Origin of culture of denouncements and informers. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“Why is it important to return, in over 98 years, to the events that happened at the 14th congress of the PCR(b)? The response is simple – because we live times when in Putin’s aggressive Russia the cult of denouncement and fear reached stunning proportions. We can say that it doesn’t concern us as it happens in Russia? But it concerns us in fact...”

Start of Stalinization of Soviet society

On December 18, it has been 98 years of the holding of the 14th congress of the Communists Party of all Russia (Bolshevik) – PCR(b). It was the second congress after the death, in January 1924, of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, and the first congress in which the political report was presented by Joseph Stalin, who since April 1922 had held the post of secretary general of the Central Committee of the PCR(b). The congress proved that after the death of the Bolshevik leader, the post of secretary general became the most important one owing to the control over the selectin and promotion of Communist staff to different posts.

Joseph Stalin realized that: “staffs decide everything” long before he made his discovery public, in 1935, after he achieved his goal. Namely the staffs promoted by Stalin secured his victory over the Bolshevik elites that were destroyed one by one. In this regard, the 14th congress of the PCR(b) was crucial and marked the start of the radical regrouping of the highest echelons of the communist administration – taking of the most important figures and collaborationists of Lenin – Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, who were mentioned in the Letter to the congress, of January 1923 - to the periphery of the political Olympus. After the death of the Bolshevik leader, his favorites clashed in intestinal struggles for power. Stalin emerged victorious as he knew how to select the participants in the congress, who reelected him secretary general, ensuring later support for the launch of the terror against former comrades. In fact, Stalin acted according to the Leninist formula “the will of tens and hundreds of thousands can be expressed by one person.” In this regard, he skillfully used the contradictions between Lenin’s favorites, exterminating gradually all of these. In 1923-1924, Stalin, together with Zinoviev and Kamenev, marginalized Trotsky and then, in 1925-1926, Stalin, together with Bukharin, destroyed the opposition in Leningrad of the Zinoviev-Kamenev, then physically destroyed everyone either during the famous processes of 1936-1937 or brutally, as in the case of Trotsky, who was killed with a flagship by order of Stalin in Mexico, in 1940, by intelligence services. It should be noted here that in 1926, in approximately a year of the 14th congress, Lenin’s wife Nadejda Krupskaya in a circle of friends stated that “if Ilyich had been alive, he would have been in jail”.

Owing to Stalin, in only eight years of the putsch of October 1917, a significant part of the senior administration of the USSR became bureaucratized and was interested in supporting the leader who promoted them and who could further offer them protection and power. The bureaucracy ignored Lenin’s Letter to the congress in which the author characterized the members of the Central Committee and warned them about the dangers of concentration of power in Stalin’s hands. In 1925, Soviet bureaucracy became an impressive force, numbering 1.85 million, and the new class – the nomenklatura – accounted for about 4 million of these, including for 767 posts in the staff of the Central Committee of the PCR(b). It happened in a society that was allegedly free from classes. The interest of the nomenklatura was to secure privileges by unconditionally supporting the benefactor who installed this at the buttons of power. The bureaucracy knew to quote Lenin, who stated that “the will of the working class can be sometimes exercised also by a dictator... we need autocracy and a strong hand”. And he obtained exactly what he wanted.

Industrialization and militarization

The 14th congress was crucial also for other reasons. After the defeat of the communist movements that were revolutionized in a number of states, such as Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria, the congress declared the political course on the building of socialism in one country. In his political report at the congress, Stalin said that the building of socialism in one country can be achieved only by industrializing this country. To defend socialism, it was evidently necessary to strengthen the army, to equip this with modern armament. So, foreign allies that were industrially, technologically and militarily advanced were needed. In such circumstances, Germany, which after suffering the defeat in World War I was to pay reparations to the winner and was also subject to drastic restriction on the development of its armed forces, was regarded as an ally.

The idea of Soviet Russia’s cooperation with Germany was formulated by Karl Radek, former envoy of Lenin to Germany, whose task was to trigger a communist revolution in this country. After Germany suffered a defeat in the war, Radek reached the conclusion that Soviet Russia and Germany could help each other, the first being a source of raw material, while the second – a supplier of technologies. The cooperation ceased in 1922, with Lenin’s consent, so as to avoid the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Consequently, on the territory of the USSR, in secret, there were built plants for producing armament based on German technologies. In Lipetsk and Kazani, there were built training grounds for German and Soviet aviators and tank drivers. Details about this cooperation can be found in the work “Fascist sword was forged in the USSR”.

So, at the 14th congress of 1925, Stalin only substantiated what was actually under implementation – cooperation with Germany on all dimensions of industrializations, including the military one. To purchase foreign technology, the USSR needed a lot of strong foreign currency, which could be obtained by mercilessly exploiting a country in which the peasants represented over 80%. Evidently, for the sake of industrialization, they resorted to the abandonment of the New Economic Policy (NEE) and forced collectivization in villages, which was followed by the Holodomor etc.

Substantiation of need of denouncements

In the 14th congress of the PCR(b), there was debated the problem of the “cult of denouncement”, which reached “such forms and such a character that a friend cannot sincerely tell his thoughts to another friend”. One of the delegates, Matvei Șkiryatov, contributed to the delimitation of innocent gossip from necessary denouncements: Fellows, there are denouncements and denouements and if the denouncements mean that the party members spy on each other to see how they lead their private life, then we should not make denouncements. But if a party member sees that other members want to create groups that share particular ideas and this person known about this, but does not report to the senior party bodies, then this acts incorrectly. This is not a denouncement, but an obligation of each party member”. This approach was substantiated by quoting Lenin: “Each party member should be an agent of the Cheka, which is they should watch over and report so as not to remain a victim of the bourgeois morals”.

Consequently, the denouncements that most of the times were made in secret, in the absence of evidence or at least debates, became widespread. In the same congress, numerous delegates resorted to mutual accusations, invoking deviations from the teachings and cause of Lenin etc. The 65 delegates of the congress, who refused to support Stalin’s candidacy for the post of secretary general, were the first victims of the new terror of the denouncement. Consequently, in only 10-15 years, over half of the delegates to the 14th congress were exterminated.

This way the Bolshevik revolutionaries who at the start of the 20th century in their political programs pleaded in favor of the limitless freedom of expression, the equality of all the citizens, the inviolability of the person, etc., in less than a quarter of century buried the own revolutionary ideas that turned out to be dangerous for their status and wellbeing. The resorting to denouncement became an instrument to defend once’s privileges. Respectively, in only half a year of the 14th congress, in June 1926, the Criminal Code of the USSR was modified and article 58 was introduced. This stipulated very harsh penalties, including capital punishment, for counterrevolutionary activity, including for non-denouncing on time.

Later, the convicts denounced according to article 58 were named “political detainees” so as to differentiate them from ordinary offenders. After they were set free, the political detainees didn’t have the right to settle within a range of less than 100 km from large towns (during the periods specified by court). Fear became suitable ground for political denouncement. Denouncements were written both voluntarily and by force, under the pressure of the investigation. This way, the denouncement reached amazing proportions that were depicted in documents and also in artistic literary, especially about cases when persons denounced a neighbor so as to take their dwelling if these were arrested. It is enough to remember the famous novel “The Master and Margareta” by Mikhail Bulgakov, in which the denouncing of the Master by his neighbor, journalist Mogarych, with the aim of taking his home, is described. It is presumed that the episode was inspired by the case of his former mate, Sergey Yermolinsky, who was allegedly denounced for having had friendly relations with Bulgakov.


Why is it important to return, in over 98 years, to the events that happened at the 14th congress of the PCR(b)? The response is simple – because we live times when in Putinist and aggressive Russia the cult of denouncement and fear reached stunning proportions. We can say that it doesn’t concern us as it happens in Russia? But it concerns us in fact. In the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, we have the group of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BCS), which supports, either tacitly or explicitly, that the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the methods used by the Putinist regime, including denouncements against Russian citizens who condemn the war.

Moreover, we have MPs who form part of the Russian imperial movement or go to meetings with Putin so as to cajole this, asking him about Moldova’s fate. To put on intellectualist airs, they quote writer Sergey Dovlatov, posing as admirers of this, but pretending to know about the attitude of this to denouncers and informers: I  continuously curse mister Stalin and, surely, he deserves this. But I yet want to ask: who wrote 4 million denouncements”. As an admirer of Dovlatov, it was normal for him to ask Putin who caused the current wave of denouncements in Russia and who he copies in his activity – not the “efficient manager” in some way?

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