The Mass Dissemination of Terror: Workers and the First Moscow Show Trial
Wendy Goldman, Carnegie Mellon University
July 24, 2008
This paper looks carefully at the two year period between the Kirov murder and the repression of 1937, examining the responses of Party leaders in dynamic interaction with those of the party committees (partkhomy) in the factories. Both sets of responses changed over time, but at very different rates. At the top, Stalin and top Party leaders were initially unsure what meaning to impart to the Kirov case and therefore, how to prosecute it.
In the factories, the partkhomy responded even more slowly. Apart from occasional references to Trotskyists and wreckers, they carried on business as usual, largely impervious to the political squall at the upper levels of the Party. And while they approved a variety of resolutions condemning Kirov's killers, they were not eager to hunt for oppositionists within their own ranks.
In the end, this paper examines how, between December 1934 and January 1937, party members and workers had become active agents in the dissemination of terror. How did repression, initially confined to Kirov's murderer, engulf and engage large sections of society? By what stages did this hysteria take hold?