5 tons; and when stock was actually taken the amount was 11 tons.”

But Pravda itself exploded Malenkov’s alibi. Faulty bookkeeping alone does not account for these and similar “discrepancies” of 40 to 50 tons, and more. On the very eve of the Conference Stalin issued a ukase forbidding thieves – in the ukasethey are referred to as “directors of industry” – “to sell, exchange or rent out equipment and materials.” Henceforth such transactions were to be considered as “masked plundering of socialist property” and the penalty imposed was “imprisonment from two to five years”. (Pravda, February 11, 1941)

Pravda had this to say in connection with the ukase:

“Surplus equipment is being embezzled in the most undisguised manner; directors of factories consider themselves legally entitled to buy and sell equipment and raw materials.” (Pravda, February 12, 1941)

It is necessary to introduce a slight correction into Pravda’s terminology. Stalinist “directors” not only had considered themselves entitled to dispose of nationalized property as they pleased, but they had been doing it for years. It was one of their secret privileges. What monstrous proportions must these transactions have reached if the Kremlin found itself compelled to declare them illegal?

On the day after the publication of the ukase, Pravda came out with disclosures of huge embezzlements of equipment, raw materials, etc. in various People’s Commissariats, among them the People’s Commissariat of the Timber Industry. The “directors” of this particular industry were obviously too busy “buying and selling” to bother their heads about such details as the fact that their plants were operating at 41% capacity. Thieves and grafters could not ask for a better milieu for their operations than the one provided by Stalin’s regime.

What alibi did Stalin himself offer to explain away the economic chaos into which he had plunged the USSR less than four months before Hitler launched his invasion. Apart from the inevitable scapegoats, the “Father of the Peoples” could proffer only a draft of a “Fifteen Year Plan” to replace his completely discredited and bankrupt “Five Year Plans.”

* * *

The development of Soviet economy has been depicted by the Kremlin and its prostitutes as an uninterrupted march from one triumph to another: from the achievement of the “irrevocable triumph of socialism” to the arrival of Soviet society at the “very threshold of communism.” These boasts and lies of Stalinism hypnotized thousands of revolutionary workers in all countries. The tragic thing is that they were the only ones whom Stalin succeeded in deceiving about the true conditions of Soviet internal affairs. The chancelleries of the imperialists, “democratic” and fascist alike, have been aware that since 1936–1937 – the years of the infamous Moscow frame-ups – Soviet economy had been convulsed by one crisis after another. This catastrophic condition was further aggravated by Stalin’s blood purges which decimated the administrative and technological staffs, and beheaded the Red Army. The greatest ravages in economy and, consequently, in defense took place precisely during 1939–1941, i.e., the period of the Stalin-Hitler pact.

The chaos into which Stalin had plunged the country was known to Hitler. It was undoubtedly one of the considerations which impelled the German General Staff to launch the invasion in June 1941.

All the crimes and abominations of Stalinism are now revealing themselves on the military arena. Stalin, and Stalin alone, bears the responsibility for all the defeats suffered by the Red Army. At the first favorable opportunity, without weakening the front against the imperialists, the Red Army and the Soviet masses must rid the country of the Stalinist regime which stifles all initiative and constitutes the chief internal obstacle to the victorious defense of the USSR.

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