Stalinism

StalinsimWhat is the balance sheet of the October Revolution and the great experiment in planned economy that followed it? What implications do they have for the future of humanity? And what conclusions should be drawn from them? The first observation ought to be self-evident. Whether you are in favour or against the October Revolution, there can be no doubt whatsoever that this single event changed the course of world history in an unprecedented way. The entire twentieth century was dominated by its consequences. 

We regard the October Revolution as the greatest single event in human history. Why do we say this? Because here for the first time, if we exclude that glorious but ephemeral event that was the Paris Commune, millions of ordinary men and women overthrew their exploiters, took their destiny in their own hands, and at least began the task of transforming society.

That this task, under specific conditions, was diverted along channels unforeseen by the leaders of the Revolution does not invalidate the ideas of the October Revolution, nor does it lessen the significance of the colossal gains made by the USSR for the 70 years that followed.

The enemies of socialism will reply scornfully that the experiment ended in failure. We reply in the words of that great philosopher Spinoza that our task is neither to weep nor to laugh but to understand.

It was not the degenerate Russian bourgeoisie, but the nationalised planned economy that dragged Russia into the modern era, building factories, roads and schools, educating men and women, creating brilliant scientists, building the army that defeated Hitler, and putting the first man into space.

Despite the crimes of the bureaucracy, the Soviet Union was rapidly transformed from a backward, semi-feudal economy into an advanced, modern industrial nation. In the end, however, the bureaucracy was not satisfied with the colossal wealth and privileges it had obtained through plundering the Soviet state. As Trotsky predicted, they passed over to the camp of capitalist restoration, transforming themselves from a parasitic caste to a ruling class.

– From the introduction to Russia: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution

(For a detailed analysis of the actual events in 1917 and afterwards, please visit our dedicated In Defence of October website.)

In the avalanche of propaganda against “Communism” an idea is often peddled that while preaching equality, the Communist leaders make sure their own personal position is well catered for. What this propaganda is based on is the horrible bureaucratically degenerate Soviet Union under Stalin. Not happy with attacking Stalin, however, they attempt to show that Lenin was no different.

Alan Woods speaking on the subject of Bolshevism - the history of the Bolshevik Party, at the June Marxist School of Socialist Appeal in London.

Fred Weston introducing the discussion on Stalinism at the British Marxist Summer School on 18 June.

An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. In a lead off given to a recent Socialist Appeal Day School in London Alan Woods sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the physical destruction of the Bolshevik party.

An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. Here Rob Sewell sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the physical destruction of the Bolshevik party.

In the early hours of August 24 seventy years ago Germany and Soviet Russia signed a "non-aggression pact", which divided the states of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet "spheres of influence", effectively slicing Poland into two halves. Ben Peck looks back at what happened and explains why such an incredible event could take place – and the price that was paid.

Alan Woods was interviewed by Sudestada, an Argentine arts, culture and news monthly magazine, on the Russian Revolution and its subsequent degeneration. As Alan has explained, what failed in Russia was not socialism, but a bureaucratic caricature of socialism.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we are here reprinting an article by Alan Woods, first written on September 4, 1968, and published in the Winter edition of the Spark, in which he clearly relates the momentous events that shook the Stalinist regimes and explains their significance.

Leon Trotsky's murder was no accident or spontaneous action by the dictator Stalin, but a monstrous preconceived act that was the culmination of a murder campaign against the whole of the old Bolshevik leadership of the revolution and those who stood by the genuine ideas of Marxism. We republish this article published in Militant in 1985.

In 1988 Alan Woods interviewed Esteban Volkov in a room in the Trotsky Museum in Coyoacan, of which he is the curator. On the night of 24 May 1940, Esteban Volkov, then only 14 years old, was wounded in a brutal machine-gun attack by Stalinist supporters, from which the Trotsky family miraculously escaped alive. Sixty-six years after the murder of Leon Trotsky, we republish this interview dealing with the various assassination attempts on Trotsky and his family.

This article written in 1945 analyses the relationship between the Soviet state and the Russian Orthodox Church. There was a clear dividing line between Lenin’s approach to this question and the zig-zag policy later adopted by Stalin. First published in Workers International News, October 1945.

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the death of Leon Trotsky. He had been brutally struck down on August 20, 1940 by the hand of an assassin, an agent of Joseph Stalin, and rushed to hospital where he died at 7.25 p.m. the following day. He was sixty years old. On this commemoration, Rob Sewell takes a look at Trotsky’s life.

In 1946 the perspectives of the then leadership of the Fourth International were that through “the combined economic, political and diplomatic pressure and the military threats of American and British imperialism” the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union could collapse. The complete opposite was the truth. Ted Grant, together with the leadership of the RCP, attempted to correct this mistaken prognosis. Here we provide the historical 1946 documentation.

We remember all those thousands of genuine Communists who perished in Stalin’s camps, butchered simply for defending the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. Old Bolsheviks like Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were forced to confess to crimes they had not committed. These famous victims were only the tip of the iceberg. Not remembered are the thousands of Trotskyists who languished in brutal concentration camps. They were brave and defiant to the end.

As the old Soviet archives are opened up and studied, more material is being made available about what happened in Russia immediately after the revolution. Myths have been created about events like the Kronstadt “rebellion”, the peasant revolts, the anarchists, etc. The new material available confirms what Lenin and Trotsky explained about  these events. In spite of all attempts to slander the Bolsheviks, the truth is always concrete.

Marxist.com recently published an article by Celia Hart in Havana. It has a very great significance, because the author, who is the daughter of two well-known leaders of the Cuban Revolution, calls for a discussion about Trotsky’s role and ideas. It immediately caused a controversy on an international scale. One of those who attacked Celia was a certain Israel Shamir, who raked up all the old Stalinist myths about the great role of Stalin. Alan Woods comments.

Today, November 7, marks 86 years since the 1917 Russian Revolution. The bureaucracy that usurped power from the working class (embodied in the Stalinist regime) has finally come full circle and completely capitulated to capitalism. We are here republishing an article by Ted Grant, originally published in 1967 on the 50th anniversary of the revolution. Even when the bureaucracy seemed almighty and irremovable the article was confidently predicting the downfall of the Stalinist regime.(November 1967.)

I recently visited Mexico at the invitation of Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's grandson, to participate in the filming of a documentary about the life and death of the great Russian revolutionary. The documentary, by the Argentine-Mexican director, Adolfo Videla, was filmed in the house in Coyoacan where Leon Trotsky lived for the last few years of his life, together with his faithful companion and comrade, Natalia Sedova. The documentary draws on rich archive material and includes valuable contributions by people like the French Trotskist historian Pierre Broue. It is due to be shown on Mexican television in the autumn.

Fifty years ago today the world heard the news of the death of Stalin. For decades the Stalinist propaganda machine had assiduously encouraged the myth of Stalin as "the Lenin of today", who was supposed to have led the Bolshevik Party together with Lenin. But all this was merely a construction to justify the usurpation of power by a tyrant who destroyed Lenin's party, liquidated the political conquests of October and wrecked the Communist International.