In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Two "Living up to the Calling of a Communist": Purification of the Rank and File THE INSTITUTIONS ofpurge and verification were born with the Bolshevik Party itself. The quest for purity among the revolutionaries' ranks was at the heart of the Marxist-Leninist ethos. As the self-appointed vanguard and guardian of purity of the chosen class, charged with the messianic crusade to transform society in the face of open hostility before and after taking power, the party was keen on maintaining the purity of the chosen few. And as the virus of compromise and self-doubt was deeply rooted in the souls ofmany members ofthe chosen class, the party leadership saddled itselfwith the daunting task of constant and relentless purification of itself and of its rank and file.1 Purity {chistota) was defined mainly on negative grounds, namely, by a list of characteristics and habits that constituted violations ofthe sacred calling of a Communist. Each cycle of the periodic purges that engulfed the party throughout the prewar era compounded new offenses, but the overall grounds for expulsion remained the same. Personal ethics, political offenses such as association with alien elements or participation in religious rites, passivity in party life, and violation of party discipline were among the more common grounds for expulsion.2 "Expulsion from the party is the highest measure of punishment as it entails the civil and political death of the expelled," stated a circular by the Central Committee in the aftermath of the civil war.3 True, in following years party authorities went out of their way to convey the message 1 Ironically Trotsky (along with Akimov) was one of the first people to point out this line in Lenin's ideas and politics when, in the wake of the debate over the nature of the party in the 1903 Second Congress, he termed Lenin's modus operandi "substitutionism" (zamestitel 'stvo). Lenin's logic led to a pyramidlike structure in which the base is constantly narrowed by delegitimizing entire segments: The majority of the workers were considered unreliable because of their trade union mentality, the party is infected with the same virus of compromise seekers, and the Central Committee is ridden with factionalism and thus the path to personal dictatorship is paved (Leon Trotsky, Nashi politicheskie zadachi (Geneva: Tip. partii, 1904); Leszek Kolakowski, "Marxist Roots of Stalinism," in Robert Tucker, ed., Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (New York: Norton, 1977), 283-98. 1 For eloquent treatments of the institutional and ideological logic of the purges, see Graeme Gill, The Origins of the Stalinist Political System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 119-21; and Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 294-96,298-302. 3 Tsentr khraneniia sovremmennykh dokumentov (TsKhSD), f. 6, op. 1, d. 15,1. 116. T H E C A L L I N G O F A C O M M U N I S T 83 of possible redemption and reinstatement even for those who had shown themselves to be enemies ofthe Revolution, but the spirit ofthe expulsion act from the party remained harsh and uncompromising. Expulsion was meant to be, as indeed it was, a traumatic experience for the expelled.4 When the party launched the verification of its members' wartime conduct , procedures of the cleansing act had already been established. These procedures were structured in the most intimidating manner possible. For the individual in question, it was at once an intimate and public affair. In the weeks before the local party organization convened to decide on the party status of those subjected to verification of their wartime conduct, NKVD agents solicited information from anyone willing (or not) to offer such data. The information was hardly gathered in secrecy, and the individuals under interrogation found themselves isolated within their own circle of friends and coworkers until a positive decision was handed down, which, in any case, was a highly unlikely outcome. Often the identity of the accusers was made public, adding a social edge to the already vulnerable position of the accused. When Ostap Levyts'kyi, a party veteran since 1929, stood for verification, he found out that "the partisan comrades Mylymko, Kucheriavenko, and other residents of the village of Felitsianivka characterize [him] as a coward who categorically refused to stand with arms in hands against the German invaders and maintained friendly contact with the village starosta."5 If Levyts'kyi had chosen to refute these charges, he faced the almost impossible task ofundermining the credibility of both fellow villagers and people who were...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.