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From Russia with love, in dollars

From Russia with love, in dollars

Author: M.K. Tikku
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: April 26, 2001

In December 1951, the Communist Party of India (CPI) received a cash handout of $1,00,000 from Moscow. That was just the beginning. The cash packets, which tended to vary in size from year to year, appear to have continued well into the seventies.

This is indicated in Soviet archival documents, copies of which are available with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University here.

According to these documents, the money came out of a trust set up by Joseph Stalin in 1950 to finance Communist parties round the world. Two years later, Stalin for some inexplicable reason turned over the trust to the Romanian Council of Trade Unions. But this was no more than a nominal transfer, as all decisions concerning the allocation of funds and their transfer continued to be taken in and by Moscow.

Bangaru Laxman, it would appear, was not the only one with a preference for dollars. The use of dollars, as the preferred currency in these transactions even while the Soviet Union had later put a vigorous rouble-rupee trade regime in place, appears to have been intended to ensure secrecy.

It is thus that the minutes of a meeting deliberating on allocations on the eve of the twentieth congress in 1956 specifically mentions the need "to maintain secrecy in transferring grants".

Consequently, the Indian Communist party received $1,50,000 in 1953; $1,00,000 in 1955 and $50,000 for the following year; $25,000 in 1958; besides $1,05,000 in 1959. The tally goes further: $2,23,000 in 1961; $1,11,000 in 1962; $ 3,00,000 in1963; $2,50,000 in 1965; $3,60,000 in 1966; $2,25,000 in 1969 and $2,80,000 in 1973.

The gaps, according to Leonara Soroka, the Russian-born archivist at the Hoover Institution, are explained by the fact that the Hoover does not have the complete set of the records.

"What we have got is what the Russian prosecutors chose to pick up for use in the constitutional trial brought up by President Yeltsin in 1992 against his Communist adversaries. What we know, however, is that the funding continued right through the Gorbachev years. Some of the East Bloc members, though, had dissociated themselves from it a couple of years earlier." Such references, however, are not to be found after the twentieth congress.
 


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