A serious debate within the Communist Parties on the ideas of Leon Trotsky, the man who, together with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, led the October Revolution in Russia, has long been overdue, and not only in Cuba. One does not have to agree with every dot and comma of Celia’s article to agree to this. But a serious debate demands a degree of honesty. No matter what one thinks about Celia’s article, it was honestly written. The same, alas, cannot be said of some of the articles written in answer to her.
The popular Spanish left-wing website Rebelion published a piece by a certain Israel Shamir, Sobre “El Socialismo en un solo país y la Revolución Cubana - Aportación desde Cuba” de Celia Hart, which is a venomous attack on Celia Hart and a completely uncritical defence of Stalin and Stalinism. Shamir assures us that Stalinism is synonymous with Communism. That is frankly a scandalous assertion and a slander against Communism.
Stalin killed more Communists than Hitler, Mussolini and Franco together. He destroyed Lenin’s Bolshevik Party and murdered all its leaders. Trotsky was the last one to survive. He continued to fight for the real ideas and traditions of Lenin and the October Revolution. That is why Stalin had him assassinated, along with most of his family and many of his collaborators and comrades.
It is easy, of course, to write lies and slanders. This “feat” can be achieved in a few lines. But it is not so easy to provide a political answer to such slanders. To nail a lie it is necessary to produce documentary evidence. This takes time and space. The slanderer, on the other hand, is unscrupulous. He has no need to produce any evidence for his lies. He just asserts them as if they were unquestionably true. This was the same method that sent millions of people to Stalin’s prisons and camps. The word of an informer was sufficient.
Informers will never make good revolutionaries, and Marxism (as well as any competent lawyer) demands proof of any accusation. But proof will not be found anywhere in the articles that purport to “answer” comrade Celia. You will search in vain through all this mass of print for quotations, dates, facts or statistics. You will learn absolutely nothing about the Russian Revolution or the history of Bolshevism, about the lives and ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. If it comes to that, you will not learn anything about Stalin either.
There is a Spanish proverb that comes to mind when reading this kind of thing: “Ignorance is audacious” (la ignorancia es atrevida). Shamir and others like him are completely ignorant of the real history of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution. They peddle myths and fairy tales that were invented long ago and which have long since been exploded by serious historical research. But this does fact does not bother the slanderers in the slightest. They write in the spirit of Goebbels, who said that if you wish to deceive the people, you must think of a big lie and repeat it and repeat it, and in the end people will start to believe it.
One of the myths that has been repeated endlessly is the story of Stalin as a “great war leader”. Stalin was supposed to have saved the USSR in the war against Hitler. The exact opposite is the case. By his criminal policies in the years before the War, Stalin exposed the USSR to terrible danger and nearly led to its destruction. His flirtation with Hitler left the USSR completely unprepared for War and when Hitler finally invaded in the summer of 1941, millions of Soviet troops were surrounded and taken prisoner or killed. The planes of the Red air force were destroyed on the ground.
At this time the “great war leader” panicked and disappeared into his dacha outside Moscow, where he told those around him that “everything Lenin has built has been destroyed.” The reason for his panic was that he knew (and so did Hitler) that his monstrous Purges before the War had destroyed the finest cadres of the Red Army, which found itself beheaded in the moment of danger. The USSR won the war against Hitler not thanks to Stalin but in spite of him, thanks to the advantages of a nationalized planned economy and the heroism of the workers of the Soviet Union.
Fortunately, real Communists are not little children or feeble-minded people who believe in fairy stories. They want to know the truth, because, as Trotsky once said, truth and not lies is the locomotive of history.
Shamir invents history
There is such a mountain of lies here that it is frankly difficult to know where to begin. For example, comrade Shamir informs us that Stalin “was also an internationalist [...] but he was a Russian internationalist, and his first duty was towards the people of the URSS.” He then informs us that
“Leon Trotsky did not understand the continuity of Russian history. He was involved in a terrible persecution of the Church, in robbery and destruction of churches. He was involved in mass executions of peasants and workers, officers and intellectuals. He lost the war in Poland and could not sign peace with Germany. He alienated the intellectuals and the workers of Russia. In his eagerness to carry out permanent revolution, he did not pay sufficient attention to Russia; this was his undoing.”
It would be difficult to imagine such a quantity of nonsense concentrated in such a few sentences. It is hard to know what is the main element here: maliciousness or ignorance. One thing, however, is certain. Comrade Shamir is a man with a most lively and fertile imagination. He also strives for originality. Other, less audacious, spirits would have been content simply to repeat the lies and slanders that were invented for decades by Stalin’s propaganda machine. Heaven knows there are enough of them!
But no! Israel Shamir has to be original and so he invents his own, entirely new and original slanders that nobody – absolutely nobody – ever thought of before. This at least has the merit of originality – and the most incredibly barefaced cheek. He accuses Trotsky of – robbing churches! Now where does Comrade Shamir get this from? One scratches one’s head in bewilderment. One searches the pages of the well-known Stalinist works against Trotsky: the infamous Short Course of the History of the CPSU (b), the verbatim texts of the Moscow Show trial, and countless other gems. But there is no mention of Trotsky “robbing and destroying churches”.
Intrigued by Shamir’s imaginative version of history, one looks around for some reference, some source for it. But one looks in vain. Not one reference, not one quotation, not one attempt to prove a single one of these assertions. This is the method of Israel Shamir – to throw a large quantity of foul-smelling mud in the hope that some, at least, will stick. As Marx once ironically commented: “Every line a piss-pot, and not an empty one.” Such a method is entirely unworthy of a real Communist – but entirely consistent with the Stalin School of Falsification that Comrade Shamir has so enthusiastically embraced.
Even worse is the scandalous lie that Trotsky “was involved in mass executions of peasants and workers, officers and intellectuals”. When? Where? Shamir is silent. He writes in the finest Goebbels tradition: it is only necessary to think of a big lie and repeat it. The complete absence of any specific information speaks for itself. This is a barefaced lie and Shamir knows it. The man who was certainly involved in mass executions of peasants and workers, officers and intellectuals was Joseph Stalin, and this is well known and documented down to the last detail. About this, however, our friend is silent. As we know, “no flies will enter a closed mouth.”
Actually, Shamir’s method is far inferior to that of the old Stalinists. They at least made some semblance of an attempt to prove their assertions by the use of distorted arguments and quotations taken out of context. Even in the monstrous Moscow Show Trials Vyshinsky attempted to prove his vile accusations. In Shamir’s diatribe we find nothing of the sort. From the first line to the last, it is simply an insult to the intelligence of the reader.
Without giving any detail, Shamir makes a reference to the old Stalinist myth about Trotsky and Brest Litovsk, which I and Ted Grant have answered in detail in Lenin and Trotsky, What they really stood for. But what is even more incredible is his reference to the Polish War of 1920. The allegation that Trotsky lost the Polish war stands the historical truth completely on its head. Trotsky was not personally involved in the Polish campaign, which, incidentally, he opposed.
The army that marched against White Poland and that reached the gates of Warsaw was led by the brilliant Red Army commander Tukhachevsky. It is possible that he might have succeeded in taking it, except for the fact that his advance was sabotaged by the second Soviet army that deliberately delayed joining up with him. That army was led by Stalin and his cronies. They caused the defeat of the Red Army in Poland that Shamir refers to. And what happened to the military genius and revolutionary Tukhachevsky? He was murdered by Stalin along with all the other great leaders of the Red Army, preparing the way for Hitler to invade the USSR.
The worse thing about this kind of polemic is that nobody can learn anything from it. This was never the method of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. It would never have occurred to Lenin (just as it would never have occurred to Marx and Engels) to distort and falsify the ideas of his opponents. He was interested in bringing out the differences clearly, and answer them honestly, because for Lenin the purpose of a polemic was above all to educate the cadres.
Lenin knew and loved the national traditions, history, literature and culture of Russia. An internationalist to the core, he was nevertheless firmly grounded in Russian life and culture. Yet Lenin never made the slightest concessions to Great-Russian chauvinism, against which he waged a pitiless struggle all his life. By contrast, comrade Shamir’s diatribe is impregnated with the spirit of Great Russian chauvinism from the first line to the last. This is something absolutely alien to genuine Leninism.
It is not Trotsky who has failed to understand proletarian internationalism, but comrade Shamir, who confuses Stalinist chauvinism with Leninist internationalism. The two positions are not just different, but mutually incompatible. Lenin’s hatred of Russian nationalism was so great that for some time after the October revolution the word “Russia” disappeared from all Soviet official documents. The Land of October was referred to simply as The Workers’ State.
Lenin fought bitterly against Russian chauvinism all his life. On the eve of the First World War Lenin wrote:
"Even now, probably for a fairly long time, proletarian democracy must reckon with the nationalism of the Great-Russian peasants (not with the object of making concessions to it, but in order to combat it)." (LCW, The Right of Nations to Self-determination, February-May 1914, vol. 20, our emphasis.)
And he continues: "This state of affairs confronts the proletariat of Russia with a twofold or, rather, a two-sided task; to combat all nationalism and, above all, Great-Russian nationalism; to recognise not only equal rights for all nations in general, but also equality of rights as regards statehood, i.e., the right of nations to self-determination. And at the same time, it is their task to promote a successful struggle against nationalism of all nations, whatever its form, and preserve the unity of the proletarian struggle and of the proletarian organisations, amalgamating these organisations into a closely-knit international association despite bourgeois striving for national exclusiveness.
"Complete equality of rights for all nations, the right of nations to self-determination, the unity of the workers of all nations—such is the national programme that Marxism, the experience of the whole world and the experience of Russia, teach the workers." (Ibid., my emphasis, AW)
To try to attribute to the great Lenin the rotten poison of Russian nationalism, when Lenin fought against this all his life, is nothing less than a scandal and an insult to the memory of Vladimir Ilyich. For Lenin, the Russian Revolution itself was not a self-contained act or an end in itself, but only the first link in a chain of revolutions that would lead to world socialism. In fact, he said many times that he would be prepared to sacrifice the Russian Revolution, if that meant the victory of the socialist revolution in Germany.
Lenin knew very well that unless the proletarian revolution triumphed in Western Europe, especially in Germany, the October Revolution would ultimately be doomed. He expressed this idea a hundred times in articles and speeches after 1917. He never subscribed to the anti-Marxist idea of “socialism in one country”. History has now shown that he was right.
Lenin and the national question
Lenin always showed great sensitivity in his dealings with the nationalities of the Soviet state. The Bolsheviks met all their obligations to the oppressed nations of the former tsarist empire. When a move was initiated to set up a Union of Soviet Republics, Lenin was very cautious about it. While obviously in favour of a voluntary federation, which was formed immediately after the October Revolution, Lenin was anxious to avoid giving any impression to the non-Russian nationalities that the Bolsheviks merely wished to re-constitute the old tsarist empire under a new name.
Lenin therefore urged caution and patience. However, Stalin, who was made Commissar for the Nationalities because he was a Georgian, had other ideas. It is a well-established fact that members of small nations who rise to leading positions in the government of an oppressive majority nation tend to become the worst great-power chauvinists. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte, although a Corsican, became the most fanatical proponent of French centralism.
In 1921, despite Lenin's objections, Stalin organised an invasion of Georgia, which was (theoretically) an independent state. Presented with a fait accompli, Lenin was obliged to accept the position. But he strongly advised caution and sensitivity when dealing with the Georgians, in order to avoid any hint of Russian bullying. At the time Georgia, a predominantly peasant and petty bourgeois country, was ruled by the Mensheviks.
Lenin was in favour of a conciliatory policy, with a view to winning the confidence of the Georgians. He attached enormous importance to the maintenance of fraternal relations between the nationalities, and insisted on the voluntary character of any union or federation. Stalin, on the contrary, wished to push through at all costs the union of the Russian Socialist Federation (RSFSR) with the Transcaucasian Federation, the Ukrainian SSR and the Bielorussian SSR.
When Stalin's draft proposal was submitted to the Central Committee, Lenin subjected it to a serious criticism and proposed an alternative solution which was different in principle from Stalin's draft. Lenin, typically, stressed the element of equality and the voluntary nature of the federation: "We recognise ourselves to be the equals of the Ukrainian SSR and others," he wrote, "and together with them and on equal terms with them enter a new union, a new federation…" (Lenin, Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism, p. 223.)
Behind the backs of the Party leadership, Stalin, aided by his henchman Ordzhonikidze (a Russified Georgian, like himself) and Dzerzhinski (a Pole) staged what amounted to a coup in Georgia. They purged the Georgian Mensheviks, against Lenin's specific advice, and when the Georgian Bolshevik leaders protested, they were ruthlessly pushed aside. Stalin and Ordzhonikidze trampled on all criticism. In other words, they carried out a policy that was precisely the opposite of what Lenin advocated for Georgia. They bullied the Georgian Bolsheviks and even went so far as to use physical violence, as when Ordzhonikidze struck one of the Georgian Bolsheviks—an unheard-of action. When Lenin, who was incapacitated by illness, finally found out he was horrified, and dictated a series of letters to his secretaries, denouncing Stalin's conduct in the harshest possible terms and demanding the severest punishment for Ordzhonikidze.
In a text dictated on December 24-5 1922, Lenin branded Stalin "a real and true national-socialist", and a vulgar "Great-Russian bully". (See Buranov, Lenin's Will, p. 46.) He wrote: "I also fear that Comrade Dzerzhinski, who went to the Caucasus to investigate the 'crime' of those 'nationalist-socialists', distinguished himself there by his truly Russian frame of mind (it is common knowledge that people of other nationalities who have become Russified overdo this Russian frame of mind) and that the impartiality of his whole commission was typified well enough by Ordzhonikidze's 'manhandling'." (LCW, The Question of Nationalities or 'autonomization', 13 December 1922, vol. 36, p. 606.)
Lenin placed the blame for this incident firmly at Stalin's door: "I think," he wrote, "that Stalin's haste and infatuation with pure administration, together with his spite against the notorious 'nationalist-socialism' played a fatal role here. In politics, spite generally plays the basest of roles." (Ibid.)
Lenin against bureaucracy
Lenin linked Stalin's behaviour in Georgia directly to the problem of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state apparatus under conditions of frightful backwardness. He particularly condemned Stalin's haste in pushing through a Union of Soviet Republics, irrespective of the opinions of the peoples concerned, under the pretext of the need for a "united state apparatus". Lenin firmly rejected this argument, and explained it as the expression of the rotten Great-Russian chauvinism emanating from the Bureaucracy which, to a large degree, the Revolution had inherited from tsarism:
"It is said that a united state apparatus was needed. Where did that assurance come from? Did it not come from the same Russian apparatus, which, as I pointed out in one of the preceding sections of my diary, we took over from Tsarism and slightly anointed with Soviet oil?
"There is no doubt that that measure should have been delayed until we could say, that we vouched for our apparatus as our own. But now, we must, in all conscience, admit the contrary; the state apparatus we call ours is, in fact, still quite alien to us; it is a bourgeois and Tsarist hotchpotch and there has been no possibility of getting rid of it in the past five years without the help of other countries and because we have been "busy" most of the time with military engagements and the fight against famine.
"It is quite natural that in such circumstances the 'freedom to secede from the union' by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riff-raff like a fly in milk." (Ibid., p. 605, my emphasis, AW.)
After the Georgian affair, Lenin threw the whole weight of his authority behind the struggle to remove Stalin from the post of General Secretary of the Party, which he occupied in 1922, after the death of Sverdlov. However, Lenin's main fear now more than ever was that an open split in the leadership, under prevailing conditions, might lead to the break-up of the party along class lines. He therefore attempted to keep the struggle confined to the leadership, and the notes and other material were not made public. Lenin wrote secretly to the Georgian Bolshevik-Leninists (sending copies to Trotsky and Kamenev) taking up their cause against Stalin "with all my heart". As he was unable to pursue the affair in person, he wrote to Trotsky requesting him to undertake the defence of the Georgians in the Central Committee.
'Socialism in one country'
Nationalism and Marxism are incompatible. But nationalism is the inseparable Siamese twin of Stalinism in all its varieties. At the heart of the ideology of Stalinism is the so-called theory of socialism in one country. The anti-Marxist theory of "socialism in one country", first expounded by Stalin in the autumn of 1924, went against everything the Bolsheviks and the Communist International, had preached. Such a notion could never have been countenanced by Marx or Lenin.
How was it possible to construct a national socialism in a single country, let alone an extremely backward country like Russia? Such a thought never entered the heads of any Bolshevik, including Stalin's up until 1924. (It would have been impossible to advance such an idea while Lenin was alive.” As late as 1924, Stalin continued to support Lenin's internationalist position. In April of that year, in a speech to students at the Sverdlov University, later published under the title Foundations of Leninism, Stalin stated:
"The overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of a proletarian government in one country does not yet guarantee the complete victory of socialism. The main task of socialism—the organisation of socialist production—remains ahead. Can this task be accomplished, can the final victory of socialism in one country be attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries? No, this is impossible. To overthrow the bourgeoisie the efforts of one country are sufficient—the history of our revolution bears this out. For the final victory of Socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a peasant country as Russia, are insufficient. For this the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are necessary.
"Such, on the whole, are the characteristic features of the Leninist theory of the proletarian revolution." (Stalin, Lenin and Leninism, p. 40.)
Here without doubt the general position of the Bolshevik Party is correctly expressed. However, in the second edition, published a few months later, these lines were withdrawn and the exact opposite put in their place:
"But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country does not yet mean that the complete victory of socialism has been assured. After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society!" (Stalin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 110, my emphasis.)
That these were precisely the "characteristic features of the Leninist theory of proletarian revolution" was nowhere in dispute up to the first part of 1924. They had been repeated time and time again in hundreds of speeches, articles and documents by Lenin since 1905. Yet before the end of 1924, Stalin's book had been revised, and the exact opposite put in its place: "The party always took as its starting point the idea that the victory of socialism in that country, and that task can be accomplished with the forces of a single country."
These lines mark a complete break with Lenin's policy of proletarian internationalism. Stalin could never have expressed himself in this way while Lenin was still alive. Initially, the "theory" of socialism in one country reflected the mood of the rising caste of bureaucrats who had done well out of the October revolution and now wished to call a halt to the period of revolutionary storm and stress. It was the theoretical expression of a petty bourgeois reaction against October. Under the banner of Socialism in one Country, the Stalinist Bureaucracy waged a one-sided civil war against Bolshevism which ended in the physical destruction of Lenin's Party and the creation of a monstrous totalitarian regime.
The Comintern was transformed from a vehicle of the world proletarian revolution into a passive instrument of Stalin's foreign policy. When it no longer suited him, Stalin contemptuously dissolved it in 1943, without even calling a congress.
Only one man explained in advance where the theory of Socialism in one Country would inevitably lead. As early as 1928, Leon Trotsky warned that if this theory was adopted by the Comintern, it would inevitably be the start of a process that could only end in the national-reformist degeneration of every Communist Party in the world, whether in or out of power. Three generations later, the USSR and the Communist International lie in ruins, and the Communist Parties have long since abandoned any pretence to stand for a real Leninist policy everywhere.
Under Stalin, the most monstrous acts were committed against national minorities in the USSR. The Purges finished the job began by Stalin in 1922—the liquidation of what remained of the Bolshevik Party. About the middle of 1937 an all-out assault was launched against the Communist Parties in every national Republic. A number of leaders of national Parties were included in the notorious show trial of Bukharin in March 1938. The leaders were usually accused of "bourgeois nationalism" and executed. After this, the way was open for mass arrests and deportations. The exact number of the victims of Stalin's Purges will probably never be known, but they were certainly numbered in millions. It was no comfort to the Ukrainians, Armenians and Georgians that the Russian people suffered no less grievously.
Stalin’s Great Russian chauvinism
Shamir quotes approvingly Stalin’s toast to the Russian people in 1945. This is quite incredible. Stalin’s toast after the defeat of Hitler Germany was simply: “To the Russian people.” Not “to the people of the Soviet Union, but specifically and exclusively the Russian people. But millions of others - Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Tartars and Chechens – had also given their lives in this titanic struggle to defend the USSR against Nazi barbarism. But they were not considered worthy of mention.
This speech, which was reprinted in Pravda on 25 May 1945, was a scandalous departure from Leninism. It was an extreme example of Stalin’s Russian nationalist tendencies. He asserts that the Russian people were "the most outstanding nation of all the nations of the Soviet Union" and the "guiding force" of the USSR. By implication, all other nationalities were second-class peoples who were not outstanding and therefore must accept the "guidance" of Moscow. Such a conception violates the letter and spirit of Lenin’s policy on the national question.
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of the national question in Russia will immediately see why such a “gesture” was a monstrous betrayal of Leninist internationalism and a blatant concession to Great Russian chauvinism. Yet for Israel Shamir it is absolutely perfect!
Just as Napoleon Bonaparte was a Corsican who became a French imperialist and a lover of centralism, so Stalin, who was a Georgian, became a ferocious defender of Great Russian chauvinism. This led directly to a break with Lenin, who angrily demanded that Stalin be removed as General Secretary of the Party.
Great Russian chauvinism has nothing to do with Leninism. Lenin fought against it all his life. Now Shamir wishes to fish the stinking rags of chauvinism out of the dustbin of history, dust them down and present hem as – Leninism! Could anything be more monstrous? On 6 October 1922, Lenin wrote a memo to the Politburo, On Combating Dominant National Chauvinism:
"I declare war to the death on dominant nation chauvinism. I shall eat it with all my healthy teeth as soon as I get rid of this accursed bad tooth." He was thinking precisely of Stalin when he wrote these lines. But even Lenin could never have suspected the appalling results to which the chauvinist tendencies of Stalin and the bureaucracy would lead. The most monstrous crime committed by Stalin was the mass deportation of nationalities that was carried out during the Second World War. In the course of the War, no fewer than seven whole peoples were deported to Siberia and Central Asia under the most inhumane conditions.
This was the fate of the Crimean Tartars, the Volga Germans, the Kalmyks, the Karachai, the Balkars, the Ingushi—and the Chechens. The NKVD—Stalin's secret police—rounded up everyone—men, women, children, old and sick, Communists and trade unionists—and ordered them onto cattle-trucks at gunpoint with whatever possessions they could carry. A large number died in transit or upon arrival, from cold, hunger or exhaustion. Soldiers fighting at the front, even those who had been decorated for bravery, were likewise arrested and deported. The legacy of bitterness created by this cruel and arbitrary act of barbarity and national oppression has lasted till today. It is expressed in the break-up of the Soviet Union and the nightmare in Chechnya.
The drive to russify the non-Russian peoples is shown by the composition of the leading bodies of the "Communist" Parties of the Republics. In 1952, only about half of all leading officials in the Central Asian and Baltic Republics were of local nationality. Elsewhere, the proportion was even lower. For example, in the Moldovian Party only 24.7 per cent were Moldovians, while only 38 per cent of recruits to the Tadjik Party in 1948 were said to be Tadjiks.
By such anti-Leninist methods, Stalin undermined the proletarian solidarity that had united the different peoples of the Soviet Union. This was what led to the criminal break-up of the Soviet Union, with catastrophic results for all the peoples.
One of the most repulsive features of Stalinism was its anti-Semitism. The Bolshevik Party had always fought against anti-Semitism. Consequently, the Jews looked upon the October Revolution as their salvation. The Bolsheviks gave the Jews full liberty and equal rights. Their language and culture were encouraged. They even set up an autonomous republic, so that those Jews who wanted a separate homeland should have it. But under Stalin all the old racist filth revived. The Jews again became scapegoats. Already in the 1920s, Stalin was prepared to use anti-Semitism against Trotsky.
Since Jews formed a large part of the Old Bolsheviks, they suffered disproportionately in the Purges. After the Second World War, there was an anti-Semitic campaign, only partially disguised by fig-leafs such as "Zionists" or "rootless cosmopolitans"—words which were merely code-words for "Jews". The notorious "Doctors' Plot" in which a number of Kremlin doctors were accused of trying to poison Stalin was the signal for a blatantly anti-Semitic campaign, since the doctors concerned were Jews. After the setting up of the state of Israel in 1948 (which was initially supported by Moscow), Jewish culture, hitherto tolerated, was severely repressed. All publications in Yiddish were closed down, as was the Yiddish theatre.
In 1952, the year before Stalin died, virtually all the leaders of Jewish culture were shot, and a large number of Jews arrested. Only the death of Stalin prevented a new Purge from taking place. Even today, elements of anti-Semitism are present in the so-called "Communist" Parties in Russia. On demonstrations on the First of May (the workers international day) one can see anti-Semitic slogans on placards and see anti-Semitic literature on sale. Such abominations would have been unthinkable in Lenin’s day. Now, it seems, they are quite acceptable. This is yet another heritage of Stalinism, which assimilated many of the worst and most reactionary and repulsive features of the old tsarist nationalism. This, in itself, is sufficient to demonstrate the abyss that separates Stalinism (and neo-Stalinism) from genuine Leninism.
Now, finally, we see the results. The theory of Socialism in one Country has ended in the destruction of the USSR and the transformation of the Stalinist Bureaucracy into a new class of capitalist exploiters. The solidarity that Lenin and Trotsky established between the peoples of the USSR was undermined, creating favourable conditions for the rebirth of all the old ethnic and national conflicts. If you wish to find the roots of the wars and conflicts that have erupted between the former Soviet republics, you will find them in Stalin’s treatment of the national question.
Lenin’s struggle against bureaucracy and Stalin
The documentary evidence of Lenin's last fight against Stalin and the bureaucracy was suppressed for decades by Moscow. Lenin's last writings were hidden from the Communist Party rank-and-file in Russia and internationally. Lenin's last letter to the Party Congress, despite the protests of his widow, was not read out at the Party Congress and remained under lock and key until 1956 when Khruschev and Co. published it, along with a few other items including the letters on Georgia and the national question. Thus, Lenin's struggle to defend the real policies of Bolshevism and proletarian internationalism were consigned to oblivion.
The growing bureaucratic menace preoccupied Lenin's attention throughout that year. At the 11th Party Congress in March-April 1922 - the last Congress in which he was able to participate - his main preoccupation was bureaucratism. Lenin, as always, dealt honestly with the problem: "Well, we have lived through a year, the state is in our hands; but has it operated the New Economic Policy in the way we wanted in the past year? No. But we refuse to admit that it did not operate in the way we wanted. How did it operate? The machine refused to obey the hand that guided it. It was like a car that was going not in the direction the driver desired, but in the direction someone else desired; as if it were being driven by some mysterious, lawless hand, God knows whose, perhaps of a profiteer, or of a private capitalist, or of both. Be that as it may, the car is not going quite in the direction the man at the wheel imagines, and often it goes in an altogether different direction." (LCW, Vol. 33, p. 179.)
"Then what is lacking?" asked Lenin. "If we take Moscow with its 4,700 Communists in responsible positions, and if we take the huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be truthfully said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed." (Ibid., p. 288.)
At the same Congress Lenin explained, in a very clear and unambiguous language, the possibility of the degeneration of the revolution as a result of the pressures of alien classes. Lenin compared the relationship of the Soviet workers to the bureaucracy and the pro-capitalist elements to that of a conquering and conquered nation:
"Sometimes one nation conquers another, the nation that conquers is the conqueror and the nation that is vanquished is the conquered nation. This is simple and intelligible to all. But what happens to the culture of these nations? Here things are not so simple," stated Lenin. "If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture upon the latter; but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture upon the conqueror. Has not something like this happened in the capital of the RSFSR (1)? Have the 4,700 Communists (nearly a whole army division, and all of them the very best) come under the influence of an alien culture?" Lenin then asks pointedly: "Will the responsible Communists of the RSFSR and of the Russian Communist Party realise that they cannot administer; that they only imagine they are directing, but are actually being directed?"
"The machine no longer obeyed the driver" - the state was no longer under the control of the Communists, of the workers, but was increasingly raising itself above society.
Lenin's correspondence and writings of this period, when illness was increasingly preventing him from intervening in the struggle, clearly indicate his alarm at the encroachment of the Soviet bureaucracy, the insolent parvenus in every corner of the state apparatus. Lenin was aware of the dangers of the degeneration of the workers' state encircled by capitalism.
After the 11th Party Congress in 1922, Lenin's health deteriorated and in May of that year he suffered his first stroke. He recovered and was back on his feet by July and officially returned to work in October. On his return he was deeply shocked by the growing bureaucratic tumour that was gnawing away at the state and Party. "Our bureaucratism is something monstrous," Lenin commented to Trotsky. "I was appalled when I came back to work" It was at this time that he offered to form a bloc with Trotsky against bureaucracy in general and against the Organisational Bureau in particular. Lenin also concentrated his attention on the entire problem of the leadership of the Party. The clashes with Stalin over the Georgian affair and other matters increasingly revealed Stalin's role. That is when Lenin began work on his Testament.
Lenin versus Stalin
Lenin only became fully aware of the bureaucratic reaction within the Party towards the end of 1922, when he discovered the truth about Stalin's handling of relations with the Georgian Bolshevik leaders. The central role of Stalin in this bureaucratic web became clear. Without the knowledge of Lenin or the Politburo (the highest body in the Party), Stalin, together with his henchmen Dzerzhinsky and Ordzhonikidze, had carried out a coup d'état in the Georgian party. The finest cadres of Georgian Bolshevism were purged, and the Party leaders denied access to Lenin, who was fed a string of lies by Stalin.
When he finally found out what was happening, Lenin was absolutely furious. From his sick-bed late in 1922, he dictated a series of notes to his stenographer on "the notorious question of autonomisation, which, it appears, is officially called the question of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics". Lenin's notes are a crushing indictment of the bureaucratic and chauvinist arrogance of Stalin and the clique surrounding him. But Lenin does not treat this incident as an accidental phenomenon - as a "regrettable mistake."
After the Georgian affair, Lenin threw the whole weight of his authority behind the struggle to remove Stalin from the post of general secretary of the Party, which he had occupied for a short time after the death of Sverdlov. However, Lenin's main fear now, more than ever, was that an open split in the leadership, under prevailing conditions, might lead to the break up of the Party along class lines. He therefore attempted to keep the struggle confined to the leadership, and his notes and other material were not made public.
Lenin wrote secretly to the Georgian Bolsheviks (sending copies to Trotsky and Kamenev) taking up their cause against Stalin "with all my heart". As he was unable to pursue the affair in person, he wrote to Trotsky requesting him to undertake the defence of the Georgians in the Central Committee. In the last months of his political life, weakened by illness, Lenin turned repeatedly to Trotsky for support in his struggle against the bureaucracy and its creature, Stalin. On the question of the monopoly of foreign trade, on the question of Georgia, and, finally, in the struggle to oust Stalin from the leadership, Lenin formed a bloc with Trotsky, the only man in the leadership he could trust.
Lenin’s suppressed testament
Lenin's began writing his Testament on the 25th December 1922, in which he critically assessed the qualities of the Bolshevik leadership. It contained his final recommendations. "Comrade Stalin, having become general secretary, has concentrated enormous power in his hands; and I am not sure that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution." He then deals with Trotsky's qualities: "On the other hand comrade Trotsky, as was proved by his struggle against the Central Committee in connection with the question of the Peoples' Commissariat of Communications, is distinguished not only by his exceptional abilities - personally he is, to be sure, the most able man in the present Central Committee - but also by his too far reaching self-confidence and a disposition to be too much attracted by the purely administrative side of affairs." In relation to the others: "I will only remind you that the October episode of Zinoviev and Kamenev was not, of course, accidental, but that it ought as little to be used against them personally as the non-Bolshevik past of Trotsky."
However, new and alarming manifestations of Stalin's abuse of power caused Lenin to dictate a postscript ten days later dated the 4th January 1923, entirely devoted to Stalin. This time it was direct and brutal. "Stalin is too rude, and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealings amongst us communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious" (LCW, Vol. 36, pp. 594-6.)
Two months later, Lenin broke off political and personal relations with Stalin, after he had verbally abused his wife, Krupskaya. Two days before his final stroke, he wrote to Stalin, with a copy to Zinoviev and Kamenev: "I have no intention of forgetting so easily what has been done against me, and it goes without saying that what has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well." (Quoted in Liebman, op. cit., p. 423.)
On the 6th March, Krupskaya told Kamenev that Lenin had resolved "to crush Stalin politically". (Ibid., p. 424.) Lenin told Krupskaya that the Testament was to be kept secret until after his death, and then it should be made public to the ranks of the Party. However, Lenin was seriously paralysed by a third stroke on the 9th March 1923. Power effectively fell into the hands of a triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin.
Nine months later, on the 21st January 1924, Lenin died. It was very convenient for Stalin. The triumvirate were determined to keep Trotsky from the leadership and therefore decided to keep Lenin's Testament under lock and key. Needless to say, the documentary evidence of Lenin's last fight against Stalin and the bureaucracy was suppressed for decades, and denounced as forgeries by the leaders of the Communist Parties internationally.
Lenin's last writings were hidden from the Communist Party rank and file. Lenin's Testament, which demanded Stalin's removal as general secretary, despite the protests of his widow, was not read out at the Congress and remained hidden until 1956 when Khrushchev and Co. produced it, along with a few other items, as part of their campaign to throw the blame for all that had happened in the past 30 years onto Stalin's shoulders. With Lenin's death, the struggle against the growing bureaucratic reaction now fell to Trotsky and the Left Opposition.
The serious illness and subsequent death of Lenin put effective power in the hands of the "troika" of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. In reality, the central lever of power was already in Stalin's grip, given his complete organisational domination of the Party apparatus. A campaign of calumny and falsification was opened up against Trotsky. All the old smears about Trotsky's non-Bolshevik past (which Lenin had written off in his Testament), about the "permanent revolution", Brest-Litovsk, and the rest, were dragged up by the ruling faction to discredit Trotsky and oust him from the leadership.
In his last letter to the Party, Lenin accused Stalin of being rude and disloyal. The same is true of Shamir.
“Stalin turned the Soviet Union into a powerful modern state, guaranteed full employment, workers’ rights, education and free health care. He created the industrial base and an advanced science. He waged and won the hardest war ever experienced by Russia. Under his regime, socialist Russia survived endless attacks by US imperialism. He did not allow the pro-western and pro-capitalist forces in the country to lift their head.” And so on and so forth…
“The Trotskyists in Russia constitute a pro-western and pro-capitalist force,” writes Shamir. On what grounds? On no grounds at all, except that Shamir says so. Not a single quotation, fact or proof. This is absolutely typical of the method of Stalinism. Slanders are put forward and repeated, in the hope that in the end people will believe them.
Why does Comrade Shamir not produce a single quotation to back up his truly monstrous allegations? He does not do so because he cannot do so, because such quotations do not exist. He has invented them, just as he has invented everything else in his article. It is motivated not by a desire to establish the truth but purely by blind malevolence and spite. And spite, as Lenin pointed out (precisely in relation to Stalin), plays the most fatal role in politics.
This method is a throwback to the past – methods that cast shame and discredit on the name of Communism. Shamir claims to speak in the name of Russian Communists, but he speaks only for himself and a small and rapidly diminishing number of old diehard Stalinists who are out of touch with reality. Such people are incapable of thinking. Fortunately, serious members of the Communist Party want to know the truth about the past. They are not little children that believe in fairy stories. They know that for decades they were lied to by the Stalinist leadership and are tired of lies. We address ourselves to these honest Communists, not to the falsifiers, to the living, not the dead.
Zyuganov defends Stalin
In this article Zyuganov writes the following: "There are reasons to assert that the personality of Stalin is comparable to the greatest figures of the Renaissance, a period that, like the last century, saw humanity burst into a new spiral of historic development."
This curious historical parallel is open to different interpretations. The Renaissance knew all kinds of great figures who fulfilled all kinds of roles: not only Michelangelo and Leonardo but also Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. If the comparison is with the latter, then there is something to be said for it. Stalin had all the features that made the Borgias famous, except for their colourful personalities and their well-known love of art.
Stalin, we are told, was "a man of his times, who united in his person an unbridled aspiration to advance, and the heavy burden of the past. A lofty humanism and an inability to appreciate people, [...]. A sincere lack of interest in material things and an impetuous infatuation with power, which at times annulled other sentiments. Prudence and carefulness in many questions, and sudden ill-considered decisions that affected the destiny of millions of people, and which later had to be painfully corrected. All this was Stalin."
One reads these lines and rubs one's eyes in disbelief. Whatever else Stalin might be accused of, nobody ever thought of accusing him of "lofty humanism"! But leave that to one side. One searches in vain in these lines for the slightest element of a Marxist analysis. Here the whole question is reduced to the most trivial level of personal psychological traits – traits that are purely subjective and therefore cannot be explained. But it is precisely an explanation that is required.
In other words, we go back to the old explanation of Nikita Khrushchev – the theory of the "cult of personality." But in reality this "explanation" explains nothing. Marxists do not explain history in terms of the personal traits and individual psychology of "great men and women", but in the relations between different social classes and groupings. The question that must be addressed is: whish social grouping did Stalin represent? The answer was already given by Lenin in his last writings, which comrade Zyuganov, like Israel Shamir, conveniently ignores. Stalin represented the caste of officials and bureaucrats that had usurped power in the Soviet Union as a result of conditions of appalling backwardness.
Stalin's role in the October Revolution was insignificant (this can be seen immediately from a reading of John Reed's classic Ten Days that Shook the World, which Lenin said was a most truthful account). He rose to power after the October victory on the basis of a petty bourgeois bureaucratic reaction against October. He based himself upon the bureaucracy, first in the Party, the apparat, which he dominated, and later became the champion of the millions of former Tsarist officials who continued to function under the protective colouring of the Soviet state.
This process of bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution eventually ended in the slaughter of the Old Bolsheviks, who could not stomach Stalin's destruction of the Revolution and the Party of Lenin. Stalin trampled underfoot the spotless traditions of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. He utterly destroyed the regime of workers' democracy established by the Revolution.
He thus played the role of the executioner of the Bolshevik Party and the gravedigger of the Revolution. Zyuganov knows this, but passes over it in silence. For him, Stalin is the heir of Lenin and continuer of the Bolshevik tradition. In fact, Stalin betrayed the principles of Leninism, murdered the Bolshevik Leninists and dragged the spotless banner of the October Revolution through the mud.
Lenin and Stalin
According to Zyuganov, "Stalin filled all around him with enthusiasm, with a burning desire to advance, to overcome all the difficulties, to conquer. He was distinguished by his sense of discipline, and his clear understanding of his personal responsibility.
"It is no accident that Lenin held him in such high esteem. Often, to fill responsible positions, he saw no other suitable candidate ‘other than comrade Stalin.' We find an example of this when the People's Commissariat for the Nationalities was under discussion, and when ‘Rabkrin' (The Workers' and Peasants Inspectorate) was set up: ‘It is a gigantic task,' Lenin pointed out, ‘in order to know how to deal with it, there must be someone in control who has authority, otherwise we will fail and get bogged down in personal intrigues'."
It is frankly incredible that comrade Zyuganov should quote these examples. Stalin's record at the head of the People's Commissariat for the Nationalities was a disastrous one. It did enormous damage to relations between the Russian workers and the peoples of the oppressed nations of the Caucasus and led directly to a furious clash with Lenin, who, as a result, broke off all personal and comradely relations with Stalin.
The example of Rabkrin is no better. Under Stalin, Rabkrin became a centre of bureaucratic intrigue. Stalin used his control of this body to advance his cronies and staff Soviet offices with people who were loyal to him. In other words, he turned Rabkrin into precisely what Lenin warned against in the extract quoted by comrade Zyuganov.
When Zyuganov says that, "Stalin filled all around him with enthusiasm, with a burning desire to advance, to overcome all the difficulties, to conquer", he is partly right. Stalin surrounded himself with loyal cronies and careerists who were very enthusiastic to obtain positions for themselves in the Soviet state, and were certainly motivated by a burning desire to advance themselves. True, they faced considerable difficulties in the shape of the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky, which was waging a stubborn fight against the evils of bureaucracy and privilege. But the new caste of Soviet bureaucrats and upstarts were determined to conquer, and because of the conditions of appalling backwardness in Russia, they finally got what they wanted.
As early as 1920, Trotsky criticised the workings of Rabkrin, which from a tool in the struggle against bureaucracy was becoming itself a hotbed of bureaucracy. Initially, Lenin defended Rabkrin against Trotsky's criticisms. But Later he came around to Trotsky's view: "This idea was suggested by Comrade Trotsky, it seems, quite a long time ago. I was against it at the time. But after closer consideration of the matter, I find that in substance there is a sound idea in it." At first Lenin's illness prevented him from appreciating what was going on behind his back in the state and Party. In 1922, the situation became clear to him. "Bureaucracy is throttling us," he complained. He saw that the problem arose from the country's economic and cultural backwardness.
So how was this state of affairs going to be combated? Lenin stressed the importance of the workers' organisation in keeping the bureaucratic menace in check: "Our Party Programme - a document which the author of the ABC of Communism [Nikolai Bukharin] knows very well - shows that ours is a workers' state with a bureaucratic twist to it. We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers' organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state." (LCW, Vol. 32, pp. 24-5.)
Lenin's struggle against Stalin was directly linked to his determined struggle against the bureaucracy within the Bolshevik Party itself. It is quite astonishing that Zyuganov should cite Stalin's control of Rabkrin as proof of his Leninist credentials. Evidently he is not aware that Lenin, in his struggle against Stalin and his bureaucratic faction specifically singles out Rabkrin as the goal of his attacks. Or else he does know this and is simply distorting Lenin's position.
In Better Fewer, But Better, written shortly before his Testament, Lenin commented on Rabkrin in the most negative terms. Here is what Lenin wrote about it: "Let it be said in parentheses that we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as in Soviet offices." In the same work, he launched a sharp attack against Rabkrin, which was clearly meant for Stalin: "Let us say frankly that the People's Commissariat of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection does not at present enjoy the slightest authority. Everybody knows that no other institutions are worse organised than those of our Workers' and Peasants' Inspection and that under present conditions nothing can be expected from this Peoples' Commissariat." (LCW, Vol. 33, p. 490, my emphasis, AW.)
So here we have Lenin's opinion about the Rabkrin that comrade Zyuganov admires so much. It "does not at present enjoy the slightest authority", there is "no other institution worse organised than those of our Workers' and Peasants' Inspection" and " nothing can be expected from this Peoples' Commissariat."
Can this be clearer? And can it be clearer that Zyuganov has presented Lenin's attitude to Rabkrin and Stalin in an entirely false and distorted light? Lenin was very well aware that Stalin had turned Rabkrin into a hothouse of bureaucracy, careerism and intrigue. That is why he warns that "we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as in Soviet offices." This warning refers to Stalin. It was the beginning of a struggle that was to end in a complete break between Lenin and Stalin.
Stalin as General Secretary
"It was precisely at Lenin's request," Zyuganov informs us, "that Stalin took over as General Secretary of the Bolshevik Party in 1922." What comrade Zyuganov does not tell us is that Lenin soon after angrily demanded Stalin's removal from the post of General Secretary and formed a bloc with Trotsky against him.
In his autobiography, My Life, Trotsky recalls the conversation he had with Lenin on this question:
"'Vladimir Ilyich, according to my conviction, in the present struggle with bureaucratism in the Soviet apparatus, we must not forget that there is going on, both in the provinces and in the centre, a special selection of officials and specialists, party, non-party, and half-party, around certain ruling party personalities and groups - in the provinces, in the districts, in the party locals and in the centre - that is, the Central Committee, etc. Attacking the Soviet officials you run into the party leader. The specialist is a member of his suite. In such circumstances I could not undertake this work.'
"Then Vladimir Ilyich reflected for a moment and - here I quote him practically verbatim - said: 'That is, I propose a struggle with Soviet bureaucratism, and you want to add to that the bureaucratism of the Organisation Bureau of the party.' I laughed at the unexpectedness of this, because no such finished formulation of the idea was in my head. I answered, 'I suppose that's it.'
"Then Vladimir Ilyich said: 'Well, all right, I propose a bloc.' and I said: 'I'm always ready to form a bloc with a good man.'" (Trotsky, My Life.)
As we have already mentioned, Lenin's last words on Stalin and Trotsky are to be found in his Letter to the Congress, known to history as Lenin's Suppressed Testament. We remind our readers that Lenin said about Trotsky that he was "to be sure, the ablest man on the Central Committee" and stated that "his non-Bolshevik past should not be held against him". About Stalin he said that he was too rude (elsewhere he said "rude and disloyal") and had concentrated too much power into his hands ("and I am not sure that he will use it properly") and demanded that he be removed from the post of General Secretary. But about all this Gennady Zyuganov does not say a word.
Stalin's "great achievements"
Referring to Stalin's alleged achievements, Zyuganov writes:
"The results of Stalin's work is known to all. In the first years of the first five-year plan, for example, the industrial potential of our country was doubled. Heavy industry began to occupy the first place. The most backward and distant regions were drawn into the field of production. A multitude of new cities and industrial centers sprang up. The old centers underwent radical transformations. At the close of the 1930s more than 6000 new enterprises were being built. In 1937 the new industrial centers made up more than 80 per cent of the total industrial production."
All this is true, and it is necessary to underline the colossal advances made by the Soviet Union on the basis of a nationalized planned economy. But was all this the result of the far-sighted genius of Stalin? It was not. On the contrary, Stalin originally completely failed to understand the need for five-year plans, and contemptuously dismissed the idea, when it was first put forward in the 1920s by Trotsky and the Left Opposition. Stalin ridiculed Trotsky's proposal for the building of a hydroelectrical project on the Dnieper (Dnieperstroy) as the equivalent of "offering a peasant a gramophone instead of a cow."
Later, when the Soviet Union was threatened by the kulak counterrevolutionaries, Stalin did a 180-degree somersault and went over to the adventurist policy of forced collectivisation. In this sense his plan for collectivisation certainly went "much further" than the proposals laid down by the Opposition! Trotsky denounced it as an adventure, given the material backwardness of Russian agriculture. Stalin's "broad perspectives" spelled disaster to Russian agriculture. According to Stalin himself at least ten million people perished in this terrible catastrophe, from which Soviet agriculture never fully recovered.
Zyuganov writes: "In spite of all the difficulties that arose from the collectivisation of agriculture, the Russian peasantry recovered and raised itself up. In the years of the second five year plan alone they received more than 500,000 tractors, about 124,000 combine harvesters and more than 140,000 lorries. In the period 1928 to 1932 alone, five million peasants learned how to use agricultural machinery. The people of the countryside learned for the first time the meaning of free time, what it meant to be able to study, to raise their cultural level, to dedicate themselves to social activities."
With the brief phrase "all the difficulties that arose from the collectivisation of agriculture", Comrade Zyuganov glosses over one of the blackest episodes in the history of the USSR, a period in which, on Stalin's own admission, about ten million people perished, in which the Soviet countryside was plunged into a terrible famine and in which Soviet agriculture was dealt a heavy blow, from which it never really recovered.
In 1930, the total harvest of grain amounted to 835 million hundredweight. In the next two years it fell to 200 million; this at a time when the level of grain production was only barely sufficient to feed the population. The result spelled famine for millions of workers and peasants. Sugar production in the same period dropped from 109 million poods to 48 million.
Even more terrible were the losses to livestock. The insane tempo of collectivisation, and the vicious methods used, provoked the peasantry to desperate resistance, which plunged the countryside into a new and bloody civil war. The enraged peasants slaughtered their horses and cattle as a protest. The number of horses fell from 34.9 million in 1929 to 15.6 million in 1934; i.e. a loss of 55%. The number of horned cattle fell from 30.7 million to 19.5 million ‑ a loss of 40% ‑ the number of pigs 55%, sheep 66%. Soviet agriculture to the present day has not recovered from the blow dealt by forced collectivisation. But the most gruesome statistic of all is the millions of peasants who perished in this period - from hunger, cold, disease, in running fights with the Red Army or in the slave-labour camps afterwards; the figure of ten million exterminated was not denied by Stalin; four million is the lowest estimate.
Such is the reality of collectivisation, which comrade Zyuganov refers to, without telling us anything about it. As a matter of fact, if the Communist Party had heeded the warnings of Trotsky and the Left Opposition, the horrors of forced collectivisation could have been avoided. But after the death of Lenin Stalin and his supporters adopted a right wing opportunist policy, based on the bourgeois nepmen and the rich peasants (Kulaks). They were not far-sighted at all but extremely myopic. They foresaw nothing and were taken completely by surprise by events.
As explained by Trotsky: "Without the Opposition's bold criticism and without the bureaucracy's fear of the Opposition, the course of Stalin-Bukharin toward the kulak would have ended up in the revival of capitalism. Under the lash of the Opposition the bureaucracy was forced to make important borrowings from our platform. The Leninists could not save the Soviet regime from the process of degeneration and the difficulties of the personal regime. But they saved it from complete dissolution by barring the road to capitalist restoration. The progressive reforms of the bureaucracy were the by-products of the Opposition's revolutionary struggle. For us it is far too insufficient. But it is still something." (Trotsky, Writings 1935-36, p. 179.)
Lenin always advocated the collectivisation of agriculture gradually and by voluntary means. But he certainly never entertained the mad idea that millions of scattered peasant holdings could be forced to collectivise overnight at gunpoint. Collectivisation was to take place through example. The peasant was to be convinced by patient argument and through the setting up of model collective farms and the introduction of the latest modern technology, tractors, fertilizers, electricity, schools, etc.
Such a perspective was obviously linked to the development of Soviet industry through five-year plans. The idea of collectivisation on the basis of wooden ploughs was a self-evident nonsense. As Trotsky explained, this problem "is far from settled by these general historical considerations. The real possibilities of collectivisation are determined, not by the depth of the impasse in the villages and not by the administrative energy of the government, but primarily by the existing productive resources - that is, the ability of the industries to furnish large-scale agriculture with the requisite machinery. These material conditions were lacking. The collective farms were set up with an equipment suitable in the main only for small-scale farming. In these conditions an exaggeratedly swift collectivisation took the character of an economic adventure". (Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, p. 38.)
After having lurched to the right, now, in order to safeguard and entrench itself as a privileged caste, the Stalinist bureaucracy was forced to lean on the workers to smash the incipient bourgeois counter-revolution, but in so doing they adopted an ultra-left position. Armed detachments were now sent into the countryside to release the grain stocks to feed the cities. The Stalinists veered from opportunism to an ultra-left position. This led to the insane policy of "liquidation of the kulaks as a class" and the complete collectivisation of agriculture "at the earliest possible date". As a consequence, the proportion of collective farms rose in 1929 from 1.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent. In 1930 it increased dramatically to 23.6 per cent, in 1931 to 52.7 per cent, in 1932 to 61.5 per cent, in 1933 to 64.4 per cent, in 1934 to 71.4 per cent, in 1935 to 83.2 per cent, and in 1936 to 89.6 per cent. The percentage of crop area collectivised rose from 33.6 per cent in 1930 to 94.1 per cent in 1935.
The methods used by Stalin to collectivise the peasantry had nothing in common with the ideas of Lenin. "They collectivised not only horses, cows, sheep, pigs, but even new-born chickens," noted Trotsky. "They 'dekulakised,' as one foreign observer wrote, 'down to the felt shoes, which they dragged from the feet of little children.' As a result there was an epidemic selling of cattle for a song by the peasants, or a slaughter of cattle for meat and hides." (Ibid., p. 39.)
"Stock was slaughtered every night in Gremyachy Log. Hardly had dusk fallen when the muffled, short bleats of sheep, the death-squeals of pigs, or the lowing of calves could be heard," writes Sholokhov in Virgin Soil Upturned. "Both those who had joined the kolkhoz and individual farmers filled their stock. Bulls, sheep, pigs, even cows were slaughtered, as well as cattle for breeding. The horned stock of Gremyachy was halved in two nights." (Quoted in Nove, An Economic History of the USSR, p. 174.) All forces were directed to procurements. The human and economic consequences were appalling, and as e have seen, millions perished in the ensuing famine.
Trotsky and the industrialization of the USSR
But how about industry? Did not the success of Stalin's plans which went "much further" than the perspectives of the Left Opposition, prove how "pessimistic" Trotsky was? When, after the notorious Moscow Frame-up Trials, Trotsky appeared voluntarily before the Dewey Commission, which went through the charges levelled against him and the Opposition, he answered, among other things, a number of questions relating to the differences with the Stalinists on the question of industrialisation in 1923-9. We quote verbatim from the text of his evidence:
"Goldman: Mr. Trotsky, with reference to the industrialisation of the Soviet Union, what was your attitude prior to your expulsion from the Soviet Union?
"Trotsky: During the period from 1922 until 1929 I fought for the necessity of an accelerated industrialisation. I wrote in the beginning of 1925 a book in which I tried to prove that by planning and direction of industry it was possible to have a yearly coefficient of industrialisation up to twenty. I was denounced at the time as a fantastic man, a super-industrialiser. It was the official name for Trotskyites at that time: 'super-industrialisers'.
"Goldman: What was the name of the book that you wrote?
"Trotsky: Whither Russia, Toward Capitalism or Socialism?
"Goldman: In English, it was published, I am quite sure under the title Wither Russia, Toward Capitalism or Socialism?
"Trotsky: The march of events showed that I was too cautious in my appreciation of the possibility of planned economy - not too courageous. It was my fight between 1922 and 1925, and also the fight for the Five Year Plan. It begins with the year 1923, when the Left Opposition began to fight for the necessity of using the Five Year Plan.
"Goldman: And Stalin at that time called you a 'super-industrialist'?
"Goldman: He was opposed to the rapid industrialisation of the country.
"Trotsky: Permit me to say that in 1927, when I was Chairman of the Commission at Dnieprostroy for a hydro-electric station, a power station, I insisted in the session of the Central Committee on the necessity of building up this station. Stalin answered, and it is published: 'For us to build up the Dnieprostroy station is the same as for a peasant to buy a gramophone instead of a cow.'" (The Case of Leon Trotsky, page 245)
Such was the extent of Stalin's "broad perspectives" in 1927! At that time, the accusation levelled at the Opposition by the Stalinists was not that they were "pessimistic" but that were "super-industrialisers"! What about the assertion that the plans later implemented by Stalin went "much further" than those of Trotsky? The years 1925-27 were in fact occupied by the struggle of the Opposition against the economic cowardice of the Stalin-Bukharin leadership.
The Stalinists in 1926 first suggested a "plan" which would begin with a coefficient of nine for the first year, eight for the second, gradually lowering to four - a declining rate of growth! Trotsky, whom the ruling clique branded as "super-industrialist", described this miserable excuse for a plan as the "sabotage of industry" (not, of course, in a literal sense). Later, the plan was revised to give a coefficient of nine for all five years. Trotsky fought for a coefficient of 18-20. He pointed out that the rate of growth, even under capitalism, had been six!
The ruling clique paid no attention to the Opposition and went ahead with their pusillanimous plans. Instead of the miserable nine percent projected by the "broad perspectives" of Stalin-Bukharin, the results of the first year of the five-year plan completely bore out the perspective of the Opposition and exposed the complete inadequacy of the coefficients advanced by Stalin and Co. As a result, the following year they plunged into the disastrous adventure of a "five year plan in four years". In vain did Trotsky warn against this crazy idea, which, threw everything completely off balance. By bureaucratic ukaze the leadership now decreed a coefficient of 30-35%!
The wrecking of industry in this period, which was blamed upon the unfortunate victims of the "sabotage trials", was in reality the result of the adventurism of the Stalinists, whose pursuit of the chimera of "Socialism in One Country" and "Five Year Plan in Four Years" led to the seizing up of the economy and untold hardships for the Soviet working class.
This is what Trotsky himself had to say to the Dewey Commission:
"Trotsky: My attitude toward the economic development of the Soviet Union can be characterised as follows: I defend the Soviet economy against the capitalist critics and the Social Democratic reformist critics, and I criticize the bureaucratic methods of the leadership. The deductions were very simple. They were based on the Soviet press itself. We have a certain freedom from the bureaucratic hypnosis. It was absolutely possible to see all of the dangers on the basis of the Soviet press itself.
"Goldman: Can you give us an idea, very generally, of the successes of the industrialisation in the Soviet Union?
"Trotsky: The successes are very important, and I affirmed it every time. They are due to the abolition of private property and to the possibilities inherent in planned economy. But, they are - I cannot say exactly - but I will say two or three times less than they could be under a regime of Soviet democracy.
"Goldman: So the advances are due, in spite of the bureaucratic control and methods?
"Trotsky: They are due to the possibilities inherent in the socialisation of the productive forces." (The Case of Leon Trotsky, page 249)
Superiority of a planned economy
Comrade Zyuganov does not know anything about all this. Yet he repeats the old myth that Stalin was responsible for the industrialization of the USSR! In fact, as in the case of collectivisation, Stalin only accepted the programme of industrialization and five year plans (that was originally put forward by Trotsky and the Left Opposition) belatedly, and in a caricature form. The bureaucratic implementation of central planning caused colossal waste, bungling, corruption and mismanagement, which eventually undermined and destroyed the planned economy, leading to capitalist restoration and the collapse of the USSR.
However, despite Stalin and the bureaucracy, there is no question that the introduction of a nationalized planned economy represented a giant step forward. The superiority of a nationalized planned economy was shown in the Second World War, which in Europe was really a titanic battle between the USSR and Hitler's Germany with all the combined resources of Europe behind him. The nationalized planned economy achieved astonishing results in the field of culture, education and science.
Comrade Zyuganov correctly writes: "At the start of the 1940s 80 percent of the population was illiterate. Hundreds of thousands of young people from the working class and peasantry attended institutes and centers of professional education. A new intelligentsia emerged."
This is also true. The advantages of a nationalized planned economy enabled the USSR to overcome its former backwardness with amazing speed, to abolish illiteracy and achieve the most brilliant successes, above all in the field of science and technology, as its space programme demonstrated to the whole world. In the 1980s, the USSR had more scientists than the USA, Japan and Western Germany put together, and they were excellent scientists.
The problem is that with all these scientists, the USSR was unable to achieve the same results as the West. The relative backwardness of the USSR was shown in the field of productivity, where the Soviet Union lagged behind the West. What is the reason for this? The main reason was the colossal burden imposed on the Soviet economy by the bureaucracy – the millions of greedy and corrupt officials that were running the Soviet Union without any control on the part of the working class. Comrade Zyuganov is silent on this point. But then, how does he explain the fact that, for all the undoubted advantages of the planned economy, and all the colossal advances of the Soviet Union, the whole thing was undermined and destroyed?
If, as the Stalinists maintain even now, everything was fine, and if the Soviet people were living in a socialist paradise, then how come it all collapsed and capitalism was restored? To this question – the most important question of all – the latter-day apologists of Stalinism have no answer. They twist and turn in all ways to justify the regime in the Soviet Union, they fulminate and foam at the mouth at Trotsky's denunciation of the Stalinist bureaucracy, but they have nothing to say in answer to the question that all thinking workers and Communists are asking.
In reality, if one accepts the arguments of the Stalinists, no answer is possible. One minute there was socialism, the next minute there was capitalism. That is all. But wait a minute! Some questions remain to be answered. Comrade Zyuganov was a member of a Party that used to call itself the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This was a Party of some 19 million members. It called itself the "vanguard of the working people". It was supposed to be the fountainhead of all wisdom and the repository of correct Marxist-Leninist principles.
Yet in a few months, this imposing edifice collapsed. When Comrade Zyuganov and others reorganized the CPRF, it had no more than half a million members. What happened to all the others? It turned out that they were not Communists at all, but only vulgar careerists who went wherever the wind blew. Most of them are now enthusiastic supporters of the market. Worse still, many of the leaders (or their children, it matters not) have become wealthy businessmen and are part of the oligarchy that dominates Russia. Compared to this betrayal, the role of the Social Democratic leaders in 1914 was just a children's game.
Can anyone believe that, if the Soviet workers had had any say in the matter, that if Lenin's principles of Soviet democracy remained in force in the USSR, that such a monstrosity would have been conceivable? Trotsky long ago pointed out that a nationalized planned economy needs democracy as the human body needs oxygen. That is not just a literary phrase! Without genuine soviet democracy (the kind of democracy that existed in the Soviet state under Lenin and Trotsky), a nationalized planned economy will inevitably end up in a morass of bureaucracy, corruption, waste and chaos. That is what ultimately destroyed the USSR. The Stalinist bureaucracy, which for decades sang the praises of "socialism" while trampling the most elementary principles of Leninism underfoot, has now passed over from "socialism" to capitalism with the ease of a man passing from a smoking to a non-smoking compartment of a train.
Incredibly, Zyuganov also sings the praises of the Stalin Constitution, which was approved at the time when Stalin was imposing a ferocious totalitarian regime and riding rough-shod over the rights of the Soviet people – a time when millions were dispatched to the Gulag, from which many would never return, when the leaders of Lenin’s Party were being tortured to extract false confessions and shot like dogs, and when the death penalty existed for children of 14.
He writes: “The Constitution of the USSR, putting the finishing touches to this creative process with a golden brush [sic!], proclaimed a completely new system of socialist rights: the right to work, to leisure, to higher education, to retirement. Never, in any place, was there ever a document proclaiming rights like these.”
The 1936 Stalin Constitution was a fraud. There was only one party, the Communist Party, whose candidates were always elected by approximately 99 percent, which is statistically impossible. Everyone in the USSR knew that the so-called elections were a fraud. The country was run by an unmovable clique of bureaucrats who were not accountable to anyone – except the Boss. By contrast, under Lenin and Trotsky the Soviet Republic enjoyed more democratic rights than any other country in history. And let us not forget that this was at a time when the workers’ state was poor and weak and surrounded by powerful enemies striving to destroy it by all the means at their disposal.
Zyuganov presents a glowing picture of the conditions of the Soviet masses under Stalin. He writes that in the 1930s living standards increased and wages rose. As a matter of fact, the living standards of the Soviet masses at that time were extremely bad. In the countryside there was a devastating famine, artificially created by Stalin and his monstrous policy of forced collectivisation. But Zyuganov says nothing about all this. Nor does he explain that in the same period there was a huge increase in differentials between the living standards of ordinary Soviet workers and those of the privileged bureaucracy.
Zyuganov writes that “the system of rationing became a thing of the past.” And yet certain layers of the population had access to goods that the mass of the people never saw. This was not called rationing, but everyone knew that it was so. For decades the gap between the living standards of the ordinary Soviet workers and the top officials increased continually. Those who really enjoyed increased living standards were the millions of Soviet apparatchiks and bureaucrats who were given all kinds of privileges to keep them loyal to Stalin.
In 1930 Stalin abolished the Party maximum ("partmax")– the Leninist principle that limited the salaries of bureaucrats to the wage of a skilled worker. As a result, the salaries and perks of the bureaucracy increased and continued to increase, creating conditions of gross inequality that went on all the time and finally undermined the Soviet Union altogether.
The privileges enjoyed by the Soviet bureaucracy in the 1930s, when Stalin talked about the “happy life” in the USSR were nothing compared to the extravagant lifestyle of the ruling circles of the bureaucracy in the period before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev and the ruling clique lived like millionaires. They were even more remote from the working class than their counterparts in the West. While they made demagogic speeches about “building Communism”, these differentials were constantly increasing.
Lenin explained that the differentials that existed in the early years of the Soviet state were capitalist differentials that would gradually diminish as the Soviet Union moved towards socialism. In fact, the exact opposite occurred. Even as the Soviet Union registered huge economic progress, inequality increased instead of diminishing, instead of moving towards socialism, the Soviet Union was moving away from it. We saw the end result in 1990. But we are still waiting for an explanation from Gennady Zyuganov or any other Stalinist leader.
The heritage we reject and the heritage we defend
In the section headed “Stalin’s heritage” Zyuganov attempts to “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds”. He says that Stalin cannot be imitated because he belonged to another time and this time is unrepeatable. This is a good way of avoiding the question altogether. The same logic is used by the revisionists to dispose of Lenin, who, as we know, lived a long time ago…
We must not follow blindly the letter of everything Stalin wrote, Zyuganov informs us, but instead we should follow his method. What does this method consist of? Zyuganov quotes Stalin:
“We cannot demand of the classics of Marxism, separated from our own times by 45-55 years, that they should foresee each and every one of the twists and turns of history in every particular country and in a distant future. It would be ridiculous to demand of them that they should work out for us prefabricated theories to deal with every theoretical problem that might arise in a particular country in 50-100 years time, in order to permit the followers of these same classics of Marxism to rest peacefully and chew over magical solutions. But what we can and must demand of the Marxist-Leninists of our time is that they should learn to incorporate the experience of the classics, to concretise their basic fundamentals, develop and improve them.”
Notwithstanding the pretentiousness of the writer, these pearls of wisdom are so trite that they appear to be taken from the school exercise book of a not-very-intelligent child of six. It is indeed not very advisable to “demand” of Marxism things that it cannot do, any more than it is advisable to demand pears from an elm tree or a coherent sentence from George W Bush.
But the fact is that in all their fundamentals, the basic ideas of Marxism have not changed since the days of the Communist Manifesto. The ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, retain their complete validity today. That is why we continue to defend them implacably against the attempts of revisionists – Stalinists included – to abandon them or to change them beyond recognition. What we have here is a veritable hymn of praise to Stalin. Any mistakes or defects are regarded as quite secondary – “spots on the sun”, as someone once put it.
“The proof of power”
“To follow the example of Stalin,” Zyuganov continues, “means above all to understand his epoch, the essence of the social and political forces which interacted, the nature of power.” This is all very fine. The problem is that comrade Zyuganov does not do this. One searches in vain in this article for any hint of a serious Marxist analysis of the reasons why Stalin came to power. Instead, Zyuganov gives a few quotations from Stalin in 1912 about the tsarist Duma, which he compares to the present Duma of Putin.
The quotations about bourgeois democracy and parliament may be correct, but they do not answer the questions posed by Zyuganov himself. It would be very good if the CPRF adopted a real Communist policy, a policy of genuine opposition to the rotten bourgeois Bonapartist regime of Putin. Instead of confining itself to parliamentary intrigues, the CPRF should organize a campaign of mass agitation against the government. In short, it should adopt a Leninist position.
If the CPRF was a real Communist Party there would be no problem. But there are unfortunately people in the leadership of that party who are opposed to Leninism. They are the people who constantly attempt to defend that monstrous aberration, that bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature of Marxism-Leninism that was Stalinism. Fortunately, they have no chance of success.
“We will do everything possible,” writes Zyuganov, “not to permit the spirit of Trotskyism in our ranks.” What does the “spirit of Trotskyism” consist of? According to Zyuganov, it is “the attempts of certain activists with an excessively high opinion of themselves, who feel themselves superior, ‘supermen, above the CC, of its laws, of its decisions, giving them the excuse to push a part of the Party to carry out work that tends to wear itself out and making the CC lose confidence in itself.’ This is the work that they are carrying out, with the blessing of the tops of the Kremlin, and increasingly actively.”
The Byzantine language used by the leader of the CPRF would do justice to Stalin himself! Who are these “certain activists”, these “supermen”, who have aroused the ire of comrade Zyuganov. He does not say, but leaves it to our imagination. But why not call a spade a spade? Why not name names? It is abundantly clear that comrade Zyuganov is polemicising here, not against Trotskyism, but one or other of the numerous factions and cliques that exist inside the CPRF and are fighting for possession of the leadership like cats in a sack.
Because the leadership has abandoned the policies, methods and principles of Leninism – because it remains essentially Stalinist and not Leninist in its outlook - the Party has been affected by crises and splits, but these are not like the splits that occurred in the Bolshevik party in Lenin’s time. They have no political or ideological base, but are merely divisions between rival groups of bureaucrats, businessmen and careerists.
One thing is clear. Zyuganov is not referring to Trotskyists or people who in any sense, shape or form defend the ideas of Trotsky. That is why comrade Zyuganov, who apparently still has some sense of shame left, refers, not to Trotskyism” only to the “spirit of Trotskyism” – its disembodied ghost. But as dialectical materialists we do not believe in ghosts
In a genuine Leninist party such a situation would be unthinkable. In Lenin’s Party, there was a healthy democratic internal regime where the members were not afraid to speak their mind, to criticize the leadership, to argue about policies and ideas. The Leninist regime was destroyed by Stalin and replaced by a bureaucratic and totalitarian regime in which the sole duty of the Party was to sing the praises of the Leader, and in which opposition and dissent was rewarded by expulsion, arrest and imprisonment. The Leninist tradition of Soviet democracy was trampled underfoot, in order to consolidate the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Of course, the internal regime of the CPRF is not that kind of regime. The Party is no longer part of the state – as it once was – and that is undoubtedly an improvement. But it has yet to make a serious self-criticism of its own past, and it has yet to break decisively with Stalinism and return to the Leninist principles of workers’ democracy, revolutionary Marxism and proletarian internationalism.
Re-establish the traditions of Lenin!
Undoubtedly there are many honest Communists in and around the CPRF who ardently desire this. But many in the leadership are firmly opposed to the Leninist course. They are survivals of the old regime, who have not broken with the Stalinist past and resist change. Under their leadership, the CPRF has gone from one defeat to another. Nor will the fortunes of the Party improve until it has broken decisively with its Stalinist past and decisively taken the Leninist road.
It is no accident that Zyuganov condemns Trotskyism (about which he evidently knows nothing) and writes lovingly about Yosif Vissarionovich. He wishes to erect a steel barrier against the possibility that the revolutionary workers and youth of Russia will take back control of the Communist Party, eject the reformists, Stalinists, parliamentary careerists and bureaucrats, and demand a return to the revolutionary policies and traditions of Lenin and Trotsky. He will not succeed. The tide of history is against him.
Lenin once said: Marxism is all-powerful, because it is true. Despite all the setbacks and defeats, despite all the lies and falsifications, the process of history will condemn both capitalism and Stalinism to the dustbin of history, where they belong. Through their experience of the class struggle, the workers and youth of Russia will rediscover the ideas, programme and traditions of Bolshevism. There is no other way.
Comrade Zyuganov says that the CPRF is preparing for the struggle for power. We would really like to believe this. With a sizeable membership, a presence in every region of Russia and a powerful apparatus, the CPRF is the only left party in Russia that would be in a position to challenge the gangster Putin. It has the name of the Communist Party – a most important asset. Many workers and youth will look to it for an alternative. The strength of Putin is really only an illusion. It will be pitilessly exposed by events.
Armed with a genuinely Leninist programme, it would be in a powerful position. And yet, this is precisely what is lacking. Though he swears by Lenin in every other sentence, this article shows that Zyuganov is very far from a Leninist position. To begin with, he says that the main task of the Russian Communists is “to lead the struggle for democracy.” There is no doubt, of course, that the Communists must fight for all democratic rights, opposing Putin’s Bonapartist regime. But for Leninists, the fight for democracy is not an end in itself but only a means to an end.
Worse still, Zyuganov places in the centre the so-called struggle for the “state and national interests of Russia.” Here the departure from Leninism is blatant. Zyuganov’s position leads directly to a bloc with the so-called Russian national bourgeoisie and the abandonment of a class position. But this same policy has led the CPRF to one defeat after another. The fact that it included so many Russian businessmen in its electoral lists in the recent elections was a big reason for alienating people who would normally have voted for it.
Zyuganov tries to justify his capitulation to the Russian bourgeoisie by claiming that Russia has now become a colony of foreign capitalists. He writes: “Russia today has been transformed into a colony, from which raw materials are extracted. Therefore the socialist perspective represents the only star leading to salvation.” (my emphasis, AW).
The reference to a “socialist perspective” is not to be taken seriously. A perspective is something that can represent a very long period of time! The Russian Mensheviks also said they had a “socialist perspective” for Russia in 1917 – meaning about two hundred years. In the meantime what was necessary was for the working class to subordinate itself to the “progressive national bourgeoisie” and fight for (bourgeois) democracy.
Much more relevant is the characterization of Russia today as a colony, oppressed by foreign capitalists. This analysis leaves the door wide open to a policy of collaborating with the “progressive national (Russian) bourgeoisie” against the bad foreign capitalists.
This is the exact opposite of Lenin’s position. Lenin stood for class politics, for revolutionary politics, not nationalism and class collaborationism. In Russia today a Leninist policy is needed! The working class must place itself at the head of the nation and fight both the foreign imperialists and their local (Russian) office boys.
When a Russian worker curses the foreign capitalists we know he is sincere. He wants to free himself from the yoke of the American and German capitalists. But he does not think that the rule of the Russian capitalists (that gang of Mafia scoundrels, thieves and parasites) is any better. He wants to free himself from the yoke of CAPITAL, never mind of what nationality. And that is quite right.
How to reconstruct the USSR
The break-up of the USSR was a reactionary and criminal act that did not have a single atom of progressive content. It was against the interests of the working peoples of all the Republics. The reconstruction of the USSR would therefore be a good thing – but it cannot be done on the old basis, because the old system was precisely what led to the break-up.
It is ironical that Zyuganov advances the slogan of the reconstitution of the USSR, while simultaneously praising Stalin and waving the banner of Great Russian nationalism. It is ironical because precisely this policy undermined the socialist solidarity between the peoples of the USSR and made the break-up possible. The anti-Leninist idea of socialism in one country here played a fatal role. In every national Republic there was a local bureaucracy steeped in nationalism. As soon as the opportunity presented itself they broke away from Moscow and proclaimed their “national independence” – naturally on a capitalist basis.
In reality, of course, this “national independence” was worthless. They all ended up as satellites of US imperialism or the EU. The break-up of the USSR was a crime against the peoples of all the Republics. The working people gained nothing by it. They lost a lot. There was not an atom of progressive content in it, any more than there was anything progressive in the break-up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
The question must, however, be answered: how could this happen? Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate so quickly? Why was there not massive resistance to the break-up of the USSR? Why did the masses accept it? It is impossible to answer these questions unless there was something fundamentally wrong, and that this had been prepared a long time before and had its roots in the past.
Stalin’s policies on the national question – the polar opposite of Lenin’s internationalist policy – did irreparable damage to the relations between peoples of the Soviet Union and were ultimately responsible for the break-up of the USSR, as Lenin had warned long before. Communists will support the reconstitution of the Soviet Union, but that will not be possible on the basis of Stalinism. Zyuganov triumphantly quotes Stalin as saying: “On one occasion I told Lenin that the Russian people was the best, the most soviet.” Unfortunately, Lenin’s reply to this Stalinist gem is not recorded. But fortunately his views on the subject of Great Russian chauvinism are well known and documented, as we have seen.
“The unified state created by Stalin will re-emerge, and it will be reborn around the Russian nation”, exclaims Zyuganov. “That moment has arrived, and we, the Communists of Russia, say openly: the Russian people will not be happy, equal in its rights. There will be no justice, equality or happiness for any of the peoples of Russia. The rebirth of the Russian spirit in state policy, is the historical merit of Stalin.” (these words are emphasized in the original).
The Bible says somewhere: “as a dog returns to its own vomit, so a fool returns to his errors.” These lines show that Gennady Zyuganov has learned absolutely nothing from history. On the basis of Stalinism – that is to say, Great Russian chauvinism – it will never be possible to recreate the Soviet Union. The prior condition for the recreation of the USSR is the overthrow of capitalism in Russia and the institution of a genuine regime of Soviet workers’ democracy, on the lines of 1917. But the policies pursued by Zyuganov and the leaders of the CPRF do not place this on the order of the day. They are faithfully following Stalin’s policy of stages, in which socialism is postponed to a more or less distant future.
The policy of stages, which was rejected by Lenin, was originally the invention of the Mensheviks. Despite the “Marxist” terminology that the Mensheviks gave it, it is a purely reformist position. It did not envisage a socialist revolution in Russia. As a matter of fact, until 1917 the only one of the Russian Marxists who maintained that Russia could experience a socialist revolution before Western Europe was… Trotsky.
Now Zyuganov and co want to go back to the old discredited Stalinist-Menshevik theory of stages, by which they seek to conceal their capitulation to the Russian bourgeoisie. And in order to cover their tracks they engage in furious attacks against “Trotskyism”. In reality, they are repeating the mistakes of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev in 1917, when they opposed Lenin’s plan for a proletarian revolution, accusing him of – Trotskyism! Today, in exactly the same way, Zyuganov and the leaders of the CPRF try to disguise their opposition to Leninism with exactly the same arguments.
Zyuganov is invoking Stalin as a historical authority to justify what he is doing today, but to do this he has to completely falsify the historical record and present a picture of Stalin which does not in any way correspond to the truth.
Zyuganov in fact ends his piece with a real panegyric to his hero: “Yosif Vissarionovich Stalin gave all his enormous talent, his indefatigable energy. His gigantic will, unreservedly to our state. Under his rule, the land of the Soviets became transformed into a world power. He achieved a great victory. Stalin believed in our people. And the people believed in him. He was prepared to carry out a creative work and make sacrifices for a happy future. With Stalin our people felt their strength, believed in their potential, demonstrated a unique ability to achieve the highest objectives, with a victorious country. We can and must make use of his heritage, applying it to our days and our actual tasks.”
In reality Zyuganov is not proposing a return to the situation that existed under Stalin. For at least under Stalin the means of production were in the hands of the state and there was a plan, albeit under the control of a privileged, bureaucratic elite. Zyuganov, on the other hand has accepted the capitalist transformation of the former Soviet Union.
Forward to Lenin!
Comrade Zyuganov and the CPRF have essentially made their peace with capitalism and market economics, to the point where the CPRF had more businessmen in its slate in the last elections than any other party. Therefore their apparent desire to return to Stalin is of a cosmetic nature. What we say is: not back to Stalin but forward to Lenin is the slogan we must defend.
Contrary to the lies of the Stalinists, there is no fundamental difference between the ideas of Trotsky and those of Lenin. In order to underline this point, the author of these lines is prepared to issue a challenge. I would be quite prepared to abandon all mention of Trotsky, on one condition: that we agree to return completely and wholeheartedly to the programme, methods, ideas and traditions of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and to fight for the same kind of workers democracy that existed in Russia in 1917. I would enthusiastically support the four conditions laid down by Vladimir Ilyich as the prior conditions for a workers’ state and enshrined in the 1919 Programme of the Russian Communist Party.
I would defend the same kind of Bolshevik Party, based on genuine democratic centralism, not the Stalinist caricature that is nothing more than the dictatorship of the bureaucratic apparatus over the rank and file. I would support the recreation of a genuine Communist International, along the lines of the Third International in the period of its first five years and based on the manifestos of its first four congresses.
I would support the ideas, the theory, the revolutionary Marxist ideology, the rich mine of treasure contained in the 55 volumes of Lenin’s collected works – one of the pinnacles of Marxist thought that retains all its validity and relevance today.
The smallest acquaintance with this marvellous material will immediately expose the fraudulent rubbish of Stalin and his supporters as a malicious caricature that has nothing in common with the original ideas of Leninism.
Do you accept this offer? I doubt it, because despite all the demagogic references to “Marxism-Leninism”, our Stalinist critics are, at bottom, quite aware that Stalinism and Bolshevik-Leninism are mutually contradictory and quite incompatible.
September 1, 2004