861.00/11923: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Thurston) to the Secretary of State

56. Krasnaya Zvezda of January 9 announces in its leading editorial three party decrees simplifying and facilitating the admission into the party of soldiers who have distinguished themselves at the front. Recommendations may be made by party members knowing applicants less than 1 year; the 1 year candidacy period is reduced to 3 months; and the procedure for transferring from one party organization to another is simplified for soldiers. The purpose of the decrees, according to the editorial is to improve morale by creating strong party organizations in every military company.

The press has recently published numerous articles stating that “the best soldiers”, “the outstanding collective farmers”, and “the leading intellectuals” of the country are joining the party. These articles frequently criticize party organizations for delaying the admission of applicants and for failing to attract new members.

While it is true that the party policy of restricting admission was relaxed after the Eighteenth Party Congress in 1939,17 the decrees and press items quoted above appear to indicate a definite reversal of the former policy on admissions which is not without significance. Although it may be that the reversal is a natural if delayed reaction to the purge of 1936–1939 similar to that of 1933 when large numbers of young engineers were taken into the party after the purgings and liquidations of 1932, it is considered that the reasons for the change are more fundamental.

The chief purpose of the new policy, it is believed, is to reestablish party prestige which suffered considerably after the outbreak of war. Reports indicate that soldiers at the front have said that they are fighting for the soil and not for what is on it. The party as the [originator?] of policy is responsible in their formula for the fact that they suffered want a good many years in order to create a mechanized army which, when war came, proved inadequate. “Stalin’s wise policy of peace”, they are quoted as saying, resulted in giving oil and grain to the Germans which they are now using against the Russians. The same criticism is heard among “intellectuals”. It would, therefore, appear that the effort of the press to show that “the best soldiers” are now joining the party is an attempt to rehabilitate the party in the eyes of the commanding officers.

It has been suggested that a further reason for the reversal of policy may be concern on the part of the Kremlin lest the independence of [Page 410] thought engendered by life in the front lines persist after the war in which case it is safer to have the potentially unruly elements under closer control and stricter surveillance which prevails within the party.

Thurston
  1. This congress was held in Moscow March 10–21, 1939. For reports on the activities of this assemblage, see Foreign Relations, The Soviet Union, 1933–1939, pp. 739756, passim.