Stalin's Speech at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, March 3, 1937

Comrades, from the reports, and the discussions on them heard in the Plenum, it follows that we have to deal here with the following three basic facts.

First, the wrecking and diversionist-espionage activity of agents of foreign States, among whom a pretty active role was played by the Trotskyites, has affected in one degree or another all or nearly all our organisations - economic, administrative and Party.

Second, agents of foreign States, including Trotskyites, penetrated not only into subordinate organisations, but also to certain responsible posts.

Third, some of our leading comrades, both in the centre and locally, not only failed to discern the real countenance of these wreckers, diversionists, spies, and murderers, but proved so unconcerned, complacent and naïve, that at times they themselves assisted in promoting the agents of the foreign States to one or other responsible post.

These are the three indisputable facts which naturally arise from the reports and the discussions on them.

I. Political Unconcern

How are we to explain the fact that our leading comrades, having a rich experience in the struggle against anti-Party and anti-Soviet currents of every kind, proved in the present case so naïve and blind, that they failed to discern the real countenance of the enemies of the people, failed to recognise the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and could not tear away their mask?

Can it be maintained that the wrecking and diversionist-espionage activity of the agents of foreign States, acting on the territory of the U.S.S.R., could be for us something unexpected and unprecedented? No, this cannot be maintained. This is demonstrated by the wrecking acts in different branches of the national economy during the last ten years, beginning with the Shakhty period, recorded in official documents.

Can it be asserted that in recent times we had no warning signals, no precautionary hints about the wrecking, spying, or terrorist activity of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite agents of fascism? No, this cannot be asserted. There were such signals and Bolsheviks have no right to forget about them . . .

How are we to account for the fact that our Party comrades, despite their experience in the struggle against anti-Soviet elements, despite numerous warning signals and precautionary reminders, proved to be politically short-sighted in face of the wrecking and spying diversionist activity of the enemies of the people?

Maybe our Party comrades have become worse than they were before, less conscious and less disciplined? No, of course not!

Maybe they have begun to degenerate? This is not true either. Such a presumption would be totally unfounded.

What then is the matter? Whence such a gaping attitude, unconcern, complacency and blindness?

The fact of the matter is that our Party comrades, engrossed in economic campaigns and elated by the colossal successes on the front of economic construction, simply forgot a few extremely important facts which Bolsheviks have no right to forget. They forgot one basic fact connected with the international position of the U.S.S.R. and failed to perceive two highly important facts which have direct bearing on the present-day wreckers, spies, diversionists and murderers who shield themselves behind the Party card and mask themselves as Bolsheviks.


II. Capitalist Encirclement

What facts are these which our Party comrades have forgotten or which they simply have not noticed?

They have forgotten that the Soviet power was victorious in only one-sixth of the world, that five-sixths of the world is in the possession of capitalist States. They have forgotten that the Soviet Union finds itself in circumstances of capitalist encirclement. We have the habit of chattering about capitalist encirclement, but many do not want to ponder over what exactly this capitalist encirclement means . . .

Is it not clear that so long as we have a capitalist encirclement we shall have in our own country wreckers, spies, diversionists and murderers sent to our rear by the agents of foreign States?

All this our Party comrades had forgotten, and, having forgotten this, they were taken by surprise.

That is why the espionage-diversionist work of the Trotskyite agents of the Japanese-German secret police was a complete surprise to some of our comrades.


III. Contemporary Trotskyism

Further. In waging the struggle with Trotskyite agents, our Party comrades did not notice, overlooked, that present day Trotskyism is no longer what it was, let us say, seven or eight years ago; that Trotskyism and the Trotskyites have, during that time, undergone a serious evolution which has fundamentally altered the face of Trotskyism; that for this reason the struggle against Trotskyism, and the methods of struggle against it likewise must be fundamentally altered.

Our Party comrades have not noticed that Trotskyism has ceased to be a political tendency in the working class, that from the political tendency in the working class that it was seven or eight years ago, Trotskyism has become a frenzied and unprincipled band of wreckers, diversionists, spies and murderers, acting on instructions from intelligence service organs of foreign States . . .

The mistake of our Party comrades lies in the fact that they did not notice this profound difference between Trotskyism in the past and the Trotskyism of the present day. They did not perceive that the Trotskyites have long since ceased to be people of ideas, that the Trotskyites have long since degenerated into highway robbers capable of any villainy, capable of all that is base down to espionage and direct treason to their fatherland in order to injure the Soviet State and the Soviet power. They did not discern this and were therefore unable to reorganise themselves in time to wage a struggle against the Trotskyites along new lines, more decisively.

That is why the abominations of the Trotskyites in recent years have come as an utter surprise to some of our Party comrades . . .

. . . The strength of the Shakhty and Industrial Party people lay in the fact that they possessed to a greater or lesser degree the necessary technical knowledge at a time when our people, lacking such knowledge, were compelled to learn from them . . . Not so the present-day wreckers,  . . . [who] have no technical advantage over our people whatsoever . . .

Wherein then lies the strength of the contemporary wreckers, the Trotskyites? Their strength lies in their Party membership card, in their possession of the Party membership card. Their strength lies in the fact that the Party membership card gains for them political confidence and opens all our institutions and organisations to them. Their advantage lay in the fact that, possessing Party membership cards and pretending to be friends of the Soviet power, they have deceived our people POLITICALLY, abused confidence, wrecked on the sly and revealed our State secrets to the enemies of the Soviet Union. A doubtful ‘advantage’ in its political and moral value, but nevertheless an ‘advantage’. This ‘advantage’ explains, in substance, why the Trotskyite wreckers, as people with Party membership cards having access everywhere, to all our institutions and organisations, proved to be a real find for the intelligence service organs of foreign States.

The mistake made by some of our Party comrades was that they did not perceive, did not understand all this difference between the old and new wreckers, between the Shakhty and Trotskyite wreckers, and not perceiving this, were not able to reorganise themselves in time in order to wage a struggle against the new wreckers along new lines.


IV. Dark Sides of our Economic Successes

Such are the basic facts connected with our international and internal situation which were forgotten or unnoticed by many of our Party comrades. That is why our people were caught unawares by the events of recent years in regard to wrecking and diversion.

It may be asked: why did our people fail to perceive all this, why did they forget about all this? Whence came all this forgetfulness, blindness, unconcern, and complacency? .

  . . . There are dangers . . . associated with successes, dangers associated with achievements. Yes, yes, comrades, dangers associated with successes, with achievements. These dangers consist in this that people who are little versed in politics, who have had little experience of the atmosphere of success - success after success, achievement after achievement, over-fulfilment of plan after over-fulfilment - are apt to fall into a disposition of unconcern and self-satisfaction; an atmosphere is created of ceremonial parades and mutual congratulations which stultify the sense of proportion and blunt the political sense, puffing up people and impelling them to rest on their laurels.

No wonder that, in this stupefying atmosphere of conceit and self-satisfaction, the atmosphere of parades and noisy self-praise, people forget certain essential facts which are of paramount importance to the destinies of our country; people begin to overlook such unpleasant facts as the capitalist encirclement, the new forms of wrecking, the dangers associated with our successes and so on . . .

V. Our Tasks

How can these defects in our work be eliminated? What has to be done?   The following measures must be carried out:-

(1) It is necessary above all to turn the attention of our Party comrades, absorbed in ‘current questions’ in one institution or another, towards big political questions of an international and internal character.

(2) It is necessary to raise the political work of our Party to the proper level, placing in the foreground the task of political education and the Bolshevik tempering of Party, Soviet and industrial cadre.

(3) It is necessary to explain to our Party comrades that economic successes - the importance of which is undoubtedly very great and for which we will continue to strive from day to day, from year to year - nevertheless do not exhaust the whole work of our Socialist construction . . .

(4) It is necessary to remember and never to forget that capitalist encirclement is the basic fact determining the international position of the Soviet Union . . .

(5) It is necessary to explain to our Party comrades that the Trotskyites, representing the active elements of the diversionist-wrecking and espionage activity of the foreign intelligence service organs, have long ago ceased to be a political current in the working class, that they have long ago ceased to serve any kind of idea compatible with the interests of the working class, that they have become an unprincipled band of wreckers devoid of ideas, diversionists, spies, murderers hired by foreign intelligence service organs.

To explain that in the struggle with contemporary Trotskyism, not the old methods are now needed, not methods of discussion, but new methods, methods of uprooting and destroying.

(6) It is necessary to explain to our Party comrades the difference between contemporary wreckers and the wreckers of the Shakhty period, to explain that whilst the wreckers of the Shakhty period deceived our people in technique, taking advantage of the technical backwardness of the latter, the contemporary wreckers, possessing Party membership cards, deceive our people’s political confidence in them, as members of the Party, taking advantage of the political unconcern of our people . . .

  The central question for us now is, not the abolition of the technical backwardness of our cadres, for in the main it has already been abolished, but in the abolition of political unconcern and political credulity toward wreckers who have accidentally received Party membership cards . . .

(7) It is necessary to shatter and discard the rotten theory to the effect that with every step of progress which we make the class struggle here is bound to die down more and more, that in proportion to the growth of our successes the class enemy becomes more and more tamed.

This is not only a rotten theory, but also a dangerous theory, for it lulls our people to sleep, it leads them into a snare, while allowing the class enemy the possibility of rallying for the struggle against the Soviet power.

On the contrary, the greater our progress, the greater our successes, the more embittered the remnants of the smashed exploiting classes will become, the more quickly they will resort to sharper forms of struggle, the more they will do damage to the Soviet State, the more they will clutch at the most desperate means of struggle as the last resort of the doomed . . .

(8) It is necessary to shatter and discard another rotten theory which alleges that he who is not always engaged in wrecking, and who at least sometimes shows success in his work, cannot be a wrecker.

This strange theory betrays the naïveté of its authors. No wrecker will go on wrecking all the time, if he does not wish to be exposed very rapidly. On the contrary, the real wrecker will show success in his work from time to time, for this is the only means of staying on the job, of worming himself into confidence and continuing his wrecking activity.

I believe this question is clear and needs no further elucidation.

(9) It is necessary to shatter and discard a third rotten theory the meaning of which is that systematic fulfilment of the economic plans allegedly sets at nought wrecking and the results of wrecking . . .

(10) It is necessary to shatter and discard a fourth rotten theory which alleges that the Stakhanov movement is the basic means of doing away with wrecking . . .

(11) It is necessary to shatter and discard a fifth rotten theory which alleges that the Trotskyite wreckers have no more reserves, which alleges that they are rallying their last cadres.

This is not true, comrades. This theory could be invented only by naïve people. For the Trotskyite wreckers have their reserves. They consist above all of the remnants of the routed exploiting classes in the U.S.S.R.. They consist of a number of groups and organisations beyond the borders of the U.S.S.R. that are hostile to the Soviet Union .

(12) Finally, it is necessary to smash and cast off one more rotten theory to the effect that since there are many of us Bolsheviks, and few of the wreckers, since we Bolsheviks are supported by tens of millions of people while the Trotskyite wreckers are merely individuals and dozens, therefore we Bolsheviks can afford not to pay any attention to some handful of wreckers.

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