Written by Vladimir Moss



     “Even before the Third Reich had collapsed,” writes Paul Kennedy, “Stalin was switching dozens of divisions to the Far East, ready to unleash them upon Japan’s denuded Kwantung Army in Manchuria when the time was ripe; which turned out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, three days after Hiroshima. The extended campaign on the western front more than reversed the disastrous post-1917 slump in Russia’s position in Europe… Russian territorial boundaries expanded, in the north at the expense of Finland, in the centre at the expense of Poland; and in the south, recovering Bessarabia, at the expense of Rumania. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were incorporated into Russia. Part of East Prussia [around Konigsburg, now Kaliningrad] was taken, and a slice of Eastern Czechoslovakia (Ruthenia, or Subcarpathian Ukraine) was also thoughtfully added, so that there was direct access to Hungary. To the west and southwest of this enhanced Russia lay a new cordon sanitaire of satellite states, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and (until they wriggled free) Yugoslavia and Albania. Between them and the West, the proverbial ‘iron curtain’ was falling; behind that curtain, Communist party cadres and secret police were determining that the entire region would operated under principles totally at variance with [American Secretary of State] Cordell Hull’s hopes. The same was true in the Far East, where the swift occupation of Manchuria, North Korea, and Sakhalin not only avenged the war of 1904-05, but allowed a link-up with Mao’s Chinese Communists, who were also unlikely to swallow the gospel of laissez-faire capitalism.”[1]

     However, there is little evidence that Stalin was planning to extend his conquests westwards, beyond East Germany, in 1945; he was not ready (yet) for world war, especially while he did not have his own atomic bomb[2], and needed time to digest his newly-acquired empire in Central and Eastern Europe. His only sign of renewed aggression outside the Far East was in creating an Azerbaijani puppet state in Iran, which the West vigorously – and successfully - resisted. His demands for Turkish territory and control of the Black Sea Straits were also foiled. Stalin even hesitated to impose communism fully and immediately on his European conquests – although it was already clear that he had no intention of fulfilling the promises he had made at Yalta to introduce democracy there.

     But this was only a transitional phase: Stalin’s ultimate aim of destroying the West remained unchanged, as was made clear in a speech by Beria’s deputy, Minister of State Security Victor Abakumov, to an audience of SMERSH officers at NKVD Headquarters in occupied Europe near Vienna in the summer of 1945: “Comrade Stalin once said that if we don’t manage to do all these things very quickly the British and Americans will crush us. After all they have the atom bomb, and an enormous technical and industrial advantage over us. They are rich countries, which not been destroyed by the war. But we will rebuild everything, with our army and our industry, regardless of the cost. We Chekists are not to be frightened by problems and sacrifices. It is our good fortune… that the British and Americans in their attitudes towards us, have still not emerged from the post-war state of calf-love. They dream of lasting peace and building a democratic world for all men. They don’t seem to realize that we are the ones who are going to build a new world, and that we shall do it without their liberal-democratic recipes. All their slobber plays right into our hands, and we shall thank them for this, in the next world, with coals of fire. We shall drive them into such dead ends as they’ve never dreamed of. We shall disrupt them and corrupt them from within. We shall lull them to sleep, sap their will to fight. The whole ‘free western’ world will burst apart like a fat squashed toad. This won’t happen tomorrow. To achieve it will require great efforts on our part, great sacrifices, and total renunciation of all that is trivial and personal. Our aim justifies all this. Our aim is a grand one, the destruction of the old, vile world.”[3]

     This speech demonstrates two things. On the one hand, the old satanic hatred of the Leninist-Bakuninite revolution for the whole of “the old, vile world” continued unabated. That meant that no “normal” relations would be possible with the Soviet Union; for it was in fact an anti-state determined to destroy all normal statehood throughout the world. Two possibilities were therefore open to the West: war, or “containment”, to use the phrase of the venerable American diplomat John Kennan in his famous “Long Telegram” of February 22, 1946. The West contemplated war, but in the end chose containment; that is, the Soviets were to be contained within the boundaries of their WWII conquests, as sanctioned at Yalta and Potsdam.

     On the other hand, Stalin was a cautious man[4], and not yet ready for further military expansion. Denis Healey asserted that “all that the Red Army needed in order to reach the North Sea was boots.” But it was not quite as simple as that. As Eric Hobsbawm writes, “Except in the Balkan guerilla strongholds, the communists made no attempt to establish revolutionary regimes. It is true that they were in no position to do so anywhere west of Trieste even had they wanted to make a bid for power, but also that the USSR, to which their parties were utterly loyal, strongly discouraged such unilateral bids for power. The communist revolutions actually made (Yugoslavia, Albania, later China) were made against Stalin’s advice. The Soviet view was that, both internationally and within each country, post-war politics should continue within the framework of the all-embracing anti-fascist alliance, i.e. it looked forward to a long-term coexistence, or rather symbiosis, of capitalist and communist systems, and further social and political change, presumably occurring by shifts within the ‘democracies of a new type’ which would emerge out of the wartime coalitions. This optimistic scenario soon disappeared into the night of the Cold War, so completely that few remember that Stalin urged the Yugoslav communists to keep the monarchy or that in 1945 British communists were opposed to the break-up of the Churchill wartime coalition, i.e. to the electoral campaign which was to bring the Labour government in power. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Stalin meant all this seriously, and tried to prove it by dissolving the Comintern in 1943, and the Communist Party of the USA in 1944.

     “Stalin’s decision, expressed in the words of an American communist leader ‘that we will not raise the issue of socialism in such a form and manner as to endanger or weaken… unity’ made his intentions clear. For practical purposes, as dissident revolutionaries recognized, it was a permanent goodbye to world revolution. Socialism would be confined to the USSR and the area assigned by diplomatic negotiation as its zone of influence, i.e. basically that occupied by the Red Army at the end of the war…”[5]

     Why this (temporary) abdication from Lenin’s dream? Because, for all its massive power, the Soviet Union was vulnerable in many ways… “In the West,” writes Nikolai Tolstoy, “Russian heroism and wartime propaganda had combined to exaggerate the formidable strength of the Red Army. A prescient few already saw it as a potent threat to Western Europe. To Stalin matters appeared in a rather different light. True, his armies had, with unheard-of gallantry and sacrifices, hunted down ‘the Nazi beast in his lair’. But he also knew better than most how very near at times they had been to defeat, and also how much his conquests had owed to lend-lease supplies and American and British strategic bombing. Now the United States, with an industrial capacity and military resources dwarfing those of Germany at the height of her power, faced him in the heart of Europe….

     “In 1945 the USSR still possessed no strategic air force, and there can be no doubt that Stalin regarded the awesome striking power under Eisenhower’s command with apprehension. In April 1944 he had warned his Chiefs of Staff against any idea that the defeat of Germany would be the end of their problems. There would be other dangers, equally great; notably the exposure of the Red Army to populations hostile to Communism, and stiffening relations with the Allies in the West. Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Baltic States, nationalist partisans were fighting the Red Army and NKVD units on a scale recalling the bitterest days of the Civil War. Stalin was clearly fearful that the Western Allies would have the wit to play that card the purblind Germans had thrown away: the opposition of the Russian people to the regime. The extent of his fear may be gauged by his absolute refusal to consent to British arming of Russian sentries in prisoner-of-war camps or even enrolling them in a purely nominal ‘armed Allied unit’. He feared this might provide cover for the levying of a new ‘Vlasov’ army.

     “Fear of military confrontation with the Anglo-Americans, revolt inside the Soviet Union[6], or contamination of the Red Army in occupied Europe effectively inhibited Stalin from any rash ventures in 1945. There were points on which he would not give way, but they were points on which the Anglo-Americans had no effective means of bringing pressure to bear. The new Soviet-Polish frontier, the annexation of the Baltic States, the refusal to implement Churchill’s illusory ‘percentages’ agreement: all these moves took place safely behind Red Army lines, and the worst the democracies could do was affect not to recognize their legitimacy.

     “Caution was everything. It was still hard to believe that the West was sincere in its belief in the possibility of genuine post-war cooperation between the two irreconcilable systems. The results of the Teheran Conference had seemed almost too good to be true (Stalin returned to the Kremlin ‘in a particularly good frame of mind’) and after Potsdam a Soviet official noted that ‘the Soviet diplomats won concessions from the Western Allies to an extent that even the diplomats themselves had not expected’. After the defeat of Germany Stalin had been fearful that the Americans might not pull back to the demarcation line, and remained convinced that Eisenhower could, had he chosen, have taken Berlin. Still, the Allies were co-operating, for whatever reason, and as Roosevelt had irresponsibly announced at Yalta that the United States forces would withdraw from Europe within two years of victory, there was every incentive for a policy of ‘softly, softly, catchee monkey’.

     “Despite the overwhelming Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe, Stalin was careful for some time to maintain the pretense and even, to a limited, fast diminishing extent, the reality of tolerating non-Communist institutions and political parties.In Romania it was announced that there was no intention of altering the country’s frontiers or social system. It was more than two years before King Michael was obliged to leave the country. Similarly, in Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary the shades of independent institutions were permitted to linger on until election results proved that the most extreme efforts of intimidation and propaganda could not induce populations voluntarily to accept Communist domination. Czechoslovak ‘independence’ survived a little longer, as a result of Stalin’s confidence in the pliability of Dr. Beneš and his colleagues.

     “Postponement of the full establishment of the Soviet ‘New Order’ in Eastern Europe was clearly due to several factors. If the new regimes could gain power by constitutional and legal means, this would facilitate the task of Communist Parties in Western Europe, and it was essential, too, not to jettison chances of securing a settlement in Germany favourable to Soviet expansion.

     “In any case, Stalin was by no means so confident as hindsight would suggest. In Poland the carefully-planned abduction and trial of sixteen leaders of the Home Army resistance movement in March 1945 suggest that in his view effective Polish armed resistance to the imposition of Soviet rule posed sufficient threat to make it worth risking the inevitable outcry that would arise in the West.

     “All over Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the NKVD and SMERSH stretched their enormous resources to cauterize resistance. Soviet propaganda had tended for ideological reasons to exaggerate the role played by partisan and ‘people’s’ armies in defeating Nazism, and they clearly were now taking no chances. Suspect elements of occupied countries were dispatched in an unceasing shuttle of trainloads to the GULAG camps, which continued to underpin Soviet economic production until after Stalin’s death.

     “About five and a quarter million Soviet citizens were recovered from Western and Central Europe. All had to be elaborately screened, after which the majority were assigned to forced labour in GULAG camps and elsewhere. At the same time deportations from the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Ukraine, the Baltic States and other regions of the USSR continued unabated. As if this were not enough, the hard-pressed NKVD apparatus had to absorb millions of Germans, Japanese, Romanian and Hungarian prisoners-of-war.

     “The eight years between VE Day and Stalin’s death saw the dictator become increasingly jealous, vengeful and vindictive. Fear of the Soviet and Soviet-dominated people, mistrust of the power of the United States, apprehension at the onset of old age with all its dangerous frailties, and recurring bouts of paranoiac suspicion concurred to cause him to double and redouble precautions deemed necessary for his survival and that of the regime.

     “Danger loomed everywhere. The USSR was sealed in a quarantine more hermetic even than before the war. The tentacles of the NKVD uncoiled to crush incipient dissent even before its practitioners were aware of their own intentions. Jews, heretical biologists, bourgeois composers, critics of Lysenko’s eccentric genetic theories, supporters of Marr’s still odder philological speculations… all, all were engaged in conspiracies so dark that only the Leader could penetrate the Arcanum… But Stalin was not mad, not even at the end when death interrupted the unfolding of the notorious ‘doctors’ plot’. As Adam Ulam writes, ‘ the madness lay in the system that gave absolute power to one man and allowed him to appease every suspicion and whim with blood.’ His formative years had been spent in an entirely conspiratorial atmosphere. Roman Malinovsky, one of Lenin’s ablest colleagues, had proved to be a Tsarist spy. And now NKVD records contained the names of innumerable highly-placed men and women in capitalist countries who had outwitted the formidable British and American security services in order to betray their class and country. As Stalin chuckled at the blindness of his enemies, the uncomfortable corollary must have recurred as frequently: how many of his people were secreted leagued with ‘the gentlemen from the Thames’? What if one of his closest cronies – Molotov, Mikoyan or Voroshilov – for example – were an English spy or assassin?

     “It is clear that the Soviet Union for internal reasons sought to put a distance between itself and the West. The absurd and cruel policy of refusing to allow Soviet war brides of US and British servicemen to leave the country betrayed the extent of Stalin’s fears. War had stretched the resources of the police-state to their limits – limits now being tested further by the herculean task of reimposing totalitarian controls within the USSR, and extending them to the conquered territories beyond. The military power of the Western Allies was daunting enough, but the danger to Soviet morale seemed still greater.”[7]

     Whatever Stalin’s military plans, and whatever his problems at home, he never abandoned espionage in the West. The “Cambridge five” of British spies were the most famous and damaging, but there were also spies in the US government. This was the subject of Senator McCarthy’s famous “Communist witchhunt” in the early 1950s.

     T.J. Roberts writes: “From Isadora Duncan, Lincoln Steffens, John Dewey, Jane Addams, to a vast conglomerate of labor unions, Communist Sympathizers were everywhere. But perhaps the most egregious story was of one of the most trusted newspapers of the time, The New York Times, intentionally covering up Stalin’s genocide against the Ukrainians. Walter Duranty was the Moscow Bureau Chief from 1922 to 1936 for the New York Times. He was assigned with the task of reporting on the inner workings of the Soviet Union, and went on to receive a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.

      “But of course his reporting was not honest. Despite the clear evidence, Duranty reported ‘no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be’ in the Soviet Union in November of 1932. At this point, millions had been deliberately starved in Ukraine by Stalin. This reporting only continued for the remaining four years Duranty spent in the Soviet Union. Years later, there were calls to revoke Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize. Those calls were, of course, ignored. Perhaps Duranty knew that no one would ever consider socialism as an option were the atrocious acts of the communists exposed.

     “Things get worse when one considers the fact that the communists had successfully become a part of the US Government... With the revealing of these cases, one could see the immense power of the war McCarthy waged to keep communists and agents of the Soviet Union out of the US Government. Much of the information provided here is readily accessible through the 1995 declassified Venona Project files.

     “The Venona files are Soviet messages US intelligence intercepted throughout the 1940s. As of now, it is confirmed that at least 350 Americans played an active role in Soviet espionage. This is an extremely conservative estimate since only about one in ten messages have been decoded. With this in mind, we could assume that more names are listed in the still encrypted messages. In addition, no one knows how many messages the US government failed to intercept. Ultimately, no one knows how many American communist sympathizers actively worked with the Soviet Union to bring about Communism in the US, but we can be certain that at least 350 were. But here are the stories of a few of the communists who managed to infiltrate the US Federal Government and impose policies that brought America closer to Communism.

     “Harry Dexter White, Assistant Secretary of Treasury, was a Soviet agent who used the code name ‘Jurist.’ Not only was White the Assistant Secretary of Treasury, but he was instrumental in founding the World Bank, and was the first director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). White brought the Soviets one step closer to the establishment of world-wide communism through globalist central planning.

     “Alger Hiss, attendant of the Yalta Convention and legal assistant to the Nye Committee, was also convicted of perjury in connection to acts of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. The Nye Committee was another organization that was fully dedicated to the establishment of international governing organizations upon the end of WWII. Hiss ultimately played an instrumental role in the establishment of entities such as the UN.

      Laurence Duggan, code named ‘Frank’ and ‘19,’ was in charge of US relations with South America during WWII and was the president of the Institute for International Education. Duggan was a Soviet spy from the 30s until his death. [8]


     Even without the western threat, Soviet morale was low enough. In spite of stripping Eastern and Central Europe of vast resources – reparations far greater than had been agreed at Yalta – the country was still desperately poor.[9] As John Darwin writes, “Harvest failure in 1946 brought large-scale famine… Ferocious work discipline, conscripted labour, and the heavy reliance on slave or semi-slave labour were used even more widely than before the war against a cowed, ill-fed and exhausted population. Perhaps 10 per cent of industrial output came from the Gulag…”[10]

     What resources there were were spent on the army, the secret services and building the atom bomb, while millions starved – quietly and without protest. For only in the concentration camps was there a measure of protest. There Christians of many kinds together with writers like Solzhenitsyn (who was imprisoned for criticizing Stalin in 1945) nurtured their internal freedom in conditions of total slavery, where they had nothing but their chains to lose. Besides, open rebellion continued in the west of the country: according to Kirill Alexandrov, “The famine of 1947 and the armed struggle with the rebels in the western provinces of the USSR took away no less than one million lives.”[11]

     As Martin Gilbert writes, “an element of lawlessness also perturbed the apparently settled routine of Soviet life. In 1946 Stalin was told that the security police had arrested 10, 563 pupils who had run away from Factory Training Schools, as well as from trade and railway schools. According to a report from the Minister of the Interior, S.N. Kruglov, ‘Many crimes had been committed, including robbery and gangsterism’, by students from the schools. Kruglov also gave Stalin the reason. ‘The living conditions in the schools are unsatisfactory,’ he explained. ‘They are unsanitary and cold, and often without electric light.’ 

     “It was not only the discipline of trainees that Stalin sought to tighten. Disciplining the intelligentsia was another task that he set himself. The instrument of his will was A.A. Zhdanov, his lieutenant on the ideological front, who called a special conference of writers, artists and composers – including Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Khachaturian – to warn them of the folly of independent thought, in music as much as in writing and art. The Soviet Writers’ Union met with Stalin’s particular anger for what he saw as repeated attempts at independent expression of opinion. The poet Anna Akhmatova was described by Zhdanov a “half nun, half whore”, and was among those expelled from the Union in 1946. Such expulsion meant an end to the right to publish – a writer’s means of livelihood.”[12]

     In February, 1948, “the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a decree on music, accusing Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian of ‘losing touch with the masses’ and of falling victims to ‘decadent bourgeois influences’. The three made an immediate confession of their ‘errors’ and promised to mend their ways – and amend their music – in future. Newspapers also fell under the displeasure of the most rigorous ideological scrutiny. The satirical magazine Krokodil was censured by the Central Committee for its ‘lack of militancy’ in portraying the evil ways of capitalism. The Academy of Social Sciences, which had been established after the war, was reorganized to provide a more rigorous ideological training for Party and State officials.

     “With Stalin’s personal sanction, a ferocious newspaper campaign was launched against two declared enemies of Soviet Communism, ‘bourgeois nationalism’ and the ‘survival of religious prejudice’. Some indication of how deeply religious feeling must have survived after thirty-one years of Communist rule was seen in the calls in Pravda for a more vigorous anti-religious propaganda…”[13]

     Science also suffered.

     “In the research instiutes ‘cosmopolitan’ tendencies were rooted out. In the Institute of Linguistics, N.Ia. Marr was dismissed for teaching that all human languages had a common root and would one day reintegrate in the proletarian internationalist society. Stalin had decided that only Russian was worthy to be the international language of the future: he implied that language was a permanent feature of a nation’s culture, more or less impervious to social change. In short, for Stalin proletarian internationalism and Russian imperialism had finally become indistinguishable.

     “In genetics a ‘barefoot scientist’, Trofim Lysenko, with party support, gained the ascendancy over established and reputable scientists. Contrary to accepted biological theory, he taught that in living organisms characteristics derived from the environment could be passed on genetically. He deduced from his theory proposals on how plant-breeding could be improved. The academic establishment mostly resisted his ideas as poorly attested hypotheses, but he was able to gain control of the Institute of Plant Breeding, and from there to dominate genetics and much of bioloty for more than a decade.

     “in all these cases, party stooges in the institutes and creative unions were testing their control of the nomenklatura personnel lists to promote their own candidates and eliminate their opponents. This was a form clientelism against which there was no appeal. The penalty for resisting was no longer arrest and execution, as it would have been in the 1930s, but usually dismissal, with its accompanying demotion into the ranks of the unprivileged, living in communal apartments and queuing up in poorly stocked state shops. It was a price which few were prepared to pay. Most scholars and scientists reoriented their work along the lines which their bosses and ideologists expected of them, or retreated into fields free of any ideological implications. Shostakovich, for example, seriously contemplated suicide, but then withdrew into an ideologically neutral zone and composed a complete set of preludes and fugues on the model of Bach…”[14]


February 6/19, 2020.

[1] Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, London: William Collins, 1988, pp. 465-466.

[2] “As early as June 1942 the NKVD instructed its agents in New York and London to ‘take whatever measures you think fit to obtain information on the theoretical and practical aspects of the atomic bomb projects, on the design of the atomic bomb, nuclear fuel components, and on the trigger mechanism’. In short order, Soviet agents succeeded in penetrating the Manhattan Project. By the spring of 1945 there were three Soviet agents inside the Los Alamos complex in New Mexico where the first bomb was built, each unaware that the others were spies. It only heightened the subsequent security panic that the scientist in charge of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was a fellow–travelling Communist, if not actually a Party member. In February 1943 Stalin authorized work to begin on a Soviet bomb. But in the end the first Soviet bomb was a carbon copy of the US bomb tested at Alamogordo on July 16, 1945; an achievement of espionage as much as of science” (Ferguson, op. cit, pp. 575-576).

[3] Abakumov, in Nikolai Tolstoy, Stalin’s Secret War, London: Jonathan Cape, 1981, p. 329.

[4] As Boris Souvarin put it in a 1948 article: “Stalin’s policy is made up of caution, patience, intrigue, infiltration, corruption, terrorism, exploitation of human weaknesses. It only moves to frontal attack when it cannot lose, against an adversary of its choice who is defeated in advance” (in Revel, op. cit., p. 97). (V.M.)

[5] Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century (1914-1991), London: Abacus, 1994, pp. 168-169.

[6] “Banderites” were still waging a guerilla was in Western Ukraine. And in 1948 “a revolt of camp inmates at Igarka was suppressed. As many as 2,666 escaped towards the Urals. They were bombed from the air and nearly all were killed or captured” (Martin Gilbert, The Dent Atlas of Russian History, London: Dent, 1993, p. 111). (V.M.)

[7] Tolstoy, op. cit., pp. 351, 352-355.

[8]Roberts,McCarthy Was Right: There Were Communist Infiltrators in America!”, Liberty Hangout, May 30, 2017.

[9] Between 1947 and 1953 prices on basic foodstuffs dropped between 1.3 and 3 times.

[10] Darwin, After Tamerlane. The Rise & Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, London: Penguin, 2007, p. 473.

[11] Alexandrov, “Stalin i sovremennaia Rossia: vybor istoricheskikh otsenik ili vybor buduschego?” (Stalin and contemporary Russia: a choice of historical estimates or a choice of the future?), report read at the Russian Centre, San Francisco, February 3, 2017.

[12] Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. 2: 1933-1951, London: HarperCollins, 1998, pp. 769-770. See also Sir Isaiah Berlin, “Conversations with Akhmatova and Pasternak”, in The Proper Study of Mankind, London: Pimlico, 1998, pp. 525-552.

[13] Gilbert, op. cit., pp. 821-822.

[14] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, London: Penguin, 2012, pp. 527-529.

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