Politburo Plans the Campaign

L. B. Kamenev, Protocol of the Meeting of the Politbiuro. March 20, 1922


With I. V. Stalin, L. D. Trotsky, V. M. Molotov

Original Source: RTsKhIDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 283, ll. 6-7.

1. Create in the center and in the provinces secret steering commissions for the confiscation of valuables on the model of the Moscow commission of Sapronov and Unshlikht. In all these commissions either the secretary of the provincial party committee or the head of the agitprop department must be included without fail.

Note: In the most important provinces lay down the shortest periods for the confiscations, in the less important a later period, after information on confiscations in Petrograd and other central provinces has spread all over Russia.

The central commission must be made up of the chairman comrade Kalinin, Iakovlev and Sapronov (after the departure of comrade Sapronov, his deputy comrade Beloborodov must join the commission, and he must be brought up to date on the matter no later than Wednesday, 22 March), comrade Unshlikht, Krasikov (Galkin’s deputy), Vinokurov and Bazilevich. The commission has an office working daily (Iakovlev, Sapronov (deputy – Beloborodov), Unshlikht and Galkin). The commission meets once a week with the participation of comrade Trotsky.

3. In provincial towns the commission is joined by the commissar of the brigade, division or the head of the political department.

4. Together with these secret preparatory commissions there are official commissions or bureaus attached to committees to aid the starving to receive the valuables formally, for talks with groups of believers etc. Strictly observe that the national make-up of these official commissions does not give grounds for chauvinist agitation [i.e. that Jews and, perhaps, Latvians were not too prominent].

5. Designate in each province an unofficial week of agitation and preliminary organization for the confiscation of valuables (without of course announcing such a week). Select the best agitators, including soldiers in particular. Give the agitation a character far removed from any struggle with religion and the church and completely directed at helping the starving.

6. At the same time as this promote a schism among the clergy, displaying in relation to this decisive initiative and taking under the protection of the state power those priests who openly speak out in favor of confiscation.

7. Of course, our agitation and the agitation of loyal priests must in no way be merged together, but in our agitation we base ourselves on the fact that a significant part of the clergy has begun a struggle against the criminal, stingy attitude to the valuables on the part of the inhuman and avaricious ‘lords of the church’.

8. All through the campaigns, especially in the course of the week, it is necessary to provide full notification of everything that happens in the various groups of the clergy, believers etc.

9. In cases of the detection of bourgeois merchant elements, former bureaucrats etc. in the role of organizers of protests, arrest their bosses. In cases of need, especially where the black-hundred agitation has gone too far, organize a demonstration with the participation of the armed garrison with placards: ‘Church valuables to save the lives of the starving’, etc.

10. Try not to touch prominent priests until the end of the campaign, but secretly warn them officially (over the signature of the provincial political department) that in the case of any excesses they will be the first to answer for them.

11. Together with the agitational work the organizational must proceed: prepare the responsible office for the recording and confiscation with such calculation that the work can be conducted in the shortest time. The confiscation should best of all start with one or other church headed by a loyal priest. If there is not one, start with the most significant church, having thoroughly prepared all the details (Communists must be on all neighboring streets, not allowing crowds to gather, the most reliable part, best of all the special purpose units, must be closest, etc.).

12. Everywhere it is possible, in churches, at meetings, in barracks, etc. present representatives of the starving demanding the speedy confiscation of valuables.

13. Allow representatives of the loyal clergy to the counting of confiscated church valuables by the aid to the starving committees in provinces and in towns, having announced widely that the population will have the full opportunity to make sure that not one single item of church property will go to any other purpose other than aid to the starving.

14. In cases of offers from groups of believers of redemption of the value, declare that the question must be considered in each individual case by the CC of the committee to aid the starving without in any way halting the work of confiscation. Experience in the provinces attests that such talks are conducted without serious intent to redeem and only introduce uncertainty and demoralization.

15. In Moscow work must proceed according to the already established plan so that the confiscation will commence no later than 31 March.

16. I think that for Petrograd one could arrange the same approximate timescale by agreement with comrade Zinoviev, without in any way forcing the campaign too much and without resorting to the use of force while the operation has not been completely assured politically and organizationally.

17. As for the provinces, the provincial committees must determine their own timescales, based on this instruction, taking into account the timescale laid down for Moscow and under the control of the Central commission, having on the one side assured thorough preparation and on the other not dragging out the matter even by one unnecessary day and with such calculation that the most important provinces will come first.

Source: Felix Corley, ed., Religion in the Soviet Union: an Archival Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1996), Doc. 09.

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