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Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943

Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943

Fridrikh I. Firsov
Harvey Klehr
John Earl Haynes
Translated by Lynn Visson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943
    Book Description:

    Drawing on secret and therefore candid coded telegraphs exchanged between Communist Party leaders around the world and their overseers at the Communist International (Comintern) headquarters in Moscow, this book uncovers key aspects of the history of the Comintern and its significant role in the Stalinist ruling system during the years 1933 to 1943. New information on aspects of the People's Front in France, civil wars in Spain and China, World War II, and the extent of the Comintern's cooperation with Soviet intelligence is brought to light through these archival records, never examined before.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-20960-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Fridrikh Firsov
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the fall of 1936 an urgent radiogram from Moscow addressed to Maurice Thorez, head of the French Communist Party, asked him to “Do everything possible to send to Italy primarily works by Engels, since there are absolutely none of them in Rome. The bookseller is telling us that Marx’s works cannot be sold without Engels’s. Telegraph the results here. Rudolf.” Three weeks later came a second message: “Browder reports readiness to send 10 works by Marx, 15 by Engels, but the representative of Italy does not have sufficient funds. Do everything possible through Medina. Rudolf.” Eight days later came...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Ciphered Communications and the History of the Communist International
    (pp. 7-37)

    The ciphered communications of the Comintern form only a part of its history. Often short and technical, frequently concerned with routine administrative matters, these cables also provide a unique window on the ways in which the Soviet Union, through its control of the financing, staffing, and bureaucratic structure of the Comintern, imposed its will on Communist parties around the world.¹

    The Comintern’s headquarters were, of course, located in Moscow. Despite its formal status as a collection of independent Communist parties united as a transnational organization dedicated to the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of a worldwide dictatorship...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Subventions
    (pp. 38-50)

    Very few Communist parties could have survived, much less prospered, without the infusion of large amounts of money from the Comintern. Over the years a steady stream of money enabled small or illegal or resource-poor parties to maintain a paid staff to administer, organize, and agitate. No comparable international network provided such benefits to any other political tendency on the left. Communists may have been unusually dedicated militants, but that alone would not have given Communist parties the kinds of advantages that Moscow gold provided. To transmit these gifts and to ensure that the monies were used for the purposes...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Popular Front
    (pp. 51-67)

    While fiercely opposed to fascism, the Comintern did not regard Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as a political setback or a cause for panic. By the logic of the Third Period political evaluation of the world situation, in fact, it presaged an opportunity for the triumph of communism. Laid down in 1928 at the Sixth Comintern Congress, the Third Period line foresaw world capitalism entering a period of revolutionary crisis. A worldwide economic decline would usher in fierce struggles for political power that Communist parties had to be prepared to exploit. This final stage of struggle required Communist militancy. Communists...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Spanish Civil War
    (pp. 68-84)

    Few issues took as much Comintern attention or resources as the civil war in Spain that broke out in 1936. The developing conflict with fascist Germany, the difficulties of implementing a Popular Front, and the political and logistical difficulties of supervising a large-scale military operation generated a continuous barrage of messages between Moscow and Western Europe.

    The political situation in Spain was difficult. Not only was the Republic fighting a civil war against a right-wing Nationalist coalition led by General Franco, but also the Popular Front supporting the Republic was deeply divided. Its leading political formations included the Spanish Socialist...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The International Brigades in Spain
    (pp. 85-110)

    No part of the Comintern’s activities in Spain has received as much attention as the International Brigades (IB). A multinational force of 30,000–40,000 soldiers credited with a heroic dedication to antifascism, the IB was lauded in literature, song, and the media. Credited with saving Madrid from Nationalist assault in the early days of the civil war, it also became the symbol of the Popular Front. During the civil war, the Comintern and the Communist parties who recruited the great bulk of the fighters played down the Communist theme in favor of propaganda stressing antifascism and humanitarianism. While the Comintern’s...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Comintern and the Terror
    (pp. 111-127)

    The Comintern waged its harshest political battle against those who criticized the Soviet system and its leader. Information regarding the woes, sufferings, and deprivations endured by individuals and the system of total control of the population and the mass wave of terror sweeping over it were hushed up or labeled as counterrevolutionary slander. With the leadership of the USSR’s Communist Party [the VKP(b)] setting the example, all difficulties and setbacks were explained away as a result of intensified resistance to the forward march of socialism by the remnants of the toppled classes of the landowners and the bourgeoisie and as...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Comintern and the Chinese Communist Party: Divergent Priorities
    (pp. 128-139)

    Ciphered correspondence between the Comintern and the Communist Party of China (CPCh) in the late 1930s and early 1940s shows a considerable divergence between the Comintern’s priorities and those of Mao Zedong and the CPCh. From the mid-1930s onward the Comintern, reflecting Stalin’s priorities, emphasized the creation of an anti-Japanese National Front in China. Direct intervention by Japan in China was looming on the horizon, and in Stalin’s eyes, such intervention was linked to key foreign policy interests of the USSR. Japan and Tsarist Russia had clashed in the past in Korea and Manchuria, and Stalin was well aware that...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Nazi-Soviet Pact
    (pp. 140-183)

    On 22 August 1939 Moscow newspapers reported on the forthcoming visit to the Soviet capital of Hitler’s minister of foreign affairs, Joachim von Ribbentrop, to sign a nonaggression treaty between the USSR and Germany. On the same day, the ECCI Secretariat adopted a decree, sent to the Communist parties as a directive. It instructed the parties to go on the offensive against the bourgeois and Socialist press based on the argument that the conclusion of a nonaggression pact between the USSR and Germany emphaticallydid notexclude the possibility or the need for an agreement among Britain, France, and the...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Comintern, the Communist Parties, and the Great Patriotic War
    (pp. 184-237)

    The Soviet Union’s status as a non-belligerent ally of Hitler’s Germany abruptly ended on 22 June 1941, when more than 3 million German and allied Axis soldiers crossed the western Soviet border in the most massive invasion in history. The Comintern’s policies, built around neutrality but giving priority to opposition to the British-led anti-Nazi coalition, immediately lost all meaning.

    On 22 June Dimitrov was summoned to the Kremlin, where Stalin complained, “They attacked us without declaring any grievances, without demanding any negotiations; they attacked us viciously, like gangsters.” He told Dimitrov: “For now the Comintern is not to take any...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Dissolution of the Communist International
    (pp. 238-244)

    Although the final decision to dissolve the Comintern was made hurriedly and with little consultation, the possibility of jettisoning the organization, or at least fundamentally altering it, had been raised earlier. On the evening of 20 April 1941, after a concert of Tajik performers at the Bolshoi Theater, members of the Soviet leadership, including Dimitrov, had enjoyed dinner and drinks. When a toast was proposed to Dimitrov’s health, Stalin suddenly remarked: “Comm[unist] Parties ought to be made independent, instead of sections of the CI.” He added that they had to take root in their own countries and focus on their...

  15. Conclusion: The Comintern, 1919–1943
    (pp. 245-250)

    Founded under the spell of the victorious Bolshevik Revolution, flush with the conviction that the worldwide triumph of the proletariat was imminent, and filled with the hubris of revolutionaries secure in their belief that Marxist-Leninist theory gave them the key to understanding the future shape of the world, the Comintern set out to shape the formation and development of revolutionary parties in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. It molded disparate revolutionaries and rebels into disciplined Communist parties. It expelled troublesome or disobedient leaders. And it dispatched organizers and overseers to the far corners of the earth to enforce its...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 251-294)
  17. Index
    (pp. 295-306)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-308)