Grover Furr

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By JEAN-JACQUES MARIE*

Comment about the book Yezhov against Stalin

Grover Furr's book, Yezhov against Stalin, modestly subtitled La vérité sur les répressions de masse en USSR, baptisées “la Grande terreur” [The truth about mass repressions in the USSR, dubbed The Great Terror], has just been published in French. Furr says nonsense. Refuting such nonsense would make very little sense, even more so because Josef Stalin did it masterfully on the central issue of repression, as we will see below. Furr invents a fanatical defender of democracy Stalin, vexed by his regional secretaries

Engaging in a rather non-materialistic introjection of Stalin's brain, Furr claims that, for the latter, “the Party should direct the organizations, but not the legislative or executive bodies of the State. Once the Party was deprived of direct control of society, Stalin thought that its role should be limited to agitation and propaganda” (p. 19).

Unfortunately, at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee in June 1936, “the delegates had unanimously approved the draft Constitution. But none of them took a stand on their behalf. The failure to even orally acquiesce to a proposal by Stalin certainly indicated latent opposition” (p. 22).

He repeats: “Many elements [mysteriously suppressed by Furr] suggest that the central leadership [Stalin] wanted … to continue to hold open and secret ballot elections on the new constitution” (p. 59). He insists: “Stalin and his close associates in the central Soviet government and the Party fought for such elections, but could not get the central committee to approve them” (p. 61). Tragic result: “The Central Committee plenum of October 1937 witnessed the definitive annulment of the project of open elections in the soviets […]. This meant a severe defeat for Stalin and his supporters in the Politburo.” (p. 79).

Curious! Stalin could not impose on the Central Committee the democracy to which he aspired so deeply, but he was able, in the June 1937 plenum of that body, supposedly the leader of the party, to exclude 31 members, arrest them and then shoot them in the following months! When the plenum meets in January 1938, it will have only 28 of the 71 members elected in January 1934. Stalin's would-be victors have been liquidated. Certain victories have a curious taste of defeat!

Finally, according to Furr, Yezhov “carried out a mass repression of innocents and deceived Stalin as well as the Soviet leaders, leading them to believe in a battle against subversion” (p. 132) in order to arouse the discontent of the population. He repeats this several times, as if the repetition of a fable would, by a mysterious alchemy, foreign to historical materialism, transform it into truth. The repression unleashed in July 1937 claimed close to 750.000 men, women and children by the end of 1938.

Furr claims that: “Yezhov's own confessions prove that Stalin and the Soviet leadership were not responsible for the mass executions” (p. 107). Such is the last service Yezhov had to render Stalin. Furr adds: "As soon as Yezhov resigned, to be replaced by Beria, orders were given to immediately cease all repressions, to revoke all NKVD operational orders" (p. 100). Stalin refutes it. In March 1939, at the Eighteenth Congress of the Communist Party, he declared: "We will no longer have to employ the method of mass purging" (stenographic record of the Eighteenth Congress, p. 28).

The meaning of this statement is clear: Stalin assumes responsibility for the repression unleashed in 1937 and justifies it, qualifying it as "purification”, that is, the elimination of elements declared harmful or hostile; he maintains it for the current year of 1938, but reducing its amplitude: from “in mass”, it will become more targeted or more selective, but it will not disappear – contrary to Furr's, once again, lying sayings. An avowed supporter of Stalin, Furr certainly read this speech, but, practicing the art of camouflage to such an extent, he conceals it from his reader.

Furr finally discovered that Yezhov, arrested on April 10, 1939, had been a German agent... Irrelevant discovery. Yezhov, knowing better than anyone the methods used by the NKVD to get the accused to confess, and certainly unwilling to put up with them until they burst, quickly “confessed” that he had been working for the Germans since 1932. Furr thinks his confessions are perfectly sincere. By chance, the investigators left a proof (?) that Yezhov would have complete freedom to confirm or refute what was attributed to him. When the investigator Bogdan Koboulov reminds him, on May 11, 1939, that he beat his wife after discovering that she was sleeping with the writer Mikhail Cholokhov, Yezhov denies it.

Koboulov then reads him a testimony that confirms the fact. Furr gets the message and rejoices: “These two passages prove that . . . the investigation was authentic” (p. 184). Yezhov could then deny whatever he wanted! Everything that the investigator dictated to him and that he finally signed was therefore true. But what does it matter that Yezhov, displeased at having been cuckolded, slapped and beaten his wife and received the right to deny this in order to better present his confessions as voluntary, in the face of the accusation that he was a German agent since 1932, that he sent hordes of innocents to death, having prepared the assassination of Stalin and Molotov and a violent coup on November 7, 1938?

Furr's own quality for the comic, always involuntary, goes to the grotesque. Remember the contortions he achieved in Khrushchev to Menti [Khruschiov Lied], when he pointed out without laughing “the existence of a series of Right-Trotskyist anti-government plots”, and then added “There is too much circumstantial evidence to suggest [sic! evidence that is content to suggest evidently nothing proves] that Khrushchev himself could well [twice sic!] have participated in such a rightist-Trotskyist conspiracy […]. The hypothesis [thrice sic!] that Khrushchev may [four times sic!] have been a member of a secret branch [which, secret, then left no trace!] of the very branched 'Trotskyist-Rightist conspiracy' is reinforced by the fact that he was certainly [five times sic!] involved in a certain number of other plots”, ignored by all, but of which Furr establishes a list that consists mainly of accusations of concealment and destruction of documents, a list full of bombastic formulas of the like “Khruschev should [?] lead another conspiracy […]”, followed by the litany of “It can be assumed that”, “undoubtedly”, “probably”, “it seems likely that”, not to mention the magnificent formula: “A large numbers of researchers and officials, certainly including Party officials faithful to Khrushchev but still unknown to us [sic!] must [twice sic!] be implicated”. (Khrushchev to Menti [Khruschev Lied], pp 34-5 and pp. 220-1).

These “unknowns who must be involved” represent… without a doubt one of the apexes of historical research. In short, Furr tells his readers: I don't know anything, but I'm sure.

In short, it thus seems to him without a doubt, perhaps probably likely, that Khrushchev was a member of a large number of plots, poorly, little or not at all known, but detected by Furr and thanks to which Herr K. became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Such is the conjurer's method, but with a slight difference: the conjurer hits his passes, Furr misses them all.

So, in your Yezhov Against Stalin [Yezhov Against Stalin], Furr forgets to pose an embarrassing question (among many others). If all of Yezhov's actions, as a German agent, had been aimed at preparing the Soviet population to revolt against Stalin and his government, why didn't they make him confess to this sinister plan - and thus relieve the Soviet leaders and Stalin of its painful consequences? – in a public trial, as Stalin did for Iagoda, his predecessor? Now, Yezhov was sentenced to death on February 4, 1940 and immediately shot.

The answer is childlike in its simplicity, even though – Furr might comment – ​​it is undoubtedly perhaps likely that it does not figure in any of the documents in the Yezhov case. On June 23, 1939, Hitler and Stalin had signed a ten-year non-aggression pact and a secret protocol for the partition of Poland. How to organize, in this period, the public process of an alleged “German agent” who, moreover, assisted Stalin to hand over to the Gestapo, by kindly practical collaboration, dozens of German communists refugees in the USSR, including Margarete Buber-Neumann, wife of Heinz Neumann, former leader of the German CP and editor in chief of its diary Die Rote Fahne [The Red Flag]?

The latter, by a typically Stalinist miracle, escaped this manifestation of touching Soviet-German friendship. About this, Furr was incapable of saying a single word – despite the multiple contortions of his meager thinking, to attribute it either to Trotsky or to Yezhov, then in prison. Stalin had Neumann arrested and shot in 1937, a few months later. Killer Yezhov had nothing to do with it. Indeed, already on May 2, 1934 – when Iagoda was at the head of the NKVD and would still remain for two good years – Stalin had declared to Dimitrov: “Neumann […] is a degenerate politician” (Dimitrov's journal [Dimitrov's Diary], p. 123).

His fate was already sealed. Only the date remained in abeyance. The best thing to do then was to discreetly slaughter Yezhov, away from the noise of the street, in one of those discreet cellars that he knew so well...

*Jean-Jacques Marie is the director of Cahiers du Mouvement Ouvrier. Author, among other books, of Stalin (Fayard).

Translation: Rafael Padial; technical review by Luiz Renato Martins.

 

Reference


Grover Furr. Iejov Contre Staline, la verité sur les répressions de masse en USSR, baptisées “la grande terreur”. Paris, Editions Delga, 2018.

 

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