Ordzhonikidze Speech

Sergo Ordzhonikidze, From a speech at a meeting of the heads of the chief directorates of the Commissariat for Heavy Industry. February 5, 1937


Original Source: RTsKhIDNI, f. 85, op. 29, d. 156, ll. 5 -12.

Ordzhonikidze: … In my opinion, we must do the following: all heads of chief directorates, their deputies, and the best of their officials ought to go to their factories and cheer up their directors-just think what state of mind they must be in now! Vasilkovskii told me that Alperovich had told him as a joke that as a result of the trials of the scoundrels, directors of certain factories feel themselves nowadays under attack as if they were criminals, as if they all must now answer for Piatakov and others. Nothing of the sort! They must be told frankly that they are not criminals, that they are our cadres. The criminals have been caught, they have been shot. If there are more criminals in the future, they too shall be caught. We shall shoot all the swine that we find. We are not talking about them. We are talking about the great mass of cadres, of splendid cadres trained by us. That’s what they should all be told frankly. One ought not to ignore the fact that the workers at the factories are seething with rage…

You think that if I had as my first deputy a man like Piatakov, who had worked in industry for the past 15 years, who had tremendous connections with all sorts of people, you think that this person couldn’t possibly sneak one or two of his people in. But sneak them he did! Some of them were found out, others were not. You have, after all, heard of their tactics. Who among you has raised the question of finding out how things are going on in your chief directorate?

You think that a wrecker [vreditel’] is someone who walks around with a revolver in his pocket, someone who hides in some dark corner somewhere, waiting for his victim? Who could imagine that Piatakov could be a saboteur, and yet he turned out to be a saboteur, and, more still, a fine talker. He told how he did it. You saw the unhappy Todorovskii when that scoundrel [Piatakov] named him. We kicked him out of the party, and the CC gave me a solid thrashing for daring to expel him from the party.

Look now how the CC of our party values its officials. Why should a person who has been sentenced to be shot have any apparent reason to name names? And yet, at the last minute he names Todorovskii. Why should he [Piatakov] lie? Take him away, throw him in prison. Not only did the CC not do so, it even reprimanded the party organization for having expelled a person from the party. You see how attentive it is to each and every person. This obliges us all the more so to approach this matter as is proper. And what do you do? Not a thing, not a goddamn thing!

Glebov was running the show at Borisov’s. Did you bother to examine what was going on there, did you tell me what you found there, did you tell me how to rectify the disgraceful situation there? The hell you did!

Borisov: I handed you a secret memo concerning the matter of defense.

Ordzhonikidze: You sent me nothing more than a request, surely it was a request for more money. What was the request for?

Borisov: I said in my memo that we must resolve a host of issues which had not yet been resolved, that had reached a dead end.

Ordzhonikidze: And furthermore, comrades, there is the matter that I raised just now. On the 20th of this month, the Plenum of the CC of our party will hold its session. The agenda will include the results and the lessons of this filthy business. I shall represent the People’s Commissariat for Heavy Industry. Should I take the rap for all of you? If sabotage is going on at the factories, then Ordzhonikidze is to blame, and no one else. And have you given me evidence showing how you are trying to put an end to the sabotage, what sort of measures you are undertaking? No, you aren’t doing a damn thing! You dump the responsibility on the chemical division, on the coal-mining division. Let them take the rap! This is of no concern to us! No, comrades, you must dig deep, surely there must be big or small cells everywhere in our organization which have committed filthy deeds. Look at Barinov. Several of his derricks collapsed. It could have happened that a scoundrel overturned several derricks by himself and said that they were overthrown by the snowstorm. Go figure!

A most interesting question keeps nagging at me: How could this have happened? You and I have been working together for so many years, we have done a fairly good job, the results have been fairly satisfactory. We even completed the Five Year Plan in four years. So how could it have happened that Piatakov was on our staff and yet no one, by God, saw through him? You’ll say to me: “He was your deputy, but you didn’t see through him. So what do you want from us?” It’s not right. If some worker in Kemerovo had said this, he would be right, but if you are saying this, then it’s not right…

Why? Because many of you have worked with him for a longer period of time than with me, and many of you had an apparent liking for him. I am not saying this as a reproach. I am only saying this because here was a man who seemed to be helping us. That’s what happened. Why did this take place? Could it really be that this happened because we had become so blind?

We must pose this question to ourselves. If we are not hauled into court, then we ought to present ourselves at court ourselves, that is, at the court of our conscience and raise the question as to how this could have happened. Because we evidently did not sufficiently monitor what was happening around us. Because many of us evidently had rested on our laurels, on our successes. So what happens? There is an accident at a mine and 10 or 12 people are dead. Well, so they are dead. So what? Technical defects…

What does this say? It says we have a callous attitude. Whether 10 persons have perished or only one, everyone should feel his insides turning and twisting. They are, after all, not strangers, these people. They are our brothers. But is this our attitude? No, our feelings have become blunted. This is the rust that has begun to engulf us at every point. This rust is extremely dangerous. It is a clear sign of bureaucratism, when a high official or bureaucrat feels himself so cut off from the masses. I am not saying that you have failed to attend [party] meetings. It’s possible to attend the meetings and still be cut off from people that is, not to share the life of the masses.

This damned Piatakov, this damned Rataichak and others! They have played such filthy tricks on us. But their ruin, that is, the fact that they were caught, thrown into prison and forced to tell all that has happened, this fact ought to open our eyes. We could put it this way: We couldn’t have guessed, no one could have guessed-why are you dumping (responsibility) on us? But now we must answer for it. That’s what we shall have to reflect on very seriously. It is obvious that we are entering upon a period when it will be necessary once again to reorganize our ranks, our leadership, when it will be necessary, evidently, to govern anew. The hell with it! Unless there is a shake-up, we’ll all rust….

Source: J. Arch Getty and Oleg Naumov, eds., The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-39 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 160.

Comments are closed