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CIA Reveals Unprecedented Media Freedom in Criticizing Enterprise Inefficiency and State Officials' Corruption in Stalin-era USSR


The History of the USSR & the Peoples’ Democracies

Chapter 5, Section 7, Subsection 2 (C5S7.2) 


Saed T


A person in a red robe holding a newspaperDescription automatically generated



Western media claims that Stalin forced his media to depict the USSR fully positively and that the supposedly 'totalitarian' features of the USSR – democratic centralism, central planning, and the purges – forever muted the Soviet media criticism. Such Western media assertions are very far from the truth.

The dictatorship of the proletariat, in its historic drive to consolidate the hold of the proletariat at the expense of corrupt bureaucratic class, bears a natural tendency to systematically, ruthlessly, suppress media activities that question the proletariat's exercise of state power, but also to systematically promote media activities that ruthlessly expose and 'rip apart' the influence of the anti-proletarian classes – such as corrupt bureaucrats and black-marketeers – within the proletariat's state. To this end, the socialist state's media, so long as continuously under the influence of the agents of the proletarian class, will naturally promote an ever greater campaign of exposing corruption in the various holes and nests of the socialist state, so to pave the way for the downfall of the corrupt bureaucrats that have penetrated the socialist state. Rather than attempt to regress society by questioning and criticizing the proletariat’s right of state power, the proletarian-owned media unapologetically represses such foolish ‘critiques’ and rather engages in the kind of media criticism useful and necessary, the one that improves society by challenging the position of the class enemies standing in the way of the expansion of the proletariat’s state power.

I have spent much time reading Soviet articles translated into English by the CIA's Foreign Documents Division (FDD). Presenting the Soviet media's cases of criticisms would take far too many pages of this work to be effective in showing the data. Instead, I will show below excerpts of a CIA document, also from the Foreign Documents Division (FDD), summarizing the Soviet media criticisms and demonstrating the extent of the ruthlessness. The CIA FDD document, which looks at the criticisms of economic matters in the Soviet media in early February of 1953 (i.e. during the Stalin era), is as follows:

There is some criticism of the operations of the light and consumer industries where mismanagement, corruption, theft and embezzlement are said to be still rampant. Plan-fulfillment figures in these industries are said to be particularly misleading since the totals do not reflect satisfactory performance of every aspect of the plan. A ZYAZDA editorial broadcast from Minsk on 3 February says that last year a “considerable number of enterprises and even entire industries” of Belorussian SSR failed to complete their annual plan. The Republic’s fishing industry, for example, has been lagging for years and shows no signs of improvement now:

The question arises: when will the leaders of the fishing industry administration finally overcome their lagging and fulfill the State Plan?

Similar production failures are attributed to the Belorussian Electric Power Administration and the Industrial Cooperatives Council which cater exclusively to the consumers. We must not be deceived by the glowing reports of the Ministries which have fulfilled and even overfulfilled their gross production plans. The paper reports that a number of them failed to complete the plan “according to specified items.” Among them are the Ministries of light, building materials, food and local industries. Similar failures not reflected in the gross-production reports are said to have been registered in the production of tractors and automobiles, bricks and tiles, lime and woolen textiles.

The Kherson Oblast consumer industry is honeycombed with “swindlers and shaprs” according to NADDNEPRIANSKA PRAVDA of 4 February. Socialist property is being stolen in such large enterprises as the “Main Textile Distribution Administration” … the “Eighth of March” plant and the river port. The damages sustained through thievery by the Oblast Consumer Cooperative Administration last year alone amounted to over 1.2 million rubles. The oblast Party and Soviet officials, says the paper, “should have drawn suitable conclusions” from that and looked into the personnel problem. This, however, has not been done, and “incompetent and untrustowrthy” officials, instead of being dismissed, are shifted from one responsible post to another. An interesting sidelight on the official attitude toward the consumer is provided by a STALINGRADSKAYA PRAVDA editorial of 6 February. Listing the activities of several officials of the oblast consumer industry who have been fleecing the consumers for a long time, the paper inveighs against their “dishonesty to the State” without even mentioning the consumers. Thus the director of the Kamyshin Meat Combine for example, had “tried to transform that State enterprise into his own property” and systematically deceived the State and the Party by faking the combines performance reports and otherwise engaging in “shady machinations.” The head of the oblast “Gastronome” Bureau, Safonov, having surrounded himself with yes-men and “people of unclean conscience” … has been violating the retail trade regulations himself and protecting the violations of his subordinates by transferring them fromm the executive position to another. He, too, is referred to as a bad Communist [Party official] who is “dishonest to the State and  the Party.”

In a long TRUD article published on 6 February, the acting chief of the Central Trade Union Housing Administration Bertasov unwittingly testifies to the extent of corruption in the retail trade industry by admitting that licensed “public inspectors” … are frequently refused admission to the places they are to inspect. It is quite clear, he says, that these inspectors, whose duty it is to see that the customers are well treated, are “a thorn in the flesh” … of unscrupulous officials who brook no interference in their favorite pastime of  “cheating customers”….  It has also been discovered, according to Berrbasov, that where public inspectors cannot easily be kept out of stores and other retail trade enterprises, they are “reported” to their superiors in “anonymous slanderous letters” … as taking bribes and committing a variety of other crimes in the hope of having them dismissed or “bringing them to terms” with the unscrupulous store managers and other officials.

Misleading total production figures are also the object of an editorial discussion by KOMMUNA broadcast from Voronezh on 5 February. Good industrial production indexes often “conceal straggling enterprises,” says the paper, and Voronezh oblast is no exception: “Several plants of the oblast remain heavily indebted to the country.” The building-materials industry failed to complete its 1952 plan, is “far behind” in its current program, and the plants of the butter industry trust … are not producing the prescribed quantities of butter and other foodstuffs. “Solicitude” for the consumer is expressed in a broadcast from industrial Kemerovo of 3 February where the “acute shortage” … of living space has ben the target of criticism for a long time.

Many building organizations are failing to fulfill the house-building plans every year…. Some enterprises of the oblast have slackened their attention toward improving the working and living conditions of the workers.

The communal enterprises such as public baths, laundry transportation and electric supply in the workers’ settlements are said to be functioning very unsatisfactorily. Interruptions in the water supply are frequent in Prokofyevsk, Kiselavsk, Lenin-Kuznetsky and other towns. The network of repair shops is far too inadequate to serve the people, the assortment of consumer goods produced by the local industry is limited and the quality “remains low”…. The oblast Party organizations, the report concludes, must put an end to the “harmful practice of under-estimating the importance of the workers’ material welfare” and devote more time to the daily cultural and other requirements of the people. It is revealed that most of those officials seldom if ever visit workers’ dormitories and other communal dwellings and are not even familiar with the conditions obtaining there: “you cannot learn much by sitting in an office.”

PRAVDA refers editorially (7 February) to a collective letter from the workers of the Zarubino fishing trust, the largest in the Far East, to call attention to the “vicious methods” … of administration employed by the USSR Fishing Industry. The letter, which was not broadcast, points out that structural defects are frequently found on the fishing vessels delivered by the  Ministry, and repair materials for the fishing fleet are usually shipped by the Ministry when it is too late; that is, in the height of the fishing season. Serious shortcomings have been noted also in the oil industry, PRAVDA continues. The Ministry of that industry and its subordinate organizations “are insufficiently familiar with the situation on the spot”…. This is particularly evident in the Tatar ASSR where drilling operations are frequently and unaccountably delayed, and in Bashkir ASSR where “little interest is shown” … in improving the technical skill of the industry personnel. At the … Ukrainian Waterway Construction … where valuable materials are poorly guarded, a group of squanderers and thieves have been operating and causing great losses. Tens of tons of petrol … have thus disappeared from one sector of that project, the Vasilievsky construction and assembly division. Another gang of swindlers … is said to have built a nest at the Krasno-Perekopsk sector and engage in squandering … socialist property.

(INDICATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL VULNERABILITIES, CIA, Information from: Foreign Documents or Radio Broadcasts, Date of Information: February 3, 1953 to February 9, 1953. Date Distributed: March 16, 1953, pp. 6-8) (IMG)

Imperialist media claims that Stalin sought to present the USSR as a completely happy place devoid of problems, that even the slightest media criticism of the state was banned, that Stalin sought to brainwash the Soviet people into thinking that everything was fine with regards to the economy and state affairs, that the workers got no voice in the media, etc. As the above CIA document’s excerpts demonstrate, this was not the case.

Other excerpts of the document show how the critical media was an ally of the anti-corruption and anti-sabotage purge processes and how the critical media called for greater vigilance in order to hunt down saboteurs and corrupt politicians:

A broadcast from Dnepropetrovsk (4 February) cited ... the case of the Sinelnikovsky Rayon Party Committee which approved a certain Rudenko for the post of collective farm pyramid without realizing that he had been “wanted for investigation” by the same Committee for a long period of time in connection with his questionable behavior. Many swindlers and criminals are still at large, according to the paper, because their friends holding influential positions in the oblast trade union and other organisations “rescue and protect them” by providing suitable jobs for them. G. Alexandrov, State Counsellor for the Justice Department … writing in LITERARY GAZETTE on 3 February also identifies the swindlers and thieves with such political criminals as spies and diversionists since both of them are “just what the enemy is looking for.” (…).  That thieves, rascals and people alien to the Soviet system had been appointed to “materially responsible” jobs was disclosed by SOTSIALISTICHESKIY DONBAS on 5 February. The paper does not mention whether or not such undesirables have already been weeded out but admits that they have already “inflicted great damage” … to the Socialist economy. The Kurakovka mine of Krasnoarmeisky Coal Trust is said to be one of the casualties but no details are offered. “We must constantly bear in mind” that as long as capitalist encirclement exists the Soviet Union will be the hunting ground for foreign spies, terrorists, saboteurs and diversionists.

Lagging silk production may not in itself be of any political significance but, as indicated in a summarized ZARYA VOSTOKA editorial broadcast from Tbilisi on 6 February, political vigilance is one of the suggested cures for it. Averring that the backwardness of Georgian silk production is “the direct result of liberalism” toward violations of the State plans manifested by Party and Soviet officials, the paper quotes a reference to the subject made by Georgia Party leader Mgeladze….

(INDICATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL VULNERABILITIES, CIA, Information from: Foreign Documents or Radio Broadcasts, Date of Information: February 3, 1953 to February 9, 1953. Date Distributed: March 16, 1953, pp. 3-4) (IMG)

Liberal 'journalists' are scared of the term 'purge' and denounce the call for purges, when in fact it is precisely the moral duty of the media to challenge corrupt politicians and call for their purges. 

True, journalists must keep in mind the potential need for occasional tactical retreats and strategic expediency-discernments when facing far more powerful corrupt oligarchs and saboteurs that threaten them. They need to play strategic in their targets for anti-corruption purges. However, to completely denounce purges in general is what corrupt media - not critical media - would do. 

On the other hand, it is important to note that imperialist agents and saboteurs seek to use the cover of 'criticism' as a means of launching colour revolutions and spreading lies. The Soviet legal system did not tolerate such a counter-revolutionary agenda. 


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