Lenin orders the massacre of sex workers, 1918

Kaganovich, 1934

Lenin's letter to G. F. Fyodorov ordering "mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like." in Nizhni, where the Czech white forces were amassing. Kaganovich implemented the terror although while there is some evidence of a sex industry operating in Nizhni (see comments) actual executions during the terror are estimated to be in the low hundreds and predominately men.

August 9, 1918

Comrade Fyodorov,

It is obvious that a whiteguard insurrection is being prepared in Nizhni. You must strain every effort, appoint three men with dictatorial powers (yourself, Markin and one other), organise immediately mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like.

Not a minute of delay.

I can’t understand how Romanov could leave at a time like this!

I do not know the bearer. His name is Alexei Nikolayevich Bobrov. He says he worked in Vyborgskaya Storona District in Petrograd (from 1916).... Previously worked in Nizhni in 1905.

Judging by his credentials, he can be trusted. Check up on this and set him to work.

Peters, Chairman of the Extraordinary Commission, says that they also have reliable people in Nizhni.

You must act with all energy. Mass searches. Execution for concealing arms. Mass deportation of Mensheviks and unreliables. Change the guards at warehouses, put in reliable people.

They say Raskolnikov and Danishevsky are on their way to see you from Kazan.

Read this letter to the friends and reply by telegraph or telephone.

Yours,
Lenin

Reproduced from https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/09gff.htm

Published: First published, but not in full, in 1938 in Bolshevik No. 2. Sent to Nizhni-Novgorod. Printed in full from a photo-copy of the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, page 349.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive. You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Posted By

Mike Harman
Feb 9 2018 22:59

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  • You must strain every effort, appoint three men will) dictatorial powers (yourself, Markin and one other), organise immediately mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like.

    Lenin, 1918

Attached files

Comments

Battlescarred
Mar 13 2018 22:27

"I believe that the formation of the Chekas was one of the gravest and most impermissible errors that the Bolshevik leaders committed in 1918 when plots, blockades, and interventions made them lose their heads. All evidence indicates that revolutionary tribunals, functioning in the light of day and admitting the right of defence, would have attained the same efficiency with far less abuse and depravity. Was it necessary to revert to the procedures of the Inquisition?"
Victor Serge

Battlescarred
Mar 14 2018 08:27

Mention of Fyodorov/ Fedorov reminded me that he plays a minor part in Fyodor Raskolnikov's Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917. Raskolnikov (real name Ilyin) was a Kronstadt Bolshevik who also wrote Tales of Sub-Lietenant Ilyin. Anyway, this chapter describes the proclamation of the Kronstadt soviet in 1917, and Lenin's consternation at this and his threat at shooting for breaking of Party discipline.Note the old bureaucrat trick of being so absorbed in writing when Raskolnikov enters the room, designed to humiliate him ( so well described as a bureaucratic ploy by Ngugi wa Thiongo in his great novel Petals of Blood)
https://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/raskolnikov/1925/kronstadt-petrograd-1917/ch05.htm

Battlescarred
Mar 14 2018 09:03

The first concentration camp for women was set up by the Bolsheviks.at the former Chesma House of Invalids in May 1919. It had a relatively mild regime. By January 1920 about 6, 500 women had passed through this camp, Of these about 60% were sex workers.At the end of 1919 a much harsher concentration camp for sex workers "for inveterate prostitutes" as the Bolsheviks called it,was set up at Razliv station, about 15 miles from Petrograd. Sex workers were also sent to Concentration Camp No2. in the former Kresty Prison in Petrograd. “In Petrograd, in 1919, city officials prohibited [the public from] spending the night at city railway stations, sending all offenders to concentration camps for six months. Among those arrested were many women, who were assumed to be prostitutes.”N. B. Lebina and M. V. Shkarovskii

Noa Rodman
Mar 14 2018 11:42
Battlescarred wrote:
”N. B. Lebina and M. V. Shkarovskii

That kind of information would have been 100 times more conducive to a serious discussion on the topic of purported original interest to Mike, instead of creating this clickbait-title and some blithely assuming prostitutes could very well have been shot in Nizhzy (AFAIK there weren't even deportations, of anyone).

But anyway, here's picture of Kaganovich closer to the date (in 1923 his daughter was born). His later role as Stalin-supporter (the unflattering picture above is from 1934) doesn't say anything about the events in Nizhny 1918:

Mike Harman
Mar 14 2018 12:44

You mean like when I posted https://libcom.org/library/alexandra-kollontai-prostitutes-forced-labour-camps-1921 and Pennoid called it 'inaccurate' and giving the "opposite impression to what is argued in the piece" despite Kollontai very clearly stating that was her view?

Red Marriott
Mar 14 2018 18:03

So most of the Nizhy 41 were upper class apart from some randomly selected peasants and forest rangers. Though we can bear in mind that for anyone opposing the Cheka or their masters it was easy to become ‘disappeared’ in such a climate with deaths going unrecorded. Nor can we be sure, just because it’s not officially recorded, that Lenin's order wasn’t obeyed and prostitutes and others weren’t shot and/or deported; it would be entirely consistent with other proven patterns of Cheka behaviour elsewhere. But the original point was that the order was given – not that it was definitely obeyed.

Noa cited above “Fyodorov's orders in August”;

Quote:
The bourgeoisie is attacking us in a completely organized way, hoping to create the impression that our leaders are being killed by the workers themselves, near the walls of the factories. The impudence of the bourgeoisie is revealed, the murder of our comrades-leaders is the work of the hands of the bourgeoisie itself.

The above quote seems to make clear that all those criticising the Bolshevik state were now being labelled as “the bourgeoisie”, SRs lumped in with Whites etc. The SR Kaplan shot Lenin outside a factory, so she is clearly “The bourgeoisie ... attacking us in a completely organized way, hoping to create the impression that our leaders are being killed by the workers themselves, near the walls of the factories.“ So when we read of orders to shoot the bourgeoisie and repress all counter-revolutionaries we can understand this would often include those on the left as much as the right; the evidence of suppression of anarchists, SRs, strikers etc at this time confirms this.

But why would the Bolsheviks respond to an attempted assassination by SRs in Moscow with a purge of bourgeois in a town 250 miles away? It was part of a general national policy which killed 10-15,000 bourgeois as the Cheka roamed the country repressing all dissent, including striking workers. Werth cites these incidents;

Quote:
1918; September-October: Mass executions of ‘bourgeois hostages’ in Moscow, Petrograd, Tver, Nijni-Novgorod, Viatka, Perm, Ivano-Voznessensk, Tula… etc. Estimated number of victims: 10,000 to 15,000 (Ejenedelnik VCK, September 22-October 27, 1918; Leggett, 1981). In a matter of weeks, the Cheka, the political police of the new regime, carried out two to three times as many executions as the Czarist regime had pronounced death sentences over a 92-year period from 1825 to 1917. Moreover, under the Czarist regime, death sentences were pronounced following legal procedures and later often commuted to forced labor sentences.
++++
Summary executions of striking workers by the Cheka (Winter 1918-Spring 1919)
***
Late 1918-early 1919: Several major strikes (sometimes alongside mutinies of Red Army units) caused by declining living conditions and the arrests of Menshevik or Socialist-Revolutionary workers, were severely repressed by Cheka special units. The most violent repressions (massacres or executions of strikers) took place either in cities conquered over White or Socialist opponents (S-R and Mensheviks) where workers supported anti-Bolshevik forces (the Ural region) or in cities occupying strategic military positions when the strikes or the mutinies occurred (the Astrakhan region). Among the bloodiest and best documented episodes:
1919; March 12-14: Summary executions and drowning of striking workers and mutineers of the 45th Infantry Regiment in Astrakhan. At the beginning of March 1919, strikes broke out in Astrakhan for economic reasons (very low standards of rationing) as well as political reasons (arrests of non-Bolshevik Socialists), only to spread and degenerate into riots when the 45th I.R. refused to shoot at workers demonstrating in the town center. Mutineers joined strikers in raiding the Bolshevik party headquarters, killing several party officials. Serge Kirov, president of the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Astrakhan region, ordered "the merciless extermination of White Guard vermin by all means necessary." Cheka units crushed both the strike and the mutiny. Between March 12 and March 14, 2,000 to 4,000 strikers and mutineers were executed or drowned, thrown from barges in the middle of the Volga with stones attached to their necks. From March 15 on, repression struck the "bourgeois" who were accused of having "inspired the White Guard plot" of which the workers and soldiers had merely been the rank and file. Several hundred "bourgeois" were killed (Melgunov, 1927: 58-60; Silin in Chernov, 1922, p. 248-255).
1919; March 17-18: Summary executions at the Shlusselburg fortress of approximately 200 workers from the Petrograd Putilov factories following the great strike that broke out at the beginning of March in this "workers stronghold" of Petrograd. On March 10, the general assembly of Putilov workers had adopted a proclamation condemning the Bolshevik government and demanding free elections of the Soviets and factory committees, the elimination of limitations on quantities of food which workers were authorized to bring to Petrograd from the countryside (1.5 pood or 54 pounds) and the release of all "authentic revolutionary party" activists (Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) held by the Cheka. When Lenin went to Shlusselburg in person on March 13, he was confronted by a hostile crowd shouting: "Down with the Jews, down with the Commissars!" On March 16, armed Cheka detachments stormed the Putilov factories that were defended by workers who had taken up arms. 900 workers were arrested. During the following days, approximately 200 strikers were summarily executed (Brovkin, 1994: 69-72; Leggett, 1981: 313).
1919; March 20-22
: Summary executions of about thirty workers in Tula where a strike had been crushed at the city arsenals. The strike in Tula had started because of declining living conditions and arrests carried out by the Cheka among Menshevik workers (Brovkin, 1994: 74-75).
http://www.sciencespo.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/crimes-and-mass-violence-russian-civil-wars-1918-1921#title1

The bourgeois hostage tactic was used to forcibly enlist wealthier peasants into the grain requisition process to overcome peasant resistance. Lenin ordered that hostages be taken, publicly named, and held personally responsible under pain of death for guaranteeing delivery of local grain quotas from the peasantry – so not quite just a simple case of class war against the rich hoarder kulaks.

Buhkarin, a prominent Bolshevik, described the Cheka in 1918 as;

Quote:
"full powers given to an organization that seems to be acting above the Soviets and above even the party itself," Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksandr Olminsky, who was one of the oldest members of the Party, and Petrovsky, the people's commissar of internal affairs, demanded that measures be taken to curb the "excessive zeal of an organization filled with criminals, sadists, and degenerate elements from the lumpenproletariat." (p.80 – BookofCommunism10/the-black-book-of-communism-jean-louis-margolin-1999-communism_djvu.txt

More evidence of repression of "counterrevolutionaries" from the state archives;

Quote:
On 10 March the general assembly of workers of the Putilov factories, at a
meeting of more than ten thousand members, adopted a resolution that sol-
emnly condemned the Bolshevik actions: This government is nothing less
than the dictatorship of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, kept
in place thanks to the Cheka and the revolutionary courts." ...
On 16 March 1919 Cheka detachments stormed the Putilov factory), which
was defended by armed workers. Approximately 900 workers were arrested. In the next few days more than 200 strikers were executed without trial in the Schlusselburg fortress, about thirty-rive miles from Petrograd. p 86
A Cheka internal memo dated 1 July 1919 laid out with extraordinary cynicism the outlines of the plan to deal with the opposing socialists:
Instead of merely outlawing these parties, which would simply force
them underground and make them even more difficult to control, it
seems preferable to grant them a son of semilegal status. In this way we
can have them at hand, and whenever wc need to wc can simply pluck
out troublemakers, renegades, or the informers that we need ... As far
as these anti-Soviet parties are concerned, we must make use of the
present war situation to blame crimes on their members, such as "coun-
terrevolutionary activities," "high treason," "illegal action behind the
lines," "spying for interventionist foreign powers,' etc. P.86

In 1918 the Bolsheviks feared they would be toppled at any moment by internal plots and/or foreign invasion. We get a picture of the Cheka as hastily assembled packs of thugs sent out across the country with absolute power to wipe out all opposition from across the political spectrum. Bukharin, who remained loyal to the Party despite his disgust, dissident ex-party members like Miasnikov and other Party veterans all stated at the time that the Cheka was out of control and brutally persecuting for even the mildest criticism. They were all silenced by Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and others in the leading clique. Anarchists, SRs, striking workers & peasants were being attacked, slandered in the press, jailed & killed – under the label of "counter-revolutionary, kulak, bourgeois henchmen, bandits" etc. From 1918 on their offices, organisations and newspapers began to be suppressed and destroyed and they were forced out of the soviets. Internal criticism within the Party was soon also silenced, factions banned. So most significant is not really the question of who died in this Nizhy incident but why. It was simply part of a mass wave of unleashed terror, a tactic of self-preservation for the threatened new Party-state. Their long term statist goal had been achieved and the vanguard would defend it at all costs & BAMN against all opposition; so every critical anarchist, SR or striking worker became a “bandit” or “counterrevolutionary” Cheka target. That embedded in this logic was both the logic of the vanguard Party & the certain drowning in blood of the revolution was at least partly recognised even by some Party members - but long-ingrained Party loyalty overrode these fears and led, later, to the stalinism that killed off most of those Party veterans.

Noa Rodman
Mar 14 2018 20:28
Red Marriott wrote:
So most of the Nizhy 41 were upper class apart from some randomly selected peasants and forest rangers.

The last excerpts I posted come from a longer 2013 piece by Smrinov, the same author of the 2009 articles I posted earlier. The one person (Топорков) whom he listed as a peasant in the 2009 article, in 2013 is listed as "from the Czechoslovak front".

So you come down to one guy (Обозов), listed as a forest ranger.

Quote:
But the original point was that the order was given – not that it was definitely obeyed.

The interpretation/understanding of Lenin's message by the addressed person (Fyodorov) matters. My argument is that Fyodorov's response to the message shows that he understood it as general mass terror: i.e. they proposed a plan for mass raids, they did impose a curfew, they arrested former officers.

In the month after 30 August arrests amounted in total to 900. The city population of Nizhny was maybe 120,000.

(By the way, I don't want to sound relativising of this number of arrests of bourgeoisie, but it is similar to apparently normal situation, e.g. I found in Jonesboro city (Arkansas, population 121,000):

Quote:
In February 2015, there were a total of 806 arrests carried out by the Jonesboro Police Department, down - 4 %, comparing with the last year’s data for the month of February

)

Now you argue that Fyodorov, but also the Cheka, to whom I'm sure he also showed the message, understood that Lenin meant "shoot/deport prostitutes", but collectively disobeyed the order. That would mean that Fyodorov (who had been a CC member) and Kaganovich etc. would live in the knowledge that Lenin equated prostitutes to former officers, and wanted both shot/arrested. And they would not speak out about Lenin's outrageous command (Fyodorov was a participant at following Party Congresses). It would also mean that Fyodorov (and perhaps Kaganovich) had a higher moral sense than Lenin.

Quote:
On 16 March 1919 Cheka detachments stormed the Putilov factory), which
was defended by armed workers. Approximately 900 workers were arrested. In the next few days more than 200 strikers were executed without trial in the Schlusselburg fortress, about thirty-rive miles from Petrograd.

For sake of numbers, the figure of 200 is given only by the US vice-consul Imbrie. The Bolshevik press mentioned 15, Western reports cited the figure of 12 or scores. The number of arrests was according to a Western paper 300 (225, and just from Putilov 75, according to a soviet source). The arrest-execution ratio I think would preclude more than hundred (but of course still be high).

So in case of Kronstadt 1921, the highest number given for losses on the Bolshevik side, was given by an American, as 10,000 (which would make it almost 4 times the Kronstadt sailors). Should we also take the highest number as most plausible?

Mike Harman
Mar 14 2018 20:55
Noa Rodman wrote:
Now you argue that Fyodorov, but also the Cheka, to whom I'm sure he also showed the message, understood that Lenin meant "shoot/deport prostitutes", but collectively disobeyed the order. That would mean that Fyodorov (who had been a CC member) and Kaganovich etc. would live in the knowledge that Lenin equated prostitutes to former officers, and wanted both shot/arrested. And they would not speak out about Lenin's outrageous command (Fyodorov was a participant at following Party Congresses). It would also mean that Fyodorov (and perhaps Kaganovich) had a higher moral sense than Lenin.

Well not really though is it. There's an order for a mass terror, they implemented a mass terror. Telegrams around the time show that Lenin was frequently admonishing local party operatives for not being harsh enough. Given they summarily executed at least 41 people, implemented a curfew, and arrested hundreds, it sounds like it met the standards for being harsh enough really.

On the other hand, let's say they actually did find hundreds of sex workers in the town, shot dozens, deported hundreds more, and reported this back to Lenin. Are we supposed to think Lenin would respond "Oh I didn't really mean shoot and deport prostitutes, actually I just meant white guards/kulaks" and set up a military tribunal or something?

This when there's Kollontai's speech discussing police round-ups and forced labour of sex workers during the same period, the documentation above about specific forced labour camps in 1918 onwards where prostitutes were sent?

Noa Rodman
Mar 14 2018 23:21
Quote:
Given they summarily executed at least 41 people, implemented a curfew, and arrested hundreds, it sounds like it met the standards for being harsh enough really.

Just to be clear, the execution of 41 took place after 30 August, apparently done on their own initiative (and that's what makes the Nizhny number of executions so high, compared to other regions in Russia for the month August 1918). The curfew and so on, was perhaps drastic and a form of terror, but not quite the level of mass deportations/shootings that you might read into Lenin's message.

Btw Lenin's letter concludes:

Lenin wrote:
They say Raskolnikov and Danishevsky are on their way to see you from Kazan.

Read this letter to the friends and reply by telegraph or telephone.

So Fyodorov probably replied by telegraph/ telephone. And certainly if he wasn't clear on Lenin's message, he could just ask.

A few days later, on 19 August Lenin wrote to that Raskolnikov in Nizhny:

Gubernia Executive Committee for Raskolnikov
Nizhni-Novgorod

Pay thrice-heightened attention to ensuring supplies for the Kazan Front, to accelerated dispatch there of reserves, and see to it that the struggle against the whiteguards in Nizhni-Novgorod is begun without delay and carried out with absolute firmness. See especially to the safeguarding of artillery property, telegraph fulfilment.

Lenin

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/19.htm

Red Marriott
Mar 15 2018 17:50
Noa wrote:
The last excerpts I posted come from a longer 2013 piece by Smrinov, the same author of the 2009 articles I posted earlier. The one person (Топорков) whom he listed as a peasant in the 2009 article, in 2013 is listed as "from the Czechoslovak front".
So you come down to one guy (Обозов), listed as a forest ranger

One doesn’t need sympathy with counter-revolutionaries to point out that while some of the executed were actual industrialists and high officialdom others were teachers, a petty trader, engineer, a military student, a former WWI officer who worked at the local railway station etc – apparently randomly chosen and hardly the active insurgent ruling class nor probably White conspirators. https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&u=https://zaton50.livejournal.com/2146.html&prev=search
Levels of social status not unlike most prominent Bolsheviks. Yet the Bolsheviks were happy to employ former Czarist officers as commanders in the Red Army. One doesn’t have to be a pacifist to note that blood so pointlessly spilled for such paranoid reasons (neither the murderer of Cheka boss Uritsky nor Kaplan were part of any greater plot) only fuelled the rampaging brutality of the Cheka against all its victims, whether of left or right.

Noa wrote:
By the way, I don't want to sound relativising of this number of arrests of bourgeoisie, but it is similar to apparently normal situation, e.g. I found in Jonesboro city (Arkansas, population 121,000):
Quote:
In February 2015, there were a total of 806 arrests carried out by the Jonesboro Police Department, down - 4 %, comparing with the last year’s data for the month of February

This is completely irrelevant and bizarre; different era, different social situation, different political motives. You are comparing normal Jonesboro crime figures not with Nizhy crime figures – the only thing that would make the slightest sense – but with a political purge and summary executions during a civil war.

Noa wrote:
Now you argue that Fyodorov, but also the Cheka, to whom I'm sure he also showed the message, understood that Lenin meant "shoot/deport prostitutes", but collectively disobeyed the order.

?? I never said anything like that. I said quite clearly;

Quote:
Nor can we be sure, just because it’s not officially recorded, that Lenin's order wasn’t obeyed and prostitutes and others weren’t shot and/or deported; it would be entirely consistent with other proven patterns of Cheka behaviour elsewhere. But the original point was that the order was given – not that it was definitely obeyed.
Noa wrote:
For sake of numbers, the figure of 200 is given only by the US vice-consul Imbrie. The Bolshevik press mentioned 15, Western reports cited the figure of 12 or scores. The number of arrests was according to a Western paper 300 (225, and just from Putilov 75, according to a soviet source). The arrest-execution ratio I think would preclude more than hundred (but of course still be high).

One can take issue with the politics of the Black Book authors but they used data from their research deep in the Soviet archives and as far as I know no one has ever accused them of falsification since the book’s publication over 20 yrs ago. We don’t know if in this case they’re quoting those figures based on what they found in the archives or not. But, again, the main point is that bloody Cheka repression was readily used against the working class – alongside Trotsky’s militarisation of labour, Bolshevik introduction of piece rates and all the other crap. Quibbling over exact numbers can’t distract from that relationship between the ‘proletarian state’ and the actual proletariat under the state seen as mere productive human material to be battered into submission and obedience. Very different from how Lenin had described the relationship of class & state in State & Revolution;

Quote:
All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time, their salaries reduced to the level of ordinary "workmen's wages" — these simple and "self-evident" democratic measures, while completely uniting the interests of the workers and the majority of the peasants, at the same time serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to socialism.

As Simone Weil said when analysing the Russian Civil War;

Quote:
"This war imposed on a revolution that had a program calling for the abolition of the army, the police, and the permanent bureaucracy, a Red army whose officer corps was made up of czarist officers, a police force that lost no time coming down on Communists more harshly than counterrevolutionaries, and a bureaucratic apparatus unequaled in the rest of the world. These apparatuses were all a response to the necessities of the moment; but they were fated to outlast those necessities. Generally speaking, war always reinforces the central power at the expense of the people."
Dorothy Tuck McFarland/Wilhelmina Van Ness. Simone Weil: Formative Writings 1929-1941, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987, 245
Quote:
“The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery ... The more powerful a state and hence the more political a nation, the less inclined it is to explain the general principle governing social ills and to seek out their causes by looking at the principle of the state – i.e., at the actual organization of society of which the state is the active, self-conscious and official expression.” - Karl Marx - “Critical Remarks on the Article: The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian,” Vorwärts, 7 and 10 August 1844.
Mike Harman
Mar 15 2018 19:53
Red Marriott wrote:
One can take issue with the politics of the Black Book authors but they used data from their research deep in the Soviet archives and as far as I know no one has ever accused them of falsification since the book’s publication over 20 yrs ago.

Not quite falsification of each individual thing, but there was a big falling out among the authors on the methodology to come up with the total figure of 94 million deaths.

There's this Le Monde article (In French) with direct discussion from Werth: http://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/1997/11/14/communisme-retour-a-l-histoire_3810094_1819218.html

The wikipedia summary for the French-challenged:

wiki wrote:
Two of the book's main contributors, Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, as well as Karel Bartosek,[16] publicly disassociated[4]angryii themselves from Courtois' statements in the introduction and criticized his editorial conduct. Werth and Margolin felt Courtois was "obsessed" with arriving at a total of 100 million killed, and faulted him for exaggerating death tolls in specific countries.[16][17]:194[18]:123 They also argued that, based on the results of their studies, one can tentatively estimate the total number of the victims at between 65 and 93 million.[19] Historians Jean-Jacques Becker and J. Arch Getty have criticized Courtois[20]:178 for failing to draw a distinction between victims of neglect and famine and victims of "intentional murder."[21] Economic historian Michael Ellman has argued that the book's estimate of "at least 500,000" deaths during the Soviet famine of 1946–48 "is formulated in an extremely conservative way, since the actual number of victims was much larger"—1,000,000-1,500,000 excess deaths according to Ellman.[22] Regarding these questions, historian Alexander Dallin has argued that moral, legal, or political judgments hardly depend on the number of victims.[23]

Also this review mentions Werth is quite sloppy:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000301191738/http://www.feedmag.com/essay/es271_master.html

Quote:
To make matters worse, Werth can also be an extremely careless historian. He gives the number of Bolsheviks in October 1917 as 2000, which is a ridiculous underestimate. He quotes from a letter of Lenin to Aleksandr Shliapnikov and gives the date as 17 October 1917; the letter could hardly have originated at that time, since in it Lenin talks about the need to defeat the Tsarist government, and turn the war into a civil conflict. He gives credit to the Austro-Hungarian rather than the German army for the conquest of Poland in 1915. He describes the Provisional Government as "elected." He incorrectly writes that the peasant rebels during the civil war did more harm to the Reds than to the Whites, and so on.

Battlescarred's comment mentioned Brovkin's book (which looks expensive), there's a few historians like Brovkin, William Rosenberg who've done research in the archives who are interesting.

https://press.princeton.edu/titles/5503.html

Red Marriott
Mar 15 2018 20:50

That's fair enough - the details the historians fell out over though are of quantity rather than quality. As the review says, the 1968 Robert Conquest book on the Terror already gave the general picture of the repression and his later revised edition after the archives opened corrected and added some facts. And the general picture given in the Black Book and other sources from the archives verifies accounts going back to Maximov, Miasnikov, Ciliga and many other eyewitnesses and survivors of the Terror.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 13:54
Red Marriott wrote:
. We don’t know if in this case they’re quoting those figures based on what they found in the archives or not.

Again, the figure of 200 executions in Petrograd March 1919 was given only by the US vice-consul Imbrie (Vyborg, Finland 18 April 1919, Records, dispatch 861.00.4323). Brovkin finds this figure plausible due to a finding of Leggett, namely that the Cheka organised executions in a remote locality called Irinovka (Legget's book is not online, so I don't know how relevant that is to the immediate spring 1919 situation). However, Brovkin also mentions that at least publicly the Bolshevik used those arrested as hostages.

Quote:
But, again, the main point is that bloody Cheka repression was readily used against the working class ...
Quibbling over exact numbers can’t distract from that relationship between the ‘proletarian state’ and the actual proletariat under the state seen as mere productive human material to be battered into submission and obedience.

And we can discuss in general about terror against the bourgeosie and how the soviet apparatus escapes the control of the working class. For example the Cheka was created to deal with a strike/"sabotage" by state bank employees on the first days after the October revolution. I assume these state officials also were workers in some sense.

I don't think the number game favoured by the Black Book authors and Conquest (who deals with the Stalinist 1930s) is any useful, let alone constitutes an advance on the accounts of Maximov, Miasnikov, Ciliga you mention.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 14:15
Red Mariott wrote:
This is completely irrelevant and bizarre; different era, different social situation, different political motives. You are comparing normal Jonesboro crime figures not with Nizhy crime figures – the only thing that would make the slightest sense – but with a political purge and summary executions during a civil war.

You understood my point; at the height of terror in Nizhny, in the month after the murder of Uritisky and attempt on Lenin, there were 900 arrests of bourgeois etc. Now, if you compare this with normal arrests in Jonesboro during peaceful times, the number of arrests is similar. It surprised me.

Nizhny in that time had no "crime figures", or do you think Cheka was busy with traffic violations (when bolsheviks themselves requisitioned cars) and burglary (when they took valuables in house searches of bourgeois)?

Actually, this brings us back to the question of prostitutes. So, if you want to have a discussion on that, simple question, was prostitution a crime?

Red Marriott
Mar 16 2018 14:41

This remains bizarre; why make such a random comparison with so little similarity of circumstances? It proves nothing about anything, illuminates nothing.

Quote:
Nizhny in that time had no "crime figures", or do you think Cheka was busy with traffic violations (when bolsheviks themselves requisitioned cars) and burglary (when they took valuables in house searches of bourgeois)?

Exactly - so the whole concept of 'crime', its enforcement and its recording in Nihzy 100 yrs ago were completely different than in present day Jonesboro - so a pointless comparison.

Btw, Conquest's book has an early section about the pre-1930s 'roots of the Terror'.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 16:44

The 900 arrests by Bolsheviks in Nizhny is presented as peak terror. I point out that in ordinary times in a capitalist city in the US the same number occurs. So this de-dramatises the 900 figure in Nizhny, you don't think so?

Red Marriott
Mar 16 2018 18:12

No, that's a desperate attempt to excuse the Terror. Random comparative numbers don't lessen at all what was wrong with the Terror. The motive and function of that repression is what is particular to the events and their own context; the Terror had victims across the political spectrum but it was as much a weapon against the working class as anyone else. That perhaps less striking workers were killed than one historian says is not a justification or excuse for the Terror nor makes it more tolerable; if you think workers are just necessary collateral damage for the greater Bolshevik good then just say so. But irrational comparisons don't excuse or prove anything.

In normal Jonesboro policing the cops themselves aren't being summarily executed by an extra-judicial state Cheka - as they were in Nizhy! And even if your comparison had any other validity you don't even compare relative population, nor normal levels of arrest nor many other differentials. If 900 members of a particular social group were suddenly targetted in Jonesboro only a lunatic or apologist would shrug it off as insignificant on the basis it was no different from crime figures elsewhere (or from another continent 100 years ago). Trying to reduce everything to relative numbers misses the whole point and mirrors the cold bureaucratic mentality of quotas of victims that the bolsheviks & their Cheka imposed on events.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 19:28

I'm speaking just about arrests. Jonesboro has same population as Nizhny around 1918. The arrests in Jonesboro do target a particular class, like is the case usually under capitalism, i.e. the working class/ poor (and e.g. almost half are people of colour). I'm not the one who brought up numbers, but if we're going to speak about numbers one can make comparisons.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 20:29

Earlier in the thread I made a comparison to Spanish Red Terror, which had a higher amount of extra-judicial killings than the first years of the Russian Civil War. See also The 'Red Terror' and the Spanish Civil War (2014) Julius Ruiz, especially on the Provincial Committee of Public Investigation (Comité Provincial de Investigación Pública – CPIP), responsible for the Terror in Madrid (population then around 950,000).

In statistical terms, the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-FAI made the greatest contribution to this network of terror. Of the 67 centres, 23 (34 per cent) belonged to the CNT-FAI
...
the presence of Anarchist Youth indicates the extent to which Manuel Muñoz was determined to secure the participation of the anarcho-syndicalist movement in the CPIP: out of a management committee of 30 members, it secured nine places, courtesy of a decision to allocate 3 places each to the CNT, FAI, and the JL. This figure would increase to 12 if we include the three members of the political offshoot of the movement, the Sindicalist Party. By contrast, the PSOE-UGT only had 6 representatives, the same as Communists (PCE-JSU) and bourgeois Republican parties (IR and UR were given 3 each).
Anarcho-syndicalist influence within the CPIP was also evident at the investigation group level. By October, there were 77 groups of five members each (including a ‘leader’). With the exception of two groups (including one based at the Higher Military Academy (Escuela Superior de Guerra) with the task of investigating the background of military officers), groups were not politically mixed. The anarcho-syndicalist movement (CNT-FAI-JJLL) dominated here too: it had 31 squads (40 per cent), whereas the Sindicalists had 5 (6.5 per cent). The Socialists (PSOE/UGT) and the Communists (PCE-UGT) had 15 (19.5 per cent) apiece, whereas barely 6 (8 per cent) and 5 (6.5 per cent) belonged to Izquierda Republicana and Unión Republicana, respectively.

Red Marriott
Mar 16 2018 21:21

Stamina and loyalty to the cause Noa .. but little convincing rationality. Was it normal for hundreds to be slaughtered in a few days in Nizhy? We can be confident it was exceptional otherwise it wouldn't have had the desired effect. The reasoning for the Terror and who it served is what matters. If your only attempted defence of the Bolshevik state Cheka is a meaningless comparison that they weren't any more barbaric than the Jonesboro local cops 100 years later, well that's really convincing... or completely bonkers.

Noa Rodman
Mar 16 2018 22:24
Quote:
Was it normal for hundreds to be slaughtered in a few days in Nizhy?

The total executions for the whole month August (including the 41 at the end) amounted to 101 according to Ratkovskij (as I mentioned in my first post in this thread). This made Nizhny Novgorod comparatively speaking the region with the highest number of executions then. So no, it wasn't normal even then.

Quote:
If your only attempted defence of the Bolshevik state Cheka is a meaningless comparison that they weren't any more barbaric than the Jonesboro local cops 100 years later,

I don't know if Jonesboro cops are particularly barbaric (I didn't immediately find monthly arrest statistics for other cities). I just suppose it is a normal situation for a US city.

I'm just using this discussion to learn more, and point out possible errors. Not antagonising anyone nor defending some cause.

Mike Harman
Mar 17 2018 19:20

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. So comparing a revolutionary situation to the daily grind of one of the most repressive state apparatus in history. One thing to do would be to compare those Jonesboro figures to Ferguson 2014 and see if the Ferguson arrest rate was that much higher. I'm not sure Noa's comparison does as much work as intended even if we take it apples to apples.

A more apt comparison though would be the deployment of troops against striking workers in Wales an d Scotland at the same time. The Freikorps against the Spartacist uprising. Or Imperial Japan against the 1919 rice riots and strike wave.

Noa Rodman
Mar 17 2018 20:05
Mike Harman wrote:
So comparing a revolutionary situation to the daily grind of one of the most repressive state apparatus in history.

A revolutionary situation is repressive of the bourgeoisie and their henchmen. So I'm comparing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Quote:
One thing to do would be to compare those Jonesboro figures to Ferguson 2014

Ferguson has about a 6 times smaller population.

CNN wrote:
By the time the tear gas started to clear in Ferguson, Missouri, at least 212 people had been arrested over nearly two weeks of clashes with police.

Extrapolated over a month that would be 424 arrests, times 6 (supposing they were all Ferguson residents) = 2544. Unsurprisingly, in case of popular unrest, arrests would be higher than in normal Jonesboro situation. And unsurprisingly it is higher than Nizhny situation. Such comparison teaches nothing.

Quote:
A more apt comparison though would be the deployment of troops against striking workers in Wales an d Scotland at the same time. The Freikorps against the Spartacist uprising. Or Imperial Japan against the 1919 rice riots and strike wave.

In Nizhny at the time of Lenin's message the talk was about a preparation of a Whiteguard uprising. There was no open riots/uprising as in your examples.

The 900 arrests occur in response merely to some unspecified discontent about the 41 executions end August, as the texts I posted earlier tell:

Quote:
In the report of Gubchek, after summarizing the number of executions in Nizhny Novgorod for September, it is reported that "in the sphere of the bourgeois-philistine population, these mass shootings caused an almost open murmur, but the rapid arrest of a huge number of such grumbling people just as quickly compelled all others to remain silent and accept the fait accompli"..

The arrests seemed to have been made in the course of house searches (i.e. not streets protests), and mainly on a class basis (officers, merchants, etc.):

Quote:
As the official report of the Nizhny Novgorod gub-cheka notes for September 1918, which is now kept in the regional archive, only in September Cheka produced 900 arrests in 1469 searches. ... There was a real panic, in fear for life, people left the city, throwing homes and property. It is obvious that the terror was directed not only and not so much against those who really fought the Bolshevik regime, but against the peaceful population - dissenters, murmuring and often those who had the misfortune of being an officer, priest or merchant.
Noa Rodman
Mar 25 2018 22:32

The Nizhny province's Cheka report of 31 August 1918, published in the first issue (22 September 1918) of the weekly paper of the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Speculation), online here: http://istmat.info/node/25307

Доклад о деятельности Нижегородской губ. Чрезвычайной Комиссии

Report on the activities of Nizhny Novgorod Province Extraordinary Commission

Nizhny Novgorod with its fairs, piers and factories is a major center both in trade and industry. A mass of plants from the cities of Riga, Petrograd, were evacuated [during the world war] to the vicinity of the city, namely to Sormovo, Rastyapin, and Kanavin. The city itself is inhabited by the petty bourgeoisie and merchants, who are timid and cowardly in themselves. Recently, in connection with the occupation of Kazan among these petty-bourgeois merchant elements, a certain revival was noticeable, and even proclamations to the population with an appeal to overthrow the Soviet power were issued by them. All attempts at any kind of speech were radically eliminated by the Extraordinary Commission.

The commission, thanks to its reconnaissance, discovered the arrival of steamships that had flown from the front, from Trofimovsky's [this was a SR commander in Kazan, described as a sadist, drug addict and drunkard military dictator, engaged in debauchery, unreasonably cruel reprisals, and for his acts, in particular for escaping in battle with Czechoslovaks [i.e. in Kazan] on the night of August 5 to August 6, 1918, eventually was arrested by Soviet military authorities and shot. Also, it is said that in July Trofimovsky had gone over with his detachment to an anti-Bolshevik rebellion of the Left SR Muravyov. ] detachment – the "Olga", "Prosvet", etc., which were disarmed by the commission. Further the commission has caught Trofimovsky's steamer with a cargo which went to the Moscow province. The crew accompanying the steamer was disarmed and the cargo, consisting of weapons, horses and foodstuffs sent by Trofimovsky own command, as a gift to the Trud and Seth commune, was confiscated.

The commission took the most energetic measures to arrest officers and gendarmes - about 700 people were arrested. By registration, there were about 1,500 people in Nizhny Novgorod.

Arrests of gendarmes, police officers and officers continue.

Further, the commission began to pay serious attention to the drunkenness, which is highly developed here, and the sale of alcoholic beverages produced secretly and openly. Concerning drunkenness, the commission issued an appeal in which it was stated that anyone engaged in the sale and manufacture of alcohol would be shot; Anyone detained in a drunken state will be punished with up to 6 months in prison. Over 15 days, 60 people were detained for drunkenness, of which about half were - Soviet employees, such as commissars, etc. (especially from the provinces). These people were imprisoned from 2 days to 2 months and were brought to forced labor, such as cleaning the prison of the yard, stables and unloading the goods. In order to fight this evil more successfully, the commission decided to publish the names of the detainees for drunkenness in the press and inform the committees.

The Commission liquidated the Arzamas White Guard organization, from which almost all the members were arrested and some of them were shot.

In connection with the arrest of the officers in Nizhny Novgorod, all the counter-revolutionary elements scattered around the villages. On this occasion, the commission put punitive detachments in Stogovo, where weapons and gold were found and the kulak uprising in the Doskinsky Volost was abolished, where the soviet had been overthrown and began to disarm the poor. The detachment arrested the accomplices of the uprising and confiscated the estates and transferred them to the poor. A fine was imposed on Katkov's kulaks in the amount of 5000 r. in favor of the poor and transferred to the committee of the poor.

From the work from August 1 this year to September 1 one can also note that a gang of hijackers was caught, which was engaged in arbitrary searches. This gang consisted of persons of the 1st Tula detachment, in general, this detachment proved to be hooligan, was engaged in drunkenness and theft, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission in Moscow was notified on this for transferring to Zurin and for issuing powers for disarmament. About 25 people were shot for engaging in Whiteguard affairs, some of them were published. The Commission began raids throughout the city. The city is divided into sections and all houses and premises are inspected.

On the orders of Comrade Latsis, Trofimovsky and his staff were arrested, who are now in the Nizhny Novgorod prison. The arrest was made without bloodshed. Then a commission was sent, which took all the things on the boat and checked the cash register and documents. The results of the audit showed that there was no reporting on the boat, no books existed, only 3 bags of different notes and receipts (these bags are sealed). I took 2 boxes of gold and silver from the steamer and were delivered to the Nizhny Novgorod commission.

Yesterday, on August 31, after receiving news of the murder of Comrade Uritsky and the wounding of Comrade Lenin, the commission decided to respond to this bourgeois provocation by terror and execution of 41 people from the camp of the bourgeoisie and the general searches and arrests of the bourgeoisie. On Saturday, August 31, today began a round-up that gave a few arrests and a several hundred thousands of money, which the owners refused to recognize for their debts.

1918 August 31, Nizhny

Noa Rodman
Mar 25 2018 22:40

"anyone engaged in the sale and manufacture of alcohol would be shot"

^so these booze makers/sellers are the ones that Lenin must have designated as "prostitutes" making the soldiers drunk. Like he once famously called kulaks "vampires, spiders, bloodsuckers".

Battlescarred
Mar 26 2018 06:36

Yeah, sure.

Noa Rodman
Mar 26 2018 08:41

No, it's not sure, but it seems quite plausible (at first I didn't give credit to the metaphorical interpretation of the term 'prostitute', but with the new info I found, it seems more credible). To uphold the most damning interpretation you would have to argue that prostitutes were (the main) producers/sellers of booze. Or that soldiers/commissars with a penchant for drinking did so only in the presence of prostitutes.

Serge Forward
Mar 26 2018 09:51
Fleur
Mar 26 2018 10:39

You're planning on dying on this hill then.

Mike Harman
Mar 26 2018 11:06

So the two people named are SRs rather than white guards.

But then it talks about white guards here:

Cheka report wrote:
Arzamas White Guard organization

Sounds like from the report that:

- there were red army detachments in the area that had gone over to the Left SRs and ALSO unreliable still-Bolshevik red army detachments that were drinking alcohol or similar.

- separately, there was a crackdown on the 'petit-bourgeios' residents who were talking about an anti-Bolshevik insurrection - this is presumably the 'white guard insurrection'.

- there doesn't seem to be any mention of actual Czech detachments at all, except for the accusation that a Left SR commander fled with a detachment after losing a battle somewhere.

Here's the drunk soldiers, anyway.

Check report wrote:
in general, this detachment proved to be hooligan, was engaged in drunkenness and theft, the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission in Moscow was notified on this for transferring to Zurin and for issuing powers for disarmament.
Noa wrote:
To uphold the most damning interpretation you would have to argue that prostitutes were (the main) producers/sellers of booze. Or that soldiers/commissars with a penchant for drinking did so only in the presence of prostitutes.

Given alcohol was illegal until 1925, this only requires the concept that illegal drinking venues might also have been brothels or frequented by sex workers. Probably means looking at prohibition and responses to it - something like https://www.jstor.org/stable/151698