1911 mug shot of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a.k.a. Joseph Stalin, from the Okhrana archives (click to enlarge)
Like many other Bolshevik revolutionaries, Joseph Stalin was arrested and exiled to Siberia numerous times between the 1905 Revolution and the October Revolution. Yet on each occasion he managed to escape and return to his revolutionary activities in the Caucasus and elsewhere. In one incident, he was not among those detained during the mass arrest of a group of Bolsheviks that would otherwise have included him.
In later years Stalin played down his prowess at escaping detention, understating the number of times that he eluded the clutches of the Okhrana, the Czar’s secret police.
These facts have fueled persistent rumors that Stalin was an agent for the Okhrana between 1905 and 1917. Most historians both inside and outside of Russia believe that there is no merit to the stories. All documents and letters that appeared to confirm Stalin’s work for the Okhrana have turned out to be forgeries. Nevertheless, the rumors persist.
One of the reasons that the story has gained traction is that there were numerous agents of the Okhrana among the Bolsheviks. Lenin was generally aware of them, and sometimes turned them, so that they became double agents. The stories about Stalin assert the same thing about him, that he acted as a double agent.
The legends are further complicated by the fact that all the prominent “Old Bolsheviks” who might have confirmed or disproved the rumors were gradually executed during the purges in the 1930s — the same people who were successively retouched out of group photos that included Stalin. The resulting lacunae in the historical record mean that there may never be a definitive answer to the question.
After the revolution, the Bolsheviks took over the apparatus of the Okhrana, retaining its most useful operatives, and expanded it into the infamous Soviet secret police organization that was eventually designated by various acronyms — Cheka, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MGB, and KGB. It was more brutal and effective than anything the Czar could have devised.
The above story is relevant to Thursday’s discussion about the infiltration and manipulation of conservative groups by the Deep State.
The Soviets became the most efficient practitioners of counterintelligence at least in part because they had been so thoroughly infiltrated before the October Revolution. Because the Bolshevik leaders — especially Lenin — were well aware of that fact, they were able to develop an effective counterintelligence regime. When they assumed control of the state, that expertise in counterintelligence was extended and expanded, reaching its apogee in the KGB.
In contrast, much of the right wing in the USA — possibly due to its peculiarly American nature — seems unaware of and uninterested in counterintelligence. Does the absolute certainty of infiltration seem so unimportant?
As is often the case with such discussions, the back-and-forth exchanges in the comments section of Thursday’s post provided additional food for thought. The following points are based on responses that I made to fellow commenters:
|1.||The issue that requires repeated emphasis is infiltration. Right-wing groups first get infiltrated, then they get manipulated. The manipulation does harm to their cause, and either destroys the group or totally marginalizes it. Case study: Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
This is difficult for many people to take in. For some reason, a lot of liberty-minded people seem to think that if a guy wears a Three Percent t-shirt and owns a bunch of firearms and mouths appropriate slogans, that he is ipso facto one of them. This is not true, especially after a group grows larger and becomes effective. Then it gets infiltrated by agents who have been trained to look and act exactly like its members.
Counterintelligence is the systematic, patient process of discovering who the infiltrators are and then neutralizing them. And by “neutralizing”, I don’t mean killing — read the history of the KGB, and you’ll learn that killing a planted agent was the least-desired option. A double agent was far more useful to the KGB than a corpse. And an agent that had been made, but didn’t realize it, could be used to funnel disinformation back to the enemy, among other things.
These are subtle, dangerous games. But for groups that want to be truly effective, they are absolutely necessary.
|2.||One of the first signs of a planted agent in the leadership is a history of repeated bad decisions that do harm to the group’s mission.
It is most likely not the leader himself who is the plant, however, but a small group of infiltrators who have discreetly helped place an incompetent person in a leadership position, and help keep him there.
A properly functioning counterintelligence process would examine such a leader thoroughly, to see whether he himself is in fact an agent, as opposed to his close associates. Both situations are obviously possible.
|3.||It is imperative that we learn how to conduct counterintelligence. It is a cold, calculating, dirty, ruthless sort of business, but it is what must be done.
The only way to end the manipulation that destroys the cause is to untangle the knots of infiltration.
The first step is to become actively aware that you are being infiltrated and manipulated. To keep it in your conscious mind whenever you are organizing and planning. To remember that all the while you are planning to do something, somebody else within your group, someone you have not yet identified, is planning to undo it.
The Deep State has been playing conservatives like a fiddle for decades. It’s time to wise up.
|4.||The general rule for someone who forms and leads one of these organizations is not to allow anyone into a leadership position that you have not known and trusted continuously since grade school. That’s kind of the most basic form of preventive counterintelligence.
Once your organization is large enough, you should put one of those trusted associates in charge of a new counterintelligence division, tasked with doing background checks and monitoring every new member.
All right — the “since grade school” aspect is an exaggeration. It’s an illustration of the level of trust and shared background that is needed within the core leadership group. It’s also a way of saying: “Be skeptical and suspicious. Anyone who showed up not all that long ago may well be a plant.”
Another characteristic of a planted agent: He is often one of the best workers in the group. He will probably be dedicated, efficient, and more than competent. He is a hard-working self-starter. You will soon find that you are dependent on him, that you don’t know how you ever got along without him.
Guys who are somewhat lazy, who goof off, who are often late or unavailable when you need them are actually less suspicious.
|5.||The Deep State’s purpose could not have been accomplished without all the elements of the pattern being present — infiltration of the “Right”, the stand-down of the police, the orchestration of the media response, and an atrocity that could be pinned on the “white supremacists”.
If the last had not occurred — if no one had been run over — then the operation would have been a useful outcome for the Deep State, but not a complete success. They would have had to wait for the next alt-right events — some of which are occurring this weekend, as I type this.
To make sure that an atrocity occurs within the planned time frame, a fairly large number of nut cases must be groomed and primed. One presumes that this is one of the main goals of the agents who have been planted in these groups.