The Third International after Lenin

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stalin (1990) PBS

Review of PBS Series: Stalin (May - June 1990)

PBS Anti-Stalinism Is Based On Nazis Lies

The following article is the first of four articles, which review Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990).

The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has produced a three- part series on the life of Joseph Stalin, part 1 of which was broadcast on Monday, May 28.

This series coincides with an unprecedented attack on the entire concept of communism, unleashed by the overt return to capitalism in Eastern Europe and sponsored by Gorbachov. This policy of "perestroika" is nothing but a hug attack upon the working class. Under the name of economic "reform" wages are being drastically cut, and prices of all necessities -- food, shelter, transportation -- drastically raised. Fascist nationalism has been unleashed to get workers fighting amongst themselves. Like racism, nationalist rivalries dim class consciousness, encouraging workers to ally with bosses of "their own" ethnic or linguistic group and fight other workers.

The political "reforms" -- capitalist-style elections, multi- party systems, and the accession to power of openly capitalist and fascist parties -- are necessary in order to prevent rebellion against this attack. Workers are more likely to accept these drastic cuts if the bosses that oversee them have more credibility. As Lenin, for one, noted long ago, capitalist democracy serves this purpose.

These attacks on the working class -- that is, this attempt to raise the level of exploitation of the working class, get them to provide a source of cheap labor in order to profit a few capitalists -- cannot succeed without an all-out assault on the ideas of communism, internationalism, working-class dictatorship and class consciousness. For it was during the period of working-class power that subsidies for food, clothing and housing, free medical care, day care, guaranteed jobs, and other pro-worker benefits were put into effect. this period and the benefits which survive from it are associated with Joseph Stalin. Therefore, the Soviet and East European bosses, who are now removing the last vestiges of the benefits won by the communist movement, must justify their acts by saying that the period of Stalin was horrible.

As this review shows, Part One of the series fails to conform even to the facts accepted by pro-capitalist, bourgeois scholars concerning the Russian Revolution and the left of Stalin. (Naturally, we could not expect the series to have a pro-working class, communist outlook.) The lies and distortions in it are very crude, and can be effective only because most people are not aware of the facts.

As you read these reviews, ask yourself: Does someone lie if the truth is on his side? Obviously the real facts, even as established by capitalist research, do not paint a bad enough picture to justify a return to exploitation and all its horror and misery.

Mass Murders

Part One opens with Stalin's portrait superimposed upon drawings of skeletons and skulls, and then upon mass graves. A Soviet archeologist describes the murders as though he witnessed them. However, there has been no independent study of these mass graves near Minsk, in a part of Byelorusssia (one of the USSR's republics, now the independent state of Belarus) which was the scene of literally millions of murders by the Nazis in 1941-44. In other words: there is no evidence that these killings were not Nazi killings.

The book mentions the very similar mass graves uncovered by the Nazis in 1943 in Vinnitsa, in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, which were certainly either mainly or totally of Nazi victims. The only source for this conclusion -- that the victims were killed by the Soviets -- is a Nazi propaganda report, which is contradicted by post-war evidence. A German soldier swore to both American and Soviet interrogators in 1945 that these were graves of Nazi victims whom he saw the Nazis kill; but this well-known source is never even mentioned. The fact that the Soviets have recently "admitted" these were victims of Stalin's time suggests that they may be doing the same with these other mass graves.

The point here is not that there were not many killings during the `30s -- there were -- but that these anti- Communist Soviet and Western writers attribute these mass murders to Stalin without the evidence they would unquestionably demand if, say, somebody were alleging they were done by Americans.

Stalin's `School Friend'

The main form of distortion in the film and book is the dishonest use of evidence. For example, the narrator tells us a "school friend" said of young Stalin: "To gain victory and be feared was triumph for him"; "he was a good friend so long as one submitted to his imperious will." Later, we are told that Stalin told a `friend" at the funeral of his first wife in 1909 that "this creature softened my heart of stone". With her died my last warm feelings for people". This "friend" was Joseph Iremashvili, who later became a Nazi and published his book in Berlin in 1932. Once again, a Nazi source is used without admitting it.

Stalin a Police Informer"

The narrator tells us that Stalin may have informed on his comrades to the Tsarist secret police at times, whereupon a Soviet author, Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, appears and tells us Stalin really did inform.

This is famous nonsense. Bourgeois historians have established that Antonov-Ovseyenko's book is full of falsifications and exaggerations. 1 Second, the film at this point is following Robert C. Tucker's 1973 biography of Stalin. 2 According to Tucker, the only allegations that Stalin ever informed on them were made by anti-Communist Mensheviks in exile in the `20s. Thought Tucker wants to believe them, he admits he can prove nothing, and goes on to show that a later book alleging Stalin's role as an informer was a complete fake (Tucker, pp. 108-114). The point here is that the film goes out of its way to make viewers aware of this allegation, despite the fact that its authors know there is no evidence for it whatsoever. The accompanying book dismisses the whole "informer" matter as rumors in a single sentence.

The Bolshevik Dispersal of the Constituent Assembly

This is termed an attack on democracy. We are not told that the Bolsheviks had been elected to a majority of the Soviets in Petrograd and other cities by October 1917, and had the second largest delegation to the Assembly; that the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the party with the majority in the Assembly, had split, with the largest section voting to support the Bolsheviks; or that, since the vote, the Bolsheviks had seized state power and had given the land to the peasants and had promised peace -- the major peasant demands.

E. H. Carr, the eminent British bourgeois historian of the Russian Revolution, makes it clear that the Assembly did not in fact express the will of the population and that, if any one group did, it was the Bolsheviks. 3

The larger point here, though, is the equation of elections, held under capitalist domination of the mass media, the schools, churches, and government, with "democracy." In fact, at best such elections are the attributes of capitalist dictatorship. No act, however arrived at, can be considered "democratic" unless it suits the interest of the mass of the population. The Bolshevik victory, working-class power, an end to the bosses' rule, to the murderous war, and giving the land to the peasants and the factories to the working class, was the most democratic act imaginable!

Stalin in Tsaritsyn

This is not even mentioned in the accompanying book, but is taken from Tucker, who interprets it as evidence of Stalin's envy of Trotsky. In fact, Stalin's actions in dismissing the Tsarist Generals in whom Trotsky had confidence, and replacing them with communist commanders like Voroshilov and Frunze, saved the day, and was the principle behind the military feud with Trotsky, here as elsewhere far to the right of Stalin. 4

Stalin in Georgia and Lenin's Testament

These stories follow the Soviet revisionist line of glorifying anything Lenin ever said. The Georgia affair had to do with Stalin's and Ordzhonikidze's hostility to Georgian nationalists, and Lenin's desire to placate them. Stalin and Ordzhonikidze were both of them of Georgian nationality themselves, and had spent years organizing workers in Georgia, largely against nationalists such as these. This was a principled disagreement in which Lenin, in desiring to placate the nationalists, was wrong. We are not told that, in his Testament, Lenin attacked, not merely Stalin, but Trotsky, Bukharin, and virtually everyone in the Soviet leadership. 5

Stalin Stacks the Party?

The final major falsehood concerns the way in which Stalin became the main leader in the Party after Lenin's death. Here the series adopts the line made famous by Trotsky: that Stalin had used his position as General Secretary to "stack" the Party in his favor:

"By controlling appointments within the Party, Stalin gradually acquired greater real power than his rivals. A country-wide network of Party members owing allegiance only to Stalin lay at the end of the telephone".

Nadyezhda Yoffe, daughter of one of Trotsky's most loyal allies, and Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's own grandson, are quoted on this point, as well as Lewin.

This elitist position treats workers as idiots. Lewin says openly that Stalin's victory depended upon his control of the uneducated workers in the Party "because he has below a mass of people who don't understand what it's all about, listen to what they were told." It is worthy of any capitalist, and exposes Trotsky, as well as Lewin and the producers of the film. But Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov (later a Nazi collaborator, but a Stalin supporter in the `20s) and a worker, Yelizaveta Tyomkina, are quoted as saying that they thought Stalin the best of the leaders. Even Stephen Cohen's very anti-Stalin book admits that Stalin won the allegiance of party activists and his victory cannot be attributed to his "stacking" the Party. 6 Cohen is interviewed and attacks Stalin several times in the film, but is not quoted here.

Part One ends at the beginning of the collectivization movement, caused by the utter failure of capitalist methods (in the form of the New Economic Policy, NEP) to provide a decent standard of living for the workers plus the funds to industrialize.


1. See Leo van Rossum, "A. Antonov- Ovseyenko's Book on Stalin: Is It Reliable? A Note," Soviet Studies, July 1984, pp. 445-7. Back.

2. Stalin as Revolutionary 1879-1929. This work is a "psychohistory," full of unsubstantiated psychological guesswork, a completely invalid historical procedure even by bourgeois capitalist standards -- except when applied to Stalin, apparently! It is so poorly regarded by other scholars that the second volume took twenty years to appear. See the review of this shoddy work in PL Magazine, Vol . 10, No. 4 (July, 1976), pp. 58-73, "The Name and the Game of the Anti- Stalinists." Back.

3. E.H.Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, I, Chapter 5. A White Russian Ё¦migrЁ¦ noted a year later that "The Constituent Assembly was blamed more than the Bolsheviks who dispersed it." Car concludes that "it was one more demonstration of the lack of any solid basis, or any broad popular support, in Russia for the institutions and principles of bourgeois democracy." (p. 130) Back.

4. For a thorough discussion see John Erickson, The Soviet High Command. New York: St Martin's Press, 1961. Back.

5. Under the influence of his final illness, cut off from all activity, Lenin wrote and did things he had never done before. The essays he wrote at this time advocate the promotion of capitalist relations. As Pyatakov, a Politburo member, said later, the party leadership regarded all this as uncharacteristic of Lenin. They even considered not printing his final essays at all! Back.

6. Steven F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution (New York, 1973), pp. 325-28. This book is also critically reviewed in the PL Magazine review published in 1976; see the citation in note 2 above. Back.

(The following is a review of Stalin, Part II, part of a three-part television series on PBS channels. Part One was reviewed in the last issue of Challenge-Desafio)

During the period from 1929 to 1932 a great "turn to the left" took place in the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of activist workers went from the cities to help the poor peasants collectivize the countryside. The five-year plan, to begin the industrialization of the country, was begun. Brand-new industries sprang up; whole cities, like Komsomolsk and Magnitogorsk, were built from nothing, through the communist enthusiasm and dedication of hundreds of thousands of workers and youth. In the throes of this enthusiasm, a recruitment drive brought the majority of the Soviet working class into the Communist Party.

Parallel with these economic developments, left-wing forces pushed for a working-class line in literature, art, and education. Schools and colleges gave preferential admission to workers; communist writers and artists challenged themselves and their colleagues to "serve the working class" in whatever they did. It was truly a "cultural revolution," as some bourgeois scholars have termed it. 1

Taken together, these developments can be seen as the first attempt in human history to create an entirely new society based upon the working class! The profound importance of this period for workers and their allies everywhere cannot be overestimated.

These advances could be unleashed only because a left-wing line -- Stalin's line -- had won out in the central Communist Part debates of the 1920s. Naturally, this period horrifies capitalists and anti-working class forces. They would like to portray it, and everything that came after it, as a terrible time. And so they do in this program, through lies -- saying things happened that never did -- as well as by omission -- leaving out important events, like those mentioned above. This article will concentrate on exposing the lies.


There was much real support for collectivization among the poorer peasants, and among peasant women especially. Many hated the "kulaks" -- the rich peasants who, along with the priests, traditionally controlled village life -- as did many workers, most of whom were first- or second-generation away from the village and who remembered its oppression. But you would never guess it from this program, which portrays collectivization as an inhuman onslaught against a defenseless peasantry.

The lies about the "man-made famine" of 1932-33 are repeated, with the fabricated stories of 5 to 7 million deaths and phony photographs taken, without acknowledgement, from the Volga famine of 1921-22. A long series appeared in Challenge-Desafio three years ago on this question; 3; its arguments will not be repeated here, except to say that bourgeois, capitalist scholars have themselves long since exposed this nonsense [ed. -- to go to the first article of this earlier series on the "Hoax of the 'Man-Made Famine' in the Ukraine", click here.]

The Murder of Sergei Kirov

A long section of the film is devoted to trying to show that Stalin was responsible for the murder of Kirov, his closest ally in the leadership of the Communist Party. The film takes its argument from a recent book by professional anti-communist liar and British Secret Service agent Robert Conquest. 4 Though Conquest repeats over and over in his book that Stalin's guilt is "proven," in fact he has no decent evidence at all! A recent (and very polite) review of Conquest's book points out how dishonest it is, and repeats that there is apparently no Soviet evidence of Stalin's guilt -- for the best of reasons, we might add! 5

The International Communist Movement

Just over one minute of the program is devoted to the Communist International, or Comintern. We are told that "it was all Trotsky's idea," "Stalin disliked foreigners," -- complete lies! The Comintern also partook of the "left turn" during the period 1929-32, which witnessed the most class-conscious, revolutionary efforts of workers towards the goal of communist revolution. Far from a xenophobic madman, as the film portrays him, Stalin himself led the struggle, ultimately unsuccessful, to rid the communist parties of their right-wing leadership and tendencies during this period.

The Trials and the "Terror"

The most striking part of Stalin, Part II focuses on the arrests, imprisonments, trials and executions which followed Kirov's murder in December 1934. The period from 1934 to the war is described as one of "terror," when millions were wrongly killed and everyone lived in fear (although, incongruously, we are also told that "for many people, life was better"). The film portrays all this as a result of Stalin's "greed for power," and paranoia. This too is all rubbish. Some important trials were held in 1935 and 1936, of high-ranking Party officials who were accused of anti-Party conspiracies and industrial sabotage. That the conspiracies, including contact with Trotsky abroad, and secret factionalizing existed, has been proven by bourgeois scholars. 6 As for the sabotage, both émigrés and American engineers working as consultants in the USSR at the time attest to it, particularly suspecting Yuri Pyatakov, in fact charged with sabotage in his 1936 trial 7

The real wave of arrests, imprisonments, and executions, during which many innocent people were unquestionably punished or killed, did not in fact occur until the Soviet government uncovered a massive treasonable conspiracy involving top party and military leaders, in May 1937. Much circumstantial evidence exists to confirm this plot, and the NKVD (political police) reacted in panic. 8

Following Conquest, Cohen and other liars, the film estimates 8 to 14 million persons killed as a result of the "terror." Conquest's death figures have been disproven and mocked by more responsible bourgeois scholars. 9

One of them (still a ferocious anti-Communist) recently estimated the death toll at 75,000 - 200,000 10 , or one one-hundredth of the figures given in the film and book!

Why the numbers game? Isn't this level of deaths "bad enough" for the anti-Communists? No! They realize that their audience knows millions have been killed by capitalists in the name of anti- communism and for exploitation. They know that anti-Communism can be effective only if workers can be convinced that communism is worse than the worst form of capitalism -- fascism. Hitler killed 20 million Soviet citizens [ed. -- actually, more like 28 million, as the Russian government revealed a few years ago], Hitlerism was capitalism -- therefore, they must "prove" that Stalin was even worse! Hence the lies.


1. See Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931 (Indiana University Press, 1978). Back.

2. Lynne Viola, The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); "Bab'y Bunty and Peasant Women's Protest During Collectivization," The Russian Review, 45 (Jan. 1986). For the mixed response of peasants to the early stages of collectivization including the support of many peasants for the Soviets, see Maurice Hindus, Red Bread: Collectivization in a Russian Village (Indiana U. Pr., 1988; original edition, 1931). Hindus grew up in this village and then emigrated to the US; he came back to see how the people were reacting to Soviet power. Back.

3. Challenge-Desafio, February 26 through April 1, 1987. This series is now available on the Worldwide Web: click here to go to the first article in the series of six, with links to the rest. Back.

4. Stalin and the Murder of Kirov New York: Oxford, 1989. Back.

5. J. Arch Getty, review of Conquest's book in The Russian Review, 48 (July, 1989), 348-351. Back.

6. J. Arch Getty, "Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International", Soviet Studies, 38 (Jan. 1986); Pierre Broué, in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, Number 5. Broué is a leading Trotskyite, but admits the evidence shows his hero lied. Back.

7. Americans: see John Littlepage, "Red Wreckers in Russia", Saturday Evening Post, January 1, 1938; Carroll G. Holmes, "I Knew Those Wreckers", Soviet Russia Today, April, 1938; for the émigré, see N. Valentinov-Volsky, "Sut' bol'shevizma v izobrazhenii Yu. Pyatakova," Novy Zhurnal (New York), No. 52 (1958), 146- 149. Back.

8. J. Arch Getty, The 'Great Purges' Reconsidered: The Soviet Communist Party, 1933-1939 (Ph.D. dissertation, Boston College, 1979), 422-457. For Tukhachevsky, see the very cautious article by Grover Furr, "New Light on Old Stories About Marshal Tukhachevskii: Some Documents Reconsidered", Russian History / Histoire Russe, 13 (1986), 293-308 [ed. - now available on the Worldwide Web; click here to go to this article].

Some anti-communist émigrés like Grigori Tokaev (Betrayal of an Ideal and Comrade X) wrote openly about a military conspiracy; their works are often cited by anti- communist scholars, but this fact is never mentioned. Back.

9. See the series in Challenge-Desafio referred to in note 3 above, and the bibliography cited there. Back.

10. The Nation (New York), August 7/14, 1989, p. 184 Back.

This is Part 3 of a four-part series. Here's a jump to Part One; and here you can go to Part Two. At the bottom there's a link to the fourth and final part.

The third and concluding part of the PBS series Stalin rams home the producer's basic idea, the Big Lie that communism equals fascism 1 At the beginning Soviet émigré Lev Kopelev equates "Stalinism" with Hitlerism and fascism, returning at the end to remind us that "Stalinism" threatens "the survival of the human race." Meanwhile, Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva assures us that "Stalinism" was in reality "the terror of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin, of the one-party régime" -- in other words, communism. The Big Lie is made up of little ones; this review can only expose a few of them. Next week's bibliography will help the interested reader explore what did happen in the first working-class state in world history.

The film begins with the bald assertion that Stalin had already killed "25 million" people -- a nonsensical figure (see last week's review), the purpose of which is simply to equate Stalin with Hitler in viewer's minds. Recent researchers have once again confirmed that there was neither widespread "fear of the Gulag" nor "total control" by Stalin or the Party. 2

And this has been going on for decades! In 1953 Henry Shapiro, long-time Moscow correspondent for United Press, called tales of 10-20 million victims "part of the Cold War gone crazy":

When I was in the States in 1950 I was up against the same kind of thing... in those days even the simplest two-and-two- make-four commonsense made you suspect of communist sympathies.

Film Smears Communist Victory in WWII

The film concentrates upon belittling the tremendous soviet victory over the Nazis in World War 2. A Professor Samsonov doubles previous soviet figures for officers arrested as a result of the Tukhachevsky military plot, and then claims these commanders were `the most experienced, the most loyal," whose arrest was "one of the reasons for the defeats and failure when Hitler attacked".

Hitler himself knew better:

The Führer [Hitler] recalled the case of Tukhachevsky and expressed the opinion that we were entirely wrong then in believing that Stalin would ruin the Red Army by the way he handled it. The opposite was true: Stalin got rid of all opposition in the Red Army and thereby brought an end to defeatism." 3

Lies About German-Soviet Nonagression Pact of 1939

According to the film, the British and French sent a mission to the USSR in the summer of 1939, but Stalin did not trust them "saw pickings for himself there." All these statements are stone lies! First, even anti-Communist historians hold that this mission, of obscure officers, on a slow boat, without any right to negotiate for their governments, proved the British and French were not serious about allying with the Soviets. The Soviets, who had tried hard to ally with the French and British -- in effect, trusting them more than the Nazis -- had no choice but to turn to Germany. 4

Second, the part of Eastern Poland which the soviets occupied in 1939 was simply a part of Russia which the Polish imperialists had seized by invasion in 1920, with Allied (mainly French) help. Also, the Soviets waited for over two weeks after the Nazi invasion of Poland, until it was clear that Britain and France, despite their declarations of war against Germany, would do nothing in Poland's defense (this was the beginning of the period known in England as the "phony war"; it lasted until Hitler turned against France in the spring of 1940). All this is suppressed in the film! Samsonov appears again to claim that, early in the war, Stalin secretly offered Hitler the Ukraine and other lands in exchange for peace. Of course no evidence is given for this statement, which no one has ever heard of before! Is it a "new discovery"? Remember, the Nazi diplomatic archives were all captured, and microfilmed, by the Allies in 1945. As Samsonov admits, the purpose of this "fact" is simply to make Stalin's wartime leadership look bad. 4a

Why Did The Soviet Win?

Anti-Communists have been wrestling with this for years, beginning with Hitler himself:

Hitler himself was confused. In the Great War [World War One -- ed.] the Russian infantrymen had fought poorly; now they were tigers. Why? (John Toland, Adolf Hitler, Vol 2., p. 791).

...the Russians fought far more bitterly than had the Poles or Allied troops... (Joachim Fest, Hitler, p. 679).

They are still trying to figure it out. The film tells us that the Stalingrad victory was "due in part to the heroism of the Red Army," and that the Battle of Moscow was won by an extra 100,000 men. Remember, the Nazi defeat at Moscow was the first defeat for the Wehrmacht in the war. All the armies of capitalist Europe, including the British, had been crushed. A British professor tells us that Soviet production was outstripping all of German and occupied Europe -- "indeed an achievement." But we never learn what made this possible.

What's the mystery? Haven't the experiences of the Russian Revolution, the Resistance movement, the Chinese Communist Revolution, the heroic Vietnamese struggle against US imperialism, and countless other examples shown the bosses that workers, under the influence of communist ideas, can perform miracles? Capitalists can never admit this.

Lies About the Warsaw Uprising

The film lies about the Warsaw uprising of 1943, accusing Stalin of delaying the Red Army so the anti-Communist (and intensely anti-Semitic -- the film never tells us that) Home Army would be defeated. In fact, Soviet commanders Rokossovsky and Chiukov, as well as German commanders Tippelskirch and Guderian, agree that Nazi resistance is what held the Red Army up. 5 Perhaps the most cynical part of the film blames Stalin for the Nazi murder of millions of Soviet POWs because he refused to sign the Geneva Convention! This is really a disgusting lie. The Nazis treated civilians no better; they considered all Slavs to be "subhuman." It's hard to sink lower than this.

A Rash of Other Lies

We are told that in 1948 Stalin personally planned the murder of Solomon Mikhoels, a famous Jewish actor-director. Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva claims to have overheard her father planning this. There are two aspects to this lie. First, the account of this even in Svetlana's second book shows nothing of the kind. His daughter overhears him say, "Well, it's an auto accident, then," to someone over the phone, and later tells her Mikhoels has been killed in a car accident. She fabricates the rest.

Second, Svetlana mentions Mikhoels' death in her first book, but in a way that shows the does not at all think her father had anything to do with it. Her second volume was written after moving to the US and befriending several virulent anti- Communists at Princeton (who are thanked in the book). Clearly it was they who "convinced" her of what she heard. 6

But Svetlana helps us unravel the lie about the "Doctor's Plot." In January 1953 some Kremlin doctors were charged with murder, then released six months later after Stalin's death and the later execution of Beria (chief of the political police). The film blames this squarely on Stalin, who "apparently wanted a new terror." But Stalin had told his daughter he thought all the Doctor were innocent! The film's writers simply suppress this, as they did her statements that Stalin was devastated by the murder of Kirov (see last week's review). 7

We have limited space, and there are many, many other provable lies in this film and in the series. Once again, ask yourself: Why would they lie if the truth were on their side?

Next week: a final article on the series will explore what's behind the attack on Stalin, and give a bibliography of good historical works to read.


1. "The Lie that Stalin Was Worse than Hitler", Challenge/Desafio, March 18, 1987, pp. 11 ff. Click here to read this article. Back.

2. Robert W. Thurston, "Fear and Belief in the USSR's Great Terror: Response to Arrest, 1935-1939", Slavic Review, 45 (Summer 1986), pp. 213-244. See also the works by Getty and Manning in the bibliography, to be printed in next issue (Click here to go to this article now). Back.

3. Goebbels' diary, May 8, 1943. Back.

4. Jonathan Haslam; Alexander Werth, Russia At War. Back.

4a. Ed. note, 1996: the late anti-Communist Soviet historian General Dmitry Volkogonov's biography of Stalin reveals the source of this tale. According to a document which he footnotes, someone raised the alternative of ceding land to the Nazis at a Politburo meeting right after the start of the war. This suggestion was immediately rejected, and apparently never raised again. There is no evidence that it was Stalin who raised this point. Back.

5. Werth, Russia At War, pp. 795- 800 (paperback edition). Back.

6 . Svetlana Alliluyeva, Only One Year (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 154; Twenty Letters to a Friend (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 196. Back.

7. Twenty Letters, p. 207. Back.

This is the last of four articles about the 1990 PBS series "Stalin." The first three articles (see jumps at the end) exposed how the series was made up of lies. This one examines what we should learn from it.

What Should We Learn From This PBS Series?

Lesson No. 1.

The series is a cold-blooded lie.

• It is not a question of proven facts which can be interpreted differently, as though, say, bourgeois scholars interpret them one way, while we communists interpret them another way;

• It is not a matter of statements which best fit the evidence for a time, but which have been disproven by new research;

• Nor is it a matter of researchers' lies that were accepted in good faith by the PBS writers.

This is something different. These articles have shown that:

• The series has used "experts" and sources which, for the most part, are rejected by bourgeois historians;

• The series has totally ignored the best bourgeois research done during the past 20 years;

• The series has used only those parts of their sources which contain anti-Stalin and anti-Communist "horror stories," while ignoring the rest;

• Whenever one sources contradicts another, whichever source has the most anti-communist tale is used, without exception;

• Viewers are never told about the contradictions;

• The series has made serious allegations without asking for evidence, even when excellent evidence exists that the statements are wrong. In other words: The PBS series involved conscious, deliberate misrepresentations at every stage; in selection of sources and "experts," by the "experts" themselves, and by the writers of the series.

Take a minute to think about this. Reread the three Challenge reviews, if you need to. It is very important to learn this lesson -- and very hard to learn it!

Lesson No. 2:

Do not believe what the ruling class says about the history of the working class, the communist movement, and its leaders.

Virtually all of us, including both new readers of Challenge and long-time, experienced communists, still have many illusions about the capitalist media. We are too apt to think: "Where there's smoke, there must be fire." We find it hard to accept that the bosses' media and experts can really be lying as totally as they are.

We tend to think that culture is somewhat independent of capitalist control. But why shouldn't the ruling class use its media, schools, newspapers, experts, etc., to lie in their own behalf? What else are these means of miseducation except a way to prop up capitalists' power and serve their interests?

Lesson No. 3:

Anti-Communism is Fascism.

Nazi Origins of Western Anti-Communism

The Challenge reviews have pointed out how, in several instances, anti-communist lies in the series were simply copied directly from Nazi propaganda. 1 "Soviet studies" in the West was begun by three groups. Most important were Nazis and their collaborators, who were hired after World War II by the CIA as anti-communist experts, often given jobs at American or British universities. The other two groups -- CIA, MI-6 agents themselves (like Robert Conquest), and Trotskyites, Mensheviks and a few other pre-war defectors, long cut off from the USSR, drew heavily upon the tainted sources of the Nazis or of Nazi collaborators, "laundered" the Nazi lies and gave them credibility.

The Nazis themselves had an entire research and propaganda apparatus concerned with anti-communist propaganda. Much Nazi propaganda -- like the story of the "man-made" famine in the Ukraine -- was simply reprinted in the Western capitalist media at the time, and is still being passed off as the truth, its Nazi origins hidden. A recent book, Blowback, by Christopher Simpson, begins to sum up the tremendous extent to which false Nazi propaganda created the anti-communist propaganda of the Cold War.

Capitalist Propaganda Follows Nazi "Big Lie"

In his autobiography Mein Kampf head Nazi Adolf Hitler described the "Big Lie" technique of propaganda:

"...the size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad... They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of facts ... Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most impudent lie, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end".

The "Big Lie" is the key to understanding capitalist propaganda against communism and the working-class movement generally. With fascist forces emerging openly in the USSR for the first time since the revolution, with a fascist advance against the working class raging throughout the world, we can expect to see and hear more and more lies about communism, especially about the period of Stalin's leadership.

Anti-Communism Is Essential To Fascism

The attack on Stalin and on the first workers' state is basically outright fascism. It runs like this: "Communist revolution inevitably means 'Stalinism' -- terror and millions of innocents killed. Therefore it must be stopped at any cost." This kind of argument has been and remains the main justification of fascist repression of workers and peasants everywhere, ever since Hitler dreamed it up.

How can intellectuals and others be won to torturing, killing, and terrorizing Vietnamese, or Peruvian, or Salvadoran, Filipino, etc., workers and peasants who are rebelling against tremendous exploitation and repression by landlords, capitalists and their governments? Here's how: Convince them that Marxism-Leninism and communist revolution leads inevitably to a "gulag," to "mass killings equal to or worse than the Nazis." It follows that workers and peasants fighting brutal oppression are really worse than their fascist oppressors, and so must be stopped at any cost. This fascist line is the logical conclusion of anti- Stalinism -- in fact, it is the reason anti-Stalinism exists at all!

Capitalist Lies vs. the Communist Truth

"Propaganda must not serve the truth, especially not insofar as it might bring out something favorable for the opponent".

-- Adolph Hitler

We can never hope to disprove the lies as fast as the bourgeoisie can grind them out. Furthermore, we do not have access to the media to bring out the truth. We must therefore win our friends and co-workers -- and, first of all, ourselves -- to this axiom: Don't drink water from a poisoned well. Never believe anything the bosses or their "experts" say about communism! The louder they say it, the more the exploiters unite -- Russian, British, American, whoever -- the less we should believe them.

The capitalists have much to lose from the truth, as this series has shown. Their lies about working-class history are a means to protect their privileges, to preserve their right to exploit. Only the working class can afford to look at the world objectively, because, as Marx and Engels said in 1948, at the dawn of the communist era, "We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win." Join us!

1. There are certainly more lies of Nazi origin in the PBS series than the Challenge reviews indicated. For instance: in Part Two, unidentified film footage was shown while the narrator told of Soviets killing East European nationalists upon the Nazi invasion. This is undoubtedly Nazi newsreel footage, used without acknowledgement, and usually staged for the camera. Back.

Bibliography: Works by PLP

First: want to read the other articles in this series? Click here for the first article, here for the second; and here for the third.

• "Stalin's Successes -- Humanity's Gains," The Communist, No. 1 (Fall 1989), 9-12, 48-72.

• Series of six articles on the Hoax of the Man-Made Famine in the Ukraine, and the "purges" generally, in Challenge, Feb. 26-Apr. 1, 1987. Now on the Worldwide Web -- click here to jump to the first article in this series, with links to the second, and so on.

• "Road to Revolution III" and "Strategy and Tactics of the International Communist Movement," PL Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 3 (November, 1971).

• "The Name and the Game of the Anti-Stalinists," PL Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 4 (June-July, 1976), pp. 58-79.

• "Towards a Correct Assessment of Stalin's Role", PL Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 5 (April, 1977), 14-18.

• "The Retreat from Revolution," PL Magazine, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Summer, 1979), 10-29.

• "The Bolsheviks and the Peasants", PL Magazine, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Fall, 1979), 68-79.

• "The Gulag, the Purges, and the Truth," Challenge, February 28, March 7, 1979; also see the letter, April 11, 1979.

PL Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1981) -- Special issue on the USSR.

Bibliography: Bourgeois Research Worth Reading

A note on bourgeois (non-communist, therefore capitalist) sources: in addition to those cited in the three-part review and in the series on the Ukrainian famine hoax, see any articles by: Jerry Hough, Stephen Wheatcroft, R.W. Davies, J. Arch Getty, Lewis Siegelbaum, William Chase, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Roberta Manning, Lynne Viola, Robert W. Thurston, in Soviet Studies (Edinburgh), The Russian Review, Slavic Review, Russian History / Histoire Russe. Some have published books also.

A good start can be had by reading the works described in Challenge, February 15, 1984, pp. 7-8. If you have trouble finding this article (Challenge is carried by many larger libraries), send a few dollars to PLP and we will mail you a copy.

More references: good articles to read about Stalin and the Purges

Return to the Table of Contents.

Return to the Progressive Labor Party Home Page.

REFERENCES: Good Articles about The "Purges"

Originally published in Challenge-Desafio Vol.20, No. 39, February 15, 1984, pp. 7-8.

We recommend the following bibliography for those interested in more details about the period of the "purges".

(1) Hough, Jerry F., and Merle Fainsod. How the Soviet Union Is Governed. Harvard University Press, 1979.

Chapter 5 deals with the pre-war Stalin period; pages 175-177, with the "purges." Hough refutes the idea of millions of casualties, and concludes:

A figure in the low hundreds of thousands [number of deaths] seems much more probably than one in the high hundreds of thousands, and even George Kennan's estimate of "tens of thousands" is quite conceivable, maybe even probable.

The reference to Kennan is to his Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1941 (Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1960), p. 89.

In general, Hough's book is the best example of bourgeois scholarship on the USSR. He at least applies standards of evidence which are routinely applied by bourgeois historians in other fields, but virtually never to the study of the USSR during Stalin's time.

(2) Getty, John Arch. The "Great Purges" Reconsidered. The Soviet Communist Party, 1933-39. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Boston College, 1979: order University Microfilms No. 79-20473.

This is a thorough study of the whole question. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the "accepted" (Conquest- Solzhenitsyn, et al.) version of the "purges" must be rejected, how completely dishonest their "scholarship" is, how poor their use of evidence.

Getty concurs with Hough (not his advisor or anything, by the way) in the "numbers game" of how many died; cf. Appendix, pp. 560-62, and reviews the major scholarship on it at the time.

But his main service is in going over all the evidence for what was going on in the USSR during this period. See the review in PL Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 70-73, for a brief summary of his thesis.

(3) Getty, John Arch. "Party and Purge in Smolensk: 1933-37", Slavic Review, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring, 1983), pp. 60-79; Also, Getty's "Reply" in the same issue.

Getty lays out the new view of the "purges" and replies to Robert Tucker and N. Rosefield, two Conquest-types. Getty pulls his punches, though, in this article in the leading US Soviet studies journal. It is in no way a substitute for his dissertation.

Getty will have a book coming out, based upon his dissertation, one of these years. [Editor's note, 1996: the book was published by Cambridge University Press in 1985: Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938]

But read the dissertation: you'll never be the same.

(4) Wheatcroft, Stephen G., "On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-56," Soviet Studies (Glasgow), Vol. 33, No. 2 (April, 1981), pp. 265-295.

In attacking an article by S. Rosefielde in the previous issue of Soviet Studies (one that came to Conquest-type conclusions), Wheatcroft analyses and demolishes not only the use of evidence by Rosefielde but, more significantly, of Robert Conquest in his often-cited tome The Great Terror. Again, one has to read this careful examination to believe the depth of chicanery the anti-Stalinists have stooped to.

Wheatcroft cuts down the estimate of the population of labor camps greatly. He estimates the range of possibilities as between "under two million in forced labor camps on the eve of the war" (p. 283) to a maximum number of "some four to five million" in 1939 (p. 286). He discusses the "purge' within the Soviet Union extensively and concludes "the quantitative significance of the 1937-38 purge has also generally been exaggerated" (p. 286).

He has many other fascinating things to say about the "evidence" (émigré and otherwise) used -- or, rather, misused -- by such as Conquest. In general, the whole article should be read carefully.

See also the very weak reply by Robert Conquest, who recognized that Wheatcroft's article was basically an attack upon him, in Soviet Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3 (July, 1982), pp. 434-439. He is reduced at one point to saying that we should believe whatever Andrei Sakharov has said on the subject!

(5) Davies, R.W., and S.G. Wheatcroft," Steven Rosefielde's Kliukva," Slavic Review, Vol. 39, No. 4 (December, 1980). This is a briefer version of the work by Wheatcroft cited directly above.

Note: Davies is the head of CREES (Center for Russian and East European Studies) at the University of Birmingham, England. The work of the scholars there is the best in the world on the USSR in a bourgeois scientific sense. Davies also co-authored the final volumes of E.H. Carr's work with Carr until the latter's death. Wheatcroft is one of the leading researchers at Birmingham [Editor's note, 1996: Wheatcroft has since moved to Australia and continues to do research].

(6) Wheatcroft, S.G., "Towards a Thorough Analysis of Soviet Forced Labor Statistics," Soviet Studies, Vol. 35, No. 2 (April, 1983), pp. 223-237.

This is Wheatcroft's response to the Conquest piece mentioned above. It contains valuable additional criticism and information. It also mentions Getty's dissertation in a note (note 24), but doesn't make much use of it. However, it demolishes Conquest.

These works will give the reader, in addition, the bibliography of the other important recent scholarly works which re-evaluate the "purges" period.

There is a lot of research on the earlier Stalin period that also completely revises the portrait of "totalitarianism" and is not mentioned in these works, however. For example:

• Unger, A. L., "Stalin's Renewal of the Leading Stratum: A Note on the Great Purge," Soviet Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3 (January, 1969), pp. 321-330. This very anti-Communist writer shows how Zbigniew Brzezinski grossly exaggerated the extent of the "purge," expulsions, deaths, etc., in his 1956 work The Permanent Purge, which became a "classic" of anti-Communism. Unger estimates that "expulsions (from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which suffered far more than any other group in Soviet society from the 1937-38 "purges") during the two years 1937-38 could not have exceeded 85,000 (Brzezinski had estimated 850,000! -- p. 328). But Unger's work is used by Wheatcroft as well.

Finally a note on the causes of the "purge" of 1937-38. Getty shows that it came about very suddenly, without any build-up or lead-up to it at all. This does two things. First, it goes against the entire Conquest (and others, e.g. Leonard Shapiro, the consecrated reviewer of all books about the USSR for the New York Review of Books and author of the widely praised, but completely unscholarly book The Communist Party of the Soviet Union) thesis that Stalin carefully planned and orchestrated the "purges" in advance throughout the 1930s to get rid of his enemies.

Second, it points up the crucial nature of the so-called "Tukhachevskii Affair", the purported discovery of a plot within the highest levels of the Soviet armed forces. As Getty shows, the whole "terror" began suddenly, immediately after the generals, led by Tukhachevskii, were arrested and executed.

As Getty says (dissertation):

It seems inescapable that something happened after February and before June 1937 to convince Stalin to unleash Ezhov on non- oppositionists. (p. 423).

The final trigger concerned relations between the Party leadership and the military command. (p. 426)

Although no comprehensive tally had ever been made, it seems that the vast majority of important Party, Soviet, and economic leaders who fell in the Ezhovshchina were arrested in the summer or early fall of 1937 -- that is, coincident with or immediately after the military affair.

As Getty hints later on:

Trotsky believed that an autonomous, entrenched, rightist (but nominally party) bureaucracy had been using Stalin as a kind of front man, but there was always the danger that it would make a dictatorship. It is not unreasonable to argue that in general outline something like this nearly happened, but that Stalin moved first.

The "Tukhachevskii Affair" is important in all of this, as well. There is good, though not conclusive, evidence that a plot of some kind between the Soviet military men and the German General Staff did in fact exist.

[Editor's note, 1996.

Since this article was written in 1984 there has been a lot more excellent research from a bourgeois perspective that helps debunk the anti-Communist -- really, fascist -- attacks on Stalin as "worse than Hitler," etc.

We recommend the articles in the index to the supplements to our weekly newspaper Challenge-Desafio, including the two series on the "Hoax of the Man-Made Famine in the Ukraine" and the critique of the PBS "Stalin" series of 1990. There are plenty of references in those articles, and in their footnotes, to more recent bourgeois research on the USSR, as well as some cautionary words about the limitations of this same research.

We also point out two further works of bourgeois research, available on Internet, that support this view. The first is an article from the Village Voice in 1988 which attacks Conquest and one of his books. The second is a timidly-written article on the Tukhachevskii Affair which shows that there is excellent evidence to support Stalin's and the Bolshevik leadership's claim that Tukhachevskii was in fact involved in some kind of plot against the Soviet government, as Getty also argues (see above).

The lesson of all this is clear: NEVER believe what the capitalist murderers and their "scholars" write about the history of the Communist movement!

Go to Challenge Special Supplement on Stalin

Return to PLP Home Page

Return to books index

The Hoax of the Man-Made Ukraine Famine of 1932-33

Originally published in Challenge-Desafio, newspaper of the Progressive Labor Party, February 25, 1987, pp. 11, 13-14.

On September 24, 1986, a documentary film, "Harvest of Despair," was telecast nationwide over Public Broadcasting System stations This 55-minute film claimed that in 1931-32 ten million Ukrainians were deliberately starved to death by Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

To convince viewers that the film was accurate, a 45-minute panel discussion followed the film. Robert Conquest, one of the panelists, had just published a 400-page book, Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror- Famine.

This film is a fraud. This essay will show that it uses lies, misleading film, and Nazi collaborators, to attack Stalin, the Soviet Union, and the whole idea of communism, while promoting nationalism and fascism.

Why Should We Care?

Why should we care about this? Because any attack on the then-socialist Soviet Union is an attack upon all workers today. Capitalists were horrified by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. For the first time in human history common working people -- under the leadership of a communist party -- proved they could overthrow their exploiters and run a country far better without them. This event still electrifies the world.

Capitalists will do anything to tell workers and other people that this was wrong. Their main way of discouraging workers from fighting for communism is by attacking the ten- socialist USSR under Stalin.


When the Bolsheviks (Russian communists) led the workers to seize power in October 1917, they took the land from large landowners and gave it to the peasants. by the end of the 1920s the Bolsheviks wanted the peasants to pool their land and equipment into collective farms. Greater efficiency would permit the government to collect more taxes, which could finance the industrialization of the ten-backward USSR. In order to do this, the Bolsheviks tried to win the poor and middle peasants to oppose the rich peasants, whom they thought would be the main obstacles to putting their property into collectives. Although many poor and middle peasants did support collectivization, most were either passive or hostile. Tens of thousands of committed workers were recruited in the cities and used force against those peasants who were unwilling to join the collectives.

According to the film, during 1932-33 millions of peasants in the Ukraine were deliberately started to death. This was supposedly done (1) to break the back of resistance to forced collectivization; and (2) to suppress Ukrainian nationalism by destroying the heart of the Ukrainian "nation," the peasant villages. The film claims soldiers and armed workers took most of the grain not only from those peasants who resisted collectivization, but also from those who were already on collective farms, leaving them to starve.

Both film and book were funded by Ukrainian nationalist organizations in the US and Canada. both strongly promote the idea of Ukrainian nationhood and attack communism. They repeatedly call the famine a "holocaust" and "genocide," and explicitly compare it to the German Nazis' massacre of six million Jews during WWII.

Nationalism Leads to Fascism

After the Russian Civil War (1918-21) which followed the Revolution, the leading Ukrainian nationalists fled to Western Europe, and turned to supporting Hitler. Entering the Soviet Union with the Nazi invasion in 1941, they engaged in hair-raising atrocities. The main group, the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) "adopted ... a programme palatable to the Nazis" and "prepared to engage in propaganda, intelligence, and, if necessary, sabotage through their followers in Canada, the United States, and Britain." Although claiming to speak for the Ukrainian people, they met initially with little popular support in the Soviet Union. 1

In WWII, as during the Civil War, the Ukrainian nationalists were petty-bourgeois intellectuals, "unable to penetrate the mass of the population to any great extent." As a result, they relied heavily on their bosses, the Nazis: "The theory and teachings of the Nationalists were very close to Fascism, and in some respects, such as the insistence on `racial purity,' even went beyond the original fascist doctrines". 2

At least two of the persons who appear in the film are Nazi collaborators. Ivan Majstrenko, identified as a former Soviet journalist, is named by Armstrong as a founder of a nationalists émigré party in German in 1947. Metropolitan Mstyslav, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, is identified as "a deputy in the Polish Parliament in 1932-33." Armstrong reveals he was a layman, that is, not a member of the clergy, who was made archbishop by the Nazis during the Nazi invasion, and who was "the most active nationalist among the Autocephalous (Ukrainian Orthodox) bishops". 3

An `Award-Winning' Film

Much is made of the fact that "Harvest of Despair" was awarded the gold medal in the TV Documentaries category and the Grand Award Trophy Bowl for "most outstanding entry" at the 28th International Film and TB Festival of New York in November 1985. Sounds impressive, right? Here's how a film magazine describes this festival:

"International Film and TV Festival of New York. Notoriously known as a pay-through-the-nose-for-a-snatch-of- the-big-time festival, it has been denigrated [criticized] over the years in this column for its policy of giving out specious [good-looking but meaningless] official plaques to all entries regardless of quality of the work". 4

A Canadian newspaper says this of Yurij Luhovy, the film's producer and editor: "The 34-year-old film-maker... admits most of his income has come from editing feature films of questionable quality. He has a reputation as a good `doctor' -- someone who's brought in to salvage a movie which is deemed unreleasable by film exhibitors and distributors". 5

Why would the makers of the film give it to an editor whose specialty is `saving" bad films, and then submit it to a "festival" that is the laughing-stock of the film industry? Because the film is a piece of dishonest, anti-Communist propaganda, as we will see.

Phony Film and Photographs

"The hour-long film ... depends heavily on still photographs of emaciated children and bodies being carted away to recreate the conditions in Ukraine in 1932".

"There can be no question that without the films and photographs uncovered from the 1932-33 famine, the film would lose much of its authority". 6

In 1935, a certain "Thomas Walker" published a five-part story on the famine in the chain of newspapers owned by the fanatical anti-Communist and pro-fascist tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Accompanying the series were photographs, supposedly of starving Ukrainian peasants, which Walker claimed he had taken personally. In March 1935, Louis Fischer, then a pro-Soviet reporter for The Nation, expressed some doubts about "Walker's" photos: "Mr Walker's photographs could easily date back to the Volga famine in 1921. many of them might have been taken outside the Soviet Union. They were taken at different seasons of the year ... One picture includes trees or shrubs with large leaves. Such leaves could not have grown by the `late spring' of Mr. Walker's alleged visit. Other photographs show winter and early fall backgrounds. Here is the Journal [Hearst's New York City newspaper] of the twenty-seventh. a starving, bloated boy of fifteen calmly poses naked for Mr. Walker. The next minute, in the same village, Mr. Walker photographs a man who is obviously suffering from the cold despite his thick sheepskin overcoat. The weather that spring must have been as unreliable as Mr. Walker to allow nude poses one moment and require furs the next". 7

The famine stories ran in the Hearst press in February, 1935. Fischer's rejection of them appear early in march. By July, "Thomas Walker" was in a New York City jail, under arrest as Robert Green, an escaped convict from Colorado, where he was returned to serve out his sentence. Green admitted his photos were frauds, not taken in the Ukraine nor by himself. This was reported in all the New York City newspapers. The Daily Worker, paper of the then- revolutionary Communist Party USA, ran two detailed series about "Walker"/Green and some other phony accounts of the famine from July-20, 1935.

On November 17, 1986, Douglas Tottle, a Canadian researcher, exposed the sources of some of the fraudulent photos at a School Board meeting in Toronto, where Ukrainian nationalists and other anti-communists were trying to get the film and a course based upon it into the Toronto high school curriculum.

Stunned by Tottle's dramatic presentation, and in the presence of reporters from all the Toronto newspapers, Ukrainian nationalist professors began to run for cover. One of them, Orest Subtelny, admitted the still shots were from the 1921-22 famine but justified their use by saying the film lacked "impact" without them. "`You have to have visual impact. You want to show what people dying from a famine look like. Starving children are starving children,' said Subtelny. He offered no apologies for the deliberate attempt to mislead".

Another nationalist who had done research for the film is Marco Carynnyk. an article of his appeared in the November 1983 issue of Commentary, a US neo-conservative Zionist monthly, in which Carynnyk bitterly attacked Louis Fischer and Walter Duranty (New York Times Soviet correspondent during the `30s) for "covering up" the famine. but Tottle's revelations forced Carynnyk to admit he'd been a party to the real cover-up. According to the Toronto Star of November 20:

"Researcher Marco Carynnyk, who says he originated the idea of the film, says his concerns about questionable photographs were ignored.

Carynnyk said that none of the archival film footage used in the movie is of the Ukrainian famine and that `very few photos from `32-33' appear that can be traced as authentic.

A dramatic shot at the film's end of an emaciated girl, which has also been used in the film's promotional material, is not from the 1932-33 famine, Carynnyk said.

`I made the point that this sort of inaccuracy cannot be allowed,' he said in an interview. `I was ignored'".

Carynnyk is suing the St. Vladimir's Institute, the nationalist sponsors of the film, for breach of contract and for copyright infringements. Rumor has it that the filmmakers doctored or distorted some of the interviews which Carynnyk made for the film.

Carynnyk's complaints at the November 17 Toronto Board of Ed meeting are dishonest, of course. The film has been out for three years. Yet Carynnyk never made public his "reservations" about the film's dishonesty until Tottle publicly exposed it. Neither did any of his cronies, with whom he has now apparently fallen out.

The Ukrainian nationalists' admissions clearly prove their intent to deceive. perhaps a few of the still photos of starving people cannot be traced to any source. So what? The nationalists now admit they knew that many others which they used were fraudulent, and that -- we may take Carynnyk's word for it -- none of the film footage used is of the famine.

This has been suggested before. Uniforms and other datable characteristics have suggested to Soviet experts that most - -perhaps even all -- of the footage shown while the narrator is discussing the famine is in fact not of the Ukraine during the `30s, but of the Civil War period (1918-21), or even from W.W.I (1914-18).

Even one of the panelists, Harrison Salisbury, refers to the fact: "it doesn't really disturb me that - I am certain from my familiarity with a lot of documentaries -- that it's a mishmash of all kinds of things put together. It may not be specifically accurate that each one of these horrible corpses actually was in the Ukraine or was in some other place, but in general, there were people exactly like that". 8 Salisbury stresses that he sees nothing wrong with this kind of deception, showing this "honest" anti-Communist's essential similarity to the Ukrainian nationalists. Anti-communism has a certain logic to it: it always ends up as fascism.

Researcher Tottle is publishing a book on the fraudulent scholarship surrounding the "Ukrainian famine" story. It is scheduled to appear within the next six months.

Nationalist `Scholars' and the Intent to Deceive

In a 1984 discussion, James Mace revealed there were two main sources of photos: "Walker's," and the German edition of a book by Ewald Ammende, an Austrian relief worker, published in 1935. Several statements here and in another article of Mace's published that year prove Mace knew that some of the photos were of suspicious origin.

First, Mace makes no mention of any film footage, which he certainly would have it he had known of any. 9 Second, Mace knew there was something wrong with the "Walker" and Ammende photos. He stated: "...he [Dalrymple, another anti- Communist] -- like Ewald Ammende before him -- was taken in by accounts in the Hearst press in 1935, which were updated to indicate that the famine continued into 1934, whereas any of the numerous eyewitnesses who came to the West after World War II would have told him that the famine actually ended in 1933. 10 How could a man who had supposedly traveled to the countryside and personally taken pictures of starving peasants have postdated his account by a whole year?

Third, Mace knew the "Walker" and Ammende accounts. In the 1984 pamphlet Mace makes this revelation about Ammende's book: "The English translation, Human Life in Russia, took some photographs from the Walker account and omitted some that appeared in the German edition, which was published in Vienna in 1935". 11 In fact, the English edition of Ammende's book states that the photos of starving people -- the same ones "Walker" claimed he had taken himself -- were the work of a "Dr. F. Dittloff, for many years director of the German Government Agricultural Concession (Drusag) in the North Caucasus".

"The photographs were taken by Dr. Dittloff himself in the summer of 1933, and they demonstrate the conditions then prevailing on the plains of the agricultural areas of the Hunger Zone. A few of them have been published before elsewhere without his permission. Dr. Dittloff accepts full responsibility for the guarantee of their authenticity (emphasis added)". 12

Both Mace and Conquest were obviously aware of the serious questions as to whether the photos are genuine, since they refer to both Ammende's book and Walker's articles, which contradict each other. They also refer to a book by James Crowl on the journalism of the 1930s, which outlines Louis Fischer's views. Neither Mace nor Conquest reveal any of these matters to their audience.

Mace has worked for years with Ukrainian nationalist committees. He wrote introductions both for Ammende's book (reissued in 1984) and for Alexa Woropay's nationalist tract, The Ninth Circle, both of which give contradictory sources for some of the still photos. Anyone who kept the "Walker" clips from 1935 would have also known of "Walker"'s disgrace the same year. Clearly Mace knew of this, and was a party to the fraud from the beginning.


"Where there's smoke, there's fire." No one has to lie about the truth. The anti-Communist, pro-fascist story about the "great famine" is nonsense. Anti-Communist groups are beginning to show this film, and other TV stations will carry it. They should be picketed for promoting fascist, anti-worker lies and, where possible, stopped.

(Future articles will deal with the book, Harvest of Sorrow; the dishonest use of sources; what really happened; and where the working-class-led Soviet Union went wrong (including not building a communist base with the peasants) and reverted to the capitalist dictatorship it is today)


1 Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945, 2nd edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981), pp.114; 115, n.3 122. Back

2 Armstrong, pp. 238; 280; 289. Back

3 Armstrong, pp. 201, 205. Back

4 The Independent (New York Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers), July/August 1985, p. 68. Back

5 Leonard Klady, "Famine film eye-opener", Winnipeg Free Press, October 26, 1984, p. 24. Back

6 Toronto Globe and Mail, Nov. 18 1986; Klady (see note 5). Back

7 Louis Fischer, "Hearst's Russian `Famine', "The Nation, March 13, 1935, p. 296. Back

8 Transcript of film, p. 23 Back

9 The Man-Made Famine in Ukraine. Robert Conquest, Dana Dalrymple, James Mace, Michael Novak (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1984), pp. 24-5. Back

10 James Mace, Problems of Communism [published by the United States Department of State], March-April 1985, p. 137. Back

11. The Man-Made Famine (see note 9), p. 25. Back

12. Ewald Ammende, Human Life In Russia (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1936), p. 23; emphasis added. Back

In Search of a SOVIET HOLOCAUST: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right by Jeff Coplon, Originally published in the Village Voice (New York City), January 12, 1988.

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