Hammer and rifle : the militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926-1933 /
David R. Stone.
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2000.
vii, 287 p. ; 24 cm.
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Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2000.
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Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
David R. Stone is assistant professor of history at Kansas State University.
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Marshall Shulman Book Prize, USA, 2001 : Won
First Chapter

Chapter One

Laying the Foundations of Rearmament

When the smoke cleared from the battles of the civil war, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks faced the long and painful task of building a socialist state and repairing a devastated economy. At the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, Lenin accepted a truce with the peasantry by retreating from full confrontation and replacing the extremes of war communism with the mixed economy of the New Economic Policy (NEP) to let factories start working again and bring life back to the Soviet economy. Although NEP ameliorated relations between the Bolshevik regime and the countryside, it created new problems for Soviet security policy. The Soviet state could not survive without some recovery of agriculture and private trade, but a policy of economic moderation and restraint implied that the Soviet economy would remain largely agrarian and hence dependent on technology and industrial goods from the hostile capitalist world.

    When the Bolsheviks seized power, they assumed that their revolution would soon be followed by other revolutions abroad. Russia, the weak link in the capitalist chain, had broken first, but other states would soon follow as workers and soldiers tired of the burdens war had placed on them. To Bolshevik chagrin, the fall of the German and Austrian empires did not produce European revolution. On the contrary, as the nascent Soviet state fought and won a bitter and brutal civil war, capitalist regimes survived the end of World War I. Bourgeois Europe stabilized itself, repressing and accommodating working-class upheaval. As the failure of revolution in the West became increasingly apparent, Bolshevik elites gradually accustomed themselves during the early 1920s to a new way of thinking: world revolution was not imminent. The German Social Democrats had made their peace with the German forces of order at the end of World War I, and the 1920 failure of the Soviet drive on Warsaw in the Russo-Polish war showed that nationalism trumped class solidarity for Polish workers and peasants. Realizing that it had to start coming to terms with the outside world, the Soviet Union began signing treaties with foreign powers in February 1921. Decisive disillusion finally came with the ignominious failure of communist revolution in Germany in October 1923. The Soviets had to rethink their approach to the outside world.

    Paradoxically, the dawning realization that revolutionary Armageddon was far away made it more important for the Soviet state to build up its defenses and ensure its own security, both economic and military, for it would have to provide for its own survival for an indeterminately long period. Although Joseph Stalin coined the term "socialism in one country" in December 1924 to characterize the Soviet Union's path of autonomous development without world revolution, it was Nikolai Bukharin, the party's chief ideologist, who developed Stalin's phrase into a full-fledged theory. While asserting that ultimate salvation was not possible without world revolution, Bukharin emphasized that the Soviet Union's internal resources were more than adequate to build socialism. Stalin turned "socialism in one country" into a theme for Soviet proto-nationalism and a rallying cry against his and Bukharin's most dangerous political opponent: Leon Trotsky, the brilliant and charismatic founder of the Red Army.

    If, as Stalin and Bukharin were always careful to stress, safety was impossible until world revolution came, then the logical conclusion was that the Soviet Union had to defend itself. "Socialism in one country" therefore carried, as R. Craig Nation put it, "the positive goal of security through strength." The viability of socialist development in the Soviet Union required the ability to resist military and economic threats. Armed intervention was always a possibility, so the Red Army would have to be on constant guard. Stalin held that complete security and the final achievement of communist utopia would have to await world revolution, but in the meantime, the Soviet state could be confident of its ability to defend itself, providing, of course, that suitable preparations were taken: "Uniting the might of our Red Army with the readiness of our workers and peasants to defend with their breasts the socialist fatherland--is all this enough to repel imperialist attacks and win for ourselves the necessary conditions for serious constructive work? It is enough." In keeping with Stalin's position and the philosophy of "socialism in one country," the Fourteenth Party Congress in December 1925 declared that the Soviet Union must "change from a country importing machines and equipment into a country producing machines and equipment" so that the Soviet Union would not become "an appendage of the capitalist world economy." Voicing a theme that would be repeated in congresses and conferences to come, the Party Congress charged its Central Committee with "taking all measures for the strengthening of the defense readiness of the country and the might of the Red Army."


The Red Army had demobilized at the end of the civil war to go on a peacetime footing for the first time; forged in war, it had no institutional memory of peace. The most important task for the Soviet military, and for the USSR's military industry, was to use NEP's respite from struggle to impose order on the workings of Soviet defense. Administrative order not only answered a crying need for stability but also was cheaper than spending scarce rubles to modernize weaponry and factories. People's Commissar of Finance Grigorii Sokol'nikov struggled to stabilize the ruble and balance the budget, and little capital could be spared to ensure a decent living for the military's officers and men, let alone build new arms factories or rearm the Red Army. As Teddy Uldricks put it, under NEP, "wars or even an impressive defense establishment were simply too expensive." During the mid- to late 1920s, the Red Army and military industry would be forced by financial constraints to build the intellectual and organizational framework for rearmament and the concomitant militarization of the Soviet economy without engaging in rearmament itself. Bitter disputes over the USSR's small defense budget, how best to organize defense production, and how to plan for future expansion laid the groundwork for the rearmament still to come. Planning rearmament was cheap; factories and arms themselves were expensive and would have to wait for better times.

    Administrative reform in the Red Army under the leadership of Mikhail Frunze went hand in hand with the struggle of Stalin, Lev Kamenev, and Grigorii Zinov'ev against Trotsky to become Lenin's successor. Destroying Trotsky politically required ousting him from his influential post at the head of Soviet Russia's war ministry, the People's Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs (NKVM). A carefully orchestrated campaign, taking advantage of the undeniable chaos and disorganization plaguing the Red Army, accused Trotsky's deputy Efraim Sklianskii of incompetence and mismanagement. A Central Committee investigation charged Sklianskii and (by implication) Trotsky with the Red Army's sad state, forcing Sklianskii from office on 3 March 1924. Frunze, an ally of the Stalin-Kamenev-Zinov'ev triumvirate, took over as Trotsky's deputy, acting simultaneously as Chief of Staff and director of the military academy. Combined with Trotsky's lame-duck status, this situation made Frunze the real power in the Red Army. When Trotsky resigned in disgust as people's commissar on 15 January 1925, Frunze was his anointed successor and quickly began far-reaching reforms. Reducing political commissars' authority and increasing unit commanders' autonomy, Frunze's reforms also minimized the military's burden to the economy. By switching to a mixed system of regular units and territorial militia, the Red Army would cut costs without seriously damaging readiness.

    Frunze, despite not being a professional soldier, also provided the intellectual foundation for militarization. A Bolshevik since 1904 and a professional revolutionary, Frunze bolstered his party authority with that of a civil war hero. Although his pre-civil war military experience consisted solely of being the son of a medical corpsman, wartime necessity made Frunze an officer in the Red Army, and he found a natural talent for soldiering. Shining as an army and front commander in the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia, and the Crimea, Frunze became the commander of Soviet military forces in Ukraine at the end of the civil war. He was clearly marked for greater things, an opportunity that came when Trotsky lost his grip on the Red Army. Frunze, in addition to his administrative duties, wrote widely on military matters. His polemics against Trotsky centered on Red Army doctrine, but his most influential and lasting work concerned militarizing the Soviet state. His essay "Front and Rear in Future War," the introduction to P. P. Karatygin's General Foundations of the Mobilization of Industry for the Needs of War , was a manifesto that gave the explicit rationale for systematic and all-encompassing preparation for war, as well as concrete steps to achieve that. Frunze's essay, together with the Karatygin book it introduced, was a blueprint for the Red Army's vision of the Soviet economy.

    Frunze's essay became a classic of Soviet military thought, whereas Karatygin's book, advocating similar ideas, languished in obscurity. Not only the cult of personality around Frunze but also his explicitly Marxist approach made him the right person at the right time to crystallize new Soviet military thinking, revolutionary in both senses of the word. As Frunze saw it, old thinking about war had been doubly undermined: the Soviet Union was a new type of state that would employ new military technology. The Soviet Union itself, the first proletarian state, must have a qualitatively new military doctrine, for "the character of military doctrine accepted in the army of a given state is determined by ... that social class which stands at the head of it." According to Frunze, "with the nature of our state power," not based on class exploitation, "overcoming these problems [of future war] will be easier than it would otherwise be." Those problems of future war represented the second way in which old military doctrine was obsolete. Improvements in technology had eliminated any distinction between front and rear; now, all society had to be an active part of the war effort. The increased demands of modern war made the militarization of rear areas essential to victory. In short, the task was "to strengthen general work on preparing the country for defense; to organize the country while still at peace to quickly, easily, and painlessly switch to military rails. The path to this goal lies in mastering in peacetime the difficult path to militarizing the work of the whole civil apparatus."

    In particular, Frunze advocated training officers in civil universities, not just military schools. Tractors could be designed to both plow fields and haul artillery. Preparing the state for war was conditional on close contact between military and civil authorities "by means of the introduction of army representatives into corresponding civil organs and institutions." Industrial managers must constantly bear in mind the applicability of their peacetime work to the needs of the army. Frunze's particular complaint was that although the importance of careful preparation for industrial mobilization was obvious, little had been accomplished. At least here, Frunze noted, "carrying out [mobilization planning] is made extraordinarily easier by the state character of the fundamental branches of our industry."

    Karatygin, whose book Frunze introduced, shared Frunze's belief in the centrality of economics to war but went further. Whereas Frunze argued that military policy must be determined by a state's class structure, Karatygin linked economics not just to policy but also to operations, tactics, and the nature of battle. In his view, for example, the positional stalemate on the western front in World War I resulted from the exhaustion of military stocks, owing to states' having improperly prepared for modern war. In sharp contrast to Frunze, however, Karatygin paid little attention to differences between capitalist and communist states. The demands of future war were so intractable and harsh that all states would be forced into identical policies, since World War I had shown conclusively that future war would demand total concentration of the resources of state and society. In short, "For the conduct of contemporary war it is necessary to have a powerful army, supplied with all the newest means of battle, provided with uninterrupted replenishment of combat equipment and manpower and relying on a steady, organized rear," a dictum that applied to all states, regardless of their class nature.

    Modern war, in Karatygin's view, would consume men and metal on an unimaginable scale, since "combat drains the army, the army drains the state." Faced with a terrible dilemma, no state could afford to stockpile all the arms and ammunition needed for war, but converting civil to military production would take months or even years and require careful and expensive preparation. Even providing factories with a full complement of the machinery, parts, and personnel needed for a rapid transfer to a fully mobilized, wartime economy would be beyond the reach of any state. Karatygin's solution was "military assimilation," or "the maximal convergence of civil industry with military via the development of those branches [of industry] which are equally necessary for peacetime and wartime," and employing military goods in peacetime. Industry should include a core of factories that would produce munitions even in peacetime, as well as a much larger group of factories prepared for instant conversion to a war footing.

    This in turn required, Karatygin argued, specific organizational measures. Industrial trusts would group factories together in order to share expertise and allocate raw materials rationally. Standardization of parts and technology and even the "scientific organization of labor" would ease the defense burden. Furthermore, World War I had shown the need for a single body, existing in peacetime, to coordinate all military preparation, one to which Karatygin went on to assign responsibility for "the conduct of all questions connected with the organization and expansion of military industry, with providing for the corresponding production, dividing assignments, control over work, rationing of materials." The most essential element of the whole process was planning--careful, comprehensive, painstaking, thorough planning of the entire process.

    The importance of Frunze's essay does not lie in its originality, nor even in his ability to implement the visions he described--he was people's commissar for only a short time. Instead, Frunze's "Front and Rear in Future War" crystallized a host of ideas circulating among the USSR's military thinkers on the importance of a militarized economy. Michael Geyer described the essence of militarization in interwar Europe as eliminating the distinction between civil and military spheres through a "comprehensive, managerial effort at national organization." No state in Europe would become as militarized in this sense as Stalin's Soviet Union, and Frunze's essay would provide the inspiration for the comprehensive integration of military concerns into society.

    Soviet military writings were rife with the need for total organization of the civil economy. Mikhail Tukhachevskii, the Red Army's rising star, commissioned a secret report, Future War , that emphasized the political and economic capabilities of the Soviet Union's potential foes. Even Aleksandr Svechin, a non-Bolshevik and a veteran staff officer in the tsar's army, was entirely orthodox on the need for full integration between army and society and the economic nature of war. "War," he wrote in Strategy , "has economic causes, it is conducted on a certain economic base, it is a feverish economic process ... and it leads to certain economic results." He continued:

The military high command must have permanent liaisons with the civil authorities for the purpose of advising them on military requirements. And every higher civilian agency must have a department that represents military interests and makes preparations to get the agency on a war footing in order for it to meet the requirements made by a war.... The extensive militarization of all aspects of state and public activity is a law of modern war preparation.

    Abram Vol'pe's article on military industry in a 1928 history of the civil war commented that the disasters of World War I had shown that "it is necessary to work out a mobilization plan for industry in peacetime, and not only of industry, but of the entire economy." Boris Shaposhnikov (then Chief of Staff) explained in 1929 that "in our time there is no need to prove the necessity of economic preparation for war, of the creation of an economic war plan. That is now recognized everywhere." Frunze's ideas about the "necessity of full integration of military and economic planning and activities," that is, complete militarization, were ubiquitous. Writing in 1985, Michael Checinski found that "most of the Soviet military theoreticians and top commanders of the early 1920s shared Frunze's ideas, and in their writings are to be found the roots of current Soviet war-economic thinking, despite the many years that have elapsed and the many economic changes that have taken place." Stalin's Soviet Union would come to match Frunze's and Karatygin's picture of the ideal militarized state.


Even with Frunze's status, force of personality, and political connections, he could not institute the militarization of Soviet society alone. Within the Red Army, Frunze had to wield authority through its collective Revolutionary-Military Council, or Revvoensovet, a body made up of the Soviet Union's ambitious and headstrong high commanders. More importantly, the Revvoensovet's authority, dominant within the Red Army, was limited outside it. Questions that were entirely military in nature, involving training, maneuvers, and approval of weapons systems, and any matters not impinging on the rest of the Soviet state and society were generally left to the Revvoensovet to decide. Any questions involving finance, industry, or education--that is, society at large--had to be decided in another forum. For defense industry in particular, the Revvoensovet could formulate proposals, lobby, and petition but could not make decisions alone. In effect, the Revvoensovet had a relatively free hand on strictly military questions but had only restricted authority outside that sphere.

    Where the military met the state, two levels of authority determined policy. The Bolshevik party's Politburo was paramount. In theory, supreme power in the party lay in periodic congresses, which delegated that power to the party's Central Committee. In actual fact, the Politburo, technically only a subcommittee of the Central Committee, wielded true power. During the 1920s and 1930s, power was centralized even further under Stalin, the party's general secretary. For most of this period, however, Stalin's power was immense but not absolute. Implementation of policy depended on working through the other members of the Politburo and Central Committee, all of whom held influential posts in the party and state.

    In practice, the Politburo's decisions on defense were limited to the most important issues and top personnel moves. Although it remained the final arbiter of internecine disputes, the court of last resort, the Politburo's activities left a gap between the Revvoensovet's authority over internal military matters and its own pronouncements on key issues of high policy. During the civil war, the Council of Labor and Defense, or STO, had coordinated defense policy, but that role had rapidly fallen into abeyance. By the mid-1920s, defense matters were simply not discussed in meetings of the STO. That gap between the Revvoensovet and the Politburo, encompassing week-by-week decisions on defense and the economy, was covered by a series of defense cabinets varying over time in name and in precise makeup. During the period covered by this study, these defense cabinets were, in succession, Rykov's Commission (1925-1927, occasionally referred to as the Defense Commission), the Executive Session of the Council of Labor and Defense (1927-1930, referred to as the RZ STO), and the Defense Commission (1930 on).

    These groups, despite their differences, had several things in common. Most importantly, they handled regular decisions on defense: budgets, production, mobilization plans, conscription. Second, they were primarily if not entirely state bodies; that is, their members held their seats not by virtue of a particular party position but from a specific government post, be it head of Gosplan (the State Planning Commission) or chair of Sovnarkom (the Council of People's Commissars). After ad hoc adjustments to its membership in April and June 1925, Rykov's Commission finally set its own membership at six, with Aleksei Rykov as chair of his namesake group. He earned the position by virtue of being the Soviet Union's head of government as chair of Sovnarkom. The deputy chair of Rykov's Commission was Lev Kamenev. The remaining four members were Frunze and Kliment Voroshilov, people's commissar and deputy people's commissar for military and naval affairs, respectively; Feliks Dzerzhinskii, chair of the OGPU secret police and of Vesenkha, the Soviet ministry of industry; and Grigorii Sokol'nikov, people's commissar of finance.

    More important than the political and administrative arrangements constraining Frunze's vision of a militarized society was the simple lack of money to pay for it. Sokol'nikov and his Commissariat of Finance, having stabilized the ruble after great effort, remained in the 1920s defenders of fiscal orthodoxy and budget austerity, with little cash to spare for the Red Army or anyone else. In 1924, for example, the Politburo approved a 1923-1924 overall defense budget of 329.2 million rubles (for a Soviet fiscal year running from 1 October to 30 September). Only about two-thirds of that, 248.2 million rubles, went directly to the Red Army--a paltry sum in relation to the tasks facing it. The navy received 30 million rubles, and an additional 91 million rubles went to industry.

    Commitment to fiscal rectitude was so strong that the Red Army's leadership found itself in the unenviable position of competing for funds with the USSR's own defense industry. In 1924, Gosplan's military sector argued that the Soviet Union's ability to arm its soldiers was so restricted by industrial inadequacy that the Red Army could hardly field a credible force in the event of war. Gosplan accordingly suggested slashing the peacetime army and directing funds instead to building up military industry. Frunze had to plead to Rykov and Stalin that cutting the peacetime Red Army below 600,000 men would cripple the USSR's defenses. Regardless of the state of the technology at the Red Army's disposal, Frunze argued, Poland, Romania, and the other states on the USSR's western border could field at least ninety-four division equivalents against the Soviet Union, and whatever industry could produce "will not make up for a disparity in the number of maneuverable combat units." The USSR's great advantage, population, was worthless unless young men could be funneled regularly through the Red Army's ranks for training, and even a peacetime army of 600,000 men trained only a third of the yearly cohort of 700,000 men available for service. For all Frunze's entreaties, money was so short that the peacetime Red Army was set on 1 October 1924 at 562,000 men.

    The same trade-off between the Red Army and military industry arose again in the second half of 1924 over the 1924-1925 budget. A bad harvest threw the Soviet economy into crisis, cutting Soviet grain exports from 2.7 million tons in 1923-1924 to almost nil in 1924-1925. More of the Soviet budget had to go toward agriculture, requiring decisive cuts in all other expenditures. Despite the crisis, the Revvoensovet proposed a 410 million-ruble budget for the army, navy, and procurement from industry, plus an additional 17 million in imports for military industry. A Politburo commission cut that 427 million rubles to 380 million rubles. The Revvoensovet protested, arguing that reorganization and reduced funds for military industry could trim the military's total budget to 410 million rubles, but any further cuts would either eliminate essential orders or decrease the number of peacetime divisions by a third. The Revvoensovet demanded no less than 410 million rubles, to no avail.

    The 1924-1925 budget dispute could not be resolved until a January 1925 Central Committee plenum served as a forum for deciding between competing budget proposals. By that time, government revenues had expanded, and the overall budget grew from 2,100 million to 2,280 million rubles, easing the crisis. At the plenum, Frunze portrayed the Soviet Union as in mortal danger--foreign states were preparing economic and military offensives against the USSR, and Poland would complete its war preparations by 1927. Anti-Soviet émigrés were planning an uprising in Transcaucasia. Despite this, the Red Army led a hand-to-mouth existence, cutting its overall numbers to 562,000 men with critically low stockpiles of equipment. As Frunze saw it, "all summer we practically lived without a Red Army." New wars would demand the most advanced military equipment, so the Red Army would need every ruble of a 405 million-ruble budget. After Frunze spoke, Stalin rose "in order to support comrade Frunze's suggestion in every way," condemning the "liquidating mood" that would turn the Red Army into a simple territorial militia. After Stalin's intervention, debate was closed, and Frunze's version of the budget was approved.

    Later in 1925, thanks to the USSR's improving finances, the 1925-1926 Red Army budget provoked less controversy. Grain exports had returned to a relatively healthy 2 million tons from the previous year's abysmal showing. The rapid NEP recovery allowed the Soviet state to boost its military budget to 600 million rubles, with an additional 5 million rubles in orders deferred to 1926-1927. This apparent one-year lull would not last long--disputes over the 1926-1927 budget would be as bitter as ever.

    Future budget battles and the further development of the Red Army would take place without Frunze. He died during surgery on 31 October 1925 under mysterious circumstances and was replaced as people's commissar for military affairs by Kliment Voroshilov, a dim-witted professional revolutionary and Bolshevik since 1903. Although Voroshilov had some talent for political maneuvering and obsequious loyalty to Stalin, he was a political general whose administrative talents and military sophistication were far inferior to those of his fellow officers in the Revvoensovet. His talented subordinates might resent Voroshilov's preeminence, but their abilities compensated to some degree for his inadequacies, especially in the quest for more resources for the Red Army. All the Red Army's commanders could agree that the military was starved for cash and equipment in a time of increasing danger.

    Over the summer of 1926, the Red Army once again sounded the alarm of foreign invasion. In the debates over the 1924-1925 budget, Frunze had pointed to Polish preparations for war against the USSR, demonstrating the chief concerns of Soviet military planners. Through the 1920s, while the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and the Comintern concentrated on the United Kingdom, Germany, or China, the military's focus was squarely on Eastern Europe--the only place where hostile states could threaten the Soviet heartland. Diplomatic histories of the 1920s have seen Soviet-Polish relations as a sidebar to Soviet-German relations; that is, relations with Berlin determined Soviet attitudes toward Warsaw. Military documents reveal, however, that the Soviet concern in the mid- to late 1920s was always with a war against Poland and Romania. This preoccupation was little affected by the vicissitudes of diplomatic dealings. Whatever the state of Europe, the USSR in the 1920s methodically planned in terms of war with Poland and Romania. By the end of the 1920s, China and Japan would increasingly become concerns, but for most of NEP, when the Red Army planned its next war, it expected to deal with a coalition of Eastern European states, perhaps with support from Britain or France.

    At a meeting of Rykov's Commission held 29 July 1926 to discuss mobilization readiness and the Red Army's 1926-1927 budget, Voroshilov and Chief of Staff Mikhail Tukhachevskii combined to paint a frightening picture of the underfunded Soviet military. Despite their personal rivalry, Tukhachevskii and Voroshilov could cooperate to defend the Red Army. Voroshilov told Rykov's Commission that he had met privately with Dzerzhinskii, who died soon after their meeting, and been warned of an impending attack on the USSR. This intelligence led Tukhachevskii to evaluate the Red Army's preparedness. He found that the Locarno agreement had only unsettled Eastern Europe, where Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states were allying against the USSR. To make matters worse, Britain was not only supporting that coalition but also fomenting anti-Soviet activities in Afghanistan and Iran. Tukhachevskii asserted that the Soviet Union's western border states, its most likely adversaries, could draw on a pool of 6,710,000 men, of whom 4,290,000 had military training, allowing them to muster 111 rifle divisions, plus cavalry and aircraft. Given their reserves, those states could field an additional 150 rifle divisions with British assistance and production from the rapidly growing Polish military industry.

    This, weighed against the ninety-one rifle divisions and 3.17 million men the USSR could field, meant to Tukhachevskii that the Soviet Union could not prevail in an extended war. His solution was a strategy aiming at quick victory, a conclusion with profound implications for the allocation of resources. Scarce funds should not go to industrial investment, since by the time Soviet industry made its presence felt in any future war, sheer weight of numbers would tell against the USSR. Instead, because quick victory was essential, military spending had to create a Red Army able to go on the offensive at a moment's notice and "disrupt the deployment of forces" by its enemies. The poor state of Polish and Romanian railways would allow the Red Army to win a rapid victory before the enemy had completed mobilization. Tukhachevskii buttressed his advocacy of preventive war by pointing out the sorry state of the Red Army's stockpiles. Nearly a third of soldiers mobilized would not have uniforms. There was a severe shortage of modern light machine guns, and the Red Army could count on repeating World War I's shell shortage almost as soon as the next war began. Even given a year to expand production, Soviet industry would not approach the level of production the Red Army would require. In short, the Soviet Union would be incapable of repelling serious attack in the autumn of 1926. Here, Tukhachevskii drew the opposite conclusion from that drawn by Svechin in Strategy . Svechin had suggested that the path to victory lay through attrition in a long, defensive struggle. Tukhachevskii saw that as leading to defeat and pushed instead for preemptive strikes to counteract the Soviet Union's material weakness. Rykov agreed with Tukhachevskii that the situation demanded quick action, and his commission resolved "to take a series of urgent measures for strengthening the defense potential of the USSR." In particular, the commission would consider advances on the next year's budget due to "the catastrophic position of mobilization stocks."

    Tukhachevskii was playing a game on several different levels, since the Red Army's ability to deliver a preemptive strike in 1926 and 1927 was highly questionable. Although he might have believed that Soviet security depended on quick victory, to strike while the Red Army's opponents were still mobilizing entailed an offensive spirit closely akin to the revolutionary warfare dear to Tukhachevskii. Furthermore, building up immediate military potential, rather than more general industrial capacity, meant that the Red Army's position in the always bitter fights over the budget would be strengthened--the Red Army needed funds and equipment now . The working group under Chutskaev that Rykov's Commission created to examine Tukhachevskii's proposals in September 1926 came to just that conclusion. It found that full preparations for mobilization, over and above 613 million rubles for the day-to-day expenses of running the Red Army, would cost 510 million rubles. Cutting mobilization expenses to the bone would reduce that to 460 million rubles, split between 287 million rubles for Red Army stockpiles and 173 million rubles for industrial mobilization.

    Opposition to Chutskaev's proposal to boost spending on military mobilization stocks came from the People's Commissariat of Finance, which refused to spend that much on defense. Even the 705 million rubles that Finance deigned to grant, with only 210 million rubles going to prepare for mobilization, would require major cuts in other areas of the Soviet budget. The contrast between what Soviet defense required and what the budget could withstand was stark:

1926-1927 Defense Budget Recommendations (in Million Rubles)





of Finance

Red Army current needs





Red Army stockpiles



Vesenkha defense expenditures





Total budget



Financial arguments outweighed military weakness. The Red Army received a healthy increase in its budget, but nothing like what it had hoped for. An 8 November report to Stalin from Rabkrin, the Workers'-Peasants' Inspectorate, endorsed a total budget of 707.673 million rubles, 123 million greater than the previous year, and on 11 November 1926, the Politburo voted "to confirm the general sum of outlays on the NKVM for the army and military industry in the range of 700 million rubles." The Politburo further decreed that the prices for military production were not to change from the previous year's.

    Despite the Politburo's ruling on a military budget of 700 million rubles, Tukhachevskii continued to lobby for higher military budgets by arguing that the Soviet Union needed the capacity to fight a preventive war via a preemptive strike. In a 26 December 1926 report to the RZ STO on the USSR's defenses, Tukhachevskii repeated the Red Army's belief that its probable foes on the western border had superior forces and the prospect of receiving aid from the capitalist powers. "The bloc's weak point," however, "is the vast expanse of its eastern border and its comparatively insignificant territorial depth." Given this, "in the event that we destroy in the first period of war even one of the bloc's links, the threat of defeat would be weakened."

    Despite Tukhachevskii's plea for the resources to wage preventive war, the 700 million-ruble budget would remain roughly the canonical figure for the 1926-1927 fiscal year, leaving the Red Army far less than it wished. On 7 January 1927, on the recommendation of the People's Commissariat of Finance, Sovnarkom approved a defense budget of 700 million rubles that included 53 million in grants to military industry. The Central Committee plenum meeting from 7 to 12 February 1927 referred to nearly identical budget targets. By comparison with the previous 1925-1926 fiscal year's outlays, the NKVM budget went from 602.48 million rubles to 692.534 million for 1926-1927. In addition, direct grants to Soviet industry from the state budget went from 167.2 million to 386.1 million rubles, and military industry's particular grants went from 27.3 million to 43.9 million rubles.


The essence of Frunze's militarization was transforming the Soviet economy, but the limited military budgets of the early 1920s and the Red Army's insistence on protecting its own budget at the expense of military industry meant that the defense industry could hardly recover from the devastation of World War I and the civil war. With the completion of the Frunze reforms, however, the sad state of military industry and the need for radical change became increasingly obvious. Blame for the USSR's dilapidated defense industry initially centered on Petr Alekseevich Bogdanov, chair of Voenprom, the production association uniting the USSR's dozens of military factories. Bogdanov, a long-standing party member, had held several high-ranking economic posts, but despite this, his career fell apart in 1924 and 1925 thanks to the seemingly intractable problems of military industry.

    Bogdanov reported on Voenprom's continuing crisis to the Revvoensovet on 14 April 1924, revealing disorganization and bloated bureaucracy. Sensing continuing dissatisfaction with his performance, Bogdanov unsuccessfully offered his resignation to the Politburo on 16 February 1925. When he reported again on military industry on 31 March 1925, he could claim little improvement, and by May, as he later wrote, "it was communicated to me that the members of the Politburo by unofficial agreement had approved the need for my exit from military industry." Delaying his departure long enough to restructure Voenprom and prepare the 1925-1926 budget, Bogdanov tendered his resignation on 16 June 1925, and the Politburo replaced him temporarily with his deputy, Zharko. Bogdanov's troubles did not end with his dismissal. Sent on a three-month trip abroad in July 1925 to acquaint himself with foreign technology, he returned to find his position as chair of the Russian Republic's Vesenkha under attack. In November 1925, the Politburo removed him from that job as well, sending him to the North Caucasus to serve under the local party secretary, the rapidly rising Anastas Mikoian.

    Bogdanov accompanied his resignation from Voenprom with a defense of his record. He argued that defense industry's apparent shortcomings were in fact the results of difficult circumstances and necessary, well-considered policy. Voenprom's first priority was, Bogdanov wrote, "such an organization for military industry that would provide the army and fleet with the most refined types of military technology with minimal outlay of government funds." That final qualification was the most important: strict cost accounting, hard budget constraints, layoffs, and plant closures had been absolutely necessary. Although these belt-tightening measures were painful--Voenprom's fifty-seven factories at the end of 1923 had been cut to thirty-eight by mid-1925, with three or four more closures to follow, and at least 8,000 workers had lost their jobs--Bogdanov simply had no choice. Only after cost-cutting could Voenprom shift its attention to other important matters: mobilization readiness, war planning, and research and development. Bogdanov's worst handicap, he claimed, was lack of money to replace worn equipment, provide liquidity, import materials and machinery, buy foreign patents, or hire and train more qualified workers.

    To the Soviet political and military leadership, Bogdanov's worst sins were the way military industry distributed military orders to factories and prepared for wartime mobilization. Vesenkha's Committee for Military Orders handled the first responsibility, "planning distribution of military orders among state industries, regulating mutual relations between the military and state industry and establishing conditions and prices for military products." The awkwardly named Committee for De- and Mobilization took up the second task, "revealing and calculating the maximal possibilities and suitability" of factories for military production to "assemble a mobilization plan for industry in correspondence with the demands of the NKVM in the event of war." Bogdanov chaired each organization, but they were crippled by the division between them. The Committee for Military Orders and the Committee for De- and Mobilization worked "completely independently, not connected between themselves," when they should naturally have coordinated their efforts. The best way to verify readiness for wartime production, of course, was judicious use of peacetime orders: forcing a factory to make shell casings in peacetime ensured some expertise in the event of war. Splitting wartime mobilization and peacetime production between two bodies made that quite difficult. To make matters worse, both committees were alike in that they lacked trained and qualified personnel, were terribly disorganized, jealously guarded their privileges, and expected imminent closure or reorganization.


Although Bogdanov's dismissal revealed mismanagement and chaos inside military industry, Feliks Dzerzhinskii stubbornly resisted any outside interference, in particular from the Red Army, in his management of the Soviet economy. As chair of Vesenkha, the Supreme Council of the National Economy, Dzerzhinskii strove to keep military industry under his close, personal control. His insistence on running Soviet industry himself clashed directly with the Red Army's interests. Despite his ruthless conduct as founder of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police, Dzerzhinskii maintained a conciliatory and moderate attitude on questions of management and economics. He consistently restrained attacks on noncommunist specialists within Vesenkha, was a guardian of fiscal orthodoxy and balanced budgets, and pushed for modest military spending. More than anything else, Dzerzhinskii resented attempts to undermine his authority over the Soviet economy.

    Dzerzhinskii wished to keep the military from intruding on his territory and dominating economic policy. That principle required two organizational strategies. First, Dzerzhinskii could not allow the formation of a military-industrial directorate (upravlenie) . An effective branch of Soviet industry devoted to solely military production would give too much weight to the Red Army and undermine Dzerzhinskii's authority. Second, industrial mobilization needed to be under the control of Vesenkha's Main Economic Directorate, not any military body. That would ensure that considerations of wartime mobilization were kept subordinate to the proper functioning of the Soviet economy as a whole. Dzerzhinskii rejected schemes that would undercut his autonomy at Vesenkha by according economic power to the Red Army. His priority was the integration, not the separation, of military industry into the general industrial economy of the Soviet Union, while keeping ultimate control in his own hands. Systematically introducing military personnel into Vesenkha's hierarchy was unacceptable. Military industry, if granted the status of its own directorate, would be less under control and more easily used without regard to what Dzerzhinskii saw as the best interests of the Soviet economy.

    Dzerzhinskii accordingly fought the creation of a military-industrial directorate, declaring in 1925 that he could not accept such a thing and "insisting" instead on a military section under Vesenkha's Main Economic Directorate. In August, S. I. Ventsov of the Red Army Staff sent a proposal to Rykov's Commission advocating a Military-Industrial Directorate for Vesenkha. Ventsov described Dzerzhinskii as holding a "dissenting opinion" on the whole question, to which Dzerzhinskii shot back that Rykov's Commission had no jurisdiction over the question. He contended instead that this was a Vesenkha internal matter and wholly under his purview: " I answer for Vesenkha."

    The military's proposed directorate, Dzerzhinskii held, "would mean ... ripping the administration of military industry and military matters within industry from the entire apparatus [of Vesenkha] and creating an empty space with a fine-sounding name." Vesenkha should instead subordinate military industry to the Main Economic Directorate, whose resources it could then draw on. The military's proposed Military-Industrial Directorate could then be wholly tied into Vesenkha's work. The only room for maneuver Dzerzhinskii was willing to allow on the question of a Military-Industrial Directorate was if "questions of defense ... stop being the affair of an inter-institutional commission and pass wholly to the responsibility of Vesenkha."

    In the wake of Bogdanov's disgrace, the Red Army had a quite different vision, diametrically opposed to Dzerzhinskii's, of how military industry should be run. The Red Army had already engineered the creation of a short-lived Interinstitutional Mobilization Commission to push military priorities in mobilization planning. Frunze, speaking for the Red Army, found Dzerzhinskii's resistance to a Military-Industrial Directorate unacceptable. The situation instead demanded "unified leadership" under the military-dominated Interinstitutional Mobilization Commission. Finally, Frunze insisted that the NKVM be accorded a greater role in economic planning, in particular through the inclusion of Red Army officers in military industry. The overall thrust of Frunze's remarks was clear: though he phrased his argument in terms of administrative efficiency, his proposal was to increase military authority over economic policy and over Vesenkha.

    The military's model for the defense industry had two key principles: all defense factories should be united under one directorate, and that directorate should be run by as high-ranking an official as possible. This would permit quick and efficient decisions. Naturally, the Red Army's high command understood that centralization would give military industry more bureaucratic clout than if it were split among several industrial conglomerates. Likewise, the powerful leader of a powerful Military-Industrial Directorate would be in an ideal position to lobby for scarce resources. The Red Army therefore fought Dzerzhinskii's attempts to subordinate military industry to any intermediate body that would distance it from the heart of Vesenkha.

    The Politburo finally approved a Revvoensovet-Vesenkha compromise on 12 November 1925 in which the Red Army achieved almost everything it desired. Vesenkha would have a new Military-Industrial Directorate (the VPU) directly under Dzerzhinskii to handle military industry. Dzerzhinskii's price for agreeing to what he had opposed so insistently was the appointment of his close associate from the Cheka, Varlaam Aleksandrovich Avanesov, to head the new VPU. As a trusted protégé, Avanesov could be relied on to keep matters under strict control. The new directorate's collegium, besides including Avanesov and Samsonov from Vesenkha, had a spot reserved for the Red Army, one that A. I. Egorov eventually filled.

    Varlaam Avanesov was born Suren Karametovich Martirosian in 1884 in western Armenia, now part of Turkey. An Armenian nationalist early in life, he later abandoned nationalism and by 1903 had joined the Social Democrats while attending gymnasium in Stavropol in the North Caucasus. His revolutionary activities during the 1905 revolution made staying in Russia too dangerous. To escape the tsarist police and to receive treatment for tuberculosis, he left for Switzerland in 1907. The name from his false passport, Armenak Aleksandrovich Avanesianets, became his party identity in exile and the source of his later nom de guerre. Avanesov attended medical school while in Switzerland, but by 1913 he had returned to Russia and resumed revolutionary work. After the February Revolution, he served in the Moscow Soviet before heading to Petersburg as secretary for the Military-Revolutionary Committee, planning an armed uprising against the Provisional Government. After October 1917, Avanesov took a number of key posts in the Soviet government, distinguishing himself by a fanatic energy for work despite his recurrent bouts with tuberculosis. Sharing Kremlin quarters with Iakov Sverdlov and working as deputy in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, he also ran the Armenian affairs branch of the Commissariat of Nationalities, chaired the Commissariat of State Control (forerunner of the Workers'-Peasants' Inspectorate), was deputy commissar of foreign trade, and briefly chaired the Executive Council of the STO. Most importantly for his subsequent career, Avanesov worked in the secret police under Dzerzhinskii.

    In 1925, now an experienced troubleshooter, Avanesov followed Dzerzhinskii to Vesenkha, where he founded its internal inspectorate before moving on to the distressed Soviet defense industry. The collapse of his health would eventually prevent him from fixing military industry's problems, but the reforms he outlined were later characterized by Voroshilov as a great service to the Red Army. Although he would not serve long as director of military industry, his driving approach to his duties (and the fortunate fact that his poor health forced him to resign before the millstone of military industry dragged down his reputation) made Avanesov the model defense administrator against which all his successors were judged. Living longer than any of his comrades expected him to, he finally died of tuberculosis in March 1930.


Copyright © 2000 University Press of Kansas. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-01-03:
This study of the creation of the Soviet tank and air forces during the first Five Year Plan offers an intriguing explanation for the feverish pace of industrialization in that period. Using archival material, the author shows how the failure of factories to convert to military production during mock or trial mobilizations, especially after the Japanese conquest of Manchuria in 1931, led Stalin and his supporters to create dedicated factories to produce weapons and material for the armed forces. The result was a permanent "militarization" of a part of the economy that consumed, in 1932, almost one-sixth of the total Soviet budget. The Soviets acquired skills but also huge numbers of tanks and aircraft that quickly became outmoded; they burdened themselves with a costly defense industry establishment that by the 1980s weakened the Soviet Union. The author's intent is to stress the pressure that the military exerted on the communist leadership to build an industrial base for a modernized military no matter what the costs. He does this very well. But indirectly, he helps readers to understand why fiscal issues became ideological and why managerial actions were criminalized. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. Balmuth; emeritus, Skidmore College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-08-04:
Based on extensive research in newly opened Russian archives, this careful study is the best analysis to date of the central role of militarization in the development of state, society and economy in the U.S.S.R. between the end of the "New Economic Plan" in 1926 and the conclusion of the first "Five-Year Plan" in 1933. As Stone (an assistant professor of history at Kansas State University) shows, the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin inherited from Lenin an ideologically based belief that the non-Communist world embodied an irreconcilable hatred for the Soviet system. Stalin, regarding an apocalyptic armed conflict with global capitalism as correspondingly inevitable, focused economic development on military expansion. His Soviet Union became a comprehensively militarized society, with a steady erosion of distinctions and barriers between military and civilian spheres as the country sustained a massive military buildup. Stone challenges the familiar argument that only these earlier diversions of resources enabled the defeat of Hitler's Reich. He suggests instead that the disproportionate efforts devoted to military procurement distorted the Soviet economy as a wholeÄand that continuous large-scale military production left Russia in 1941 with huge stocks of obsolescent equipment whose replacement required several years even with stepped-up wartime production. Similar inflexible military-industrial policies, Stone argues, fatally undermined the Soviet system in its long-term post-1945 struggle with the West. A slack, more flexible economy would have been better qualified to cope with the actual military challenges the Soviet Union faced, but would have run against the essential nature not only of Stalinism, but of a U.S.S.R. that Stone describes as committing suicide from fear of death at capitalism's hands. History Book Club selection. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Publisher Fact Sheet
Explores the formation of the Soviet military-industrial complex to uncover how Stalin's first Five Year Plan allowed the military to dominate Soviet politics & society.
Main Description
James Stoners first book, Common Law and Liberal Theory: Coke, Hobbes, and the Origins of American Constitutionalism, was hailed as "forceful and wise . . . powerful and convincing" by the American Historical Review and "a stunning achievement" by the Journal of Politics. In that work, which provided historical background to the Founding era, he focused on the common law almost exclusively as a mode of legal thought. He now amplifies and extends his thinking on this subject with a study that transcends such "formalistic" limits and reveals how constitutional law has developed since the Founding. Common Law Liberty is a rediscovery and reassertion of the common laws central contributions to and enduring impact on American constitutional law. Stoner illuminates the common laws ties to an entire way of life, inextricably linked to the Founding and American constitutionalism, influenced by Christianity, closely connected to the development of free enterprise, and open to the influences of modern science and democracy. Stoner delineates two common laws: one understood by the Founders and rooted in British traditions of jurisprudence and one that, thanks to jurists like Holmes and Cardozo, corrupted the first by redefining common law as mere "judge-made law" or "judicial process," dangerously disconnected from the values and norms of the communities it serves. The latter, for Stoner, has been a disastrous development, shrouding the common laws original meaning and vitality, replacing its spirited liberty with personal license, giving far too much discretion to judges who wish to depart from tradition and precedent, and, thus, undermining our constitutional system of checks-and-balances. In an era as morally confused as ours, Stoner argues, we at least ought to know what weve abandoned or suppressed in the name of judicial activism and the modern rights-oriented Constitution. Having lost our way, perhaps the common law, in its original sense, provides a way back, a viable alternative to the debilitating relativism of our current age. Drawing upon themes from his first book, as well as numerous articles, papers, and lectures produced during the past decade, Stoner crystallizes and reintegrates this body of work. By applying and contrasting both understandings of the common law to specific cases-including free speech, abortion, and religious liberty-he hopes to reclaim essential principles long buried but, in his view, desperately needed to preserve the integrity of our nations polity and its hold on our moral imagination.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Laying the Foundations of Rearmamentp. 13
Rumors of Warp. 43
The Hunt for Internal Enemiesp. 64
The Shift Toward Radical Rearmamentp. 85
1929 and the Creation of the First Five-Year Planp. 108
The Red Army Consolidates Its Victoryp. 135
Industrial Failure and Military Frustrationp. 157
The Manchurian Crisisp. 184
Conclusionp. 210
Soviet Defense Budgetsp. 217
Military Industry during the First Five-Year Planp. 218
Abbreviations and Termsp. 220
Biographical Directoryp. 224
Archival Sourcesp. 228
Notesp. 231
Indexp. 277
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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