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22nd Plenary of the ICMLPO: ‘Free Trade Agreements’ Weapons of Economic Aggression and Imperialist Domination

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Currently in most of the European countries as well as in the USA and Canada, hundred thousands of workers and progressive people protest and fight against “free trade treaties” like TTIP, TISA and CETA. A large resistance movement has developed. Already, there have been some successes in the struggle. The negotiations have been suspended. Nevertheless the resistance movement especially against CETA continues.
Why?

Why?

The workers and peoples have gathered some experience with “free trade agreements” and have seen that they did not result in more and better jobs, but instead in increased poverty. For example, the NAFTA agreement between the USA, Canada and Mexico has not lead to an economic growth, but instead to low wages, unemployment and to the elimination of the weaker enterprises, that where defeated in the increasing competition.

It is therefore obvious that such agreements are in favor of the biggest imperialist monopolies. Likewise, the Ukraine was forced to sign an “association agreement” with the EU, a “free trade agreement” which had all the negative consequences for the workers, the people and the economy. Furthermore, this agreement included the subordination of Ukraine under the military structures of EU and NATO, transforming the Ukraine into a front state of aggression against Russia.

These agreements are very undemocratic. The negotiations are generally conducted in secret. They are put into practice “provisionally” even before they are ratified by the bourgeois parliaments or after they have been rejected by a parliament or in a referendum. In the Netherlands, the “free trade treaty” with the Ukraine was rejected by the people in a referendum. But the EU just ignored the people’s will.

Whenever such treaties are put into practice, the bourgeois institutions are submitted to new private arbitrating tribunals.

The mobilization against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a similar “free trade treaty”, is developing on both sides of Pacific.

At this time, the EU forces many African states to sign the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” which will increase their dependency on the EU imperialists. It will deepen the neocolonial plundering by opening the markets for the EU industry even more, destroying their own economic structures, and it will also ease the exploitation of their natural resources. The peoples of Africa struggle against this new imperialist offensive. We have to support them.

The workers and the people have good reasons to combat these treaties. Of course, TTIP, TISA and CETA are treaties between imperialist powers, where each party hopes to outwit the other and gain hegemony. They will lead to lower wages, increased unemployment, lower social and environmental standards, the dismantling of democratic rights and to an increased competition among the workers. Thus the workers and the people’s determined resistance is justified. We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

Stop TTIP, CETA and TISA!

Stop the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” between EU and Africa!

22nd Plenary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations

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Bill Bland: Stalin & the Arts – On Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.”

Preface

This talk was given by Bill Bland to the ‘Stalin Society’ in 1993. He later expanded this talk in some detail, into the manuscript here.

It gives a history of Socialist Realism in the society of its birth – the Soviet Union.
It also depicts leftist-revisionist strands in art policy in the USSR.

In part Alliance has discussed these revisionist elements before (See Alliance 7 on Ultra-leftism in the Communist Academy & Proletkult: at: http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/ALLIANCE7COMMUNISTACADEMY.html).

But Bill’s analysis goes much further than this, and he comprehensively covers many of the usual controversies as thrown out by liberal aesthetes, who charge Stalin with having “killed the arts and artists.”

As a talk, slide and tape cues are given. This version does not include the musical clips, but does include some slide clips as used by Bland in his talk. Missing segments are indicated. As far as possible, pictures of slides are credited with the web-source from where they were derived.

Editors Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America)
August 2004

INTRODUCTION — ART AND SOCIETY

ART is a form of production in which the producer (the artist strives by his product (the work of art) to create certain thoughts or feelings in the minds of its consumers.

A product which is exclusively artistic and has no other significant function is termed fine art. A product which is primarily functional may be secondarily a work of art if its producer has been concerned not merely with its function but also with creating certain thoughts of feelings in the minds of its users. Such art is termed applied art.

The content of a work of art is its subject.

The form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art.

Realism is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

An artist is a member of society, so that the art of a particular time and place cannot but be influenced by the social environment existing in that time and place.

When and where a particular a social system is in harmony with the needs of the mass of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be rational, favourable to science and optimistic, while the prevailing art tends to be realistic.

When and where a particular social system has outlived its usefulness to the majority of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be irrational, unfavourable to science and pessimistic while the prevailing art tends to be unrealistic, tends to degenerate into a greater or lesser degree of abstraction.

SLIDE 1: MARGARITONE OF AREZZO: ALTAR-PIECE.

Margaritone

Thus, in Europe in the late Middle Ages, when the long-established social system of feudalism was in decline, the prevailing art was typically Byzantine in style — like this altar-piece by Margaritone of Arezzo* in the National Gallery, painted in the late 13th century. Painting from real life had by this time come to be regarded as heretical, and artists tended to confine themselves to making copies of works of art previously approved by the Church. Thus, Byzantine art tended to be flat and lifeless.

Then, in the 14th century, above all in Italy, the embryonic capitalist class began to exert its influence, giving rise to that flowering of science, art and culture we call the Renaissance.

SLIDE 2: CARAVAGGIO : “THE SUPPER AT EMMAUS”

emmaus

The difference between this picture by Caravaggio* and the previous one by Margaritone is not just a matter of improved technique, the use of light and shade, the mastery of perspective. The main difference is that it is no longer based on previous works of art; it is painted from life and it glows with realism.

SLIDE 3: GIOVANNI BELLINI: “THE DOGE LEONARDO LOREDANO”

Leonardo-Loredan-Gentile-Bellini-Oil-Painting-AB00494

This sumptuous portrait of the Doge of Venice, by Giovanni Bellini*, conveys with realism all the pomp and prosperity of the wealthy state of Venice.

Most sitters of the Renaissance and the rising embryonic capitalist class felt self-confident, and did not demand that painters prettified them. Thus, Oliver Cromwell* ordered the painter Peter Lely* to paint him “warts and all.”

SLIDE 4: ATTRIBUTED TO QUENTIN MASSYS: PORTRAIT OF AN OLD WOMAN

massys

And this sitter no doubt gave the same instructions to her painter.

SLIDE 5: PIETER DE HOOCH: “INTERIOR OF A DUTCH HOUSE”

Hooch

In the 17th century we find Dutch painters like Pieter De Hoochpainting realistically the interiors of bourgeois houses like this, in which he expresses his joy in painting sunlight. The figure standing before the fireplace was an afterthought added to improve the design of the grouping, and that is why the black-and-white tiles of the floor can be seen through the woman’s skirt.

But when a social system ceases to serve the interests of the majority of the people — for example, in France in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution of 1792 sensitive artists, other than conscious revolutionaries, find reality too unpleasant and sordid to portray realistically, so that they tend to reject realism in favour of falsity.

SLIDE 6: JEAN-HONORE FRAGONARD: “THE SWING”

Fragonard

Jean Fragonard* was court painter at Versailles in the years just prior to the French Revolution. This painting, “The Swing,” is typical of the artificiality of his work. The decadent court is concealed in a completely false world of eternal youth and perpetual pleasure, of endless summer filled with laughter and the scent of flowers.

In the twentieth century, capitalism reached the stage of imperialism, where it became ever more clearly contrary to the interests of the mass of the people.

In such a period, revolutionary artists make use of realism to further the revolutionary cause. But the honest, sensitive artist who is not a revolutionary, who sees no way out of existing social problems, finds reality too painful to portray, and consequently moves away from realism.

Even in the 19th century, artists like William Turner* began to sense the poverty and exploitation which lay behind the surface of Victorian prosperity, and to move away from realism.

SLIDE 7: J. M. WILLIAM TURNER: “RAIN, STEAM AND SPEED”

turner

In this late picture by Turner of a train crossing a viaduct, the train is not the realistic assembly of gleaming pistons which would have brought joy to the heart of George Stephenson*. The train is no more than an impression, lost in the wild rush of colour of the elements and the steam from the engine.

Today capitalism has been in increasing decay for almost a century.

Britain, once the workshop of the world, has been turned into an industrial museum; some four million people are out of work and school-leavers face the prospect of spending all their lives on social security; in the heart of London, thousands of people are forced to sleep in the open air winter and summer . . .

So, with the coming of imperialism, which is capitalism in its final stage, capitalism in decay, reality became uglier still, and honest, sensitive artists who are not socialists reject even the impression of reality.

Among the many non-realistic artistic trends which arose in the 20th century is Cubism, associated particularly with the name of Picasso.

SLIDE 8: PABLO PICASSO: “PORTRAIT OF M. KAHNWEILER”

Picasso

In later Cubism the image is first cut up into geometrical forms, then these are shifted around. In this portrait by Picasso, all we can recognise are fragmentary aspects of the sitter’s waistcoat and face drowned in chaos.

SLIDE 9: SALVADOR DALI: “SUBURBS OF THE PARANOIC-CRITICAL TOWN”

Dali

Another 20th century non-realistic artistic trend was Surrealism, allegedly based on the unconscious mind, the dreams of which are declared to be more real than objective reality. The Spanish-born painter Salvador Dali* deserted Cubism for Surrealism. His paintings — like this one, entitled “Suburbs of the Paranoic-Critical Town” — are naturalistic in appearance, but with objects in the weirdest juxtaposition — a temple, an armchair, a horse’s skull and a girl with a bunch of grapes.

Of course, this movement from realism is not confined to the visual arts.

In the theatre, for instance, it has produced a whole trend known as “the Theatre of the Absurd.” Here “absurd” is used in the sense of “incongruous,” “illogical,” “contrary to reason.” It is often humorous, but its humour comes not from satire on real life, but from incongruity. It is the humour of “Monty Python.” It portrays life and the world as senseless and meaningless:

“The Theatre of the Absurd is . . . part of the ‘anti-literary’ movement of our time, which has found its expression in abstract painting.”

(Martin J. Esslin: ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’; Harmondsworth; 1977; p. 26).

A milestone in the development of “the Theatre of the Absurd” was the play “Waiting for Godot,” written in French by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett*, and first published in Paris in 1952.

The play is set in a country lane where two tramps are waiting for a mysterious person called Godot. As they wait, they converse in the manner of cross-talk comedians on the variety stage. Eventually a boy arrives and tells them that Godot is not coming that day. In the second act, they continue to talk as they wait for Godot, and again the boy comes to tell them that Godot won’t be coming.

As one eminent critic has put it: “Waiting for Godot” is a play in which nothing happens — twice!

Here are the last few lines of the play:

RECORDING 1: EXTRACT: “WAITING FOR GODOV.”

“Vladimir: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow….. Unless Godot comes. Estragon: And if he comes?
Vladimir: We’ll be saved.
Estragon: Well? Shall we go?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: What?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: You want me to pull off my trousers?
Vladimir: Pull ON your trousers.
Estragon: True.
Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let’s go”.
(Samuel Beckett: ‘En attendant Godot, piece en deux actes’; London; 1966; p. 88).

They do not move, and the curtain falls.

The American playwright William Saroyan*, who greatly admires the play, says:

“The play is about nothing. All is nothing. All comes to nothing.”

(William Saroyan: ‘A Few Words about Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”‘: Record Sleeve).

In the field of music, the retreat from realism has taken the form of atonality. If you listen to this scale –

KEYBOARD DEMONSTRATION: INCOMPLETE DIATONIC SCALE.

— something is clearly missing. We are left hanging in the air, unsatisfied, waiting for ‘the other shoe’ to drop. Tonality is a system of relations between tones having a tonic or central pitch as its most important element. In atonal music, all sense of key or resting place is lost. There are no longer “consonances” and “dissonances,” but only varying degrees of dissonance.

Here is a piece of modern atonal music — “Duo for Two Violins in the Sixth-Tone System,” by the Czech composer Alois Haba*.

RECORDING 2: EXTRACT: ALOIS HABA: ‘DUO FOR 1140 VIOLINS IN THE SIXTH-TONE SYSTEM’

Atonal composers say that in rejecting tonality, they are liberating music from restrictions. Yet Bach, Beethoven and Mozart did not feel restricted by tonality.

The fact is that, unlike the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, who did not feel themselves restricted by tonality, this kind of music fails to move listeners. It does not do so — it is unloved — because it has rejected melody, it has rejected realism.

What limits modern composers is not tonality, but paucity of ideas.

In some respects, the music of composers like Haba has its counterpart in the junk music of “pop.”

Here is an extract of a group called “The Swirlies” playing a piece called “Blondatonaudiobaton” — whatever that may mean.

RECORDING 3: EXTRACT: THE SWIRLIES: “BLONDATONAUDIOBATON”

It is not accidental that pop concerts have become associated with drugs — for the music itself (if one can call it that) has many of the characteristics of a drug.

Capitalism in decay survives by means of the old Roman policy of “Divide and Rule” — by dividing black from white, office worker from manual worker, Protestant from Catholic, and — as in the case of “pop music” — young from old. Indeed,, in a society where there is hopeless mass unemployment the ideal young person is one who is too stoned to do anything more than stagger down to the chemist’s and collect his methodone.

As George Melly*, puts it, pop is:

“. . . based on the corruption of standards deliberately engineered by skilful vested interests for their own gain. . . .Pop is in many ways an ersatz culture feeding off its own publicity….It draws no conclusions. It makes no comments. It proposes no solutions.”

(George Melly: ‘Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain’; Harmondsworth; 1972; p. 6, 7).

AESTHETICS IN THE SOVIET UNION (1917-1932)

Aesthetics is the science of quality in art.

Marx, Engels and Lenin did not develop a thoroughgoing theory of aesthetics, and even their passing comments on the subject were not systematically investigated until the 1930s.

After the Russian Socialist Revolution of November 1917, in the absence of any authoritative guidelines, all kinds of artistic trends flowered, including many from the West.

“Proletarian Culture” (1920-24)

There was general agreement in Soviet Russia that culture in a socialist state, a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, should be “proletarian culture.” But there was no agreement as to what ‘proletarian culture’ should consist of.

One influential view was that put forward by Aleksandr Bogdanov*, who became the leader of the “Proletarian Cultural and Educational Associations,” (Proletkult), formed in September 1917.

The leaders of Proletkult held that “proletarian culture” must be a new, specially created culture:

“Its (Proletkult’s — Ed.) members actually denied the cultural legacy of the past… isolated themselves from life and aimed at setting up a special ‘proletarian culture.'”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; Moscow; 1974; p. 567).

They also demanded that there should be no leadership of Proletkult by the Party:

“Proletkult continued to insist on independence, thus setting itself in opposition to the proletarian state.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin; ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 567)

Lenin was strongly opposed to Bogdanov’s conception of “proletarian culture,” insisting that it should be a natural development of all that was best in previous world culture:

“Marxism . . . has . . . assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than two thousand years of the development of human thought and culture. Only further work on this basis and in this direction . . . can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

“Only a precise knowledge and transformation of the culture created by the entire development of mankind will enable us to create a proletarian culture. The latter . . . is not an invention of those who call themselves experts in proletarian culture. That is all nonsense. Proletarian culture must be the logical development of the store of knowledge mankind has accumulated under the yoke of capitalist, landowner and bureaucratic society.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Youth Leagues’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin further demanded that:

“. . . all Proletkult organisations . . . accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet authorities (specifically of the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

The Proletkult organisations declined in the 1920s:

” . . . ceasing to exist in 1932.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p.567).

The Period of Party Neutrality in Aesthetics (1925-1932)

In May 1925 Stalin put forward a view which expressed the basis of an objective Marxist-Leninist aesthetic — that proletarian culture should be socialist in content and national in form:

“Proletarian culture . . . is socialist in content . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; Moscow; 1954; p. 140).

However, the leadership of the Party rejected the conception of aesthetics put forward by Stalin, and in June 1925 adopted:

“…a rambling, repetitious, verbose and pompous document.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature: 1928-1932’; New York; 1935)(hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1935)’); p. 43).

This resolution was entitled “On the Policy of the Party in the Field of Literature,” and declared the Party’s neutrality between aesthetic trends:

“The Party can in no way bind itself in adherence to any one direction in the sphere of artistic form. . . . All attempts to bind the Party to one direction at the present phase of cultural development of the country must be firmly rejected.
Therefore the Party must pronounce in favour of free competition between the various groupings and streams in this sphere. . . .Similarly unacceptable would be the passing of a decree or party decision awarding a legal monopoly in matters of literature and publishing to some group or literary organisation, . . . for this would mean the destruction of proletarian literature.”

(Resolution of CC, RCP, ‘On the Party’s Policy in the Field of Literature’ (July 1925), in: C. Vaughan James: ‘Soviet Socialist Realism’; London; 1973; p;. 118, 119).

Edward J. Brown* comments:

“As a result of that liberal policy, the years from 1921 to 1932 saw the growth of a literature in Russia which is thoroughly congenial to the tastes of Western intellectuals.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Russian Literature since the Revolution’; London; 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1963)’; p. 23).

The adoption of this “liberal” attitude towards aesthetics was due to the fact that the Party leadership at this time was dominated by revisionists, by concealed opponents of socialism. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party elected after the 13th Congress of the Party in June 1924 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Nikolay I. Bukharin*,
Lev B. Kamenev*;
Aleksey I. Rykov*;
Josef V. Stalin;
Mikhail P. Tomsky*;
Lev D. Trotsky*;
Grigory E. Zinoviev*.

(Leonard Schapiro: ‘The Communist Party of the Soviet Union’; London; 1960; p. 607).

The revisionist control over literature in the next period was exercised through the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), founded in 1920, which published the journal “On Literary Guard” from 1926 to 1932. RAPP was headed by the concealed Trotskyist Leopold Averbakh*, who exercised a virtual dictatorship over literature:

“Averbakh exercised a virtual dictatorship over early Soviet Russian literature.”

(Robert H. Stacy: ‘Russian Literary Criticism: A Short History’; New York; 1974; p. 196).

“Averbakh’s first book, published in 1923, had appeared with a preface by Trotsky.”

(Edward J. Brown (1963): op. cit.; p. 217).

“In 1937 Averbakh was unmasked as an agent of Trotsky, one whose errors formed a pattern of subversion in Soviet literature.”‘

(Norah Levin: ‘The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradoxes of Survival’, Volume 2; London; 1990; p. 863).

Averbakh was the brother-in-law of Genrikh Yagoda*, at this time Deputy Commissar for Internal Affairs, who later, in 1938, admitted in open court to treason:

“The main figure, Averbakh, had come under the protection of his relative by marriage, Yagoda. . . . Soon after Yagoda’s arrest, he (Averbakh — Ed.) was attacked as a Trotskyite.”

(Robert Conquest: ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; Harmondsworth; 1971; p. 446).

“The RAPP leaders . . . were, shortly after the Moscow Trial of 1937, accused of having been themselves Trotskyists.”

(Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 223).

In the absence of any Party guidance on aesthetics, the Trotskyites in the leadership of RAPP caused great harm to Soviet literature during the period of their domination, partly by their sectarianism:

“Averbakh was sectarian and oppressively dogmatic in his treatment of literary questions.”

(Victor Terras: p. 29; ‘Handbook of Russian Literature’; New Haven (USA); 1985;)

For example, during the period of the First Five-Year Plan (1929-34) the leaders of RAPP decreed in 1930 that only literature which directly boosted the Plan should be published:

“‘Literature should help the Five-Year Plan’ was the slogan. . . .The depiction of the Five-Year Plan is the one and only problem of Soviet literature, proclaimed the organ of RAPP in 1930. . . .For about three years, the Five-Year Plan became the only subject of Soviet literature.”

(Gleb Struve: ‘Soviet Russian Literature’; London; 1935; p. 86, 229).

As might have been expected:

” . . . the result was a drying-up of the creative sources of Russian literature and a narrowing-down of its themes.”

(Gleb Struve: ibid.; p. 229).

Even more serious, the leaders of RAPP used their positions to persecute writers who attempted to follow a socialist line in their art — this extending even to such famous and outstanding artists as Maksim Gorky*, Mikhail Sholokhov* and Vladimir Mayakovsky*.

The Case of Maksim Gorky

The persecution of Maksim Gorky by the Soviet revisionists, particularly Grigory Zinoviev, became so serious that in 1921 Gorky was forced to leave Soviet Russia and move to Italy:

“His (Gorky’s –Ed.) relations with Zinoviev, the local dictator at Petrograd, became so strained that he left Russia in the autumn of 1921.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: ‘The Biographical Dictionary of the Former Soviet Union: Prominent People in All Fields from 1917 to the Present’; London; 1992; p. 157).

“Partly on account of his disagreements with the leading Bolsheviks (Zinoviev and Kamenev — Ed.). Gorky went abroad again in 1921.”

(Anthony K. Thorlby (Ed.): ‘Penguin Companion to Literature’, Volume 2; Harmondsworth; 1969; p. 325).

“Gorky did make a dire enemy of one of the new masters: Zinioviev.”

(Dan Levin: ‘Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maksim Gorky’ London; 1967; p. 198).

in whose feud with Gorky:

“Zinoviev was supported by Kamenev. . . . It was the weakening of Gorky’s position in Soviet Russia, a growing sense of disillusionment and helplessness, that finally made him leave in 1921, not his health.”

(Dan Levin: ibid.; p. 210).

In 1928 the attacks on Gorky were taken up by the still concealed revisionists in the leadership of RAPP, headed by Averbakh. For example, in February 1928 Gorky was being depicted in the RAPP journal as:

“a man without class consciousness.”

(‘On Literary Guard’, February 1928; p. 94).

Averbakh’s attacks on Gorky in ‘On Literary Guard’ were echoed in the journal “The Present,” published by the Siberian writers’ association, which had been founded by Semyon Rodov* (formerly of the RAPP triumvirate). This journal described Gorky as:

“…a crafty, disguised enemy.”

(‘The Present’, Nos. 8 & 9, 1929, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 74).

“In tirades of mounting fury, Gorky was called a class enemy and said to be a protector of anti-Soviet elements.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p 74).

But by this time the exposure of the Opposition had reached the point where these attacks could be countered:

“At this point the Party stepped in with a resolution ‘On the Statement of Part of the Siberian Writers and Literary Organisations against Maksim Gorky.”‘

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

and administered:

“a firm reprimand to the Communist fraction of the Siberian Proletkult.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

During Gorky’s enforced absence abroad, Stalin continued to support him, writing to him, for example, in Italy in January 1930:

“I am told you need a physician from Russia, Is that so? Whom do you want? Let us know and we shall send him.”

(J. V. Stalin: Letter to Maksim Gorky, January 1930, in: ‘Works’, Volume 12; Moscow; 1955; p. 183).

But by 1931 the revisionists seemed to have been finally defeated, and Gorky felt it safe to return to the Soviet Union. He returned to Moscow in 1931 after the fall of his arch-enemy, Zinoviev. (Jeanne Vronskaya and Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 157).

Since:

“. . the defeat of the Communist Opposition . . . must have seemed . . to Gorky the harbinger of unity. Zinoviev . . . had been Gorky’s arch-tormentor.”

(Dan Levin: op. cit.; p. 264).

But concealed revisionists continued to plot against Gorky. By utilising the services of medical members of the conspiracy, Genrikh Yagoda — who was Commissar for Internal Affairs from 1934 to 1936 — had arranged the murder of Gorky’s son, Maksim Peshkov, in 1934 and that of Gorky himself in 1936:

YAGODA: Yenukidze “. . . told me that the centre had decided to undertake a number of terrorist acts against members of the Political Bureau and, in addition, against Maksim Gorky personally. . . . Yenukidze explained to me that the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ . . . regarded Gorky as a dangerous figure. Gorky was a staunch supporter of Stalin’s leadership, and in case the conspiracy was put into effect, he would undoubtedly raise his voice against us, the conspirators. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Do you admit being guilty of the murder of Alexey Maksimovich Gorky?

YAGODA: I do.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; Moscow; 1938; p. 574, 577).

The physician Dmitry Pletnev told the Court:

“PLETNEV: No extraneous poisonous substances were introduced, but he (Gorky — Ed.) was subjected to a regime which was harmful. All the medicines were permissible, but in the individual case of Gorky they were harmful. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Formulate briefly the particulars of the plan which you drew up together with Levin (co-defendant physician Lev Levin — Ed.) for the killing of Aleksey Maksimovich Gorky.

PLETNEV: To tire out the organism and thus lower its power of resistance.

VYSHINSKY: For what purpose?

PLETNEV: To bring about Gorky’s death.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; ibid.; p. 591, 593).

The Case of Mikhail Sholokhov

One of the finest Soviet novels is “The Quiet Don,” written in 1928-40 by the Cossack writer Mikhail Sholokhov who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the work in 1965. An English translation of the novel was published in two parts, entitled respectively “Quiet Flows the Don” and “The Don Flows Home to the Sea.”

“The Quiet Don” is, above all:

“. . . a harsh denunciation of the policy pursued by the Trotskyites.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: ‘The Authorship of “The Quiet Don”‘; Oslo; 1984; p. 17).

among the Cossacks.

Almost immediately after the publication of the first volume of the novel in the journal “October” in 1929, rumours began to circulate that “The Quiet Don” was a plagiarism, that it had been written not by Sholokhov, but by someone else — the favourite candidate being another Cossack writer, Fedor Kryukov*:

“Rumours of plagiarism started to circulate as far back as 1928, simultaneously with the appearance of the first volume in the literary journal ‘October.”‘

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 15).

These rumours were, understandably, spread by

“. . . supporters of Trotsky. . . .Even if Trotsky at that time had left the Soviet Union, some of his earlier adherents were still in power. One of them was S. I. Syrtsov* (1893-1938), . . ., an eager supporter of Trotsky’s brutal policy towards the Cossacks.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 17).

As a result of these rumours,

“at the beginning of 1929, the editorial board (of ‘October’ — Ed.), decided to discontinue the publication of the novel.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 16).

Sholokhov protested to the Party newspaper “Pravda,” which organised a special commission, headed by the writer Aleksandr Serafimovich*, to investigate the allegations. To this body, Sholokhov submitted his manuscripts and notes.

“At the end of March 1929, ‘Pravda’ published a letter in which the charges against Sholokhov were refuted as ‘malicious slander’ spread by enemies of the proletarian dictatorship.”

(‘Pravda’, 29 March 1929; p. 4).

In January 1930 Sholokhov had a meeting with Stalin, on which he (Sholokhov) commented:

“The conversation was very profitable to me and encouraged me to put into practice new creative ideas.”

(Herman Ermolaev: ‘Mikhail Sholokhov and his Art’; Princeton (USA); 1982 (herafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolkav (1982); p. 29).

By 1934, as we have seen [Editor: See prior writings via the Index pages of Alliance], the Soviet state security organs had come under the control of concealed revisionists, and in 1938:

“the NKVD began a large-scale operation against Sholokhov.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): ibid.; p. 41).

Sholokhov was accused of:

“preparing an uprising of the . . . Cossacks against the Soviet regime.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 41).

In October 1938, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU carried out an investigation, in which Stalin played a leading role, into the charges against Sholokhov. These were found to be groundless. Sholokhov said in 1969 that:

” . . . Stalin looked closely into everything, and all the accusations against me were smashed to smithereens.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p;., 42).

In the 1960s the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were renewed by the historian Roy Medvedev*, who admitted that:

“. . . it is a fact that Fedor Kryukov’s son was among the Cossacks who emigrated to the west and he never made any claims against Sholokhov. No such claims were made anywhere in emigre Cossack literature.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov’; Cambridge; 1966 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1966)’; p. 204).

Nevertheless, Medevedev concluded:

“While we must refrain as yet from any definitive solutions and conclusions, the mass of new data seems to us to speak in favour of the now familiar theory of the double authorship of ‘The Quiet Don.'”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p.

The main reason presented for this conclusion was the view that:

“. . . Sholokhov was too young to have produced such a mature piece of work.”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p. 202).

In 1974 the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were revived in an anonymous pamphlet published in Paris, with a foreword by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn*. The pamphlet, in Russian, was entitled ‘The Current of ‘The Quiet Don’: Riddles of the Novel.” Reviving the old, discredited slanders of the 1920s, it claimed that:

“the bulk of ‘The Quiet Don’ had been written not by Mikhail Sholokhov, but by… Fedor Kryukov.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 7).

A more recent study, published in 1982 by the American expert Herman Ermolaev*, based on computer textual analysis of the work of Sholokhov and Kryukov, concludes that:

“no evidence has so far been presented to show that Sholokhov utilised someone else’s imaginative work for writing ‘The Quiet Don’. Until there is convincing evidence to the contrary, Sholokhov ought to be treated as the sole author of ‘The Quiet Don.”‘

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 300).

Similar computer textual analysis also compelled Geir Kjetsaa et al. to conclude in 1984 that:

“the use of mathematical statistics permits us to exclude the possibility of Kryukov having written the novel, whereas Sholokhov cannot be excluded as the author.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit. p. 152).

The Case of Vladimir Mayakovsky

The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky is regarded as:

“the real troubadour of the Revolution.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky’; London; 1965 (henceforth listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965)’); p. 18).

He wrote poems on topical matters, in ordinary everyday language, and travelled from town to town and village to village, reciting them.

In April 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide by shooting himself, leaving a note. The story was widely spread that he had:

“committed suicide because of a romantic and unfortunate love affair.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 167).

Indeed, the official report of the investigation into his death his death (issued less than 24 hours after his death) was at pains to deny that death was connected with his social or literary activity:

“The preliminary data of the investigation show that the suicide was due to causes of a purely personal character, having nothing to do with the social or literary activity of the poet.”

(‘Pravda’, 15 April 1930, in: Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965): op. cit.; p. 28-29).

But, as Shakespeare expressed it:

“Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.”

(William Shakespeare: ‘As You like it’, Act 4, Scene 1, in: ‘The Complete Works’, Feltham; 1979; p. 226).

In fact, it was in October 1929 that Mayakovsky was informed that the girl he thought himself in love with — Tatiana Yalovleva*, the daughter of a White Russian emigrant living in Paris — had married someone else:

“In October Lilya Brik* received a letter from her sister Elsa (Elsa Triolet* — Ed.)…’Tatyana has got married.”‘

(A. D. P. Briggs: ‘Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy’; Oxford; 1979; p. 114).

His suicide occurred only in April of-the following year — six months later — so that one must agree with Helen Muchnic when she declares:

“It is absurd to think, as some have done, that he ‘died for love’ in the sentimentally romantic sense.”

(Helen Muchnic: ‘From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia’; New York; 1961; p. 263).

It is clear that some event or events must have occurred in the spring of 1930 which were more immediate causes of his suicide.

In fact. in February 1930, with the aim of bringing himself closer to his audience, Mayakovsky had joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP):

“Mayakovsky joined RAPP in order to get closer to his workers’ auditorium.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ‘0 Mayakovskom’ (On Mayakovsky); Moscow; 1940; p. 215).

But, as we have seen, RAPP had fallen under the control of a gang of concealed revisionists, headed by Leopold Averbakh, who exerted a reactionary dictatorship over the arts. Thus, in joining RAPP:

“Mayakovsky . . . fell into a dead sea.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ibid.; p. 215).

Averbakh and his bureaucratic cronies made it clear that Mayakovsky was a far from welcome recruit to RAPP. They insisted that he required ‘re-education in proletarian ideology’, making him feel isolated and depressed:

“There is no doubt that he felt his own increasing isolation and sensed the cloud of disapproval that in fact hung over him….The bureaucrats in control of RAPP…did not very much want him in their organisation.

Mayakovsky was not warmly welcomed in RAPP and…in this mass organisation he felt isolated and alone….From February until April 1930 the secretariat of RAPP constantly hauled Mayakovsky over the coals in a trivial and didactic fashion….From the moment of his entry until his suicide, the ‘secretariat’ of that organisation occupied itself with ‘re-educating’ him in the spirit of proletarian ideology, and literature, a truly depressing experience. Some people recalled that on the eve of his suicide…he was in a state of defenceless misery as a result of his sessions with the talentless dogmatists and petty literary tyrants whose organisation he had joined.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution’; Princeton (USA): 1973 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown; (1973)’); p. 362-63, 366, 367).

“The whole set of vindictive attacks on Mayakovsky, of all people, on the ground of insufficient closeness to and concern for the masses – arguments that read so absurdly at this distance of time, but which then momentarily hounded and isolated him — bear the smell precisely of those methods. Mayakovsky was indirectly the victim of the same hands that later directly slew the great Soviet writer of the generation that preceded him, Gorky.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky and his Poetry’; London; 1945 (hereafter listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed,): 1945’); p. 6).

When “An Exhibition of the Life and Work of Mayakovsky” took place in Moscow in February and in Leningrad in March, it:

“was boycotted by official and unofficial bodies, poets and critics; more and more bitter and scathing attacks were being made on him.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 23).

RAPP’s attacks on Mayakovsky continued — intensified — after his death:

“The cloud that had settled over Mayakovsky’s reputation during the last years of his life was not dispelled by his senseless death.”

(Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1963): op. cit.; p. 369).

“They hounded him also after his death. His works only appeared in restricted editions, no new works published, no research, no production of his plays, his books and portraits were removed from libraries.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 39).

“For a time after Mayakovsky’s death, RAPP’s clique, by exploiting his suicide, even succeeded in hindering the publication of his works, delaying the opening of his museum, and removing his name from the school curricula.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1945); p. 6).

When Elsa Triolet attended the Writers’ Congress in Moscow in 1934, she complained to “one of these petty bureaucrats” about the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union and was told:

“There’s a cult of Mayakovsky, and we’re fighting against that cult.”

(Elsa Triolet: ‘Mayakovsky: Poet of Russia’, in: ‘New Writing’, New Series 3; London; 1.939; p. 222-23).

On Stalin’s initiative, as we shall see, RAPP was liquidated in April 1932.
In 1935 Lilya and Osip Brik* wrote to Stalin to complain of the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union. (Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1973); p. 370).

Stalin replied promptly:

“Mayakovsky was and remains the finest, most talented poet of our Soviet age. Indifference to his memory and his works is a crime.”

(J. V. Stalin, in: A. D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 121-22).

As a result of Stalin’s initiative, Mayakovsky’s prestige was immediately restored:

“At once things began to happen, Mayakovsky’s ashes were re-interred in a place of honour alongside the remains of Gogol. Statues of the poet sprang up everywhere. His works were reissued and translated.”

(D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 122).

One final point: the Trotskyist revisionists who drove Mayakovsky to his death plead not guilty to the crime. The American Trotskyist Max Eastman*, for example, cannot deny Mayakovsky’s talent nor the role of Averbakh and his gang in his persecution, so he simply inverts the truth by presenting Averbakh as:

“the young adjutant of Stalin.”

(Max Eastman: ‘Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism’; London; 1934; p. 35).

AESTHETICS IN THE SOVIET UNION (1932-1953)

The Reformation of the Artistic Organisation (1932)

We have seen that in 1924 Stalin was the only Marxist-Leninist on the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This situation was rectified by a carefully planned strategy of cooperating with the less dangerous revisionists in the leadership in order to remove the more dangerous. As a result of this strategy, the Political Bureau elected after the 17th Congress of the CPSU in February 1934 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Andrey Andreyev*;

Lazar Kaganovich*;

Mikhail Kalinin*;

Sergey Kirov*;

Stanislav Kosior*v

Valerian Kuibyshev*;

Vyacheslav Molotov*;

Grigory Ordzhonikidze*

Josef Stalin;

Kliment Voroshi1ov*.

(Leonard Schapiro: op. cit.; p. 607).

That is, it was composed of eight Marxist-Leninists and two still concealed revisionists. Thus, by the 1930s Marxist-Leninists had won majority of the seats on the Political Bureau.

It is customary for learned professors to present the defeated revisionists as “brilliant intellectuals” and Stalin as “a clod from the Caucasian backwoods.”

The objective history of Stalin’s successful struggle against the Opposition belies such an analysis.

Having liquidated open revisionism in the political field, the Marxist-Leninists now in the leadership of the CPSU turned their attention to the development of a genuine proletarian culture.

The first step was to liquidate the existing cultural organisations under revisionist domination and to form new broad organisations in each field of culture — organisations open to all cultural workers who supported Soviet power and socialist construction, with a Communist Party fraction in each to give Marxist Leninist leadership.

Thus, in April 1932, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party adopted a Decision “On the Reformation of Literary-Artistic Organisations”:

“The framework of the existing proletarian literary-artistic organisations…appears to be too narrow and to seriously restrict the scope of artistic creativity….Consequently the Central Committee of the ACP (b) resolves:

1) to liquidate the association of proletarian writers.
2) to unite all writers supporting the platform of Soviet power and aspiring to participate in the building of socialism into one union of Soviet, socialist writers with a communist fraction in it;
3) to carry out an analogous changes with regard to the other forms of art.”

(C. Vaughan James: op. cit. p. 120).

The fact that this radical decision was taken on Stalin’s personal initiative was revealed by Lazar Kaganovich at the 17th Congress of the CPSU in January-February 1934:

“A group of Communist writers, taking advantage of RAPP as an organisational instrument, incorrectly utilised the power of their Communist influence on the literary front, and instead of unifying and organising around RAPP the broad masses of writers, held back and impeded the development of the writers’ creative powers. . . .It might have been possible to bring out a resolution on the tasks of the Communists in literature; it might have been possible to suggest that the RAPP people alter their policy. But this might have remained merely a good intention. Comrade Stalin posed the question differently: it is necessary, he said, to alter the situation in an organisational way.”

(Lazar Kaganovich: Speech at 17th Congress, CPSU, in: Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 201).

The American music critic Boris Schwarz* tells us that:

“. . . the Resolution . . . was received with widespread approval.”

(Boris Schwarz: ‘Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1970’; London; 1972; p. 110).

The single organisation created by this decree in the field of literature was the Union of Soviet Writers, in the field of music the Union of Soviet Composers.

It remained to lay down the principles of aesthetics which Soviet artists would be expected to follow — principles which came to be known as ‘the method of socialist realism.

The Origin of the Term “Socialist Realism”

The first known use of the term “socialist realism” was in an article in the “Literary Gazette” in May 1932:

“The basic method of Soviet literature is the method of socialist realism.”

(‘Literary Gazette’, 23 May 1932, in: Herman Ermolaev: ‘Soviet Literary Theories: 1917-1934’; Berkeley (USA); 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolaev (1963)’); p. 144).

Five months later, in October 1932, at an informal meeting in Gorky’s flat, Stalin gave his support to the term:

“If the artist is going to depict our life correctly, he cannot fail to observe and point out what is leading towards socialism. So this will be . . . socialist realism.”

(Josef V… Stalin, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 86).

The Characteristics of Socialist Realism

Realism, as we have said, is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

It must be distinguished from naturalism, which represents reality only superficially and statically. In fact, the world is in process of constant change, so that a work of art which fails to hint at the forces working beneath the surface of reality is not a realist, but a naturalist, work.

For example, Russia in 1907 lay under the “Stolypin* Reaction”: the organisations of the working class were being destroyed; the prisons were filled with revolutionaries; Black Hundred terror raged unchecked. On the surface, it was a picture of unrelieved, hopeless gloom for the mass of the people. Yet less than ten years later the whole rotten system of Tsarism had been swept away in the October Revolution. Consquently, a novel set in Russia in 1907 which failed to hint at the revolutionary social forces operating beneath the surface would be a work not of realism, but of naturalism.

Marxist-Leninists understand that monopoly capitalism, imperialism, is moribund capitalism, capitalism which has outlived its social usefulness to the mass of the people. Consequently, a 20th-century work of art which fails to suggest the underlying forces of the working class, of socialism, which will bring about the socialist revolution, is not a realist work: 20th century realism must be socialist realism.

The key word here is “suggest”: a socialist realist work of art must not give the impression of being propaganda.

As Engels expressed it in 1888:

“The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better the work of art.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to Margaret Harkness* (April 1888). in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: ‘On Literature and Art’; Moscow; 1976; p.91).

Thus, the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Writers adopted at the lst All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 declares:

“Socialist realism demands from the author a true and historically concrete depiction of reality in its revolutionary development.”

(Constitution of Union of Soviet Writers, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 88).

Socialist realist art does not exclude distortion and exaggeration, so long as this departure from naturalism assists in bringing out the truth about the subject. Thus, a caricature of Margaret Thatcher* showing her as a vulture with bloody talons would be much more realistic than a naturalistic portrait showing her as a sweet, silver-haired grandmother.

Socialist realist art is not, however, just a passive reflection of reality; it must play an active role in building socialist consciousness:

“The relationship between art and reality is twofold. . . . Socialist Realism demands a profound and true perception of reality and reflection of its chief and most progressive tendencies ; but it is itself a powerful weapon for changing reality. . . . Artistic truth facilitates the development of communist awareness, and education in the spirit of communism is possible only through a true reflection of life.”

(Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 80).

In Stalin’s famous phrase, socialist realist artists are “engineers of human souls”:

“Comrade Stalin has called our writers engineers of human souls.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: ‘Soviet Literature — the Richest in Ideas,* the Most Advanced Literature’ (hereafter listed as ‘Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934)’, in: H. G. Scott (Ed.): ‘Problems of Soviet Literature’; London; 1935; p. 21).

Socialist realist art is, therefore, “tendentious,” “partisan.” Far from pretending to be neutral in the class struggle, it consciously sides with the working people:

“Soviet literature is tendentious, for in an epoch of class struggle there is not and cannot be a literature which is . . . not tendentious.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): ibid.; p. 21).

Of course, all art is selective in its subject matter. There may be a millionaire who gives away all his money to the poor; but he would be so exceptional that a work of art with him as subject would give a completely false picture of millionaires. It would not be truly realist. True realism, socialist realism, requires typicality in its selection of subject matter:

“Realism . . . implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to ‘Margaret Harkness’, (April 1888), in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: op. cit.; p. 90).

Romanticism is a form of art expressing intense emotion. However, in the majority of cases romanticism became linked with idealist soarings into metaphysics. Socialist realist art makes use of romanticism, but shorn of its metaphysical tendencies to give revolutionary romanticism:

“Romanticism of the old type . . . depicted a non-existent life and non-existent heroes, leading the reader away from . . . real life into . . . a world of utopian dreams. Our literature . . . cannot be hostile to romanticism, but it must be romanticism of a new type, revolutionary romanticism.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): op. cit.; p. 21).

We have seen that the form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art. Where the artist gives priority to form over content, we encounter a deviation from realism known as formalism.

Finally, socialist realist art must be national in form, not cosmopolitan:

“Proletarian culture . . . is . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; op. cit.; p. 140).

“Internationalism in art does not spring from depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes. To forget this is . . . to become a cosmopolitan without a country.

Our internationalism . . . is therefore based on the enrichment of our national . . . culture, which we can share with other nations, and is not based on an impoverishment of our national art, blind imitation of foreign styles, and the eradication of all national characteristics.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: p. 61, 63).

The First Congress of Soviet Writers (1934)

The First Congress of Soviet Writers, held in Moscow in August 1934 resolved that socialist realism:

“. . . become the officially sponsored method, first in literature and subsequently in the arts in general.”

Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 87).

Thus, by 1935 it could be reported truthfully:

“The Union of Soviet Writers comprises all those writers, living and writing in Soviet Russia, who adhere to the platform of the Soviet Government, support Socialist construction and accept the method of Socialist Realism.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 231).

However; revisionism in the arts had not been completely defeated. Papers were presented at the congress not only by the Marxist-Leninists Andrey Zhdanov and Maksim Gorky, but also by the still concealed revisionists Nikolay Bukharin, Karl Radek* and Aleksey Stetsky*:

“Bukharin . . . dismissed officially acclaimed ‘agitational poets’ as obsolete, and praised at length disfavoured lyrical poets, particularly the defiantly apolitical Pasternak*.”

(Stephen F. Cohen: ‘Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography: 1888-1938’; London; 1974; p, 356).

Thus, the battle of ideas between Marxist-Leninists and revisionists in the field of the arts did not end in 1934, but continued.

The Case of Dmitry Shostakovich (1936)

In November 1934 a new opera by Dmitry Shostakovich*, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” had its premiere. The libretto was based on a short story by Nikolay Leskov* entitled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.” It tells the story of Katerina Ismailova, the wife of a provincial merchant, who has an affair with a clerk in her husband’s office, poisons her father-in-law, then joins her lover in strangling her husband and, finally, murders her little nephew. For Leskov Katerina was a depraved criminal, but Shostakovich presented the story as a tribute to woman’s liberation. While

“… for Leskov, Katerina was a squalid, selfish criminal — deserving of the condemnation which she encountered. Shostakovich, as he later said, intended his music to minimise her own guilt. ‘The musical language of the whole opera is intended to exonerate Katerina1, he declared.”

(Norman Kay: ‘Shostakovich’; London; 1971; p. 26).

The opera caused a sensation in the United States:

“A Western critic coined the word ‘pornophony’ to describe . . . the bedroom scene.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 371),

And the “New York Sun” agreed:

“Shostakovich is without doubt the foremost composer of pornographic music in the history of the opera.”

(Boris Schwarz: ibid.; p. 120).

In January 1936, however,

” . . . when Stalin finally saw ‘Lady Macbeth’, he did not like it, . . . he walked out before it was over.”

(Victor I. Serov: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich: The Life and Background of a Soviet Composer’; New York; 1943; p. 220).

“For Stalin the opera was a painful experience.”

(Robert Stradling: ‘Shostakovich and the Soviet System’, in: Christopher Norris (Ed.): ‘Shostakovich: The Man and his Music’; London; 1982; p. 197).

A few days later, “Pravda” carried a leading article entitled “Chaos instead of Music” which, as its title indicates, was strongly critical of the opera.

Shostakovich himself insisted that the article

“… actually expressed the opinion of Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1981; p. 113).

and the editor of his memoirs, Solomon Volkov, agrees that the article was

“… dictated, in fact, by Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov: Introduction to: ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich’; op. cit.; p. xxix).

The article declared:

“From the first moment, the listener is knocked over the head by an incoherent chaotic stream of sounds. The fragments of melody, the germs of musical phrases, are drowned in a sea of bangs, rasping noises and squeals. It is difficult to follow such ‘music’; it is impossible to remember it. … And so it goes on, almost right through the opera. Screams take the place of singing. If, once in a while, the composer finds his way on to a clear melodic path, he immediately dashes aside into the jungle of chaos, which sometimes becomes pure cacophony. . . . Expressiveness … is replaced by a crazy rhythm. Musical noise is supposed to express passion.

All this is not because the composer lacks talent, or because he is incapable of expressing ‘strong and simple emotions’ in musical terms. This music is just deliberately written ‘inside-out1, so that nothing should remind the listener of classical opera . . . and simple, easily accessible musical speech. . . . The danger of this ‘Leftism’ in music comes from .the same source as all ‘Leftist’ ugliness in painting, poetry, education and science. Petit-bourgeois ‘innovation’ produces divorce from real art, from real literature…Shostakovich, in reality, produces nothing but the crudest naturalism.. . . It is crude, primitive and vulgar.”

(Leading Article, in: ‘Pravda’, 28 January 1936, in: Alexander Werth; ‘Musical Uproar in Moscow’; London; 1949 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1949)’; p. 48-49).

A few days later, in February, “Pravda” published another leading article, this time strongly critical of Shostakovich’s ballet “The Limpid Stream”;

“The music is without character; it jingles; it means nothing.”

(Leading Article, ‘Pravda, 6 February 1936, in: Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 208).

Shostakovich did not respond publicly:

“Shostakovich . . . suffered in silence.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): ‘New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, Volume 17; London; 1980; p. 265).

but he took note of the criticism:

“In December 1936 he withdrew his 4th Symphony…saying that he was dissatisfied with the finale.”

(James Devlin; ‘Shostakovich’; Sevenoaks; 1983; p. 9).

Most Western musicologists agree with Peter Heyworth*, who holds that the Marxist-Leninist criticism of Shostakovich and other composers

“… did immense damage to the cultural life of the Soviet Union.”

(Peter Heyworth: ‘Shostakovich without Ideology’, in: Gervase Hughes S Herbert Van Thai (Eds.): ‘The Music Lover’s Companion’; London; 1971; p. 201).

In fact, criticism of a work of art by the Marxist-Leninist Party of a socialist state is not criticism by “politicians,” but represents the collective opinion of the most advanced cultural leaders of the country:

“Whereas Western criticism represents the subjective opinion of an individual critic, Soviet criticism is a collective opinion expressed in the words of an individual critic.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 320).

And the view that the constructive Marxist-Leninist criticism was “harmful” is discounted by the fact that in November 1937 the first performance took place of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, inscribed:

“…’Creative Reply of a Soviet Artist to Just Criticism.'”

(Peter Ileyvorth: ibid.; p. 202).

RECORDING 4: EXCERPT: DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH: SYMPHONY NO. 5.

Although this inscription did not originate with the composer,

“… Shostakovich . . . accepted it.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): op. cit., Volume 17; p. 265).

And this new symphony, written in the light of the Marxist-Leninist criticism, proved to be his finest work to date:

“The Fifth … to this day remains Shostakovich’s most admired work.”

(Solomon Volkov: op. cit.; p. xxxi).

“Its first movement is Shostakovich at his best . . . and shows a new maturity; this maturity reaches its greatest depth and power in the third movement, the now famous Largo. The entire symphony seems, indeed, to satisfy the demand of the Soviet people that their new music should be ‘powerful and intelligible’. . . . Dmitry’s triumph could be compared only with the comeback of an idol of the prize-ring.”

(Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 231-32).

“The 5th Symphony was received with unanimous praise and the critics rushed to acclaim it.”

(James Devlin: op. cit.; p. 10).

“Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony takes its place amongst the most profound and significant works of world symphonic music. At the same time, all its ethical and aesthetic elements, as well as the underlying idea and its embodiment in music, belong to Soviet art.”

(David Rabinovich: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1959; p. 50).

“It (the 5th Symphony — Ed.) proved to be Shostakovich’s first fully mature work. Naturally enough, the Party’s cultural officials were jubilant. Had not their criticism been admitted by its object as deserved? Better still, had it not yielded fruit in the shape of the finest score that Shostakovich had yet written?”

(Peter Heyworth: op. cit.; p. 202).

As a result, even Peter Heyworth feels compelled to point out:

“If Shostakovich’s weaknesses as a composer are to be attributed to the stultifying dogmas enforced by Zhdanov, why is his Symphony No. 12, written in the full flood of Khrushchev’s thaw, by far his worst.”

(Peter Heyworth: op cit.; p. 199).

Of course, Shostakovich was not sincere in paying tribute to the constructive criticism of the Party. He says in his memoirs:

“Stalin never had any ideology or convictions or ideas or principles…Stalin could definitely be called superstitious. . . . Stalin was half mad.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): op. cit.; p. 187, 192).

The Wartime and Post-War Situation (1941-45)

During the Second World War, when Marxist-Leninists were primarily concerned with victory over the fascist invaders, revisionists were able to spread their ideas, in concealed form, in Soviet society to a considerable extent;

“Two famous decrees, one of August 1941, the other of December 1941, made it possible for any soldier ‘who had distinguished himself in battle’ to join the Party with the minimum of formalities… He could become a candidate member almost automatically and a full member in a much shorter time than usual. No serious ideological training was expected from him — in fact, practically none at all….As the war was nearing its end, there was growing anxiety among the older Party members at the thought that the Party had been diluted by millions of patriotic young soldiers with no ideological training to speak of…The general ‘ideological’ level of these organisations sharply declined in many cases after the war as a result of this influx.”

(Alexander Werth: ‘Russia: The Post-War Years’; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1971)’; p. 100, 102, 103).

In the summer of 1944, the writer Vsevolod Vishnevsky* drew this picture of “cultural coexistence” after the war:

“When the war is over . . . there will be much coming and going, a lot of contacts with the West. Everybody will be allowed to read whatever he likes. There will be exchanges of students, and foreign travel for Soviet citizens will be made easy.”

(Vsevolod Vishnevsky, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

and Alexander Werth* himself says:

“All kinds of other ‘Western’ ideas were being toyed with — for instance, a project for publishing ‘escapist’ literature, including a series of hundreds of thrillers and detective stories, translated from the English and published under the general editorship of that great lover of thrillers, Sergey Eisenstein*. A lot of light and entertaining books, plays and films would also be produced. Already in 1944 there were signs of ‘decadence’ in Moscow — amusingly ‘escapist’ films with frivolous songs . . . and even concerts of highly ‘decadent’ songs sung by Aleksandr Vertinsky.*”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

In June 1946 a poetry evening was organised in Moscow in honour of the revisionist poets Boris Pasternak* and Anna Akhmatova*.

“The young people of Moscow — above all its students — gave a tremendous ovation to … Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit. p. 201).

It was following this incident that the Marxist-Leninists launched a determined counter-attack against revisionism in the arts. Or, as Werth expresses it,

“… Zhdanovism blossomed out suddenly in August 1946.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 201).

Incidentally, in 1944 Picasso joined the French Communist Party. But those who imagined that this might influence his art in the direction of socialist realism were sadly disappointed. The French Communist Party was already deep in the mire of revisionism — and not only in the sphere of the arts — and praised Picasso’s art unreservedly. When Stalin died in 1953, the Party commissioned Picasso to do a portrait of him for their literary journal “Les Lettres Francaises”:

SLIDE 10: PABLO PICASSO: “STALIN.”

Although, unlike many paintings by Picasso, this portrait is recognisably that of a human being, its publication brought a host of angry letters from readers and the editors were compelled to print an apology for having published it

[UNFORTUNATELY, PAGE 34 IS MISSING FROM THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE TEXT LEFT BY BLAND.

IT DEALS WITH ANNA AKHMATOVA]

“…reactionary morass in literature….She is one of the standard-bearers of the meaningless, empty-headed, aristocrat-salon school of poetry, which has no place whatever in Soviet literature….Akhmatova’s subject matter is individualistic to the core. The range of her poetry is sadly limited; it is the poetry of a spoiled woman-aristocrat, frenziedly vacillating between boudoir and chapel, Her main emphasis is on erotic love-themes, interwoven with notes of sadness, longing, death, mysticism, fatality… It would be hard to say whether she is a nun or a fallen woman; better, perhaps, say she is a bit of each, her desires and prayers intertwined….Her poetry is far removed from the people, It is the poetry of the ten thousand members of the elite society of the old aristocratic Russia, whose hour has long since struck and left them nothing to do but sigh for ‘the good old days.'”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: op. cit.; p. 25, 26, 27).

The Soviet journalist David Zaslavsky* told a delegation of British writers in 1947:

“All these thirty years he (Zoshchenko — Ed.) has been writing and rewriting his one theme, portraying always that same petty, ignorant, mercenary character. His wit petered out. Laughter changed into vicious grumbling and the slandering of Soviet life. In latter years he had no success whatever among readers, and instead of writing short stories, he turned to mediocre and vulgar works of an allegedly philosophical nature, having nothing in common with either literature or science.”

(Edgell Rickword (Ed.): ‘Soviet Writers reply to English Writers’ Questions’; London; 1948; p. p. 41-42).

The Strike against Revisionism in the Theatre (1946-52)

In August 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Theatrical Repertory and Measures to improve it.” This resolution strongly criticised the paucity of Soviet plays in the repertory of Soviet theatres and the presentation of British and American bourgeois plays:

“The Committee on Arts and Theatres is guilty of a grave political error in sponsoring the staging and publication of foreign plays such as George S. Kaufman’s* ‘The Man Who came to Dinner’ and Maugham’s* ‘Penelope’, which are examples of bourgeois dramaturgy, bound to poison the minds of the Soviet public and to revive vestiges of capitalist mentality.”

(Avrahro Yarmolinsky: ‘Literature under Communism: The Literary Policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the End of World War II to the Death of Stalin’, in: ‘Russian and Eastern European Series’, Volume 20; 1957; p. 18).

The Party placed the principal blame for this situation on the leadership of the Union of Soviet Writers, which:

” . . . has virtually ceased to direct the work of the playwright and does nothing to raise the level of their compositions.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p. 18).

while

“… acting and writing are poor, and drab, inartistic shows are the outcome.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p, 18).

In January 1949 “Pravda” continued the offensive against revisionism in the theatre by publishing a leading article entitled “Concerning an Anti-Patriotic Group of Theatrical Critics.” It alleged that a group of critics were condemning good socialist realist plays on the false grounds of their alleged technical defects:

“An anti-patriotic group has developed in theatrical criticism. It consists of followers of bourgeois aestheticism….These critics…are bearers of a homeless cosmopolitanism which is deeply repulsive to Soviet man and hostile to him…Such critics attempt to discredit the progressive phenomena of our literature and art, furiously attacking precisely the patriotic and politically purposive works, under the pretext of their alleged artistic imperfection….The sting of aesthetic-formalist criticism is directed not against the really harmful and inferior works, but against the advanced and best ones which depict Soviet patriots. It is precisely this which attests to the fact that aesthetic formalism merely serves as camouflage for anti-patriotic substance.”

(‘Pravda1, 28 January 1949, in ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 1, No. 5 (1 March 1949); p. 58, 59).

According to the new Constitution of the Soviet Union, adopted in 1935,

“…Soviet society consists of two friendly classes — the workers and peasants.”

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course1; Moscow; 1939; p. 344).

After the Second World War, the revisionists distorted this formulation in the field of aesthetics into the so-called “no-conflict theory” — the theory that, in the realist drama of the new socialist society, no conflict should be shown.

In April 1952 “Pravda” published a leading article sharply critical of the “no-conflict theory,” and of the state of Soviet dramaturgy generally:

“The struggle between the new and old calls forth the most diverse living conflicts, without which there would be no life and hence no art. The chief reason for the feebleness of dramaturgy and the weakness of many plays is that the playwrights do not build their work around the profound conflicts of life, but evade them. If one were to judge by plays of this kind…everything is ideal, there are no conflicts….This approach is wrong. To behave thus is … to sin against truth. Not everything we have is ideal; we have negative types; there is no little evil in our life and no few false people….The play must show living conflict; there can be no play without that. The gross ‘theory’ of the dying out of conflicts . . . has had a harmful effect on the playwrights’ work. . . .The breath of life is lacking in the plays written according to the ‘conflictless dramaturgy’ recipe. . . .Our dramatists must expose and mercilessly scourge the survivals of capitalism, the manifesting of political unconcern, bureaucracy, stagnation, servility, vainglory, arrogance, conceit, graft, an unconscientious approach to duties, a heedless attitude to socialist property; they must expose all that is vulgar and backward and hinders the progress of Soviet society.”

(‘Overcome the Lag in Dramaturgy’, in: ‘Pravda’, 7 April 1952, in: ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 4, No. 11 (26 April 1952); P. 3, 4).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Historiography (1934-36)

Before 1932, the organisation of historiography in the Soviet Union was, like the organisation of the arts, dominated by revisionists — headed by Mikhail Pokrovsky*, until his death from cancer in 1932;

“The main centres of … historical study and discussion — the History Section of the Institute of Red Professors, the Society of Marxist Historians, and (from 1929) the Institute of History at the Communist Academy — were all directed by him.”

(John D. Barber: ‘Soviet Historians in Crisis: 1928-1932’; London; 1981; p. 21).

“Pokrovsky . . . became the virtual dictator of historical science in the Soviet Union.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 408).

Genuine Marxist-Leninists have always accepted Marx’s view that capitalist colonial expansion in the pre-imperialist period could have a progressive aspect, as Marx pointed out in the case of pre-imperialist British colonial expansion into the Indian sub-continent:

“England . . in causing a social revolution in Hindustan was actuated only by the vilest interests. . . . But that is not the question. The question is: can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental evolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crime of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The British Rule in India’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1943; p.656).

“England has had to fulfil a double mission in India: one destructive and the other regenerating — the annihilation of old Asiatic society and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia….

The political unity of India . . . was the first condition of its regeneration. That unity, imposed by the British sword, will now be strengthened and perpetuated by the electric telegraph. The native army, organised and trained by the British drill-sergeant, was the sine qua non of Indian self-emancipation, and of India ceasing to be the prey of the first foreign intruder. The free press, introduced for the first time into Asiatic society and managed principally by the common offspring of Hindus and Europeans, is a new and powerful agent of reconstruction. The Zemindaree and Ryotwar themselves, abominable as they are, involve two distinct forms of private property in land — the great desideratum of Asiatic society. From the Indian natives, . . . under English superintendence, a fresh class is springing, endowed with the requirements for government and imbued with English science. Steam has brought India into regular and rapid communication with Europe, has connected its chief ports with those of the whole south-eastern ocean and has revindicated it from the isolated position which was the prime law of its stagnation.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, in: ibid., Volume 2; p. 658-59).

Soviet Marxist-Leninists, following Marx, applied Marx’s analysis to pre-revolutionary Russia to hold that Russia’s colonial expansion into Asia had a progressive aspect, so that local chieftains who resisted this expansion — like the famous Shamil* in the Caucasus — played a reactionary role.

Furthermore, genuine Marxist-Leninists hold that, under certain conditions, individuals may play a significant role in history. As Stalin said in his interview with the German writer Emil Ludwig* in December 1931:

“Marxism does not at all deny the role played by outstanding individuals….But…every new generation encounters definite conditions already existing….Great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will land themselves in the situation of Don Quixote. . . Marxism has never denied the role of heroes. On the contrary, it admits that they play a considerable role, but with the reservations I have just made.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Talk with the German Author Emil Ludwig, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 107-08).

However, the historian Pokrovsky and his school took an opposite view. They held that Russian colonial expansion into Asia was wholly reactionary, and that local chieftains who resisted it played a progressive role:

“Pokrovsky’s main reason for denying the validity of the cultural mission (of imperial Russia in Asia — Ed.) was that he considered Russian cultural attainments to be of very low order, inferior in most cases to those of the conquered peoples. . . .Pokrovsky scoffed at the idea, regarding everyone who saw progressive results of tsarist conquests as a Great Russian chauvinist.”

(Lowell Tillett: ‘The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities’; Chapel Hill (USA); 1969; p. 30, 360).

Also,

“… Pokrovsky ignored the role of individual personalities.”

(Konstantin P. Shteppa: ‘Russian Historians and the Soviet State’; New Brunswick (USA); 1962; p. 114).

With the defeat of open revisionism in the Soviet Union,

“… the halcyon days of Pokrovsky’s school faded completely away.”

(Anatole G. Mazour: ‘An Outline of Russian Historiography1; Berkeley (USA); 1939 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1939); p. 91).

In 1931 Stalin intervened with a letter to the magazine ‘Proletarian Revolution’ protesting:

“… against the publication … of Slutsky’s anti-Party and semi-Trotskyist article, ‘The Bolsheviks on German Social-Democracy in the Period of its Pre-War Crisis.'”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 86).

“A little more than two years after Stalin’s intervention, official attacks on Pokrovsky’s ideas began, leading to total demolition of his reputation.”

(John D. Barber; op. cit.; p. 142).

In May 1934 the Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of People’s Commissars adopted a joint decree “Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR,” signed by Molotov and Stalin. This stated that:

“… the teaching of history in the schools of the USSR is not administered satisfactorily. . . . The students are given abstract definitions of social-economic structures, thus substituting obscure schemes for coherent narration of civic history.”

(CC, CPSU & USSR CPC: ‘Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR’, in: Anatole G. Mazour: ‘Modern Russian Historiography1; Princeton (USA); 1958 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1958)’; p. 87).

The decree ordered new textbooks to be prepared for each field of history. It did not mention Pokrovsky by name,

“… but the implied criticism of him was plain.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).

Eventually,

“… in January 1936, Pokrovsky’s influence was officially attacked.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).

“Under Kaganovich’s leadership, and with Stalin’s support, a … campaign was launched against . . . M. N. Pokrovsky.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism1; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1971)’; p. 143).

During 1936-37 the Society of Marxist Historians, the Institute of Red Professors and the Institute of History were all closed down. (John D. Barber: op. cit.. p. 139).

“Among the charges made against Pokrovsky was precisely that of having degraded personality to the status of a marionette controlled by the economic process.”

(Klaus Mehnert: ‘Stalin versus Marx: The Stalinist Historical Doctrine’; London; 1952; p. 76).

In November 1938 the Central Committee of the Party adopted a resolution

“… condemning Pokrovsky’s school for ‘anti-Marxist distortions’ and ‘vulgarisation'”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 140).

“Pokrovsky’s school…began to be associated with the teachings of the opposition. . . . Disciples of Pokrovsky were now proclaimed . , . ‘contemptible Trotskyist-Bukharinist agents of fascism’, who were trying to smuggle anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist ideas of Pokrovsky into historical literature.”

(Anatole G. Mazour (1939): op. cit.; p. 91).

“It is not accidental that the so-called school of Pokrovsky became a base for wrecking, as the NKVD has discovered; a base for enemies of the people, for Trotskyite-Bukharinite hirelings of fascism; for wreckers, spies and terrorists, who cleverly disguised themselves with the harmful anti-Leninist concepts of M. M. Pokrovsky.”

(‘Protiv istoricheskoi kontseptsy M. N. Pokrovskoyo’ , (Against the Historical Conceptions of M. N. Pokrovsky’); Moscow; 1939; p. 5).

This controversy in the field of historiography had important repercussions in fields of the arts — in the fields of historical fiction, historical drama and historical cinema.

The Struggle against Revisionism in the Cinema (1946)

In September 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Film ‘The Great Life.'” The resolution criticised the film named in the resolution, but banned outright another film — “Ivan the Terrible,” Part Two, directed by Sergey Eisenstein — on the grounds of historical inaccuracy:

“Eisenstein . . . exhibited ignorance of historical facts by portraying the progressive army of the Oprichniki as a band of degenerates, similar to the American Ku Klux Klan, and Ivan the Terrible, a man of strong will and character, as weak and spineless, something like Hamlet.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 208).

The ‘New Encylopaedia Britannica’ notes that

” . . . his nickname, ‘the Terrible’, is actually a mistranslation of the Russian word ‘grozny’, which more properly means ‘awe-inspiring’; Ivan was no more brutal than many of his contemporaries.”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia’, Volume 9; Chicago; 1983; p. 1.179).

In October 1946 Eisenstein admitted the justification of the criticism of his film:

“We forgot that the main consideration in art is its ideological content and historical truth. . . . In the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ we permitted a distortion of historical facts which made the film ideologically worthless and vicious.”

(Sergey M. Eisenstein: Article in ‘Kultura i Zhizn’ (Culture and Life), 20 October 1946, in: George S. Counts & Nucia Lodge: ‘The Country of the Blind: The Soviet System of Mind Control’; Boston (USA); 1949; p. 147).

In February 1947 Eisenstein and the actor Nikolay Cherkasov* met Stalin, Molotov and Zhdanov to discuss the film, after which, Cherkasov relates,

“… we were then given full opportunity to correct the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ . . . without any limits as to time or expense. S. M. Eisenstein was positively overjoyed at the prospect and thought about it unceasingly. . . . His premature death prevented him from undertaking the task.”

(Nikolay Cherkasov: Interview with Stalin, in: Sergey Eisenstein: ‘Ivan the Terrible’; London; 1989; p. 19-20).

However, after viewing the film in company with the director Vladimir Petrov*, they agreed that

“… there could be no question of correcting the material we had just seen; we would have to reshoot the whole of the second part”.

(Nikolay Cherkasov: ibid.; p. 20).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Music (1948)

In February 1948 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution “On the Opera ‘The Great Friendship,'” which was sharply critical of the opera of that name by Vano Muradeli*, which had been given a private performance to the Central Committee at the New Year.

The decree declared:

“This opera is chaotic and inharmonious, full of continuous discords which hurt one’s ears.

The Central Committee considers that the failure of Muradeli’s opera is the result of his having followed the formalist road — a road that has been so pernicious to the work of Soviet composers.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship”‘, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29).

The decree asserted that the Union of Soviet Composers was dominated by a clique of composers who used their influence to foster formalism:

“The Central Committee has … in mind those composers who persistently adhere to the formalist and anti-people school — a school which has found its fullest expression in the work of composers like Comrades Shostakovich, Prokofiev*, Khachaturian*, Shebalin*, Popov*, Myaskovsky* and others. Their works are marked by formalist perversions, anti-democratic tendencies which are alien to the Soviet people and their artistic tastes. . . .

These composers have been indulging in the rotten ‘theory’ that the people are not sufficiently ‘grown up’ to appreciate their music. . . . This is a thoroughly individualist and anti-people theory, and it has encouraged some of our composers to retire into their own shell. . . .

The Organisational Committee of the Union of Soviet Composers became a weapon in the hands of the group of formalist composers and a source of formalist perversions.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship'”, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29,30,33).

Zhdanov had already made these points in January 1948 to a conference of music workers:

“Domination (of the Union of Soviet Composers — Ed.) was maintained in the interests of a trend.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57).

Zhdanov insisted that the music of every nation should be developed upon the folk music of that nation:

“The development of music must proceed … by enriching ‘academic’ music from folk music.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid. p. 61).

and cited with approval the saying of the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka*:

“The people create the music — we, the artists, merely arrange.”

(Mikhail I. Glinka, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 60).

He accused the formalist composers of

“… a rejection of the classical heritage under the banner of innovation, a rejection of the idea of the popular origin of music and of service to the people, in order to gratify the individualistic emotions of a small group of select aesthetes.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57-58).

of imitating Western bourgeois music:

“A certain orientation towards contemporary Western bourgeois music . . represents one of the basic features of the formalist trend in Soviet music….

As regards contemporary bourgeois music, it would be useless to try and profit from it, since it is in a state of decay and degradation and the grovelling attitude towards it is ridiculous.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; : op. cit.; p. 61).

and of neglecting melody:

“Melodiousness is beginning to disappear. A passionate emphasis on rhythm at the expense of melody is characteristic of modern music. Yet we know that music can give pleasure only if it contains the essential elements in a specific harmonic combination. One-sided emphasis leads to a violation of the correct interaction of the various elements of music and cannot, of course, be accepted by the normal human ear.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1948): ibid.; p. 72).

Shostakovich issued a statement expressing his agreement with and gratitude for the Party’s criticism:

“Certain negative characteristics pertaining to my musical thought \ prevented me from making the turn. … I again deviated in the direction of formalism, and began to speak a language incomprehensible to the people. … I know that the Party is right. … I am deeply grateful . . . for all the criticism contained in the Resolution.”

(Dmitry Shostakovich: Statement, in: Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 244).

Muradeli had already admitted:

“Comrades, in the name of the Party and the Government, Andrey Aleksandrovich (Zhdanov — Ed.) rightly and sharply criticised my opera ‘The Great Friendship’….

As a man, as a citizen and as a Communist, I must say that I agree with what he said.”

(Vano Muradeli, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 51).

while Prokofiev declared;

“However painful this may be to many composers, including myself, I welcome the Decree, which creates conditions for restoring the health of Soviet music. The Decree is valuable in having demonstrated how alien formalism is to the Soviet peoples.”

(Sergey S. Prokofiev: Statement, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 373).

In April 1948 a new directorate of the Union of Soviet Composers was elected, with the composer Tikhon Khrennikov* as General Secretary.

STALIN AND THE ARTS

Stalin’s concern for art and artists led him frequently to offer his personal assistance to artists, and to intervene where he became aware that officials were acting in reactionary or stupid ways.

The Case of Ilya Ehrenburg (1941)

After the signing in 1939 of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, Soviet censorship officials prohibited any mention in literature of the words ‘Fascism or “Nazism.” In April 1941 the publication of the second part of the novel ‘The Fall of Paris’ by Ilya Ehrenburg* was held up for this reason. Ehrenburg describes what occurred:

“On 24th April . . . a telephone call came from Stalin’s secretariat. I was told to dial a certain number: ‘Comrade Stalin wishes to speak to you’….

Stalin said that he had read the beginning of my novel and found it interesting; he wanted to send me a manuscript — a translation of Andre Simon’s book — which might be useful to me. …

Stalin asked me whether I intended to denounce the German Fascists. I said that the last part of the novel, on which I was now working, dealt with . . . the invasion of France by the Nazis, … I added that I was afraid the third part would not be passed, for I was not allowed to use the word ‘Fascists’ even where the French were concerned. Stalin said jocularly: ‘Just go on writing; you and I will try to push the third part through.'”

(Ilya Ehrenburg: ‘Men, Years — Life’, Volume 4: ‘Eve of War: 1933-1941’; London; 1963; p. 274-75).

Stalin’s Policy towards Openly Anti-Socialist Artists

Stalin stood firmly on the Marxist-Leninist principle that the maintenance of the dictatorship of the proletariat was essential for the construction of socialism, so that the exhibition and circulation of anti-socialist art must be prohibited by law.

Naturally, anti-socialist artists could not but regard this prohibition as “persecution.” The playwright Mikhail Bulgakov* described it as

” … tantamount to being buried alive.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn: Mikhail Bulgakov; A Life in Letters and Diaries’; London; 1991; p. 109).

and the writer Evgeny Zamyatin* as his

“… death sentence … as a writer.”

(Evgeny. Zamyatin, in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

In fact, Stalin’s policy towards openly anti-socialist artists was to try to assist them, where possible, to utilise their artistic talents in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society. For example, anti-socialist authors who were linguistically qualified were assisted to work as translators, rendering the classics of world literature into Russian (as in the case of Boris Pasternak); anti-socialist writers who were not so qualified were permitted, if they so wished, to go abroad (as in the case of Evgeny Zamyatin); anti-socialist playwrights were assisted to work in the theatre as directors (as in the case of Mikhail Bulgakov).

The Case of Marina Tsvetaeva

So widespread is the myth of the “persecution” of artists in the time of Stalin that even when an artist committed suicide for what were clearly domestic or personal reasons — as in the case of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva* in August 1941 — efforts were made by anti-socialist propagandists to attribute the tragedy to “persecution.”

It is clear that Tsvetaeva’s wartime evacuation to the Tartar Republic was at her own request:

“She had already formed the idea of going off to the Tartar region.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ‘A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetaeva’; London; 1987; p. 266).

and that she did not lack the material necessities of life:

“She was not without material resources.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ibid.; p. 269).

Her biographers place the blame for the despair that led to her suicide on the attitude of her highly self-centred son:

“It is hard to evaluate the mood of Tsvetaeva on the last day of her life because the key is most likely in her relationship with her son and we don’t know what went on between them in her last days. Dmitry Sezeman, who was Georgy Efron’s (Tsvetaeva’s son — Ed.) friend, describes him as monstrously egotistical, with no concern whatsoever for anyone’s feelings. . . . The Bredelshchikovs (Tsvetaeva’s landlords — Ed.) reported hearing violent arguments between mother and son in French, and his constant reproaches and demands for luxuries she could not provide.”

(Simon Karlinsky: ‘Marina Tsvetaeva: The Woman, her World and her Poetry’; Cambridge; 1985; p. 244).

“It was no longer possible to mistake the hostility that Mur (her son Georgy — Ed.), his face sullen, felt for her. On Saturday, 30 August, he could be heard quarrelling violently with her. He reproached her for a lifetime of irresponsibility.”

(Elaine Feinstein: op. cit.; p. 269).

Miscarriages of Justice

During Stalin’s lifetime there were cases where artists who were in no way involved with counter-revolutionary activity were wrongly sentenced for such crimes. The Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev* blames Stalin for these miscarriages of justice, but there is a contradiction in this charge. For Khrushchov admits that

“… all this which we have discussed was done during Stalin’s lifetime under his leadership and with his concurrence; here Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interests of the working classes against the plotting of enemies and against the attack of the imperialist camp.”

(Nikita S. Khrushchev: Secret Speech to 20th Congress, CPSU:, in: Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.); ‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’; New York; 1956; p. 85).

But it is impossible to accept the absurd idea that Stalin could believe that the defence of socialism would be assisted by the fabrication of false charges against innocent persons. Since such miscarriages of justice could not fail to arouse the hostility of honest people who became aware of the truth, so weakening socialist society, the only people to benefit from them would be enemies of socialism.

To qualify as a candidate for such a frame-up, an artist had to be innocent of actual links with the counter-revolutionary conspiracy and be regarded as highly unlikely to make such links in the future — for the conspiracy aimed to protect such people as far as was possible. He had, however, to have had a ‘suspicious’ history that would lend at least some degree of credibility to charges of counter-revolutionary activity — for example, a former, terminated association with the Opposition, the production of a work of art expressing hostility to Stalin (this serving particularly that aspect of the conspiracy which aimed to create, and later denounce, a “cult of personality” around Stalin), etc.

Such miscarriages of justice occurred especially during the period from 1934 to 1938, when concealed revisionists were in control of the security forces, as in the cases of the writers Boris Pilnyak* and Osip Mandelshtam*. For obvious reasons, these fabricated cases — unlike the genuine treason cases of the 1930s — were invariably “tried” in camera.

The Case of Boris Pilnyak

The writer Boris Pilnyak was openly anti-socialist. He regarded the leaders of the Soviet Union

“…as barbarians who had let loose the age-old forces of anarchy upon the country.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak: ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon and Other Stories;’; New York; 1967; p. xv).

“His true political convictions are best described as unstable, with a strong undercurrent of anti-Soviet feelings. . . .He always remained antagonistic towards the Party and the government,. . . Pilnyak’s apoliticism sprang directly from his antagonism towards the Soviet regime.”

(Vera T. Reck; op. cit.; p. 95, 102, 103).

In October 1925 Milhail Frunze*, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Defence, died in hospital after abdominal surgery, and in May 1926 the literary journal ‘Novy Mir’ (New World) published a story by Boris Pilnyak entitled “The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon”:

“The boldest attempt of the Opposition to use the open press was the publication in the literary journal ‘New World’ of ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon’… was a barely disguised version of the death on 21 October 1926 of Trotsky’s successor in the post of Commissar of Defence, Frunze. He had been operated on for a gastric complaint, began to recover, then died….The rumours that Stalin had murdered Frunze obviously served the Opposition. One plausible theory is that Karl Radek, a friend of Trotsky who had lost his membership in the Central Committee in 1924, inspired the novelist….The offending issue of the journal was withdrawn and apologies for such ‘error’ and ‘slander’, which ‘could play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary’, were forthcoming from both editors who were involved and the author.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 102-03).

“Radek was probably one of Pilnyak’s sources of rumours that surrounded the death of Frunze. Almost certainly these rumours first originated among Stalin’s enemies in the Kremlin.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 41).

Pilnyak’s disclaiming preface (dated January 1926) reads:

“The plot of this story suggests the idea that the occasion and the material for writing it was provided by the death of M. V. Frunze, I do not know the real circumstances of his death, and they are not very important for me, since reportage about the death of the People’s Commissar for Defence was no part of the purpose of my story. I consider it necessary to inform the reader of all this so that the reader may not look in it for genuine facts and living persons.”

(Boris Pilnyak: Disclaimer, in: Edward H. Carr: ‘Pilnyak and the Death of Frunze’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, No. 2, 1958; p. 162).

Six months later (in November 1926) the journal ‘Novy Mir’ carried a letter from Pilnyak:

“I never expected that this tale would play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary and would be used in a disgusting way to harm the Party; I did not for a single moment imagine that I was writing a malicious slander, I now see that I committed grievous errors not perceived by me when I was writing; I now know that much writen by me in the tale consists of malicious invention”.

(Boris Pilnyak: Letter to ‘Novy Mir’, (25 November 1926), in: Edward H. Carr: ibid.; p. 163-64).

It was impossible to take these disclaimers seriously in view of the close and detailed resemblance between the real Frunze and Pilnyak’s “fictitious” “Gavrilov”:

“Gavrilov’s personal history — lightly sketched in by Pilnyak — owes nearly everything to Frunze’s biography.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 24).

Pilnyak’s biographer, although hostile to Stalin, feels that rumours of foul play in connection Frunze’s death can be dismissed as groundless:

“The question ‘was it murder?’ can probably be answered ‘No’…Stalin highly esteemed Frunze….The physicians were probably blameless in the death of the Commissar.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit. p. 17, 18, 19).

Although Pilnyak’s story was clearly a criminal libel under Soviet law, no action was taken against its author:

“Nothing happened at that time to Pilnyak or to the editor. . . . Stalin chose not to react to a libel which . . . would have provided ample grounds for criminal proceedings against its author and publisher.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and his Era’; London, 1989; p. 260-261).

“Pilnyak went unpunished. He continued to write and to publish his works, and from time to time to travel abroad.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak (1967): op. cit.; p. xviii).

Indeed, when there was a delay in issuing him with an exit permit for one of his foreign trips, it was Stalin who intervened to assist him in obtaining it:

“Pilnyak . . . wrote to Khozain, the Boss himself (Stalin — Eds.) asking him if there was any reasons why he should not be granted a visa. A reply came from Stalin to the effect that, after consulting his colleagues, he saw no reason why a visa should not be granted.”

(Vera T. Reck” op. cit. p. 182).

It is clear that Pilnyak had all the necessary qualifications to be a candidate for ‘frame-up’ by the revisionist conspirators:

“He (Pilnyak — Ed.) had made two trips to the Far East, spent five months in the United States, travelled through much of Europe, and ventured into the Middle East. While in Japan the first time, he was a ‘correspondent’ for ‘Asahi Shimbun’, a giant among Japanese dailies. . . . He had had contacts with the Japanese-Russian Literary Arts Society . . . founded in 1925. His trip to the United States had been sponsored and paid for, in part, by the Hearst’s ‘International Cosmopolitan’. . .For a time Pilnyak was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a writer and lived in Southern California. He had made many friends in the United States.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 3-4).

Accordingly, the revisionist conspirators arranged that Pilnyak should be arrested and

“… charged with espionage for Japan.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit. p. 402).

He was:

“… shot soon afterwards in 1937.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 2).

“Pilnyak . . . was arrested and shot in 1937.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 103).

The Case of Osip Mandelshtam

Another artist who, like Pilnyak, was the victim of a revisionist frame-up was the poet Osip Mandelshtam.

In April 1934 Mandelshtam had recited to presumed friends a slanderous poem he had written about the leaders of the Party, and Stalin in particular, accusing them of being “murderers”:

“And every killing is a treat for the broad chested Ossete.”

(Osip Mandelstam: Poem, in: Olga Ivinskaya: ‘A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak’; London; 1978; p. 65).

Under Soviet law, this could have been interpreted as criminal libel:

“Under Article 161 of the Penal Code, libel, i.e., the spreading of false information about another person, is punishable by compulsory labour for a term of up to 6 months or a fine of up to 500 roubles.”

(David Zaslavsky: op. cit. p. 40).

However, it was a minor offence that honest and sensible people would have felt it best to ignore.

But, unfortunately for Mandelshtam, at this time the Soviet security forces were not under the control of honest and sensible people. The Marxist-Leninist Commissar of Internal Affairs, Vyacheslav Menszhinsky*, had been for some time

” . . .no longer responsible, as he was very ill and was now merely the nominal head of OGPU.”

(Boris Levytsky: ‘The Uses of Terror: The Soviet Secret Service: 1917-1970’; London; 1971; p. 72-73).

The man ultimately responsible for security was thus the Deputy Commissar, Genrikh Yagoda, who, as we have seen, was a concealed revisionist. In these circumstances, Mandelshtam was arrested. However, Stalin personally intervened:

“So great was his respect for poetic talent that he dealt personally with the case of Osip Mandelshtam,…who in 1934 had rashly recited to presumed friends a short poem that referred to Stalin as ‘the Kremlin mountaineer’, with fingers ‘fat as worms’, a killer surrounded by ‘half-men’. Stalin phoned Boris Pasternak … to ask if the culprit was really a genius. . . . Stalin at one point said that Mandelshtam would be ‘all right.'”

(Robert H. McNeal: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988; p. 230).

“Stalin began by telling Pasternak that Mandelshtam’s case had been reviewed and that everything would be all right. This was followed by a strange reproach: why hadn’t Pasternak approached the writers’ organisations or him (Stalin) and why hadn’t he tried to do something for Mandelshtam? ‘If I were a poet and a poet friend of mine were in trouble, I would do anything to help him.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ‘Hope against Hope: A Memoir’; London; 1971; p. 140).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Mandelshtam . . . was released from arrest.”

(Robert H. McNeal: ibid.; p. 230).

and

“… was given a ‘minus twelve’ exile, i.e., he could reside in’ any but twelve major urban centres.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and His Era;’; London; 1989; p.391).

The Mandelshtams chose to live in Voronezh until Mandelshtam’s sentence of exile expired in May 1938, although he suffered a heart attack in the autumn of 1937. But in the month before his release (in April 1938) a new order for Mandelshtam’s arrest had been issued. (Clarence Brown: ‘Mandelstam’; Cambridge; 1973; p. 133).

As a result, in August 1938 Mandelshtam was

“… sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for counter­revolutionary activity.”

(Clarence Brown: ibid. p. 133).

In December 1938 he died of heart failure in the

“… perfectly decent and clean two-storey hospital”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: op. cit. p. 396),

of a transit camp in Vladivostok.

His widow was told by the novelist Aleksandr Fadayev* that Mandelshtam’s sentence had been ordered by the concealed revisionist Andrey Andreyev:

“Fadayev during the war whispered to me that it was Andreyev who had signed M’s sentence.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ibid.; p. 355),

“Mme. Mandelshtam records the inside information that it was Andreyev who ordered the second and fatal imprisonment of her husband.”

(Adam B. Ulam: op. cit.; p. 439).

The Case of Milkail Bulgakov

Let us return now to the question of Stalin’s policy towards anti-socialist artists.

The first novel of Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The White Guard” (1921-22), adapted for the stage in 1926 as ‘The Days of the Turbins,” presented the. counter­revolutionary Whites as heroes:

“It describes the war from the White side. Its central characters, the Turbin brothers, are members of the White Guard. . . .Bulgakov’s treatment of the Whites as patriots and idealists, his refusal to glamorise the revolutionary proletariat, and the playing on the legendary opening night of the old Russian national anthem …”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ‘World Authors; 1950-1970’; New York; 1975; p. 239).

aroused

“… a storm of controversy.”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ibid.; p. 239).

Despite this, in July 1929 Stalin wrote to the dramatist Vladimir Bill-Belotserkovsky* to defend the play in that it was objectively progressive in spite of the author’s subjective intentions:

“‘Days of the Turbins’ … is not such a bad play, because it does more good than harm. Don’t forget that the chief impression it leaves with the spectator is one that is favourable to the Bolsheviks, ‘If even such people as the Turbins are compelled to lay down their arms and submit to the will of the people because they realise that their cause is definitely lost, then the Bolsheviks must be invincible and there is nothing to be done about it. ‘Days of the Turbins’ is a demonstration of the all-conquering power of Bolshevism. Of course, the author is altogether ‘innocent1 of this demonstration. But that is not our affair. “

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11: Moscow; 1954; p. 343).

In fact,

“… Stalin was evidently very fond of the play (Bulgakov’s ‘The Days of the Turbins’ — Ed.); the Arts Council’s records indicate that he went to see it no fewer than 15 times.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p.70).

However, the revisionists in influential positions in the arts seized upon another passage in Stalin’s letter —

“Why are Bulgakov’s plays staged so often? Presumably because we have not enough of our own plays suitable for staging.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; op. cit.; p. 342-33).

— to force the withdrawal of all Bulgakov’s plays from production.

So, in spite of Stalin’s favourable comments on ‘The Days of the Turbins,”

“… the actual effect of his February 1929 letter was to put an end to all the productions of Bulgakov’s works in Moscow. . . . These developments completed the elimination of Bulgakov from the Soviet stage.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 70-71).

In the spring of 1930 Bulgakov completed a new play “Moliere,” which used historical events to make an attack on the principle of censorship. It depicted

“. . . the relationship . . . between Moliere and Louis XIV, Bulgakov’s portrayal of which was naturally read by his contemporaries as suggesting analogies to the modern world.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.; p. 72).

In March 1930,

” … the Repertory Committee informed him that the play would not be licensed for performance.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 72).

Later the same month he wrote a letter to the Soviet Government:

“After the banning of all my works, I begin to hear voices among many citizens of my acquaintance, all giving me one and the same piece of advice: that I should write a ‘Communist play’ . . . and that quite apart from that I should address to the Government of the USSR a penitential letter, which should contain a renunciation of my previous opinions, as expressed in my literary works, and assurances that henceforth I was going to work as a fellow-travelling writer loyal to the idea of Communism. . I did not follow that advice. I would scarcely have succeeded in appearing in a favourable light in the eyes of the Government of the USSR by writing a mendacious letter, which would have represented a sordid and indeed naive political somersault. . . .

The entire press of the USSR, together with all the institutions to whom control of the repertory has been entrusted, throughout all the years of my literary career, has unanimously and with EXTRAORDINARY FURY demonstrated that the works of Mikhail Bulgakov cannot exist in the USSR.

I declare that the Soviet press is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. . . .

For me, not being allowed to write is tantamount to being buried alive.

I REQUEST THAT THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT GIVE ORDERS FOR ME TO LEAVE THE TERRITORY OF THE USSR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, TOGETHER WITH MY WIFE LYUBOV YEVGENYEVNA BULKAKOVA. . . .

If, on the other hand, . . . I am to be condemned to lifelong silence in the USSR, then I would request the Soviet Government to give me a job for which I am qualified and to second me to some theatre to work as a director on their staff.”

(Mikhail A. Bulgakov: Letter to Soviet Government (28 March 1930), in: Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 103-04, 105, 109).

Three weeks later (on 18 April 1930), Stalin telephoned Bulgakov at his home:

“Stalin’s first question was whether Bulgakov really wanted to go abroad. Bulgakov, somewhat stunned and unprepared, replied: ‘I have thought a great deal recently about the question of whether a Russian writer can live outside his homeland. And it seems to me he can’t’. . . Stalin . . . next asked him where he would like to work — what about the Moscow Arts Theatre? Bulgakov explained that he had asked about that and had been refused, at which Stalin suggested that he should try applying again. . . .Thirdly, Stalin proposed that he and Bulgakov should meet some time and have a talk. . . .

Stalin’s telephone call . . . was immediately followed by the Moscow Arts Theatre’s taking Bulgakov on its staff as an assistant director.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.,; p. 111-12, 113).

The Case of Evgeny Zamyatin

In June 1931 the openly anti-socialist writer Evgeny Zamyatin, who had no experience in translation, wrote to Stalin asking for his intercession to be allowed to go abroad:

“I ask to be permitted to go abroad with my wife . , . with the right to return as soon as it becomes possible to serve the great ideas in literature without fawning on small people. . . I do not wish to conceal that the fundamental reason for my request to go abroad together with my wife is … the death sentence which has been passed on me here as writer.”

(Evgeny Zarayatin: Letter to Josef V. Stalin (June 1931), in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Zamyatin and his wife were granted an exit permit and were allowed to go abroad. . . .In November 1931 … he went abroad with the consent of Stalin himself…During his years abroad Zamyatin did not publicly attack the Soviet regime.”

(Alex M. Shane: ibid. p. 78-79, i, 82).

In March 1937

“… Evgeny Zamyatin died in self-imposed exile in Paris”.

(Alex M. Shane: ibid.; p. i).

CONCLUSION

The principles of Marxist-Leninist aesthetics elaborated by Zhdanov on the basis of theses put forward by Stalin have permanent importance for all societies in the world. Stalin fought to maintain socialist realism as the principled method of Soviet art.

Even Alexander Werth felt compelled to admit:

“There is an incontrovertible basis of truth in the Russian case. . . . The West cannot afford to ignore some of its own weaknesses, and it is not enough to sneer at Zhdanov’s theses and to pretend that all is well with Western art and Western literature.”

(Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 16).

It is clear that the picture commonly drawn in anti-socialist writings, of artists in the time of Stalin suffering “persecution” because of their artistic creations, is based only on presenting the non-publication and non-circulation of anti-socialist art, and constructive criticism of other art, as “persecution.” In fact, the artists most strongly criticised — such as the composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich and the writers Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Pasternak and Zoschchenko — all died peacefully in their beds.

The first case in the Soviet Union of criminal proceedings against artists in connection with their work occurred long after Stalin’s death — in 1966, in the time of the revisionist Leonid Brezhnev*, when Audrey Sinyavsky* and Yuli Daniel* faced charges in connection with their writings. The trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel

“… was unique in Russian history. Neither under the tsars nor . . . under Stalin had ever there ever been any proceedings in which the main corpus delicti consisted of the actual contents of works of imaginative literature.”

(Max Hayward: ‘Writers in Russia: 1917-1978’; London; 1983; p. 278).

It was

“… unprecedented in the annals of not only Russian but world literature.”

(Leopold Labedz & Max Hayward (Eds,): ‘On Trial: The Case of Sinyavsky (Tertz) and Daniel (Arzhak)’; London; 1967; p. 17).

“The Sinyavsky-Daniel case . . . was unprecedented in modern Soviet history. . . . None (no intellectual — Ed.) had ever before been held criminally responsible for the political effects of their literary works.”

(Frances C. Locher (Ed.); ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volumes 85-88; Detroit; 1980; p. 550).

“A large part of the attention attracted by the Sinyavsky-Daniel case was due … to its precedent-setting nature.”

(Hal May (Ed.): ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volume 116; Detroit; 1986; p, 100).

In fact, we have seen that Stalin had respect for artists who were honestly anti-socialist, did not regard them as significantly dangerous to socialism, and on many recorded occasions assisted them in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society.

The people for whom he had no respect and whom he regarded as a serious danger to socialism were the concealed enemies of socialism who posed as Marxist-Leninists in order to attain positions of influence.

THE HISTORY OF THE LAST FORTY YEARS HAS SHOWN THE CORRECTNESS OF STALIN’S VIEW.

(This is an extended and annotated version of a lecture given by Bill Bland to the Stalin Society in London in May 1993).

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

AKHMATOVA, Anna A., Soviet poet (1889-1966).

ANDREYEV, Andrey A., Soviet revisionist politician (1895-1971); USSR Commissar of Transport (1931-35); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (193252, 1956-71); USSR Commissar of Agriculture (1943-46); USSR Deputy Premier (1945-53); Adviser to Presidium of Supreme Soviet (1962-71);

ARAGON, Louis, French novelist and poet (1897-1982).

AVERBAKH, Leopold L., Soviet literary critic (1903-38).

BECKETT, Samuel, Irish-born playwright (1906-89); in Paris (1937-89); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature (1969).

BELLINI, Giovanni, Venetian Renaissance painter (cl420-1516).

BILL-BELOTSERKOVSKY, Vladimir N., Soviet dramatist (1884-1970).

BOGDANOV, Aleksandr A., Soviet philosopher, literary critic and writer (1873-1928).

BREZHNEV, Leonid, Soviet revisionist politician (1906-82); Member, Secretariat, CPSU (1952-53, 1956-60, 1963-82); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1957-82); lst. Secretary, CPSU (1964-66); General Secretary, CPSU (1966-82); USSR President (1977-82).

BRIK, Lillya: Russian-born French painter and sculptor (1891-1978).

BRIK, Osip M., Russian-born French critic and playwright (1888-1945).

BROWN, Edward J., American Slavist (1909- ); Associate Professor (1953-55), Professor (1955-65), of Russian, University of Indiana (USA); Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, Brown University (USA) (1969

BUKHARIN, Nicolay I., Soviet revisionist politician (1888-1938); Chairman, Comintern (1926-29); Member, Politburo (1924-29); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1938).

BULGAKOV, Mikhail A., Soviet writer (1891-1940).

‘CARAVAGGIO’ (= Michelangelo Merisi), Italian Renaissance painter (1573-1610).

CHERKASOV, Nicolay K., Soviet film actor (1903-66).

CROMWELL, Oliver, British bourgeois revolutionary soldier and statesman (15991658).

DALI, Salvador, Spanish-born painter (1904-89); to France , then to USA (1940); returned to Spain (1955) and became supporter of Franco regime.

DANIEL, Yuli M. (= ‘ARZHOV, Nikolay”), Soviet poet (1925-88); imprisoned (1966); released (1970).

EASTMAN, Max, American journalist, author and editor (1883-1969).

EHRENBURG, Ilya G., Soviet writer (1891-1967); in France (1921-28); in Germany (1924-28); in Soviet Union (1928-36); in Spain (1936-39); in France (1939-40); in Soviet Union (1940-67).

EISENSTEIN, Sergey M., Soviet film director (1898-1948).,

ERMOLAEV, Herman S., Russian-born American lecturer (1924- instructor (1959-60), assistant professor (1960-66), associate professor (1966-67), professor (1970- ), of Russian Literature, Princeton University.

‘FADAYEV (= BULYGA), Aleksandr A., Soviet novelist (1901-56); committed suicide (1956).

FRAGONARD, Jean-Honore, French painter and engraver (1732-1806).

FRUNZE, Mikhail V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist military officer and politician (1885-1925); Chief of Staff and USSR Commissar of Defence (1924-25).

GLINKA, Mikhail I., Russian composer (1804-57).

GORKY, Maksim’ (= PESHKOV, Aleksey M.) Soviet writer (1868-1936); to Italy (1924); returned to Soviet Union (1931).

HABA, Alois, Czech atonal composer (1893-1973).

HEYWORTH, Peter L. F., American-born British music critic (1921-91); music critic, ‘Times Educational Supplement’ (1950-55), ‘Observer’ (1955-77).

HOOCH, Pieter de, Dutch painter (1629-1685).

KAGANOVICH, Lazar M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1893-1991); USSR Commissar for Oil Industry (1939-40); Member, State Defence Committee (1941-44); USSR Minister of Building Materials Industry (1946-47, 195657); Ist Secretary, CP Ukraine (1953-55); dismissed from all posts by revisionists (1956).

KALININ, Mikhail I., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1875-1946); Soviet Russia, President (1919-38), USSR (1938-46); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (1925-46).

KAMENEV, Lev B., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member of Politburo (1919-25); Ambassador to Italy (1926-27); arrested (1935); admitted to treason at his public trial and executed (1936).

KAUFMAN, George S., American playwright (1880-1961).

KHACHATURIAN, Aram I., Soviet composer (1903-78).

KHRENNIKOV, Tikhon N., Soviet composer (1913- );

KHRUSHCHEV, Nikita S.,, Soviet revisionist politician (1894-1971) Member Political Bureau, CPSU (1939-64); 1st Secretary, CPSU (1953-64); USSR Premier (1958-64).

KIROV, Sergey M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1934); 1st Secretary, CPSU, Leningrad (1926-34); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1934); murdered by revisionists (1934).

KOSIOR, Stanislav V., Soviet revisionist politician (1889-1939); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-38); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1934-35).

KRYUKOV, Fedor D., Russian (Cossack) author (1870-1920).

KUIBYSHEV, Valerian V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1888-1935); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1930-35); USSR Deputy Premier (1930-35); murdered by revisionists (1935).

LELY, Peter, German-born British painter (1618-81).

LESKOV, Nikolay S., Russian writer (1831-95).

LEVIN, Dan, Russian-born American journalist (1914- )

LUDWIG, Emil, German playwright and biographer (1881-1948).

MANDELSHTAM, Osip E., Polish-born Soviet poet (1891-1938); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists and died in imprisonment (1938).

MARGARITO OF AREZZO, Italian painter (fl. 1262).

MARSHALL, Herbert, Brtish writer and translator (1906-91).

MAUGHAM, W. Somerset, British playwright and novelist (1874-1965).

MAYAKOVSKY, Vladimir V., Soviet poet (1893-1930).

MAZOUR, Anatole G., Russian-born American historian (1900- ); Professor of Russian history (1946-66), Professor Emeritus (1966- Stanford University.

MEDVEDEV, Roy A., Soviet historian (1925- )

MELLY, George, British singer, musician, journalist and music critic (1926 – )

MENZHINSKY, Vyacheslav R., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1874-1934); Deputy Chairman, OGPU (1926-34); Chairman, OGPU (192-34); murdered by revisionists (1934).

MOLOTOV, Vyacheslav M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1890-1896); USSR Premier (1930-41); USSR Deputy Premier (1941-57); USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs (1941-49, 1943-56); USSR Ambassador to Mongolia (195760); USSR Representative, International Atomic Agency (1960-62); dismissed from all posts and expelled from Party by revisionists (1962).

MUCHNIC, Helen L., Russian-born American Slavist (1903- ); Professor of Russian (1947-69). Professor Emeritus (1969- ), Smith College ((USA).

MURADELI, Vano I., Soviet composer (1908-70).

MYASKOVSKY, Nicolay Y., Soviet composer (1881-1950).

ORDZHONIKIDZE. Grigory K., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1937); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-37); USSR Commissar for Heavy Industry (1932-37); committed suicide (1937).

PASTERNAK, Boris L., Soviet poet and novelist (1890-1960); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature for novel ‘Dr. Zhivago’ (1958).

PETROV, Vladimir M., Soviet film director (1896-1966).

PICASSO, Pablo, Spanish painter (1881-1973); worked in Paris (1901-73); founder of Cubism.

‘PILNYAK’ (= VOGAU), Boris A., Soviet novelist (1894-1937); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists; died in imprisonment (1937).

POKROVSKY, Mikhail N., Soviet historian (1868-1932).

POPOV, Gavril N., Soviet pianist and composer (1904-72).

PROKOFIEV, Sergey S., Soviet composer (1891-1953).

RADEK, Karl B., Soviet revisionist politician (1885-1939); expelled from CPSU (1927); readmitted (1930); re-expelled (1937); tried and imprisoned (1937); died in prison (1937).

RODOV, Semyon A., Soviet literary critic (1893-1968).

RYKOV, Aleksey I., Soviet revisionist politician (1881-1938); Member, Politburo (1923); USSR Premier (1924-29); USSR Commissar for Posts and Telegraphs (1931-36); expelled from Party, arrested (1937); convicted of treason,and executed (1938).

SAROYAN, William, American playwright (1908-81).

SCHWARZ, Boris, Russian-born American violinist, conductor and musicologist (1906-83); assistant professor (1947-57), associate professor (1957-58), professor of music (1958-70), City University of New York.

SERAFIMOVICH, Aleksandr, Soviet writer and journalist (1863-1949).

SHAMIL, Caucasian military and religious leader (1798?-1871); Imam of Dagestan (1834-59).

SHEBALIN, Vissarion Y., Soviet composer (1913-63).

SHKLOVSKY, Viktor B., Soviet literary critic (1883-1984).

SHOLOKHOV, Mikhail A., Soviet novelist and journalist (1905-84).

SHOSTAKOVICH, Dmitry D., Soviet composer (1906-75).

SINYAVSKY, Andrey D. (= ‘TERTZ, Abram’) Soviet writer (1925- ); Lecturer, Russian literature, Moscow University (1952-66); imprisoned (1966); released (1971); Professor of Slavic Studies, Sorbonne (1973- ).

SOLZHENITSYN, Aleksandr I., Soviet physicist and author (1918- ); imprisoned for attempting to form rival political party to Communist Party (194553); expelled from Union of Soviet Writers (1969); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature (1970); deported from USSR (1974); to Western Europe, then (1979) to USA.

STEPHENSON, George, British inventor (1781-1848),

STETSKY, Aleksey I., Soviet revisionist politician (1896-1938); died in prison (1838).

STOLYPIN, Pyotr A., Russian politican (1862-1911).

SYRTSOV, Sergey I., Soviet journalist and politician (1893-1938); RSFSR Premier (1929-30); arrested (1938); died in prison (1938).

THATCHER, Margaret H., British Conservative politician (1925- ); Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74); Leader of Conservative Party (1975-90); Premier (1979-90).

THORLBY. Anthony K., British lecturer (1928- ); assistant lecturer (1956-57), lecturer in German (1957-61), University College of Swansea; lecturer in German, University of Sussex (1961-63); Reader in Comparative Literature (1963-66), Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Sussex (1966

TOMSKY, Mikhail P., Soviet trade union leader (1880-1930); committed suicide to evade arrest (1936).

TRIOLET, Elsa: Russian-born French novelist and translator (1896-1970).

TROTSKY, Lev D., Soviet revisionist politician (1879-1940); Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1917-58); Commissar of Defence War (1918-25);

Member, Politburo (1920-27); expelled from Party (1928); exiled to Alma Ata (1928); deported from USSR (1929); to Turkey (1929-33); to France (1933-35); to Mexico (1937).

TSVETAEVA, Marina I., Soviet poet (1892-1941); committed suicide (1941).

TURNER, J. M. William, British painter, especially of landscapes (1775-1851).

VERTINSKY, Aleksandr N., Soviet variety artist (1889-1957).

VISHNEVSKY, Vsevolod V., Soviet journalist and playwright (1900-51).

VOROSHILOV, Kliment E., Soviet military officer and Marxist-Leninist politician (1881-1969); Member, Political Bureau (1926-52); USSR Commissar of Defence 1934-40); USSR Deputy Premier (1946-53); USSR President (1953-60); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1926-69).

WERTH, Alexander, Russian-born British journalist (1901-69).

YAGODA, Genrikh G., Soviet revisionist politician (1891-1938); USSR Commissar for Internal Affairs (1934-36); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial, executed (1938).

YAKOVLEVA., Tatiana A., Russian-born French (later American) hat designer.

YENUKIDZE, Avel S., Soviet civil servant (1877-1937); Secretary, USSR Central Executive Committee (1923-35); expelled from CPSU (1935); tried and sentenced to death (1937).

ZAMYATIN, Evgeny I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1884-1937); to Western Europe (1931).

ZASLAVSKY, David I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1880-1965).

ZHDANOV, Andrey A., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1896-1948); 1st Secretary, Leningrad, CPSU (1934-44); Secretary, CC,’ CPSU (1944-48); murdered by revisionists (1948).

ZINOVIEV, Grigory E., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member, Politburo (1921-26); Chairman, Comintern (1919-26); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1936).
ZOSHCHENKO, Milhail M., Soviet writer (1895- 1958); expelled from Union of Soviet Writers (1946).

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Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (PCMLE): Stalin

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Excerpts from a talk held in the Dominican Republic on the 50th anniversary of the death of Comrade Stalin, at the invitation of the Communist Party of Labour.

During his lifetime Comrade Stalin won the admiration and affection of the working class and all the peoples of the vast Soviet Union, as well as the respect and friendship of the workers of the five continents, the fervour and enthusiasm of the communists of all countries. Of course, he elicited the hatred of the reactionaries, imperialists and bourgeois who felt deeply hurt by the colossal achievements of the Soviet Union, by the great economic, cultural, technological and scientific feats of the workers and socialist intelligentsia, by the great and resounding triumphs of the revolution and socialism, of the communists.

In this plot against Stalin by which they fought communism, the Nazi propaganda stood out for its slander and persistence, which did not let one day pass without launching its dire diatribes.

Of course, this counter-revolutionary and anti-communist hatred also characterized Trotsky and his followers.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, the voices of the “communists” who had assumed the leadership of the Soviet Party and the State were added to the chorus of the reactionaries and anti-communists of all countries who had always reviled Stalin.

From then until our day, anti-Stalinism has been the recurring voice of all the reactionaries, of the ideologues of the bourgeoisie, of the Trotskyists, revisionists and opportunists of all shades.

By attacking Stalin, they are trying to tear down the extraordinary achievements of socialism in the Soviet Union and in what had been the socialist camp; they want to minimize and even ignore the great contributions of the Red Army and the Soviet peoples in the decisive struggle against Nazism, to denigrate the Communist Party and the socialist system as totalitarian, as the negation of freedom and democracy. By attacking Stalin they are aiming at Lenin, Marx and socialism. To denigrate Stalin as bloodthirsty and a bureaucrat means to attack the dictatorship of the proletariat and thereby deny the freedom of the workers and peoples, socialist democracy. To slander Stalin as being ignorant and mediocre is to refuse to recognize his great contributions to revolutionary theory, to Marxism-Leninism. To attack Stalin means to deny the necessity of the existence and struggle of the communist party, to transform it into a movement of free thinkers and anarcho-syndicalists, to remove its Leninist essence, democratic centralism.

The height of anti-Stalinism is to call Stalinists those who betrayed the revolution and socialism in the name of doing away with the “crimes of Stalin” and of making the Soviet Union a “democratic country”. The folly of the reactionaries and opportunists does not allow them to recognize that the confessed anti-Stalinists, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, destroyed brick by brick the great work of the Soviet working class and peoples, of the communists, of Lenin and Stalin.

The attacks on Stalin are of such magnitude that even a significant number of social fighters, leftists and revolutionaries have fallen victim to these slanders. Basically, they are sincere people, interested in social and national liberation, who do not know the personality and work of Stalin and therefore join the chorus of these distortions. There are also some petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who attack Stalin from supposedly “humanist” positions.

It is up to us communists to defend the revolutionary truth about Stalin, and it is our responsibility because we are his comrades, the ones who are continuing his work.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was one of the great events of humanity. The workers and peoples of the world’s largest country stood up, undertook a long revolutionary process, led by the Bolshevik Party, which led them to victory in October of 1917. This great feat of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and the intelligentsia was a complex process, full of twists and turns and advances and retreats.

The proletarian revolution that smashed the tsarist empire to pieces was inconceivable without the guidance of Marxism, which established itself as the emancipatory doctrine of the working class; without the efforts of Russian communists, mainly of Lenin by his creative application in the social, economic, cultural, historical and political conditions of old Russia; without the building, existence and struggle of the Bolshevik Party; without the decisive participation of the working class and the millions of poor peasants; without the social and political mobilization of the broad masses; without the existence and fighting of the Red Army; and without the important contribution of the international working class.

Several decades of strikes and street battles; the utilization of parliamentary struggle and the participation of the communists in the Duma; the ideological and political struggle against the bourgeoisie and the tsarist autocracy; the organization of the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers; the great theoretical and political debate against opportunism within the party that led to the isolation of the Menshevik theses and proposals and to the formation of the Bolshevik Party governed by democratic centralism; the fierce battles against social chauvinism and social pacifism on an international scale; the profuse and fruitful propaganda activity of the communists; the fight to win ideological and political hegemony within the Soviets; the Revolution of 1905 and its lessons; the February Revolution of 1917, its results and consequences; the great armed insurrection of October; the Brest-Litovsk peace agreements; the revolutionary civil war; the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, these constitute the most salient features and characteristics of the struggle for power of the Russian communists, organized in the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin was born in Gori, a small town close to Tbilisi, in Georgia, on December 21, 1879. His father was a shoemaker, the son of serfs, and his mother, a servant, was also the daughter of serfs.

He joined into the ranks of the party in 1898, when he was 19 years old, and since that time his life, thoughts, dreams and his intellectual and physical effort were devoted to the cause of communism, to the fight for the revolution and socialism.

Until March of 1917 when he moved to Petrograd and joined the editorship of Pravda, Stalin had been and was a tireless organizer of trade unions and the party, of demonstrations and strikes, of newspapers and magazines, a student of Marxism and the author of various documents and proposals. He had been in prison and exile, at Party congresses and conferences. He was a fighter and leader of the revolution.

The revolutionary period that began with the February Revolution was the scene of great ideological and political confrontations against the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, but also against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, and also within the Party. The whole process of winning the majority of the Soviets for the policy of the Bolsheviks had in Stalin a great leader and architect. The preparation of the insurrection, the technical and military contacts and preparations and also the debate within the leadership of the Bolshevik Party found in Stalin a protagonist of the highest order; he was a great comrade of Lenin in all aspects of political work.

Stalin was part of the first Soviet government as a People’s Commissar of Nationalities; he participated actively in the revolutionary civil war as a Commissar and Commander on various fronts and showed his military and political ability in forging and consolidating the young Soviet power and strengthening the Red Army. He was one of the most outstanding leaders of the party, the government and the army.

In 1921, by decision of the party and together with Lenin he participated actively in the foundation of the Third or Communist International, which would play a great role in the organization and leadership of the revolution on the international level.

A great task that the proletarian revolution took up was the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which meant concretely the application of the line of the Party with regard to the nationalities and peoples. The “prison-house of nations” that was the tsarist empire became a community of nations, nationalities and peoples, governed by socialism, which put forward the defence and development of the national cultures and their inclusion in the building of the new society.

Having taken up these responsibilities, his dedication and selflessness in their fulfilment and his theoretical ability made Stalin the General Secretary of the Party in 1922. When Lenin died in 1924, the Political Bureau of the Party designated Stalin as the main leader of the party.

The Communist Party (Bolshevik), under the leadership of Stalin, faithful to the Leninist legacy, pushed through the New Economic Policy (NEP) during the 1920s. Amidst great difficulties, relying on the mobilization of the working class and peasantry, defeating the blockade, sabotage and resistance of the defeated reactionary classes and the force of individual capitalism that emerged in the peasant economy, it succeeded in overcoming the disastrous material, economic and social situation that Russia had been in after the Civil War, with production reduced to 14% of the pre-war period, and which was seen in widespread famine and the profusion of diseases.

In this period a bitter ideological and political battle was being waged within the party between the Bolsheviks and the so-called “‘Left’ communists,” who wanted to “export the revolution” and place the weight of the economy on the peasantry, liquidating it as an ally of the proletariat.

In 1929, the NEP was concluded and the accelerated collectivization of the countryside was begun, the great battle against the kulaks who wanted to reverse the revolutionary process in the countryside.

In 1930, the process of large-scale industrialization was pushed forward with great material efforts and supported by the mobilization of the working class. It was a great feat that required large investments and therefore limited the possibilities for the well-being of the great masses of workers and peasants. Despite this, the revolutionary fervour and enthusiasm allowed for the fulfilment and even over-fulfilment of its goals.

In the West, this was the time of the Great Depression; in the country of the Soviets it was the time of the victorious construction of socialism. The Soviet Union became the second greatest economic and commercial power in the world, after the United States. For eleven years, between 1930 and 1940, the USSR had an average growth of industrial production of 16.5%.

A good part of socialist accumulation had to be invested in the defence and security of the Soviet Union, which had to deal with the arms race to which all the capitalist countries of Europe, the USA and Japan were committed.

For 1938-39, the danger of imperialist war hung over Europe and the world. The German Nazis, the Italian fascists and the Japanese reactionaries were moving quickly to form the Axis. The Western powers headed by the Anglo-French alliance worked feverishly to conclude a pact with Germany in order to encourage it to direct its attacks against the Soviet Union, in order to liquidate the communists, wear down the Germans and enter the war under better conditions. It was a devious and cunning diplomatic game that handed over the Sudetenland and the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

The Soviet Union was a developing economic and military power, but its military capability was much weaker than that of Germany, France, England or the USA. It was surrounded by powerful enemies and needed material resources and time to prepare itself for the eventual war which was announced with cannons and aircraft.

The Soviet Union needed to combine international diplomacy and politics with its industrial development and military power. This circumstance forced the communists to devote a large quantity of material resources in this direction, but also to seek diplomatic alternatives that enabled its defence.

Several international meetings, endless proposals and projects were addressed to the chancelleries. The Soviet Union could not establish an alliance against Nazism since the main interest of the Western powers made the Soviet Union their target. In these circumstances and for its defence, in August 1939, the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact of “non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union” was signed.

This international treaty gave the Soviet Union precious time to push forward its military industry. Utilizing large material resources and the will of the peoples, in a short time it was able to build planes, tanks, cannons, weapons and ammunition in large quantities and simultaneously it could relocate its key industries located in European Russia to the East, behind the Urals.

World War II broke out in 1939. The Germans invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium and Netherlands and utilizing “blitzkrieg” tactics, the lightening war, in few weeks they destroyed the armies of those countries and imposed puppet governments.

When it came to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans did not have the military capacity to carry out and win with the blitzkrieg; they ran into the resistance of the Red Army, the guerrillas and the great masses of workers and peasants who defended the socialist fatherland. The Red Army put up a fierce resistance and gave way to the Nazi troops, forcing them to penetrate into a vast territory, teeming with guerrillas who persistently harassed them. They could not take Leningrad much less Moscow. In Stalingrad a major battle was waged, street by street, house by house, man by man. The reds resisted and then took the initiative and defeated the German army. That was the beginning of the end of the fascist beast.

The Red Army launched the re-conquest of its territories occupied by the Nazis and advanced victoriously across the mountains and plains of Europe, contributing to the liberation of several of the countries of Eastern Europe, up to Berlin, which was taken on May 9, 1945.

This great victory of the Soviet Union was the fruit of the fortress of socialism, of the unity and will to action of the working class and peoples, of the valour of the Red Army, but it was also a consequence of the diplomatic, political and military genius of the General Staff and the leadership of the Soviet Party and Government, led by Stalin.

At the end of the war, the victory of the revolution took place in several countries of Europe, which established people’s democratic governments, and the victory of the revolution in other Asian countries. The Soviet Union emerged as a great economic and military power that won the affection and respect of workers and peoples of the world, of the patriots and democrats, of the revolutionaries and especially the communists. The Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist Party were the great protagonists in the defeat of fascism.

The Great Patriotic War meant great human and material sacrifices for the Proletarian State. The victory achieved was built upon the great spiritual heritage of socialism that protected the workers and peoples of the USSR; it was made possible by the great patriotic sentiments with which the Communist Party was able to inspire the bodies and minds of the Soviet peoples, by the deep affection of the workers for Soviet power, by the brave and courageous contribution of the communists who put all their abilities and energy into the defence of socialism. The contribution of the Soviet Union in the Second World War was more than 20 million human beings, of which slightly more than 3 million were brave members of the Bolshevik Party. The Party gave over its best men to the war, it lost invaluable political and military cadres, but it also further tempered the Bolshevik steel, and at the end of the war it had gained more than 5 million new members.

At Yalta and Tehran, at the peace negotiations, the workers and peoples of the world had a great representative, Comrade Stalin, who knew, with wisdom, prudence and composure, how to restore the rights of the peoples and countries that had been victims of the war and fascism, how to contribute to the establishment of agreements and open the way to new levels of democracy and freedom in the world.

World War II was the prelude to the national liberation of dozens of countries on the five continents, who won their independence by breaking with the old colonial order. The Soviet Union led by Stalin was always the safe and reliable rear of this great liberation movement.

In the field of the revolution, the victories achieved in Albania and other countries of Eastern Europe, in China, Korea and Vietnam, gave rise to the formation of the powerful socialist camp. A quarter of the population living on a third of the Earth’s surface were building socialism and had in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, an enlightening example and unreserved support. In the rest of the world, the working class, the peasantry, the youth and the progressive intelligentsia saw the socialist future of humanity with certainty and confidence.

On the other hand, the end of the Second World War established a new order within the capitalist sphere. The United States became the main world power and had hegemony over the capitalist countries.

There arose a new contradiction in the international sphere: one that opposed the old world of capital to the new world of socialism. The bourgeois ideologues and politicians called this the “cold war”, alluding to the antagonism of the dispute.

Once more the superiority of socialism became evident. In the Soviet Union, but also in the other countries of the socialist camp, the culture and well-being of the masses, science and technology, the social and material progress of the workers and peoples flourished. In 1949 the USSR was able to build the atomic bomb and in 1957 it launched the space race, taking the lead.

Neo-colonialism, a form of imperialist domination that emerged after the independence of the dependent nations and countries, always had a counterweight in the Soviet Union led by Stalin. The peoples of the former colonies always had a loyal friend.

Within a few years, from 1917 to the early years of the 1950s, the proletarians, led by the communists organized in the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin, built the dreams of a new world, the world of socialism. They built the essentials, many things were lacking, some failed, but humanity never knew a broader and truer democracy, never before were men in their multitudes able to have material and social well-being, equality among their peers. This was proletarian democracy.

It was an epic of the workers and peoples, the realization in life of the scientific theory of Marxism-Leninism, the gigantic effort of the communists, the serene and bold work of the leaders, Lenin and Stalin.

When we speak of Stalin we are referring to the leader, the organizer, the head, the comrade and friend, who was really one of the great builders of the new man, of the new humanity.

This understanding of Stalin cannot be conceived without discovering and learning about his extraordinary theoretical work.

From the beginning of his communist activity he correctly evaluated the role of theory in the process of organizing and making the revolution. He studied the Marxist materials that he had at hand, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the works of Plekhanov, and soon he began to familiarize himself with Lenin, by his writings and directives, his valour as organizer and head of the communists, until he saw him in person at party events. From that time on they had a great friendship affirmed in militancy and the great commonality of opinions and concerns. Stalin was also a great reader of Russian literature. He was a man of vast culture, which grew daily throughout his life.

How can one not keep in mind in the training of communists in all countries his most outstanding works: Anarchism or Socialism?, Marxism and the National Question, On the Problem of Nationalities, The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists, The Foundations of Leninism, Concerning Questions of Leninism, Trotskyism or Leninism?, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Marxism and Linguistics, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, the Reports to the Congresses of the Communist Party.

Stalin was a theoretician of the revolution, a Marxist who recreated and developed revolutionary theory in order to provide answers to the problems put forward by the revolution. He was not a theoretician who speculated with knowledge to try to generate ideas and proposals. No, his theoretical work addressed burning issues that had to do with the development of the class struggle, with the problems that the party, the trade unions, the state and the revolution were facing on an international scale.

The depth of his writings is not at odds with the simple form of making them understood. Stalin is rigorous in his theoretical analysis, his positions are valid; they provide a real guide to action, as he himself pointed out referring to Marxism, but also they are simple and easy to understand.

Stalin’s detractors insist on some issues that we should analyze. All of them: the confessed reactionaries of anti-communism, the Trotskyists, the revisionists and opportunists of all shades agree principally on the following charges: intellectual mediocrity, Lenin’s testament that supposedly condemned him, the building of socialism in a single country, forced collectivization, the bureaucratization of the party and state, the liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard, the great purges, his tyrannical and bloodthirsty character, forced industrialization, his incompetence in the war, the cult of personality.

With regard to Stalin’s intellectual mediocrity, the facts, history and its vicissitudes speak emphatically. The October Revolution, the building of socialism in a large country and for the first time in the history of mankind, his skill in leading the party, the working class and the peoples of the USSR in the great feat of building a new world would not have been possible with a mediocre leader who was poor intellectually. These diatribes fall under their own weight. Trotsky, who claimed to be a great theoretician and man of culture and was one of his detractors in this area, was defeated precisely, in theory and practice, by one who, according to him, was a mediocrity.

In regard to the so-called “Lenin Testament,” a lot of nonsense has been written, such as that Trotsky was the one anointed by Lenin to replace him as head of the Party, as if those notes of Lenin had been hidden by the Central Committee. We say that Lenin’s health was very shaky in those days in which he is supposed to have written the famous “testament”, his sensitivity was weakened by the complaints of his companion. However, Lenin had the revolutionary culture, the Bolshevik training to understand that he could not have written a testament, a last will; he also knew that one leader, whatever his rank, can only give his opinions, not orders, in the collective. For these reasons one must understand these notes of Lenin as opinions; moreover, they were out of the context of the everyday life of the leadership of the Party and State and in no way were they orders to be complied with without question. On the other hand, it is completely false that these notes were hidden from the Central Committee; the latter knew about and discussed them. The results were known; Stalin was chosen the Main Leader of the Bolshevik Party and that was a correct and wise decision. History has shown these facts irrefutably. The one supposedly anointed by Lenin as leader of the Party, Trotsky, was placed by life and the revolutionary struggle in the dustbin of the counter-revolution.

The Leninist thesis of the building of socialism in one country takes into account the uneven development of capitalism and as a consequence the various stages of the class struggle. That situation made it possible to break the chain of imperialism at its weakest link, old Russia. Stalin was the one who continued this line. Relying on the workers and peasants, on the great spiritual and materials reserves of the Soviet peoples he carried out the great feat, defended the revolution and defeated the detractors of this thesis. Those who raised the impossibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union as long as the revolution did not succeed in the capitalist countries of Europe and labelled the peasants as reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries were proven to be wrong. The USSR developed and so far there has been no revolution in any of the capitalist countries in Europe.

On the forced collectivization of the countryside, Stalin’s detractors claim that “he violated the will of the peasants, destroyed the agrarian economy and eliminated the social base of the revolution made up by the medium and rich peasants, the kulaks”. The facts are diametrically opposite. The necessary carrying out of the NEP in the countryside developed the rural bourgeoisie in a natural way and stripped millions of poor farmers of the land, depriving the population of cereals. Basing itself on Marxism-Leninism and taking social reality into account, the Party proposed to bring socialism to the countryside. Relying on the millions of poor peasants, it pushed forward a great social and political movement for the formation of cooperatives, the kolkhozes; this meant the expropriation of the kulaks, in some cases people’s tribunals and drastic sanctions. International reaction spoke of repression and massacres. In reality there was a socialist revolution in the countryside, the work of millions of poor peasants who assumed their role as the protagonists in the life of the country of the Soviets. And, as we know, a revolution unleashes the initiative and achievements of the masses, but also the anger of its enemies. As a result, agriculture and livestock flourished, the Soviet Union became the largest producer of wheat, the mechanization and the modernization of agriculture reached unprecedented levels, at the forefront on the international scale.

Stalin is continually blamed for the bureaucratization that was in reality growing in the party and State. Stalin was never in his life a bureaucrat. Quite the contrary, his dynamism was always expressed in direct contact with the base of the party and with the masses; he was one of the leaders of the Soviets before the revolution. His whole life was in action.

Bureaucracy is a social phenomenon, a degeneration that arises in the bourgeois administration (remember that a good part of the Bolshevik administration had to resort to old tsarist functionaries) that penetrated into the revolutionary ranks, into the party and State. Bureaucracy was really present in the life of the Socialist State; it affected many activists and leaders. In some cases the responsibilities of power were transformed into small or large privileges that were creating a caste of bureaucrats who undermined the functioning of the party and the state administration, which separated the party from the masses.

Stalin did not promote the bureaucracy, but in reality he did not have either the ability or the experience to eliminate it. Several offensives of an ideological character aimed at eliminating it took place, precisely under Stalin’s initiative. The political education, ideological struggle, the validity of democracy in the party, the party elections were expressions of the struggle of the communists against bureaucracy. They cannot be dismissed having been useless. They achieved results; among other things they allowed for the continuation of the social and material achievements of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the ideological, political and organizational cleansing of the party and State, the isolation and expulsion of several groups of opportunists and traitors. However, in fact, they were not able to eradicate the bureaucracy and opportunism. Various opportunists and traitors evaded the ideological struggle and hid. They would return later, after the death of Stalin.

It is clear that bureaucracy is an ideological illness which is persistently reborn and which must be fought relentlessly to the end. Stalin did not promote bureaucracy; rather he was one of its victims.

The accusation made against Stalin that he was a bloody dictator and despot and refers to the ideological cleansing, to the revolutionary repression of the counter-revolutionary outbreaks in the city and countryside, to the alleged liquidation of the Bolshevik old guard.

It is necessary to understand that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a wedding party in which everything is rosy. No, quite the contrary. A whole armed, economic campaign, a trade boycott, an ideological and political penetration by imperialism and the international bourgeoisie was orchestrated against the dictatorship of the proletariat. In opposition to the new power of the workers, from within society, the old ruling classes, overthrown by the revolution but not physically eliminated, repeatedly carried out acts of sabotage; they tried many times to organize rebellions and uprisings, using mercenaries and men and women of the people who were deceived; they based themselves on religion and the priests, on feudal traditions, on liberal elements in the administration and on some occasions they infiltrated their agents into the party and the Soviet State. Within the party itself, in the new State and in the Red Army, there appeared over and over again degenerate elements who made attacks on the dictatorship of the proletariat in theory and practice, who tried to divert the party, to assume its leadership, to organize coups d’état. Some of these elements had been, in the past, outstanding members and leaders of the party and the revolution and they tried, therefore, to take advantage of their positions to change the course of socialism.

The fight to preserve and defend the line of the Party, its ideological, political and organizational unity was bitter and persistent, because again and again, the counter-revolution grew stronger in its attacks and, during Stalin’s life, it was again and again defeated by the force of reason, by the firmness of the Bolsheviks, by the support of the base of the party and the army, by the support of the masses of workers and peasants.

In reality the Bolshevik old guard, those comrades who dreamt of and organized the Great October Revolution, were falling behind. Some fell in combat for the revolution, others were assassinated by the counterrevolution. Others paid the physical tribute of their lives. Some survived Stalin.

The old Bolsheviks, the veteran communists knew how to face their responsibilities, they learned how to solve problems and unknown issues as they arose, they were put at the head of the great feat of building socialism, and were called “old Bolsheviks” not because they were old, but because of their qualities, for their militant and permanent adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, for their quality as communist cadres and fighters.

The fight against the opportunist factions within the Party and State were real battles that mobilized the party, all its members, they were a demonstration of the proletarian firmness of Stalin and his comrades in arms; they constituted one victory after another, that guaranteed the life of the Soviet State, the building of socialism and the continuation of the revolution.

Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were the main chieftains of the counter-revolution, who were confronted and defeated, in theory and practice, with the material and political achievements by the political correctness of the party leadership, headed by Stalin.

The dark legend of the work camps, of the confinement, of psychiatric hospitals, of prisons overcrowded with workers and communists, of the mass executions and mass graves are nothing more than the infamous slander of the reactionaries and imperialism, of the Nazis and social democracy, of the Trotskyists and revisionists, of the opportunists. They cannot be proved by any records much less by the existence of concentration camps and mass graves. They fall under their own weight.

Much has been said about Stalin’s incompetence in leading the war. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality Stalin was not a soldier by training, he did not study in any academy nor could he claim mastery of the military arts, a thorough knowledge of weapons and military strategy and tactics. But it is clear that he was a proletarian revolutionary soldier who learned this art in the very course of the revolutionary civil war in the first years of Soviet power, that he was steeled as such in the difficult years of the building of socialism and that he played an outstanding role in the leadership of the Great Patriotic War, in the resistance against the Nazi invading hordes and in the great political and military offensive that drove the Red Army to take Berlin. No one has claimed that Stalin was a great Military Leader, all the revolutionaries recognize him as the leader of the Soviet proletariat and the peoples, as the political leader of the international proletariat, as a proletarian revolutionary, as a communist.

The accusations that Stalin promoted and used the whole gamut of praise and exaggerations that have been called the “cult of personality” for his prestige continue to be a part of the anti-communist arsenal.

In fact, Stalin daily received praise and recognition from his comrades and friends, from the workers and peasants who expressed them from their heart to express gratitude and recognition. There was also the praise of the opportunists who sought favours from him. The former demonstrations were sincere, a product of the generous spirit of the workers and people, the latter had a dual intention, based on facts; they tried to elevate Stalin above others, above the events and in this way to personally take advantage of this situation.

The cult of personality was in fact a defect of the first experience in the building of socialism. It began with good intentions, but finally it degenerated, it hurt Soviet power and Stalin himself. This is an incontestable fact. But to argue from there that Stalin himself encouraged these campaigns, that he became an egomaniac, a narcissist is a big lie.

Many pages and books can be written about Stalin. In fact there are thousands of publications about his life and work. There are those of his comrades and friends, but also those of his enemies and detractors. In fact the life of Stalin is the life of the first proletarian revolution itself. Stalin did not make the revolution to his measure; the revolution projected Stalin as one of its best sons and leaders.

Pablo Miranda
Ecuador, 2012

Source

American Party of Labor: Who Started the War?

SovietWorldWarII

Anti-Communist Hysteria on the Rise

It seems that once again a specter is haunting Europe, if not the world. Yes, the specter of communism, which was supposedly totally discredited, debunked and rendered wholly irrelevant since 1989. The ruling classes of Europe and the industrialized imperialist world are again putting all their efforts into exorcising this demon; whereas ten years ago they scoffed at Marxism and communism as the profits of the internet boom, outsourcing and neo-liberalism rolled in, they are now in a total panic. That “discredited” theory has got them so terrified that they have, in the past few years, began not only to dredge up all the standard anti-communist propaganda of the Cold War years, but have even resorted to re-writing and re-interpreting history so as to invent new myths.

In Ukraine, the push for international recognition of the 1932-33 famine as genocide was successful under the aegis of Viktor Yushenko. A museum dedicated to the “victims of communism” was opened in Washington D.C. The Katyn massacre is bandied about endlessly while the millions of Polish civilians who died at the hands of the Germans are virtually ignored and the victories Polish People’s Army, which participated in the liberation of Warsaw and the capture of Berlin, is utterly forgotten on the world stage. The 60,000-100,000 Bolshevik prisoners of war who died in Polish captivity after the Russo-Polish war, a war started by Poland, are completely forgotten as well—they don’t count. The history of the Second World War is being actively re-written so as to totally omit the pivotal role played by the USSR and the world’s communist parties in the victory over fascism. Worse still, in 2009 there has been a trend to equate communism and Nazism, to proclaim them allies, and to actually blame Stalin for starting WWII. The praise for Hitler, allowing him to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles and re-arm, the hypocritical Non-Intervention in Spain and the betrayal of Munich are all to be forgotten. We are supposed to believe that it was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which gave Hitler a green light to go to war, while ignoring years of collaboration and encouragement for Hitler from the Western powers.

How far has the hysteria gone? In July of 2009, an OSCE parliamentary resolution drafted by Lithuanian Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene called for the 23rd of August to be made a day of remembrance for the “victims of Nazism and Stalinism.” This resolution attributes blame for WWII equally upon both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; Munich and the years of Western support and collaboration with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy are ignored entirely. Possibly as a result of this decision, a new wave of articles hit the newspapers and internet around August to the 1st of September 2009, practically if not literally proclaiming Stalin guilty for starting WWII. This demonstrates that the hysteria has reached such a pitch that the ruling classes of Europe are more than willing to re-write even the most basic historical facts. It is absurd beyond all explanation that the Western powers could spend years trying to downplay if not totally ignore the Soviet Union’s role in destroying fascism in the Second World War, yet they are willing to make a most idiotic leap of logic to blame the whole war on the Soviet Union. One might ask whether or not such people would prefer the masses to believe that Stalin alone rather than Hitler started the war; I am inclined to believe yes. The ruling classes of Europe do not fear Nazism resurgent, but communism is a real threat. It is that fact which serves as a principle reason for the rise of anti-communist hysteria, which we will explore in detail later in this text. For the moment, let us focus on the allegation itself.

Addressing the Allegation

Anyone familiar with history has heard the term “Big Lie.” The term was coined by none other than Adolf Hitler, who explained that people would more likely believe a big lie simply because they would not expect anyone to tell such preposterous lies. Of course that theory is rather absurd; I could tell a big lie by claiming to have a pet dinosaur, and most would simply laugh at the claim. “Big Lies” do exist however, and those which are effective are those which are on one hand often repeated, and on the other so multi-layered that most people simply do not have the requisite knowledge to challenge them. A claim with one or two falsehoods or logical fallacies is easy to spot, but the lies surrounding this new mythology of the Second World War and the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact contain so many distortions and omissions that they are difficult to answer in detail without filling entire books. The best way to challenge these lies is to break down the claim into various parts and address each one in concise fashion. Thus let us begin to do just that.

Claim: Nazi Germany & the Soviet Union, by way of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement, were Allies.

Firstly, a non-aggression pact is not an alliance. This might seem like legalistic quibbling, until one considers that Poland signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR in 1932, and later concluded a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1935. One would be hard pressed to find any mainstream source of historical literature referring to Poland and the USSR or Poland and Germany as “allies,” despite the fact that Poland took advantage of Germany’s dismantling of Czechoslovakia to invade and seize part of the newly independent fascist Slovakia. It is worth noting that the territory seized from Czechoslovakia by Poland had a minority Polish population, a fact the reader should keep in mind for later.

One might claim that the pact was an alliance because of the transfer of raw materials to Germany. This fails for several reasons; first among them is the fact that again, Poland signed a trade agreement with Nazi Germany after signing the non-aggression pact with the latter. Again, nobody speaks of the “allies” Germany and Poland “carving up” Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, the US was still shipping vital scrap metal and oil to Japan despite the latter’s conquest of Manchuria and invasion of China. Japan received 80% of its oil from the US, which only cut off oil exports in 1940 when Japan invaded French Indochina. Again, who claims that the US and Japan were allies?

Much has also been said about the collaboration of American corporations with Nazi Germany, IBM most likely being the most notorious due to the role their products had in the Holocaust. Does anyone blame America for the Holocaust? While much is said today about the resources gained from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, not a word is mentioned about the key role played by German subsidiaries of GM and Ford in arming the Wehrmacht. The switch-over from civilian to military production in these plants was not only known, but encouraged by the US-based corporate HQs of these companies. Perhaps far more importantly, the US corporations Standard Oil and Texaco provided Germany with vital supplies even after the war began. Standard Oil even assisted the Germans in creating synthetic fuel, which proved crucial to Germany’s war effort.

When considering whether the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, even taking into account the resource transfers to Germany, was the catalyst for the Second World War, it helps to realize that Albert Speer, armaments minister of Germany and a close confident of Hitler, once remarked that Hitler would not have gone to war had it not been for the capability to synthesize fuel.

Why did the USSR sign the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany? Western Conciliation and Collaboration sets the Stage

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out what he saw as a plan for the salvation and preservation of Germany and its people. Hitler understood that Germany could not possibly rely on a maritime empire with far-flung colonies like those of Britain or France. As such he envisioned a European, contiguous land empire expanding eastward. Unlike the fallen Austro-Hungarian Empire, which Hitler despised for its multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan nature, Germany’s new empire would expand into Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia, but the population would either be killed, deported, or sterilized and used as slaves. Upon invading the USSR in 1941, this process of ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination began from the first days of the invasion and would continue until the Germans were finally pushed out of Soviet territory. Incidentally the plan for the whole campaign was to take all the land up to what was called the Archangel-Astrakhan line, running from the north all the way to the Caspian Sea in the south. With chilling sobriety, German planners estimated that countless millions would die from starvation alone. This was the threat hanging over the USSR since Hitler came to power.

Speaking in the 18th Congress of the VKP (b) in March of 1939, Stalin put forth the line that the outside world could be divided into two camps. On one hand there were the “democracies” consisting of the United Kingdom, France and the US, all of which had an interest in maintaining the status quo. In the other camp were Germany, Japan and Italy. Having turned to fascism and nationalism in response to their economic predicaments, they had a natural inclination to seek out new markets via military means. Germany had no colonies and based on Hitler’s ideas, a genetic imperative to expand eastward. Italy had few colonial possessions but its eyes were focused on what seemed like easy targets such as Albania and Abyssinia. Japan held some colonial possessions for some time and had already began to expand starting with its conquest of Manchuria in 1931, and by 1939 it had already been engaged in a war against China for almost two years. While the “army faction” of the military junta ruling Japan wished to expand the China war into a war against the USSR, the navy faction sought new sources of oil and rubber in the colonial possessions of France, England, America and the Netherlands.

Given the situation at the time, it was clear that though England, France and the United States were imperialist states, they represented a far lesser evil than the rising Axis powers. Moreover, these states had a desire for peace, on one hand because their populations were not keen on going to war, on the other hand because they had large markets under their control and no reason to buck the status quo. The Soviet Union had an even greater interest in preserving peace; having barely completed its industrialization, it was imperative to equip and modernize its armed forces. Based on this disposition, the policy of the USSR was to seek collective security with England and France against Germany and Italy. There was only one problem with this strategy: the English and French had to be willing.

During the Russian Civil War, numerous imperial powers invaded the dying Russian Empire, hoping to strangle Bolshevism in the cradle and hopefully snatch their own piece of territory. Among the armies of intervention were the French and the British. When the Whites and their allies failed, the British and French attempted to create a “cordon sanitare” around the Soviet Union in hopes of stopping the spread of communism. The success of the fascists in defeating the communists of Germany and Italy suggested that they may become a bulwark against the USSR and communism. As such, though it was against their own objective interests, the Western powers became increasingly friendly to both Hitler and Mussolini.

From the time Hitler came to power in 1933, Britain and France began to cow to Germany at every opportunity. Britain made the first move, signing a naval treaty with Germany in 1935 which was vital to its rearmament. Nothing was done to prevent the Germany’s reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Probably the most egregious act of Britain and France in terms of appeasement prior to Munich was the “Non-Intervention Agreement” concluded with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. This agreement prevented the Spanish Republic, the legally elected government of Spain, from having the right to buy weapons for its own defense. While the Republic was isolated by its neighbors, Germany and Italy sent thousands of men, along with planes and tanks for the nationalist rebels. The rebels were provided with oil on credit by Texaco. Upon seeing that Non-Intervention actually meant allowing the nationalists to destroy the Republic with ease, the Soviet Union quickly withdrew from the embargo and began to supply the Republic with high-tech arms. Thousands of pilots and other military advisors were sent to Spain while the Comintern organized volunteers from around the world to fight in the International Brigades. German and Italian U-Boats torpedoed Soviet merchant ships sailing to Spain, while on one occasion a Royal Navy vessel watched as the German Kriegsmarine shelled the Spanish coast in support of a nationalist attack. Spain was sacrificed in the hopes that Germany would look east and only east. Next on the chopping block would be Austria and Czechoslovakia.

The Germans managed to pull off their crooked “Anschluss” with Austria without any opposition from abroad. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the last democracy in Central Europe, the fate of this small country would be decided without its presence at the negotiating table. Also excluded was the Soviet Union, which later attempted to send weapons to Czechoslovakia (which sadly ended up in German hands). The annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia meant that the country’s border defenses ended up in the hands of the Germans, leaving the last democracy in Central Europe to be picked clean by Germany, Hungary and Poland. Slovakia became a German client state under the fascist regime of Josef Tiso. Hitler was not satisfied with Munich though; he felt that he had been swindled, and “denied” the war he desired.

Soviet attempts to create an Alliance with Britain and France; the Ultimate Betrayal at Munich

Recognizing the threat posed by Nazi Germany, and with an understanding that their capability for war was at the time insufficient, the Soviets strove to create a collective security pact with Britain and France. When the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact was signed, the Soviets had been embroiled in negotiations with the British and French for six months. Negotiations stalled when the Soviets demanded transit rights through Poland and Romania should war with Germany break out. Both Poland and Romania were at the time anti-communist states with fascist or quasi-fascist regimes; both were embroiled in territorial disputes with the USSR as well. The British and French seemed willing to conclude a political agreement, but the Soviets quite rightly judged this to be useless without a military agreement. Stalin believed that there was the possibility the English would conclude a pact with the USSR and then not come to aid militarily if war broke out. Considering the Anglo-French reaction to the invasion of Poland, this fear might have been right in hindsight.

As negotiations broke down, it was the Germans who began to suggest an agreement to the Soviets. At first the Soviets did nothing; it was clear this was a ploy to spoil the negotiations with the French and English. At the same time however, it was becoming clear that the English and French were deliberately dragging out the negotiations, particularly on the military aspect of a pact. This idea was supported by the fact that the Anglo-French military delegation headed to Moscow not by plane but by a slow ship to Leningrad. With the English and French clearly sabotaging the negotiations in a vain hope of deterring Hitler by the mere threat of an alliance, the Soviets began to talk to the Germans.

In his book Stalin’s Wars, author Geoffery Roberts points out that aside from the lack of a provision condemning aggression against a third country by a party to the agreement, this Non-Aggression Pact was not much different than any other non-aggression pact the Soviets had signed in the 20s and 30s. Roberts characterized the pact as a pledge of Soviet neutrality in the event of a German war against Poland. It is also worth noting that prior to the beginning of negotiations with the Germans, Soviet intelligence as well as Stalin himself were convinced that a German attack on Poland was inevitable. All that mattered is where Germany would stop, an issue we will explore in detail later.

Roberts goes on to point out that in August 1939, it was not clear that Poland would fold so easily against the German war machine, which had yet to debut in combat save for limited action in the Spanish Civil War. While the English and French had guaranteed Poland’s independence, there was still the possibility of a Munich-style betrayal, which would have handed to the Germans either a part of Poland’s territory if not the whole country itself. This was a critical threat for the USSR because Poland in 1939 included the territories of Western Belarus and the Halychyna (Galicia)/Volhynia (Volyn) regions of Ukraine. Were Germany to occupy, by whatever means, all of 1939-era Poland, it would have brought their armies far closer to Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow. From East Prussia the Germans could also easily move up through the Baltic countries. To prevent this from happening, the Soviets agreed to “spheres of interest” in Eastern Europe that would theoretically keep the Germans at bay. Thus the pact not only bought the USSR time to reorganize and arm its forces, but also helped push the border westward. Of course the Soviets were aware that the Germans might not honor their part of the deal, and they were not pleased when the Soviets retook Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania, a move which brought them dangerously close to Germany’s vital oil supply from the fields of Ploesti.

After the war had already broken out, Stalin gave his opinion on the pact and the fall of Poland to Germany in a meeting with Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Comintern, who noted it down in his diary. “A war is on between two groups of capitalist countries…for the redivision of the world, for the domination of the world! We see nothing wrong in their having a good hard fight and weakening each other. It would be fine if at the hands of Germany the position of the richest capitalist countries (especially England) were shaken. Hitler, without understanding it or desiring it, is shaking and undermining the capitalist system…We can maneuver, pit one side against the other to set them fighting with each other as fiercely as possible. The non-aggression pact is to a certain degree helping Germany. Next time we’ll urge on the other side…Formerly…the Polish state was a national state. Therefore, revolutionaries defended it against partition and enslavement. Now (Poland) is a fascist state, oppressing the Ukrainians, Belorussians, and so forth. The annihilation of that state under current conditions would mean one fewer bourgeois fascist state to contend with! What would be the harm if as a result of the rout of Poland we were to extend the socialist system onto new territories and populations?”

After 1945, that vision came true.

The Partition of “Poland”

Part of the “big lie” surrounding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is the claim that “Germany and the Soviet Union attacked and divided up Poland.” At face value this seems true, until one actually looks at the details. While the Germans attempted to get the Soviets to invade as soon as possible, Molotov rejected premature intervention. The Soviets never crossed the Polish border until 17 September, after the Polish government had fled the country and the Germans had declared that they no longer recognized the existence of a state named “Poland.” This declaration gave the Germans “legal” grounds to drive right up to the Soviet frontier. In fact on several occasions German forces did attempt to just that, in hopes that the Soviets would not contest any ground they managed to grab. Thus, Red Army troops were sent into Galicia and Volyn under the orders to prevent the Germans from seizing these territories.

Did this invasion constitute an aggressive attack? Does this prove that the USSR was attacking Poland as an “ally” of Germany? Hardly—as noted before, Poland had a non-aggression pact with Germany when it seized a non-Polish territory of Czechoslovakia. Nowhere today in the mainstream media do we hear about dastardly Poland’s “alliance” with Germany and how the Nazis and Poles “carved up Czechoslovakia.”

There are some other facts worth considering as well. Most important of all are the facts surrounding the lie that the USSR invaded “Eastern Poland.” The territory of “Eastern Poland” at the time consisted of Ukrainian and Belorussian territories seized by Poland in a war of aggression back in 1921. With the Bolsheviks tied down in the Civil War, Poland rejected the borders it had been granted and attempted to take Belarus and Ukraine. The Poles managed to defeat Ukrainian nationalist forces and were poised to take Kiev when they were pushed all the way back to Warsaw by the Red Army. Despite this success, the Bolsheviks still had to contend not only with the White Guards but also the armies of the imperialist intervention. They signed the Treaty of Riga with Poland, ceding the disputed territories of Volyn and Galicia in Western Ukraine and territory in Western Belarus. Polish rule was unpopular; in fact a Ukrainian nationalist insurgency broke out in the late 20s, and the Germans even used supporters of this nationalist movement in their war against Poland in 1939. Had the Germans been allowed to take all of 1939 Poland, they would have been dangerously close to the USSR’s most vital territory.

It is also worth noting the reaction of the world to the Soviet invasion, particularly in contrast to the reaction to the German invasion. Honoring their pledge to Poland in word though not in deed, the English and French declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939. Neither declared war on the USSR however. England, France and Romania had military alliances with Poland, and none of these countries declared war on the USSR. The League of Nations did not declare the Soviet invasion an act of aggression, nor did any other country. In fact not even Poland declared war on the USSR. Poland’s supreme commander even ordered the army not to resist the Red Army, while still urging continued resistance to the Germans. Here is the text of his order of 17 September 1939:

“The Soviets have invaded. My orders are to carry out the retirement into Rumania and Hungary by the shortest routes. Do not engage the Soviets in military actions, only in the event of disarming our units by them. The task for Warsaw and Modlin, which must defend themselves against the Germans, remain unchanged. Units towards whose formations the Soviets have approached should negotiate with them with the aim of the exit of the garrisons into Rumania or Hungary.

            Supreme Commander

            Marshal of Poland E. Rydz-Smigly”

It is also interesting to note that Winston Churchill himself, a die-hard anti-communist and a beloved icon of anti-communist authors today, was in favor of the Soviet action in Poland. Again, author Geoffery Roberts provides us with Churchill’s words from a radio broadcast of the 1st of October 1939:

“Russia had pursued a cold policy of self-interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace…I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest or the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan states and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south-eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.”

The idea of an innocent Poland, beset upon by two predatory “totalitarian” “allies” has long stood as a useful myth not only to the anti-communists of Poland but also to the English, who have long maintained this myth to paint their involvement in the Second World War as being a selfless act in defense of a weaker nation. As laughable as this is, many still believe today that the USSR’s invasion of Galicia, Volyn and Belarus can be equated with Germany’s invasion, which not only occupied Polish land but also ethnically cleansed Poles from the Wartheland as they resettled the area with German colonists. Then again, most people have never heard of Galicia or Volyn.

Why Are They Rewriting History?

The history of the Second World War is complex beyond words. Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on the subject. Every major battle has produced its own collection of books, and in some cases documentaries and feature films. The history of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is itself incredibly complex. Here we have discussed only a bare minimum of facts, specifically key facts necessary for the refutation of this modern attempt to rewrite history. Exposing the facts about Western collaboration with fascism can only do so much good. The key issue is that in the past few years, fear of communism among the elite has risen to a level not seen since the McCarthy era. Why, if communism is supposedly dead and buried, do they need to go to such great lengths as to actually re-write history to a degree not even seen during the Cold War?

It is not entirely coincidental that as capitalism descends once more into crisis and as the leading imperialist countries find themselves embroiled in two losing wars, the drive to push communism beyond the pale of political discourse has led to the rewriting of history’s most basic facts. 1991 was supposed to mark the triumph of capitalism and the free market. It was called “the end of history.” Capitalism brings prosperity, the free market conquers all. Reality brought something much different however.

Within a few years, people who never had to worry about paying the rent, making ends meet or getting quality medical care suddenly found themselves helpless at the hands of rapacious thugs, gangsters and oligarchs. Millions were displaced as nations broke apart. Stability gave way to chaos, hopelessness, violence, sex slavery and human trafficking. Nationalism reached a fever pitch and tens of thousands of people were ethnically cleansed. Europe experienced its bloodiest conflict since the WWII. At first, many in Eastern Europe accepted the excuse that they had dismantled their old economies “too fast,” as though this was carried out according to their will as opposed to that of their respective ruling classes advised by and in collusion with businessmen and investors from around the globe. Things would get better after joining NATO and the EU, or a strong leader like Vladimir Putin would solve everything. It is now nearly 20 years since the fall of the Eastern Bloc, and the leaders who promised prosperous societies with respect for “human rights” have failed. They have failed and the people know it.

Now in the throes of an economic crisis, one which now threatens the imperialist European Union, the specter of communism is again haunting Europe. With the US still suffering from massive unemployment, that specter is haunting the US as well. All over the world, even people who were once mainstream liberals are now starting to question capitalism itself. Many are no longer just questioning “unregulated capitalism” but capitalism itself. When we look at the riots in Greece unfolding before our eyes, or the struggle of the TEKEL workers in Turkey, when we see an increasing number of Eastern Europeans admitting that they had a better life under their revisionist regimes than their incompetent politicians today, we easily understand why it is necessary for the European elite to equate communism with Nazism, the latter being a monster fed and raised by capitalism itself. No wonder the American elite pays Glenn Beck to scare the politically and historically illiterate with the same idiotic conflation. After 1991 they could proclaim capitalism triumphant and Marx discredited. Today Marx has been vindicated; economic crisis, unemployment and poverty are all inherent and eternal in capitalism and always will be.

There is no lie too great for the international ruling class when it comes to scaring the proletariat away from the path of liberation and emancipation. A few years ago they tried to erase the Soviet Union’s massive contribution to the defeat of fascism, the bastard child of capitalism. Today they are trying to tell us that Stalin was just as responsible for starting the Second World War. We can be certain they will continue raising the mythical body counts of communism to absurd levels as well. Try as they may, however, they will never exorcise this spirit from the mind of the working class, the one class of society that has the power to both provide for society’s needs and run society itself.

As Enver Hoxha once said: “No force, no torture, no intrigue, no deception can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men.”

Sources

Furr, Grover. “Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in 1939?.” Cyrano’s Journal (2009): n. pag. Web.

Pauwels, Jacques. “Profits über Alles! American Corporations and Hitler.” Labour/La Travail 51. (2003): n. pag. Web.

Roberts, Geoffery. Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. 1st. Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

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Karl Marx on Colonialism and the Beginnings of Modern Capitalism

netherlands_germany_karl_marx

“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre. It begins with the revolt of the Netherlands from Spain, assumes giant dimensions in England’s Anti-Jacobin War, and is still going on in the opium wars against China, &c.

The different momenta of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now, more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century, they arrive at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, the national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system. These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system. But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.”

Karl Marx, “Capital, Vol. 1”

Confessions of a fake Marxist

Pieter Boevé, a.k.a. Comrade "Chris Petersen"

As leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, Pieter Boevé was fêted by the world’s communist dictators for 40 years. What they didn’t know was that he was an undercover agent. Finally unmasked, he tells all to Stephen Castle There was one catch: the leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands wasn’t really a communist at all. Stephen Castle reports

Enver Hoxha, gesturing, meets Pieter Boeve, right, in Tirana, Albania.

Once Pieter Boevé called the masses to the barricades. Today, he waggles his walking stick at his local train station in the Netherlands. As the founder of a political party for the elderly, he is calling for an escalator to be installed. There’s no stopping some people. For Mr Boevé spent much of the Cold War preaching the word of Mao and Marx in the West. He was fêted in Beijing, toasted in Moscow and met the leaders of the Communist world.

Once Pieter Boevé called the masses to the barricades. Today, he waggles his walking stick at his local train station in the Netherlands. As the founder of a political party for the elderly, he is calling for an escalator to be installed. There’s no stopping some people. For Mr Boevé spent much of the Cold War preaching the word of Mao and Marx in the West. He was fêted in Beijing, toasted in Moscow and met the leaders of the Communist world.

Yet now, Mr Boevé peruses a menu at a café in the Dutch seaside town of Zandvoort. He muses over a Chinese option – “Chicken Beijing Lunch” – and rejects it. And then he confirms a secret that fooled the Communist world for generations. He was no lover of the red flag. He was, in fact, a spy all along.

Through the years of the Cultural Revolution and Nixon’s visit to China, he made regular trips behind the bamboo curtain. The then Mr Petersen skilfully navigated his way through the ideological lurches of his Communist hosts and visited places off limits to almost everyone else in the West as the leader

of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands (MLPN). Mr Boevé’s incredible story has made him something of a celebrity in this town of 17,000, where he is greeted in the supermarket as the “James Bond of Zandvoort”.

Over 35 years Mr Boevé met Nikita Kruschev in Moscow, Enver Hoxha in Tirana, and shook hands with Chairman Mao. But the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands he led was a sham, staffed mainly by Dutch agents.

The revelation of his extraordinary life has left left-wing activists across Europe wondering whether their comrades through the 1970s and 1980s were all they seemed to be. As a 25-year-old student and part time mathematics teacher, Mr Boevé was always an unlikely recruit to the cause of Communism. True, he was a political campaigner but his allegiance was to the Dutch liberal party, the forerunner of today’s centre-right VVD, which was instinctively capitalist in outlook.

As an increasingly confident Soviet Union sought to project its image in the West, the authorities in Moscow began preparations for a youth festival to be held in the country’s capital in 1955. Bizarrely, a request for candidates to go to Moscow for the token price of 150 guilders was sent to the Dutch liberals among other political parties. A friend in the party who worked for the Dutch secret service (BVD) approached Mr Boevé and asked if he would be willing to go to Moscow and report back to the service. Yes, said Mr Boevé, not knowing that he was embarking on a 35-year adventure of deceit and double-dealing that would give him access to some of the most senior figures of Communist Cold-War politics.

Even now, 50 years on, sipping a cola next to the fire in the Café Neuf in Zandvoort, Mr Boevé seems a little vague about why he opted for such a life. He was, he insists, never paid by the BVD though it later provided a car big enough to transport reams of Communist propaganda, and stepped in to make up his salary when he took time off between jobs to attend a lengthy indoctrination course in Beijing.

He says he retained a strong aversion to the Communist system and believes he helped, in some small way, to win the Cold War. But Mr Boevé’s main motivation may have been the intoxicating excitement of leading such an exotic double life. At one point in our conversation he turns to me and says: “Wouldn’t you have liked the chance to do something like that?” Multilingual and, by his own admission a good actor, Mr Boevé managed to blag his way into becoming the leader of the Dutch organising committee for the Moscow youth festival, vetting those who applied to go to Moscow. His BVD controllers could not believe their luck as a list of Communist sympathisers fell in their lap.

While the rest of the 700 Dutch delegation took the train to Moscow, Mr Boevé was flown there, met Mr Kruschev (“a nice man”) and made a broadcast in Dutch on Radio Moscow. In 1958, China organised its own youth festival and Mr Boevé was invited. Initial Chinese suspicious of the young Dutch liberal were overcome and he embarked on a five-day journey from Amsterdam to Beijing.

That was followed by regular visits to the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands which led to an invitation to shed his “bourgeois ideas” and join the Dutch Communist Party. As a teacher, membership of the CP was impossible, so Mr Boevé’s new political allegiance was a secret to everyone except the BVD. Then came the Sino-Soviet split which also divided Communist sympathisers. Dutch intelligence saw a chance to split the far left and prompted Mr Boevé to help set up the MLNP to follow Beijing’s line. Its propaganda may have been funded by the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands, but the organisation was controlled by seven or eight BVD agents including Mr Boevé, who adopted the pseudonym Chris Petersen.

By 1963 he was back in Beijing, this time for a formal Communist education. He was put up at the best hotel and treated as a VIP but the hospitality came with a price tag: lengthy study of the thought of Mao. “I learnt how to think in the Chinese way. It even became possible for me to make a speech in a Mao style,” he recalls. Meanwhile, Mr Boevé held down a job as director of a technical school in Schoonhoven near Rotterdam.

With financial backing from the Chinese, what became known as Operation Mongol did not even cost any money. “In fact it made a profit”, says Mr Boevé. “The Chinese always paid in dollars.” By virtue of his party position and links with the Chinese, Mr Petersen was introduced to Communists in a host of countries, travelling extensively around Europe and beyond. The Albanian embassy in Paris fixed up a visit to Tirana where Mr Boevé met Mr Hoxha (who “seemed a nice man though we know he was not” and who spoke “excellent French”).

More trips to Bejing followed with audiences with Deng Xiaoping, Chou En-lai (a “clever, educated man who spoke German and French”), and even Mao himself. Though this was only a handshake, it afforded much celebration at the BVD, which had never had any agent so close to the Chinese leader.

Back at home, Chinese diplomats in the Netherlands were told the MLPN had a membership of about 500 but the party was really made of “about 25 agents and about 15 people stupid enough to join us”, says Mr Boevé.

The Chinese were not the only ones to be fooled: one Dutch academic even donated 20 per cent of his salary to the party, money he now wants refunded by the BVD. Meanwhile, Dutch secret service agents became experts in Maoist ideology, denouncing the evils of their capitalist government. Although the Chinese knew Mr Petersen’s real name, they did not bother to monitor his movements or, if they did, failed to spot regular meetings with a BVD controller. Other clues were overlooked, including one occasion when Mr Boevé spoke publicly about how to manage the tax system in order to pay less – not usually a Maoist preoccupation.

Mr Boevé told his wife (from whom is he now separated) and two sons about his double life and seems phlegmatic about the risks. He says: “I was told, ‘if you make a mistake. If you are put in prison and you admit that you are an agent, we cannot help you. You will be on your own, and you know what that means in those countries.’ But I was never afraid, I was so sure that everything was so well organised here.”

Didn’t all the lying and deceit get him down? On the contrary, he says: “I am a little proud of what I have done. I have led a good life and I have added something to humanity.” Mr Boevé only revealed his role after being exposed in a book written by a former BVD agent, Frits Hoekstra. The revelation has placed the spotlight on his new political party for the elderly. But he still faces a struggle to make a group of three local councillors into a real political force.

But all that time in Beijing has left him prepared for the battle to come. He might just get his escalator. As Chairman Mao once put it: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Source

Dutch math teacher admits fake communist party scam that fooled Mao Zedong

The Guardian
December 4, 2004
Jon Henley

A 76-year-old retired Dutch math teacher described yesterday how for more than 25 years he was feted by communist leaders around the world as the inspired head of a radical Marxist-Leninist party that never, in fact, existed.

As Chris Petersen, head of the supposedly 600-member Marxist-Leninist party of the Netherlands, Pieter Boevé travelled to Beijing more than two dozen times and met Mao Zedong. He was also welcomed with open arms in Albania by Enver Hoxha, and in the eastern bloc capitals of Europe.

“In fact we had at most a dozen members, none of whom had the faintest idea of the truth,” Boevé said on Friday from his home in the seaside resort of Zandvoort. “The whole thing was a hoax, set up by the secret services to learn all they could about what was going on in Marxist Peking.”

The Mao regime was so impressed by the revolutionary zeal of Petersen/Boevé and his MLPN that it gave him regular briefings on the chairman’s latest thinking at the Chinese mission in The Hague. Beijing even funded the non-existent party’s newspaper, De Kommunist, which was written entirely by Dutch secret service (BVD) agents.

“We took everybody in,” Boevé said proudly on Friday. “As far as I know, the MLPN was the only wholly fake radical party to have existed, and certainly the only one to have really worked. We passed inside information on every Maoist policy nuance to all the western intelligence forces. It was a wonderful adventure.”

Boevé was first recruited by the BVD in 1955 when he visited a World Student Congress in Moscow. Soon after, he was invited to China, then still the Soviet Union’s ally, for a similar communist youth junket. After the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s, the Chinese began courting western communists and, egged on by the BVD, Boevé played along.

“I was invited to Peking for a month-long course on the wisdom of Chairman Mao,” he said. “It was quite a baptism of fire. I hadn’t read a great deal of Marx or Lenin at that stage, let alone Mao. But I soon got very proficient. I could spout for hours.”

The foundation of the MLPN was announced by De Kommunist in 1969. Its main role was to undermine the official Dutch Communist party, the KPN, by denouncing its deviant beliefs and unreliable conduct, and to garner information on – and gain access to – the Maoist elite in Beijing.

In the latter task, it was successful beyond the BVD’s wildest dreams. “They adored us,” Boevé said. “I was invited to all the big events – Army Days, Anniversaries of the Republic, everything. There were feasts in the Great Hall of the People and long articles in the People’s Daily. And they gave us lots of money.”

Most European Maoist groups, unable to keep up with an endless string of purges and policy about-turns, had lost faith by the mid-1980s, and the MLPN gradually began winding down its activities. But as late as 1989, after the Tiananmen student uprising, Boevé was invited to Beijing to praise the regime’s crackdown.

The existence of Project Mongol, as it was dubbed by the BVD, was successfully kept secret until this September, when another former agent, Frits Hoekstra, published a book about the service’s glory days. It caused something of an uproar in the Netherlands, a country where a fair few genuine former radicals now occupy leading positions in public life.

Boevé, who was never a salaried spy and who, despite his extra-curricular activities, rose to become headteacher of a top Dutch grammar school, said he was at first unwilling to have his name revealed. “My family knew, but no one else,” he said. “As far as my friends and former colleagues were concerned, all my travel was to do with educational exchanges.”

Since the revelations about his former life as one of the west’s most productive spooks, Boevé said reactions have varied from shock and disbelief – “How can we ever trust you again?” – to mild amusement. “My fellow members of the Zandvoort town council call me 007,” he said. “I don’t mind. I’m satisfied with what I’ve done with my life. I’ve travelled the world at someone else’s expense, and I feel did my bit. And it was certainly fun.”

Source

Comrade ‘Chris Petersen’ Was Big in China and Albania; ‘Project Mongol’ Tell-All

The Wall Street Journal
December 3, 2004

In From the Cold: He Was a Communist for Dutch Intelligence

By ANDREW HIGGINS
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
December 3, 2004; Page A1

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands – As secretary-general of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, Chris Petersen traveled the globe during the Cold War, wowing Communist leaders with his revolutionary zeal and anti-capitalist diatribes.

“I could make speeches for hours and you would think that Mao Tse-tung himself had been my teacher,” recalls the now-retired party chief.

The Chinese Communist Party was so impressed, it regularly gave the ranting Dutchman the full red-carpet treatment in Beijing: banquets in the Great Hall of the People, an audience with Mao, envelopes stuffed with cash and tributes in the People’s Daily. Albania’s Communists were also big fans.

Now, with communism all but dead, the Dutchman has decided to come clean: Both he and his party were a sham.

He says he was never a Maoist but an opera-loving math teacher moonlighting for Dutch intelligence. His name, his politics and his party, he says, all were concocted in a plot to penetrate militant Marxist subculture.

“Nothing was real,” says the ex-Mr. Petersen, who now lives under his real name, Pieter Boevé, here in Zandvoort, a seaside resort town west of Amsterdam. The only genuine part of a revolutionary career that lasted decades, he says, was a fondness for Chinese food: The Chinese Communist Party, Mr. Boevé recalls, had excellent cooks.

The Central Intelligence Agency, which got regular updates on the mock Maoist movement, dubbed it “Operation Red Herring,” according to Dutch intelligence. (The CIA won’t comment.) The Dutch called it “Project Mongol.”

The unmasking comes at an uncomfortable time for Dutch security services, now under fire for post-Communist bungling. Having infiltrated Maoist groups with gusto, they lost track of an Islamic radical blamed for the murder last month of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Mr. Boevé, who appeared on television in a recent documentary about the Dutch secret service while wearing a fake beard and Groucho Marx plastic nose and glasses, says his past exploits provide tips that could help con Islamist extremists, but he doesn’t envy anyone who might try: “It’s very dangerous,” he says.

In a country where erstwhile Maoists and other radicals have become pillars of the establishment, the exposure of the phony Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, or MLPN, has caused dismay and embarrassment. Frits Hoekstra, a former high-ranking security official, shocked former colleagues in September by publishing a book that described Project Mongol and other escapades. The interior minister ordered an investigation into whether state secrets were divulged. Former Maoists are aghast.

“I totally wasted 12 years of my life,” says Paul Wartena, an ex-MLPN member who was so dedicated to the cause he used to donate 20% of his salary to the fake party. He says he “had some doubts now and then” about the MLPN but stayed loyal because “I was very naive and Mr. Boevé was such a good actor.” Now a researcher at a university in Utrecht, Mr. Wartena wants Dutch intelligence to pay him back for all his donations.

Mr. Boevé, now 74, scoffs at his acolyte: “He was an idiot.”

Mr. Boevé says he, too, is upset that his caper leaked but that Mr. Hoekstra’s book forced him in from the cold.

Conning so many people, says Mr. Boevé, was “not the most beautiful thing,” but it was a great adventure. He visited China about 25 times, made frequent trips to Albania and duped radical leaders in the West. After each journey, he went to a safe house in Amsterdam to pass on tidbits of information.

Set up and run by spooks in 1969, his party, the MLPN, had its own newspaper, De Kommunist, written and edited by the secret service. As well as Mr. Boevé playing Chris Petersen, the secretary-general, it had a chairman (another fraud) and a Central Committee stacked with secret agents. To add authenticity, the party let Mr. Wartena and a handful of other true believers join its otherwise nonexistent ranks, telling them that they were part of a network of underground cells.

Mr. Boevé first started working as an informant for the Dutch secret service, then known as the BVD, in the late 1950s and started using a fake name. Invited to Moscow for a youth festival in 1957, he attended a reception hosted by Nikita Khrushchev and briefed Dutch intelligence.

Mr. Hoekstra, a former head of counterintelligence against Soviet-bloc countries and author of the recent book, says Mr. Boevé’s recruitment wasn’t at first seen as a big deal, but, rather, as part of routine tracking of local Communists.

Shortly after the Moscow festival, however, Mr. Boevé got an invitation to China, then still aligned with the Soviet Union. While in China, he kept hearing Chinese officials curse Moscow, which had just cut funding to Beijing. The move marked the start of the Sino-Soviet split – and of Mr. Boevé’s role as an unlikely prize agent.

Desperate for allies against Moscow, China searched out Communists in Europe and elsewhere. Mr. Boevé, encouraged by the BVD, offered his services. He visited China in the early 1960s for a six-week course on Mao Tse-tung Thought. He says he got good at mimicking Chinese propaganda. The main difficulty, he says, was keeping up with the wild zigzags of Chinese politics: his hosts kept getting purged.

Chinese diplomats in Holland invited the man they knew as Chris Petersen to their mission in The Hague and gave money to help finance a Maoist newspaper secretly edited by the BVD. The result was De Kommunist. Mr. Hoekstra, the former spy and now a business consultant, says he once wrote a screed against the Dutch government. “As a civil servant, it was very satisfying,” he says.

After a year, De Kommunist announced with fanfare in 1969 the foundation of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands. “In order to limit as far as possible the danger of penetration by enemy elements,” it explained, “the MLPN organization shall be based largely on the cell system, obliging all members to the greatest possible secrecy.”

For the next decade, the fake party helped the Dutch secret police divide Holland’s legitimate Communist movement, keep tabs on Maoist groups and gain access to China’s elite. “Petersen” issued regular communiques – all drafted by the BVD – denouncing real Communists as sellouts and urging voters to reject them.

Mr. Hoekstra, the former intelligence officer, said the facade of Maoist fervor did sometimes wobble. On one occasion, he says, “Petersen” started talking in public about how to take advantage of tax deductions, not something a Maoist is supposed to worry about. He says there was concern the Chinese might smell a rat, but that faded. The Dutch, he says, had the Chinese embassy bugged and heard diplomats singing “Petersen’s” praises. “We could hear everything,” says Mr. Hoekstra.

By the 1980s, purges and ideological U-turns had exhausted most Maoists in Europe, and the BVD began to lose interest in the ruse. China was no longer an enemy but a big trading partner. De Kommunist shut down. The MLPN fizzled.

Mr. Boevé, though, kept going. In 1989, when troops shot dead hundreds of protesters around Tiananmen Square, he issued a statement praising the resolve of the Communist Party in restoring order. Shortly afterward, he was back in Beijing, hailing the party and its leaders.

In a small apartment crowded with an electric organ and piles of books, Mr. Boevé rustles through plastic shopping bags full of yellowing MLPN tracts and other mementos. One is a copy of a photograph of himself meeting Enver Hoxha, Albania’s Communist dictator from 1944 until his death in 1985.

Advancing age has finally slowed Mr. Boevé down. He walks with a cane and can’t climb stairs. His involvement with China is limited to visits to a local Chinese restaurant. He draws giggles by humming the “East is Red,” a Maoist anthem. “It’s a very nice tune,” he says.

His political horizons have shrunk to Zandvoort. He sits on the local council and lobbies for better housing for the elderly. He has even set up yet another party: It represents old people. It doesn’t have many members, but, says Mr. Boevé, “This time they are all real.”

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