Category Archives: Myth-Busting

John Callaghan on Rajani Palme Dutt and Evidence for the Moscow Trials and Anti-Soviet Conspiracies

On pages 279-280 of the book Rajani Palme Dutt: A Study in British Stalinism by John Callaghan (Lawrence & Wishart 1993), the author writes the following:

“… the evidence points overwhelmingly to Dutt’s satisfaction with the Communist record. In preparing his book on The Internationale, for example, he had considered the inclusion of an anecdote to illustrate the ‘basic guilt of the accused’ [in the Moscow Trials]. Fortunately, although Dutt changed his mind about publication, this curious fragment survives and acquires an especially sinister light today in view of the fact that the Soviet state itself eventually admitted the falsity of the charges brought against the leading Bolsheviks in question. Dutt’s ‘evidence’ concerns ‘a lengthy day’s visit to the village at some distance from Moscow’ where Bukharin and Radek were at work in the summer of 1935. Here ‘under the seal of absolute secrecy’ they apparently ‘gave him a serious and alarming account… of the net in which they had become involved and of the dilemmas with which they were faced’. Dutt was told in very general terms, with no names mentioned, of how ‘opposition to the party, however much it might be felt to be justified at a given moment, can lead by its own logic step by step into the camp of counter-revolution’. He was accordingly advised to never enter this ‘fatal path of conflict with the party’ and retired with ‘the memory of this talk… like a nightmare’ weighing on his mind during the ensuing period. At first Dutt tried to convince himself that these old ‘friends and comrades’ had presented ‘an allegory to test him’ but he had ‘a lurking suspicion’ that their confessions of guilt were true and only failed to report them to the party by taking refuge in the ‘cowardly evasion’ that he had no grounds for certainty concerning their sins. Thus ‘when the trials followed, of Radek, and subsequently of Bukharin, it was as if a weight were lifted from the writer’s [Dutt’s] consciousness that, however terrible, the facts at last were out’. Dutt now read the trial statements of both men and as he did so ‘he felt as if he were reading the same story a second time, since their narrative corresponded so closely with what they had told him on that summer’s day and evening in 1935, even with many of the same phrases.'”

The source given is: Dutt, ‘Radek-Bukharin conversations ommitted from The Internationale’, 11 March 1964, CPGB archive.

Stalin’s Four Attempts at Resignation

Joseph Stalin was elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in April 1922 during the 11th Congress of the Party. Between then and until his death, he asked to be relieved of his duties as General Secretary a total of four times — all of which were rejected.

On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3, 1922, elected Stalin …  [as the] General Secretary of the Central Committee, a post at which he has remained ever since.

Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 74

Stalin’s first attempt at resignation (likely in 1925) from the post of General Secretary was at a meeting of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress (held in May 1924). This was rejected unanimously by all the delegations, including Trotsky. Stalin remarked on this later in 1927 in a speech at a meeting of the Central Committee:

It is said that in that “will” Comrade Lenin suggested to the congress that in view of Stalin’s “rudeness” it should consider the question of putting another comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true.

Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have never concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that.

At the very first meeting of the plenum of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress I asked the plenum of the Central Committee to release me from my duties as General Secretary. The congress itself discussed this question. It was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post.

What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature; I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so, for that would be desertion. As I have already said before, I am not a free agent, and when the Party imposes an obligation upon me, I must obey.

A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?

The next two attempts to resign from the post of General Secretary was a year after in 1926 and later in 1927. The British historian Robert Service who specialized in Russian history wrote about this in his biography of Stalin:

On 27 December 1926, he wrote to Sovnarkom Chairman Alexei Rykov saying: ‘I ask you to release me from the post of Central Committee General Secretary. I affirm that I can no longer work at this post, that I’m in no condition to work any longer at this post.’ He made a similar attempt at resignation on 19 December 1927.

All three of these previous attempts were rejected. The last attempt to resign was in 1952, about five months before Stalin’s death, during a meeting of the Central Committee where he urged the Central Committee to relieve him of his duties. This too was rejected. 

In a speech given by him to the Central Committee that mainly criticized Molotov for some of his decisions, he was interrupted near the end of the speech by someone from the floor.

VOICE FROM THE FLOOR – We need to elect comrade Stalin as the General Secretary of the CC CPSU and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

STALIN – No! I am asking that you relieve me of the two posts!

MALENKOV – coming to the tribune: Comrades! We should all unanimously ask comrade Stalin, our leader and our teacher, to be again the General Secretary of the CC CPSU.

Originally posted by Socialist Musings.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites

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“Shortly after the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library was opened in January 1980, Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué discovered letters between Leon Sedov and his father Trotsky that proved the existence of a bloc between Trotskyites and other opposition groups within the USSR. Sometime in the middle of 1932 Sedov informed his father as follows:

“[The bloc] is organized. In it have entered the Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and the Trotskyites (former ‘[capitulators]’). The group of Safar. Tarkhkan has not formally entered yet – they stand on too extreme a position; they will enter in a very short time. – The declaration of Z. and K. concerning their enormous mistake in ’27 was made during negotiations with our people concerning the bloc, immediately before the exile of Z and K.” [70]

About the same time American historian Arch Getty was discovering that Trotsky had secretly sent letters to at least Radek, Sokol’nikov, Preobrazhenskii, Kollontai, and Litvinov. The first three had been Trotskyites before publicly recanting their views. Getty did not find the letters – only the certified mail receipts for them. Getty realized this meant that the Trotsky Archive has been ‘purged.’ These letters had been removed. Other materials had undoubtedly been purged as well. [71]

The only reason to “purge” the archives would have been to remove materials that would have seemed incriminating – that would have negatively impacted Trotsky’s reputation.As an examination of the question of the letter to Radek shows, the letters that we know were removed proved, at the very least, that Trotsky lied during the 1930s by claiming he never maintained contact with oppositionists inside the USSR when, in reality, he was doing so, and by claiming that he would never agree to a secret bloc between his supporters and other oppositionist groups in act he had done precisely that.

Evidently Broué found the implications of this fact very disturbing. He never mentioned Getty’s discoveries of Trotsky’s letters to his supporters and others inside the USSR or the purging of the Trotsky archive, even though Broué cites the same Getty publications (an article and a book) in a very positive manner. [72]

Therefore it has been well established by scholars by the mid-1980s that a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc did in fact exist and that it was formed in 1932 and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were personally involved. Sedov also foresaw the entry into the group of Safarov, who in any case had a group of his own.

In an interview with the Dutch social-democratic newspaper Het Volk during the second half of January 1937, at the time of the Second Moscow Trial, Sedov stated, in a slip of the tongue, that “the Trotskyists” had been in contact with the defendents at the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. [73] Sedov specifically named Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. Concerning Radek and Piatakov Sedov went on to say that “[t]he Trotskyists have had much less contact with them than with the others. To be exact: no contact at all.” That is, Sedov tried to withdraw his “slip” about Radek and Piatakov.

But Sedov did not even try and retract the information that preceded it: that “the Trotskyists” had indeed been in contact with “the other”: Smirnov, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. This interview, “slip of the tongue” included, was published in a provincial edition of Het Volk on January 28, 1937. It was noticed by the Communist press, which called attention to Sedov’s “slip of the tongue.” (Arbeideren, Oslo, February 5, 1937; Abejderbladet, Copenhagen, February 12, 1937.) Thanks to Getty we now know that the Communist press was correct. Sedov’s remark really was a “slip of the tongue.” We know that Sedov was lying because Getty had found evidence of Trotsky’s letter to Radek. Trotsky has indeed been in touch with Radek. Sedov’s first remark, about “much less contact,” was accurate.

Therefore we have good, non-Soviet evidence, confirmed by the Trotsky Archive, of the following:

  • A “bloc” of Zinovievites, Trotskyites, and others including at least the Sten-Lominadze and, perhaps, the Safarov-Tarkhanov group (with whom they were in any case in touch) and involving Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, was indeed formed in 1932.
  • Trotsky had indeed been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as others, probably through his son and chief representative Sedov.
  • Trotsky was indeed in touch with at least Radek and Piatakov.
  • Trotsky really did send a letter to Radek, who was in Geneva at the time, in the Spring of 1932, just as Radek testified in the January 1932 Moscow Trial.
  • There is no reason to accept Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué’s conclusion that thus bloc was “ephemeral” and died out shortly after it was formed, because we know the Trotsky Archive was purged at some time, while Broué had no evidence to support that statement.

[….]

The Harvard Trotsky archive yielded to Broué and Getty unmistakable evidence that the “bloc” did exist; that Trotsky was in contact with the bloc’s members and his own supporters inside the USSR, and that Trotsky lied consistently about all these matters both in the Bulletin of the Opposition and to the Dewey Commission. No scholar today denies this. Kirilina, Lenoe, and Egge simply ignore the whole matter.

The NKVD of the 1930s termed the complexly-interlocking set of oppositional conspiracies the “klubok,” or “tangle.” If any of these conspiracies were acknowledged to have existed, it would be hard to deny the existence of the rest, since all the defendants implicated others in a chant that, directly or indirectly, connected them all. Admitting that the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites did in fact exist would present the danger of a “slippery slope” to any historian who wanted to deny the validity of the other conspiracies. For once it is conceded that the first alleged underground opposition conspiracy really did exist, and therefore that both the Khrushchev and Gorbachev official reports, rehabilitations, and official historians were lying, it logically follows that other conspiracies, which these same sources also denied, might have existed too.

 – Grover Furr, “The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm,” pages 131-133, 136.

Footnotes

[70] Harvard, Trotsky Archive 4782 p. 1; see Broué in Cahiers Leon Trotsky 1980 p. 36; Broué, “Party Opposition to Stalin…” p. 100.

[71] Other materials were certainly removed – “purged” – with traces of their removal remaining. For example, excerpts from a discussion between Trotsky and Sedov concerning the slogan “remove Stalin” (‘ubrat Stalina’) remain in the archive, but the full letters from which the excerpts were made are not there.

[72] We will examine this whole question in detail in a forthcoming work.

[73] “Het process te Moskou. Wie niet wil bekennen al doodgeschoten?” Het Volk 28 Jan. 1937 pp. 1 and 5. My sincere thanks to Sven-Eric Holmstrom for tracking down this article and generously providing me with a copy.

The Soviet Union Looks To Its Health

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The Bolshevik Revolution not only overturned the political and economic system that was based on exploitation but also brought with it a revolutionary reorganisation of the entire society. One of the major component was the reorganisation and implementation of a socialist health care system, which took care of the citizen from their cradle to grave.

The Soviet health care found its support and admiration even in the Western countries. The British health care expert Sir Arthur Newsholme, in his work “Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia” that was based after his fact finding visit to the Soviet Union, mentioned about the grand success of the socialist health care in following words:

            Our description of what has been accomplished in medical administration may easily be regarded as giving a distorted and too favorable view of medico-social developments in Russia. Our statements are open to this accusation, which has been similarly urged against the particulars given in the many earlier volumes which have described personal observations made by foreign visitors to the U.S.S.R. Doubtless we were shown the best of what exists in Russia. The same would hold equally good if any foreign visitors came with influential introductions to inspect medical and public health work in England or America. We realized all the time that we were seeing the best that the U.S.S.R. had succeeded in developing. But when this best was seen repeated in many cities visited by us, and when it was everywhere frankly stated that their arrangements were not yet complete, that the dearth of doctors made more adequate provisions difficult for a few years; and when we were told openly of the great difficulties which were being experienced in extending the medical provisions of cities to the vast rural communities of Russia, and of the only partial success hitherto achieved in overcoming these difficulties, we were forced to the conclusion that we were not being victimized by a “window-dressing” display; and that, indeed, a marvelous reformed and extended medical service had been organised in Russia, the methods and procedures of which the rest of the world would do well to study.

Below we are reproducing an article from the American journal of Worker Medical Advisory Board, Health and Hygeine published in 1935. In this article the author gives a succinct account of how the socialist health care worked in the Soviet Union during time of Stalin.

—- Editor, Other Aspect (8/7/2016)  


ALONG with every tremendous stride it has taken in developing industrial and agricultural progress, the Soviet Union has taken the necessary steps to safeguard and improve Soviet workers’ health. Rest homes, sanitariums, “keep the-baby healthy” stations and hospitals grew up alongside great factories and on giant collective farms. When plans were made to build a city, as at Magnitogorsk, these plans included first and foremost abundant provision for taking care of the health of the workers.

American engineers have reported, on their return from the Soviet Union, their surprise at the manner in which new plants were set up. Before the foundations of the factory or mill were laid, homes for the workers who were to build the factory were erected. The Americans pointed out that in the United States the factory is the first consideration. Workers can always be housed in the rudest sort of shacks. In the Soviet Union, where prevention of ill health is of paramount importance, the homes are built first.

The successful completion of the first Five Year Plan in four years and the carrying out of the Second Five Year Plan at as great a speed, requires great physical and mental effort for the Soviet workers. The physical welfare of the shock brigaders, the heroes of labor who set the pace for the other workers, is the greatest concern of the Soviet government. Every precaution is taken to maintain and ensure the good health of the workers.

The keyword in health matters in the Soviet Union is prevention. In the United States and other capitalist countries, we do not go to a doctor or clinic until we are sick. In the Soviet Union, where health is cared for on presentation of a union card, not on presentation of a fee, the workers are trained and urged to go to the clinics at the slightest sign of something wrong or likely to go wrong. A worker who has fever will be sent by the factory doctor to the clinic. This worker, assured that he does not lose his job and knowing that he will be paid while away, soon learns to prevent ill health.

In the United States, the worker who goes to a clinic is oppressed by the feeling of “charity.” 12 The clinics are meant only for those who cannot pay for private treatment and this is felt by every worker. In addition, these clinics, especially in the smaller towns, are overcrowded. It is sufficient here to give some figures on the clinics of the Soviet Union. This does not cover other working conditions, conditions in the home, rest homes, etc.

In 1932, the All-Union Public Health Conference adopted a plan to cover the entire Union with a network of clinics. This plan is part of the second Five Year Plan and is to be completed by 1937. Now, in 1935, much has already been accomplished.

The plan is based on the principle that three types of clinics are needed to cover the general and specific needs of each industrial centre. The clinics are set up and staffed according to the population. These clinics are: the Polyclinic, which handles general work. This includes aD . x-ray department and a clinical laboratory where examinations of blood, sputum, urine, etc., are made. There are also two special type clinics which take care of the patients referred by the Polyclinic. Here the special branches of medicine are covered.

These three types of clinics, the Polyclinic and the two special clinics, are combined in one unit. The number of units and the number of doctors, nurses and attendants is determined by the size of the city or town. For towns larger than 60,000, clinics are established in the ratio of one unit for each 50,000. Thus, in Moscow, Unit No. 1 serves 46,000 people, Unit No.2 serves 55,000. The fifth unit is equipped to handle an even greater number. It serves 65,000. On the other hand, in Colomna and Podolak, cities with less than 60,000 population, there is one unit to each city.

1750 visits daily or more than 500,000 visits per year. The staff of each unit consists of doctors, nurses, technicians and clerical help. The number of doctors in each speciality has been carefully worked out according to the requirements. The largest units, with 50 doctors, cover every speciality. Where the smaller units, in the APRIL, 1935 .. villages or small towns, do not cover a speciality, the standard unit is called upon.

The staff of this standard unit is grouped according to the following:

General medical doctors (internists) ……………….. 7

General medical doctors to answer calls………….. 9

Surgeons ……………………………………………………… 5

Pediatricians (diseases of childhood) ……………… 5

Gynecologists (diseases of women) ……………….. 3

Eye doctors ………………………………………………. 2

Ear, nose and throat ………………………………………. 2

Dentists ……………………………………………………. 8

Neuropathologists (diseases of nervous system)…. 1

Skin and venereal diseases …………………………….. 3

Laboratory Chief …………………………….. …………… 1

Roentgenologist (X-ray doctor)………………………. 2

Physio·therapist (treatments with electricity, etc.).. 1

Phthisiologist (specialist in tuberculosis) …. 1

These units are clinics and are not to be confused with prophylactic stations, maternity clinics, baby health stations, rest homes, sanitoria, hospitals for acute and chronic diseuea and other institutions under the All Union Department of Public Health.

From the above will be seen the fundamental difference between public health in the Soviet Union and in the United States. In the Soviet Union all health is public health. Workers do not go to a clinic as a last resort, after being unable to pay a private doctor. They go to the clinic as a matter of course, as part of the public health policy of the Soviet Union for the prevention of sickness.

Source: Health and Hygiene, The Magazine of the daily Worker Medical Advisory Board, Vol 1, No.1 April 1935

Source

Michael Parenti: Is Nicaragua More Democratic Than the United States?

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[From: Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 26, Summer 1986]

To justify the policies of attack, encirclement, embargo, and destabilization directed against Nicaragua, the Reagan administration has charged that the Sandinista government is on the road to totalitarianism, that it denies religious and political freedom and is a threat to the security of its neighbors. The goal of U.S. policy, claims President Reagan, is to bring about a pluralistic open society in Nicaragua, a goal that never loomed very large during the fifty years of the Somoza dictatorship. More recently in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution. journalist Shirley Christian echoed this line, arguing that the contra war was a justifiable attempt ”to force the Sandinista Front into accepting major structural changes toward an open political society.”

In response to this position, supporters of the Sandinista revolution have argued that Nicaragua does have a pluralistic society, is attempting to make a better life for its people, has no aggressive designs upon its neighbors, and instead is itself being invaded along two of it borders. Others have shown that by every standard, Nicaragua’s elections have been more open and democratic than El Salvador’s and its society more humane than most others in Latin America.

Indeed it can be further argued that by every standard Nicaragua is a more democratic society than the one waging aggression against — and I do not mean Honduras. By every major democratic criterion, Nicaragua comes off looking better than the United States. Let us begin with a comparison of the national elections held in November 1984 in both the United States and Nicaragua [1]

Popular Participation

One crucial measure of an open political system is the degree of popular participation. Most voting studies in the United States and elsewhere find that nonvoters show a high degree of alienation from the political process; they believe voting is not a means of effecting changes, and they often fail to see a meaningful choice in the candidates presented to them. (This is the view also of a surprisingly large number of persons who vote in the United States.) Therefore a comparison of the respective rates of turnouts in the Nicaraguan and U.S. election might be worth pondering for a moment.

The turnout in the United States in the 1984 election was little less than 53 percent of the eligible voters, one of the lowest of any western nation. Yet the press took little note of this and instead treated Reagan’s reelection as a landslide victory and democratic mandate. In contrast, voter turnout was nearly 82 percent in Managua and 75.4 percent in Nicaragua as a whole. Yet this turnout was described in the U.S. press as “disappointing” because the Sandinistas had hoped for an 80 percent national turnout. (Left unmentioned was the fact that in Nicaragua the voting was voluntary, unlike most Latin American countries.)

Range of Political Choice

Elections that offer little choice are said to be wanting in democratic standards. The choice in Nicaragua was noticeably wider and more democratic than in the United States. Seven parties ran for seats in the national assembly and for the presidency, representing a broad ideological range: from those on the far left (who damned the FSLN for its moderate policies and for allegedly betraying the workers and peasants) to those on the center and right (who accused the FSLN of exercising a rigid control over the country, wrecking the economy and leading Nicaragua to war). All these charges and countercharges were reported and debated extensively in the public and private press in Nicaragua.

In the United States the choice was limited largely to Democrats and Republicans, who in many races are often hard to tell apart. True, there were a variety of minor parties but these were not accorded the same opportunity for participation as were the various opposition parties in Nicaragua, as we shall see.

Access to the Ballot

A variety of parties may compete in an election but if they are denied roughly equal conditions of competition or access to the ballot or shoved to the side of the political arena, it cannot be said that democratic competition exist. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot — often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or a Republican. Minor parties are often required to gather a large number of signatures on nominating petitions in a limited time. Thus in Pennsylvania third-party state-wide candidates must collect 36,000 signature in a three-week period; in Maryland candidates are required to collect over 55,000 signatures in a short time. Sometimes a 5 percent requirement for signatures has been interpreted to mean 5 percent of voters from every district within the state — an impossible task for a third party whose base might he confined to a few urban areas.

In some states votes who are registered with the major parties are not allowed to sign or circulate minor-party nominating petition. Petitions are sometimes thrown out by hostile officials on trivial and sometimes unlawful technicalities. (as happened to the Communist Party in Illinois and Connecticut in recent elections) compelling minor parties to pursue expensive court battles that further drain their financial resources.

In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: $5,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend an estimated $750,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures, a feat accomplished in 1984 by no third party. And the trend is toward less and less ballot access: in the last 12 years, sixteen states have tightened the restrictions. Between 1980 and 1984, for example, the states of Indiana and North Dakota quadrupled the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.

In Nicaragua, in striking contrast, the electoral law favors the smaller political parties. In 1984 any party could register to field candidates by merely presenting a national directorate and two representatives from each of the country’s nine regions. One of the parties that so registered, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) asked to withdraw from the contest four days before election day. The Electoral Council ruled that it was too late for a party to pull out but that individual candidates could withdraw their names if they chose. None did so.

Accessibility to the Electorate

Being on the ballot does little good if the bulk of the voters have never heard of you or never hear *from* you. Third parties in the United States are given almost no national media coverage during campaigns. News media focus exclusively on the two major parties, failing even to report the votes that third parties get on election day (usually between one and two million all together), thus treating the minor parties as if they do not exist. Lacking the huge sums available to the major parties, especially the Republicans, the smaller parties are unable to buy major media time and space of their own. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 finances the major parties, giving each tens of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, but the smaller parties can obtain federal funds only after they glean 5 percent of the national vote (about 4 million votes for any one party) In sum, they cannot get the money until they get the 5 percent, but they cannot yet the percent until they get the money.

In contrast, the Nicaraguan electoral law provided public financing of 9 million cordobas ($321,000) for each participating party *regardless of size* and guaranteed an equal amount of time each day on the state-run radio stations and television channels. Each party was also permitted to receive unlimited funds from private donors, including people and organizations outside Nicaragua, a provision that worked to the advantage of the centrist and rightist parties. As the campaign got under complaints from the participating parties led to changes in the electoral law, including an increase in radio and television time, an additional 3 million cordobas in government campaign funds for each party, and a lengthening of the campaign period. Parties were also guaranteed access to products in short supply in Nicaragua: paper. printing facilities, transportation and gasoline. The various parties also produced their own party newspapers, together with leaflets and billboards.

Absence of Coercion

Instances of coercion and harassment of candidates have not been an unusual occurrence in U.S. elections. In the United States third-party candidates especially those of a pronouncedly leftist hue have run into difficulties of this sort. Harassment may not be confined to the candidates themselves but may include their supporters and canvassers. In 1972 in Vermont persons who merely signed Communist Party ballot petitions found their names publicized by town clerks in an effort to embarrass them into withdrawing their signatures. Generally though, in modern times American elections have not been marked by violence nor by any serious degree of threat against candidates. The coercions are largely of the legal kind noted earlier which work well enough against third parties. In regard to individual voters, however, it should be noted that not every American citizen has the right to an uncoerced vote, as testified by the continuing need for a Civil Rights Voting Act, the renewal of which President Reagan opposed.

Turning to Nicaragua, we find there were serious acts of violence and murder in the 1984 election — all committed by the force supported by the Reagan administration. The contras killed the presidents of two polling stations and two volunteer workers involved in registration. In the Jinotega mountains, one polling station worker’s throat was cut by the contras in front of his wife and family. On election day a member of the electoral police was shot to death by contras in La Tronica. In all, twelve election workers lost their lives in assaults by counterrevolutionaries .

The election was less than flawless in its procedures, but the overall performance was one that the Nicaraguan democracy can be proud of. There was free and open campaigning in every area of the country except in some war zones. According to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Council, there were some 250 public rallies. In general the election was characterized by untrammeled and vigorous political debate. If the FSLN was instituting a totalitarian regime, it was going about it in the wrong way.

About five of the public rallies were marred by incidents of violence but no serious injuries were reported. During the first months of the campaign a number of parties also reported that their campaign workers had been harassed by members of the FSLN, or that their posters had been destroyed. The Sandinista leadership denounced these incidents and they seemed to diminish thereafter. In addition, several rallies held by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN). a coalition of conservative business-oriented parties that abstained from the election, were disrupted by fights between CDN supporters and Sandinista counterdemonstrators. These rallies were technically illegal since the CDN had refused to participate in the election and indeed spent its time during the campaign attacking the electoral system itself. Once the CDN decided to conduct what seemed like a sabotage of the electoral effort (in the eyes of FSLN supporters), clashes with counterdemonstrators were difficult to avoid.

Because of these incidents, Arturo Cruz claimed that he was attacked by ‘mobs’ and that free electoral competition did not exist. It should be recalled that the country is at war and that Cruz openly identified with the enemy and was not at any time functioning as a legal or serious candidate. When Cruz, a banker in Wellington, arrived in Managua five months before the election, the CDN suddenly announced he would be their unified presidential candidate. Without officially registering as a candidate, Cruz toured the country for several days, drawing small crowds As suddenly as he arrived, he left, announcing he would not run under the prevailing electoral conditions. Throughout this period the U.S. media and the U.S. government described him as the “major opposition candidate” and treated his nonparticipation as evidence that the election was an unfair and meaningless exercise. In conflict with this view is the one expressed in the report, cited herein, by U.S. citizens in Nicaragua:

In general, our perception of the electoral campaign period is that the harassment and fistfights were scattered incidents that did not affect the generally free atmosphere of the electoral process. We found our neighbors and co-workers unafraid to voice their opinions, and heard and read virulent criticism of the FSLN. We know of no pressure on Nicaraguan to vote for the Sandinista Front. In particular, we found no truth in the charge made by _La Prensa_ that the cards which entitle families to receive subsidized food allotments were controlled in a concerted effort to influence Nicaraguans” votes. We conclude that the electoral campaign provided Nicaraguans with abundant information on which to base a free decision about their vote.

A similar conclusion was reached by the 460 official observers from all over the world who were free to check out all aspects of the voting process and ballot counting. None of the eleven participating parties filed any charges of fraud.

System of Representation

The FSLN won 64.9% of the vote, a victory that was only a few percentage points higher than the one enjoyed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The two runner-up parties, both center-rightist, won 13% and 9% respectively. The National Assembly seats were allocated according to proportional representation so that minority parties were assured of 35 of the 96 seats (including six seats that under the electoral law are allotted to the losing presidential candidates of each party). All this was dismissed by Reagan as “an electoral farce without any meaningful political opposition.”

In contrast, the single-member-district electoral system used in the United States is much less representative and therefore less democratic. The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40, 50 or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a district’s representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislative seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength of the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes. The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to “waste” their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence

Minorities

There are other criteria by which the American and Nicaraguan democracies might he compared. For instance, there is the treatment of minorities. Much is made of the Sandinistas’ forced relocation of Miskito Indians during a time of serious border attack, a policy that quickly proved not only wrong but in some instances wrongful. Today Managua is now trying to undo its previous policy and resettle the Miskito on their lands, an approach that compares favorably with the U.S. treatment of Native American Indians, to say the least, and with the forced relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps during World War II, uprooting them from California communities, that — unlike Nicaragua — were never threatened by enemy invasion. Nor did the U.S. government ever compensate the Japanese for the losses they sustained in the way of homes, businesses and farms

Political Dissent

There is the more general question of Freedom of communication for dissenting ideas. La Prensa is not the only opposition voice in Nicaragua. About half of the radio and television stations in the country are privately owned and most of these give the government a daily ideological pounding that makes National Public Radio look like the tepid establishment mouthpiece it is. The various political parties also produced their own newspapers during the campaign. There is a war going on in Nicaragua. The country is encircled by hostile forces. has endured invasions on both of its borders and has suffered much loss of life and destruction of property. Yet the censorship imposed is no worse and probably less restrictive than what the U.S. government imposed during World War II, and Managua’s treatment of dissenters and collaborators has been far more tolerant and liberal than the treatment accorded Tory sympathizers during and immediately after the American revolution or dissenters who received long prison terms during World War I.

In the United States, dissenting views that go beyond the mainstream. or even much left of center, are rarely allowed time or space in the major media, but are consigned to small-circulation magazines that teeter on the edge of insolvency. In short, there is a greater plurality of ideas, ideologies, and debate in Nicaragua than in the United States. On this score Nicaragua is a more open, more pluralistic society. It may not always remain so however. Subject to enough threat and siege, assault and murder, the Nicaraguans will start tightening up, choosing security over dissent, survival over pluralism. Indeed, it is miraculous that they haven’t already done so. The signs are there; President Daniel Ortega has said: “In the hardest moments we have to convert the defeats into more ideological unity, more political unity … [and] more organization.” (Miami Herald, August 4, 1985).

If the U.S. Government were really interested in encouraging pluralistic dissent in Nicaragua it would pursue a policy quite the opposite of the one now in the saddle, offering Managua friendship and support and the hope for peaceful independence and security. Democracy is a delicate flower that does not do well when repeatedly stomped upon.

Religious Freedom

The Reagan administration has charged that there is religious persecution in Nicaragua. But the Catholic church is alive and well. Elements of its clergy and laity can be found playing prominent roles on both sides within Nicaragua, struggling hard to build — or destroy — the revolution. Religious practice is not interfered with. The Rev. Miguel Gray, a Nicaraguan Baptist minister, hailed the religious freedom enjoyed in that country and pointed to the building of 19 additional churches since 1979 in a desperately poor country where not too many buildings of any kind are going up.

The level of religious tolerance in the United States today is as good as might be found anywhere. But in recent years the disturbing intolerance manifested by such groups as the Moral Majority, and the President’s open association with the religious Right, including his announcement that “ours is a Christian nation,” might cause us to give more attention to the question of religious tolerance here at home.

Human Needs

If democracy means more than a set of procedures but implies something, about the substantive conditions of life, then here too poor Nicaragua looks better than rich America in the era of Ronald Reagan. Decades of colonialism, Somocista pillaging, earthquake, revolution and counterrevolution, have left Nicaragua with a legacy of extreme poverty, yet the very worst is not happening to the poor citizens of that country as it is to the poor on the streets in Washington D.C.; no one is starving and no one has been tossed aside like so much human refuse.

Finally, in comparing Nicaragua with the United States. we might consider the degree to which each country is interfering with the political development and security of the other. As Reagan himself aptly put it: “Democracies do not spend a lot of money on arms, build large armies or invade or destabilize their neighbors.” With typical Orwellian inversion he was aiming this remark at Nicaragua but it applies most perfectly to hi own administration, which spends more money on arms and more time destabilizing and invading neighbors than we could ever imagine Nicaragua doing. The truth is also inverted when Reagan calls the Sandinistas “terrorists.” To be sure, there is plenty of terrorism going on in Nicaragua and plenty being exported to other countries in Central America, but it is conducted by contra mercenaries and Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran death squads and military, all financed and advised by the U.S.

Those “democratic socialist” critics on the left, who give qualified and skittish support to Nicaragua, who are quick to point out how they have “problems” with some of the things the Sandinistas are doing, who impose flawless democratic standards upon a tiny country that is under mortal siege from the Yankee Colossus, those critics might want to consider the realities of the situation. It is the United States which should be the object of their professedly democratic concerns; it is the U.S. which falls so dismally short of practicing the democratic pluralism it preaches to others, exporting violence and terrorism and pummeling a smaller neighbor that is trying to develop a democratic society of its own.

If one criterion of democracy is that a country not act like a thug and aggressor in its dealings with another country even to the point of refusing to show up in (world) court to defend itself when so charged — then United States under Reagan comes off looking tar less fair, less open, and less democratic than Nicaragua.

(*) Michael Parenti writes and lectures frequently on U.S. domestic and foreign politics. His most recent book is _Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media_ (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).

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Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

 

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The accusation that Stalin was an anti-Semite is a strange one. Neither Stalin’s written texts nor his actions indicate anti-Semitism. Indeed, they indicate precisely the opposite, as I will show in a moment. So those who wish to make the accusation have to rely on hearsay – second- and third-hand snippets from passing conversations, whether from an estranged daughter or from those within and without the USSR who were not favourably disposed to Stalin.[1] And once such a position is ‘established’, it is then possible to read some of his actions and written comments in such a light. For instance, the ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s becomes a coded ‘anti-Semitic’ campaign. Or the ‘doctors plot’ of 1952-53 – in which leading doctors were suspected of seeking to assassinate government officials – is seen as an excuse for a widespread anti-Semitic purge and deportation,[2] halted only because of Stalin’s death (we may thank Khrushchev for this piece of speculation). However, the only way such an assumption can work is that many doctors in the Soviet Union were Jewish; therefore the attack on doctors was anti-Semitic. Equally, even more doctors were Russian, but for some strange reason, the plot is not described as anti-Russian.

Unfortunately for Stalin’s accusers, even the hearsay indicates that Stalin was opposed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism of Russian culture. During the anti-cosmopolitan campaign of 1948-49 – which was actually anti-capitalist in the wake of the Second World War – it became the practice in some journal articles to include, where possible, the original family names in brackets after the Russian name. Sometimes, such original names were Jewish. When Stalin noticed this he commented:

Why Mal’tsev, and then Rovinskii between brackets? What’s the matter here? How long will this continue …? If a man chose a literary pseudonym for himself, it’s his right…. But apparently someone is glad to emphasise that this person has a double surname, to emphasise that he is a Jew…. Why create anti-Semitism?[3]

Indeed, to the Romanian leader, Gheorghiu-Dej, Stalin commented pointedly in 1947, ‘racism leads to fascism’.[4] At this point, we face an extraordinary contradiction: those who would accuse Stalin of anti-Semitism must dismiss his deep antipathy to fascism and deploy the reductio ad Hitlerum. If one assumes, even subconsciously, that Hitler and Stalin were of the same ilk, then it follows that Stalin too must be an anti-Semite. Apart from the sheer oxymoron of an anti-fascist fascist, this assertion seems very much like the speculative thought bubble that becomes ‘true’ through a thousand repetitions.[5]

I prefer to follow a rather conventional approach, instead of relying on hearsay, gossip and speculation. That approach is to pay attention to his written statements and actions. These are rather telling. Already in ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (1913), in which Stalin deals extensively with the Jews and the Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), he points out that dispersed minorities such as the Jews would be given the full range of protections, in terms of language, education, culture and freedom of conscience, within a socialist state. This would become his standard position, reiterated time and again and contrasted with the tsarist autocracy’s fostering of pogroms.[6] It was also reflected in extensive programs among Jews, including the fostering – not without problems and failures – of Yiddish, Jewish institutions and the significant presence of Jews at all levels of government.[7]

From time to time, Stalin had to deal with outbursts of anti-Semitism that still ran deep in Russian culture (thanks to the residual influence of tsarist autocracy). For example, in 1927 he explicitly mentions that any traces of anti-Semitism, even among workers and in the party is an ‘evil’ that ‘must be combated, comrades, with all ruthlessness’.[8] And in 1931, in response to a question from the Jewish News Agency in the United States, he describes anti-Semitism as an ‘an extreme form of racial chauvinism’ that is a convenient tool used by exploiters to divert workers from the struggle with capitalism. Communists, therefore, ‘cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism’. Indeed, in the U.S.S.R. ‘anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system’. Active ‘anti-semites are liable to the death penalty’.[9]

This was no empty boast, as those who accuse Stalin of anti-semitism seem to assume. It is worth noting that article 123 of the 1936 Constitution ensured that this position was law.[10]Active anti-Semitism, even racial slurs, were severely punished. It may be surprising to some, but one of the key tasks of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was to counteract waves of residual anti-Semitism.[11] Yes, one of the jobs of the infamous secret police of the USSR was to root out anti-Semitism.

Further, the ‘affirmative action’ program of the Soviet Union,[12] enacted in Stalin’s capacity as Commissar for Nationality Affairs (1917-24), was explicitly a program in which territories of identifiable ethnic minorities were established, with their own languages and forms of education, the fostering of literature and cultural expression, and local forms of governance. As for dispersed minorities, even within such regions, they were provided with a stiff framework of protections, including strong penalties for any form of racial denigration and abuse. Already in 1913 Stalin had prefigured such an approach, specifying among others ‘the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on’.[13] They too – in a program of indigenization (korenizatsiia)[14] – should be able to use their own languages, operate their own schools, law-courts and soviets, and have freedom of conscience in matters relating to religion. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the Jews too were identified as a ‘nation’ with territory, having the Jewish Autonomous district in Birobidzhan.[15] This importance of this move (part of Crimea had also been proposed) is rarely recognised. It eventually failed, but it was the first move towards Jewish territory in the modern era.[16]

A final question: what about the attacks on Judaism as a religion? In 1913, Stalin wrote of the ‘petrified religious rites and fading psychological relics’[17] fostered by pockets of the ‘clerical-reactionary Jewish community’.[18] Is this anti-Semitic? No, it is anti-religious. Judaism too was subject anti-religious campaigns, which had the result not so much of divorcing Jews from their religious ‘roots’ but of producing a profound transformation in Jewish institutions and culture, so much so that one can speak of a ‘sovietisation’ of Jewish culture that produced Jews who were not religious but proud of contributions to Soviet society.[19]

What are we to make of all this? Do the hearsay and implicit assumptions speak the truth, or do Stalin’s words and actions speak the truth? I prefer the latter. But if we are to give some credence to the hearsay, then it may indicate a profoundly personal struggle for a Georgian, who was brought up with an ingrained anti-Semitism, to root it out in the name of socialism.

[1] For useful collections of such hearsay, see Erik Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism  (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 201-7; Erik Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 1 (2007).

[2] Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953  (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar  (London: Phoenix, 2003), 626-39.

[3] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[4] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[5] As a small sample, see Benjamin Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 138-45; Vojtech Mastny,The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, vol. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1996), 157-58, 162; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice  (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 33-38; Philip Boobyer, The Stalin Era  (London: Routledge, 2000), 78; Konstantin Azadovskii and Boris Egorov, “From Anti-Westernism to Anti-Semitism: Stalin and the Impact of the ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ Campaigns of Soviet Culture,”Journal of Cold War Studies 4, no. 1 (2002); Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, 310-12; Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), 264; Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” 45; Paul R. Gregory, Terror By Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study)  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53, 265.

[6] I. V. Stalin, “The Russian Social-Democratic Party and Its Immediate Tasks,” in Works, vol. 1, 9-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1901 [1954]), 20-21; I. V. Stalin, “Rossiĭskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia partiia i ee blizhaĭshie zadachi,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 11-32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1901 [1946]), 21-23; I. V. Stalin, “To the Citizens: Long Live the Red Flag!,” in Works, vol. 1, 85-89 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1905 [1954]); I. V. Stalin, “K grazhdanam. Da zdravstvuet krasnoe znamia!,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 84-88 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1905 [1946]); I. V. Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” in Works, vol. 2, 300-81 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1913 [1953]), 319-21; I. V. Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” in Sochineniia, vol. 2, 290-367 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1913 [1946]), 308-10; I. V. Stalin, “Abolition of National Disabilities,” in Works, vol. 3, 17-21 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1917 [1953]), 17; I. V. Stalin, “Ob otmene natsionalʹnykh ogranicheniĭ,” in Sochineniia, vol. 3, 16-19 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1917 [1946]), 16; I. V. Stalin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question: Theses for the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P. (B.) Endorsed by the Central Committee of the Party,” in Works, vol. 5, 16-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1921 [1953]), 17, 27; I. V. Stalin, “Ob ocherednykh zadachakh partii v natsionalʹnom voprose: Tezisy k Х s”ezdu RKP(b), utverzhdennye TSK partii,” in Sochineniia, vol. 5, 15-29 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1921 [1947]), 16, 26; Stalin, “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question,” 52-53; Stalin, “K postanovke natsionalʹnogo voprosa,” 52-53.

[7] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 58-71, 77-84; Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), xv-xvi.

[8] I. V. Stalin, “The Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), December 2-19, 1927,” in Works, vol. 10, 274-382 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1927 [1954]), 332; I. V. Stalin, “XV s”ezd VKP (b) 2–19 dekabria 1927 g,” in Sochineniia, vol. 10, 271-371 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1927 [1949]), 324.

[9] I. V. Stalin, “Anti-Semitism: Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States,” in Works, vol. 13, 30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1931 [1954]), 30; I. V. Stalin, “Ob antisemitizme: Otvet na zapros Evreĭskogo telegrafnogo agentstva iz Аmerik,” in Sochineniia, vol. 13, 28 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1931 [1951]), 28.

[10] I. V. Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” in Works, vol. 14, 199-239 (London: Red Star Press, 1936 [1978]), article 123; I. V. Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” (Moscow: Garant, 1936 [2015]), stat’ia 123. This also applied to the earliest constitutions of republics, such as the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorus. See Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 52-57.

[11] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.

[12] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” in A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, 67-90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[13] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 375-76; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 362. See also the exposition of the seventh and ninth clause of the Party Program, concerning equal rights, language and self-government in I. V. Stalin, “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” in Works, vol. 1, 31-54 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1904 [1954]), 42-46; I. V. Stalin, “Kak ponimaet sotsial-demokratiia natsionalʹnyĭ vopros?,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 32-55 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1904 [1946]), 43-47.

[14] Korenizatsiia, a term coined by the Bolsheviks, is ‘derived directly not from the stemkoren- (“root”—with the meaning “rooting”) but from its adjectival form korennoi as used in the phrase korennoi narod (indigenous people)’ Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” 74.

[15] Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” article 22; Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” stat’ia 22.

[16] For a little detail, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 71-76.

[17] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 310; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 300.

[18] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 374-75; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 361.

[19] Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, 1-43.

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Socialism and Bureaucracy

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In the following article, A. Clark examines the problem of bureaucracy from the point of view of a society going through a process of socialist transformation. He suggests that the continually advancing technological revolution in the field of computerisation and the communication and information revolution will serve as the material base to resolve most or even all of the problems associated with bureaucracy.

THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION ENCOUNTERS BUREAUCRACY

The first successful socialist seizure of power by the working class did not end, but rather more aptly started with the problems of bureaucracy. Lenin’s initial optimism on having curtailed bureaucracy and its nefarious influence was short-lived. This was replaced by a more realistic view of the nature of the problem. In 1922, Lenin noted that

‘If we take Moscow with its 4,700 communists in responsible positions, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be said that the communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed’. (Lenin: Vol. 33, pp.288-289)

Here Lenin identifies what was to become a perennial theme of the Russian socialist revolution – the relation between the communists and the soviet bureaucracy, which included the struggle between them. Pre-Revolutionary Russia had behind it a long bureaucratic tradition and this bureaucratic past was superimposed, so to speak, on the new revolution. But in addition to the superimposition of this bureaucratic past on the new revolution, there was the fact that the state increasingly began to direct all aspects of the national economy. Even the collective farms, which emerged after the collectivisation drive in the 1930s, although not state institutions, were not completely autonomous from the state. The extension of state ownership and therefore the role of the state in the economy were bound to increase the size of the state administration and therefore a tendency towards bureaucracy was reinforced.

The increase in the size of the means of administration as a consequence of the extension of the regulatory influence of the state over the economy is not necessarily identical with what is referred to as the problem of bureaucracy, although it is often related to it. In other words, bureaucracy and administration are not the same thing even if usually closely related.

The view that state ownership necessarily leads to an increase in bureaucracy is not a valid argument, although it is a favourite argument for those who want to argue a case against socialism. Most theorists on bureaucracy disagree about the exact meaning of the term, and indeed, the problem of bureaucracy will arise mostly in cases where a bureaucracy is incompetent and dysfunctional. The soviet bureaucracy was a case in point. It had largely been inherited from Tsarism. Lenin had considered that, if the soviet bureaucracy rose to the level of competence of a bureaucracy that existed in one of the advanced bourgeois democratic republics, this would have constituted a big step forward for the Workers State. Had Russia gone through a long period of a bourgeois democratic republic, the problems of bureaucracy as it applies to the functional side of the question may hardly have arisen at all, at least no more than in an advanced capitalist country.

In historical terms Russia skipped a long period of bourgeois democratic development, and so the problems of bureaucracy were posed in a rather sharp, and at times, aggressive manner. To the functional side of the question of bureaucracy were added the socio-political problem of the state bureaucracy, or its leading stratum, consolidating itself into a special, privileged caste elevated above the masses.

BUREAUCRACY AND COUNTERREVOLUTION

The struggle against the soviet bureaucracy consolidating itself into a special privileged caste, which could usurp political power, or subvert the struggle for socialism, is part of the history of the Russian socialist revolution. Lenin in his writings on soviet bureaucracy refers to bureaucratic ‘grandees’. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, mentions Stalin’s reference to a ‘damned caste’. [1]

Stalin’s role here was decisive. He was in the forefront of the anti-bureaucratic struggle, which included the struggle against the soviet bureaucracy turning itself into a caste, which could potentially seize political power. This has been described by one writer as Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario. [2] Thus in the middle and late 1930s the struggle against the enemies hiding in the soviet bureaucracy came to a head. Even as early as 1919, Lenin had pointed out that

‘The Tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practice their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party’. (Lenin: March 1919, Vol. 29; p.183)

The nature of these purges has confused many bourgeois writers on the revolution. Pseudo-left elements, especially Trotskyists, misconstrue the purges completely suggesting that they represented counterrevolution. In reality, the purges were directed against the counterrevolution, which is the emerging new consensus of the more serious writers although they are anti-Stalinist.

That Trotsky could convince his small band of devotees that the purges were counterrevolutionary is not altogether surprising. After losing political power, Trotsky eventually abandoned the Leninist view on combating bureaucracy. Lenin had argued that the struggle against bureaucracy was a long-term process.
Trotsky rejected this view when he found himself outside of the communist party. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Trotsky went over to a short-term perspective, misleading those who were ignorant or foolish enough to follow him, to believe that the problems arising from bureaucracy could be resolved by means of a ‘political revolution’. This is precisely what Lenin had warned against, i.e., making a political platform out of the issue of bureaucracy.

Trotsky, rejecting Lenin on this issue and his slogan of ‘political revolution’ against the soviet bureaucracy could only serve the interest of bourgeois democratic counterrevolution. It is perhaps necessary to add here that when the Stalinist leadership turned against soviet bureaucracy, they were not going against Lenin’s advice on how to combat bureaucracy. [3] The Stalinist drive against the soviet bureaucracy served several different purposes. For Stalin, like Lenin, there could be no talk of smashing or overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy. While Trotsky and his supporters were putting forward the ultra-left theory about a counterrevolutionary ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, the Stalinists, guided by Marxism-Leninism saw the issue not in terms of overthrowing the supposedly counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy but rather purging the counterrevolutionary elements in the soviet bureaucracy.

It is clear that Marxist-Leninists, like Stalin, rejected Trotsky’s short-term strategy for fighting bureaucracy based on the idea of a political revolution. Trotsky had reached this conclusion not because it was scientifically correct, but rather because he saw it as the only means of regaining political power. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Stalin adhered to Lenin’s line.

The more serious bourgeois researchers into these matters come closer to the truth than any Trotskyist interpretation, thus Getty, when referring to the purges of the middle and late 1930s concludes that

‘The evidence suggests that the Ezhovschchina – which is what most people mean by the ‘Great Purges’ – should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy stamping out and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovschchina was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. (J. Arch Getty: The Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party reconsidered – 1933-1938; p.206) [4]

In Getty’s view, then, the Stalinist purges constitute a radical, ‘even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. This was certainly the apogee of radical Stalinist anti-bureaucratism. For Stalin the soviet bureaucracy had to be purged of all actual and potential counterrevolutionary elements. It was not a question of overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy, as the ultra-left Trotskyists would have, but rather of purging it of all counterrevolutionary elements. Many believe that the Soviet Union would not have stood up to the later Nazi aggression had this action not been taken.

Stalin’s anti-bureaucratic credentials can therefore be clearly established, although the problems of bureaucracy remained and could not be solved until society had reached a higher technical level.

In one form or another, to one degree or another previous socialist regimes have had to face this problem. The Titoite revisionists of Yugoslavia saw the solution in terms of decentralisation. In socialist Albania, the Cultural Revolution, with bureaucracy as one of its targets, began when in 1966 the Central Committee sent an open letter to all party members attacking the evils of bureaucracy. There began a significant reduction in the size of bureaucracy and Albania copied the Maoist line. Those bureaucrats who remained had to spend one month each year performing service in manual labour to keep them in touch with the working class and peasantry.

In truth though, this approach, whether in China or Albania, had no long-term benefits. It did however succeed in alienating the administrative staff, who naturally saw themselves as victims and were resentful of the disruption caused to the economy by these anti-bureaucratic drives.

As previously pointed out, the struggle against bureaucracy in a socialist country has two sides to it. First, there is the struggle against the dysfunctional aspect of bureaucracy. This includes the gradual reduction of the size of bureaucracy, while improving its administrative performance. The other aspect of this struggle is that aimed at preventing the bureaucracy, in particular its managerial layers separating itself from the rest of society – and becoming a privileged caste which can seize political power. Because bureaucracy has no particular ideology or ownership of property holding it together the possibility of it actually seizing political power is rather more problematic than is often realised.

THE WITHERING AWAY OF THE STATE AND BUREAUCRACY

For Marxists, the state is the inevitable product of class society. As classes fade away, the state in the sense of bodies of armed men and all its appurtenances, for the repression of one class by another will fade away. Bureaucracy is one of the forms in which state power in class society expresses itself. The function of the state is to defend a particular social set-up and its ruling class. This applies to socialist society with the same force as it applies to capitalist society. As long as capitalism and the bourgeoisie exist all talk about the withering away of the state is foolhardy in the extreme.

The Soviet State illustrates this point clearly. It had to grow in power and strength in order to resist the pressure of imperialism and world reaction. Those, like the Yugoslav revisionists who attacked Stalin for not promoting a premature withering away of the state, simply demonstrate their anarchist and anti-Marxist conceptions of this process. The state rises and falls with class society. Its departure from the historical stage cannot precede the departure of classes.

Just as Marxist-Leninists want a state that serves socialism, they want the bureaucracy to serve socialism as well. Stalin’s struggle with the soviet bureaucracy is well known and documented. This struggle was certainly inevitable. The essence of this struggle was to get the bureaucracy to serve the interest of socialism. But Stalin understood the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy. He knew the communist must struggle against bureaucracy while using it at the same time. Bureaucracy is a means of administration by specialists, which is deployed in the interest of socialism by the political leadership of the working class, while at the same time fighting its negative aspects.

When the state takes over the running of industry this can lead to an increase in its administrative functions, and hence bureaucracy. However, it is wrong to view an increase in administrative bureaucracy as a logical result of socialism per se. It is rather a result of the technological level of the given society. Thus, the state of technology comes into play when we consider the extent of the process of bureaucratisation. In other words, the process of bureaucratisation is determined by science and technology.

In today’s world of the continuing rapid advances in the technological revolution, with no end in sight, administrative systems are bound to reflect technological advances. This would suggest that administrative systems will decrease in size while increasing in their ability to process and control information. The old views that state ownership and socialism lead inevitably to an increase in administrative bureaucracy will no longer be plausible. Implicit in all this is the withering away of the state and bureaucracy.

This process, i.e., the withering away of the state and bureaucracy is part of the process of achieving communist society based on advancing technological revolution. For these reasons, it is incumbent on serious Marxists to reject pseudo-left Trotskyist theories that bureaucracies under socialism can be overthrown by means of ‘political revolutions’.

A. Clark.

Notes

[1] Svetlana Alliluyeva: 20 Letters to a Friend; p. 174.

[2] See Lars Lih’s introduction to: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov.

[3] The term ‘Stalinist’ refers to those who supported Stalin.

[4] The word ‘Ezhovschchina’, from the name Ezhov, sometimes spelt Yezhov, was the name of Nikolai Ezhov, who replaced Yagoda as head of Soviet security and subsequently put in charge of the purges.

Color Me Unimpressed: Rejoinder to Jason Unruhe

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“All we can do is to laugh as we gaze at this spectacle, for one cannot help laughing when one sees a man fighting his own imagination, smashing his own inventions, while at the same time heatedly asserting that he is smashing his opponent.”

 — J.V. Stalin.

In recent years, I have heard much talk about a supposed “Cold War” between myself and Jason Unruhe, better known to the internet as Maoist Rebel News. That would seem to imply that we are rivals, sparring partners, or even “frenemies.” To be clear: MRN and ES are not rivals, because that would imply we are comparable or even equals. Our “rivalry” has been entirely in the obsessive mind of Jason, who has taken every opportunity to viciously slander me and many, many others. It is therefore less a “Cold War” and more like a belligerent drunk screaming racial slurs at a certain car every time it drives by (which is a pretty apt metaphor for his past behavior); it is not a boxing match; it is a single incorrigible individual acting out.

But let’s get to business. In my article, “Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class,” I dissect what I term “Lin Biaoist” tendencies within Maoism and many other communist ideologies. Jason Unruhe has penned what he alleged to be a reply.

I would say this follow-up will act as a refutation of his points, but that would imply that he had any points to begin with. I would also point out my article cited many scholarly and primary sources. Jason Unruhe’s “refutation” cites precisely nothing. Instead, I’ll say this is an exercise in pointing out his flawed complaints and opinions presented as fact. One complaint in particular stood out to me:

“His article is unnecessarily long”

Dear reader, when you see a complaint like this, it’s code for “I didn’t read the article.” While I thank Jason Unruhe for informing us of his ignorance regarding the content of my work, it was completely unnecessary – the contents of his own “refutation” do that well enough. Indeed, I very much doubt Jason even read my article, because he utterly ignores my dissection of “Lin Biaoism” and just repeats his usual slurs.  I don’t pretend, nor do I want to know, the actions or activities of Jason Unruhe, but I surmise what happened is that he saw the title of my article and rushed off to pen his diatribe without actually reading it.

In fact, everything he says in his “rebuttal,” I dealt with extensively in the original article. Let me explain by breaking down the four main “points” Unruhe brings forward. He says:

“Any rift between Mao and Lin Biao is irrelevant to whether or not a theory is correct.”

This seems less like a point against my article and more like a textbook definition of attributing a position to someone that they simply don’t hold. My article extensively catalogues the rift between Mao and Lin Biao because it was a defining moment in Chinese history. Apparently explaining the origins of “third-worldism” is now associating it with a particular rift. I exhaustively cover the rift between Lin Biao and Mao to give context to his ideas and how they form a subset of Maoism, though a distinct one that is different than most. Unruhe has fundamentally misunderstood the entire purpose of the piece, or more likely, has willfully distorted it out of some combination of ignorance and malice.

“Pointing to Mao’s errors isn’t an argument against Third Worldism.”

Technically, I suppose this point is correct. Reality is just as much an argument against “third-worldist” tendencies as anything else. But as was the entire thesis of my article to begin with, modern “third-worldism” is largely based on Lin Biao’s ideas, distortions of Maoism, and anti-Marxist historical figures like Sultan-Galiyev:

“Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. [….] Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev.”

Unruhe continues to not actually address any of the content of the article or my points, or cite any sources of his own. My article discusses the origins of how “Lin Biaoist” ideas came about, and why they are wrong. Even when he attempts to “refute,” he seems content with refuting things no one ever said. The worst example of this can be seen in points three and four:

Mao was not a “Third Worldist,” nor is Third Worldism Maoist. (He doesn’t even understand the term.)

And:

Finally, as he’s had to be told on numerous occasions (showing his blatant dishonesty), Third Wolrdism has nothing to do with Three Worlds Theory. If he had any critical thinking skills he’d know that Three World’s Theory is anti-Third Worldist.

This is one of the more genuinely puzzling accusations he levels, since the fact that Mao wasn’t a “third-worldist” is precisely what I argue in my article:

“It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

I then go on to offer numerous Mao quotes that prove he did not support “Lin Biaoist” or “third-worldist” thought in the modern sense. Later on, I note:

“Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the ‘first world.’”

And one more time:

“For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s ‘ultra-imperialism,’ Mao’s ‘theory of the three worlds,’ and modern third-worldists.

Unruhe might have known this had he read the article. Furthermore, the idea that “third-worldism” isn’t Maoist is shaky at best. While “third-worldist” ideas may penetrate into other ideologies, it should be obvious to even the casual observer that they are largely based on distortions of Maoist ideology, and many such people identify as Maoists. Of course, Unruhe says nothing about the crux of the analysis just shouts about “dogmatists” and “Mao was a first worldist” and “Hoxha was a racist.”

As is typical of both his articles and his videos, he talked and wrote a lot and didn’t say anything of value at all.

Then, of course, he adds his signature comment:

“The two Whatevers of Hoxhaism. Whatever Stalin said is right and Whatever a Marxist of color said is wrong.”

If you look at that statement, it’s a classic “big lie” of Goebbelsian proportions. It’s something so extreme and off-the-wall that someone reading it without any prior knowledge or background would assume he’s correct. It’s also a statement of opinion presented as a statement of fact, and is not substantiated by anything. He presents it as though “everyone knows this,” or “it’s common knowledge” and doesn’t need to be proven – a logical fallacy.

Regarding the “Marxists of color” accusation, the E.S. website, and “Hoxhaism” in general, is positive towards Ho Chi Minh and Che and many other revolutionaries, not to mention that the majority of “Hoxhaist” parties are in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But hey, what do they know about racism compared to Jason Unruhe.

Finally, though I admit I know little about whatever other “feuds” Unruhe happens to be trying to ignite (most of his slander seems to just be bait so people will reply to him), it’s worth noting that though he accuses myself and the APL of believing, “everything a Marxist of color says is wrong,” on his own website he seems to have an obsessive need to prove that one individual Tom Watts has been ghostwriting articles under Kevin Rashid’s name. That’s a pretty vicious slander, and (guess what!) completely unsubstantiated. But by now everyone should know vicious unsubstantiated slander is Unruhe’s stock-in-trade. For some reason he even feels the need to mention this in his article about me.

Unruhe regularly complains about being slandered and attacked, but he peppers his own rhetoric and half-baked diatribes with plenty of juvenile slander. What goes around, comes around. If all he’s got is to just call me racist every time he sees my name, color me unimpressed.

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

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by Espresso Stalinist

An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.

I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.

Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.

After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.

Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.

In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:

“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”

It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:

“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”

Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.

The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:

“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”

During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:

“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”

Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:

“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”

This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:

“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”

The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.

In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:

“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”

(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).

The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.

For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.

I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:

1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;

2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.

In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.

It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.

Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:

President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.

Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.

President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.

Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.

So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.

Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:

“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.

But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.

Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.

Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:

“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”

(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.

Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.

Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.

Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.

Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.

Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:

“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).

These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).

V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:

“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.

It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”

(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)

“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)

Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:

“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

He continued:

“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:

“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.

This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.

Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”

(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)

So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.

One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”

The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families. 

It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.

Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:

“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”

(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).

As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:

“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).

As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:

“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).

In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:

“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).

And again in 1968:

“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”

(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).

As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.

Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”

During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:

“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).

Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:

“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).

He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:

“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.

According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.

Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).

In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:

“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”

(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).

Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.

Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.

For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism,” Mao’s “theory of the three worlds,” and modern third-worldists.

What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.

The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.

While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”

(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).

Why Does the Pseudo-Left Hate Grover Furr?

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by Espresso Stalinist

Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.

This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.

We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.

Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.

For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.

The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.

The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.

“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.

Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.

It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.

When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.

When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.

With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.

It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?

Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.

The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.

The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.

Marxism vs. Indigenism: An Anti-Critique of Ward Churchill

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This article was posted in 2008 by Rowland Keshena on a blog which is no longer active. Though there are some very pronounced ideological problems with this essay (particularly its references to “Stalinism,” as well as the “anthropocentrism” of Marxism and the idea that the concept of domination of nature by man is somehow “Judeo-Christian,” it remains a thorough criticism of the anti-communism of leading figures of the Native community. Thus, I have posted it here to aid in struggling against this anti-Marxist line put forward by several Native scholars and figures.

 – E.S.

I have come out and stated a couple of times that I feel that the critiques of Marxism offered by many in the Indian radical movement seem to come across as either having been born from extreme ignorance and/or extreme sect baiting. It has also been my tendency not to really address the claims of people like Russell Means, as I find him a hypocrite and a not so closeted libertarian (despite claims to being anti-capitalist), Vine Deloria Jr., given his absurd beliefs that equate to American Indian creationism, complete with white people being made by aliens and dinosaurs surviving until the 19th century, or Frank Black Elk as they tend to demonstrate an utter lack knowledge about Marxism. The one who I have reserved space for criticism though is Ward Churchill, given my otherwise great respect for him and his scholarship on American history, his place of greater acceptance (relative to the other I mentioned) in leftist circles and his somewhat more intellectual, but still hallow I find, criticisms of Marxism.

His single greatest attempt to present an Indian/Indigenist critique of Marxism was the book of essays he edited in 1983 called Marxism and Native Americans (on a side note, I have often wondered why the term Native Americans here, given his later use of American Indian, and the wider rejection by that time of Native American by the Indian radicals, and Indian country in general). I will admit that the book does make some good criticisms of Stalinism, particularly its anthropocentrism and its continuation of the Judeo-Christian notion of the domination of the earth by man, leading to a continuation of the ecocidal capitalist notion of “grow or die.” However the book also contained a number of problems for me, one being the gross misrepresentation of Marxism contained within, in that both the criticisms given by Churchill, Means, Black Elk, Deloria Jr and Larson and the arguments for Marxism are largely geared towards and presented from the Soviet Marxist-Leninist (read. Stalinist) model of savagely mutilated and intellectually robbed Marxism.

However the goal of this essay is not to attack this book as many good critiques of it already exist, in particular there is one by Canadian Indian nationalist and dedicated Marxist Howard Adams (which for the life of me I cannot find online), which I find of particular interest as it comes from an Indigenous person instead of a white. With that said, my goal here is take a specific look at an essay from Churchill called False Promises: An Indigenist Examination of Marxist Theory and Practice. In this essay Churchill lays out his primary issues with Marxist theory, in particular the Marxist positions on dialectics, nature, Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the labour theory of value. I will not address his problems with Marxism on the national question as I have already given my thoughts on it many times in the past, including on the problems with Marx and Engels’ original formulation of it. In order to try and have an ordered approach to this critique, I have attempted to keep the are sections of my critique the same as his.

Dialectics and Nature:

To open up the essay Churchill begins with a description of dialectical, or relational, thinking, in particular as he finds it in the European traditions and the American Indian ones, which he sums up in the Lakota phrase Metakuyeayasi (my relatives/relations). He also traces the history of dialectical thinking in Europe, having come into Europe via the the Greeks, who Churchill identifies as having gotten it in turn from the Egyptian civilization, who also apparently in turn borrowed it from the Ethiopians. Next he jumps to Hegel, who he states revived the tradition of dialectical thinking in Europe, and from whom the idea was introduced to Marx and the other Young Hegelians.

He also at this point correctly states that the Hegelian/Marxist concept of thinking in terms of relationships stands solidly opposed to the history of European thought, exemplified in linear rationality. It is here that Churchill’s critique of Marxist dialectics begins, as he sees the primary problem with Marx being that he has a presumption of the supremacy of human agency in determining historical reality. This of course, for Churchill, is a supremely Eurocentric presumption. Churchill sums it up in his essay by saying:

“His (Marx) impetus in this regard appears to have been his desire to see his theoretical endeavors used, not simply as a tool of understanding, but as a proactive agent for societal transformation, a matter bound up in his famous dictum that “the purpose of philosophy is not merely to understand history, but to change it.” (sic) Thus Marx, a priori and with no apparent questioning in the doing, proceeded to anchor the totality of his elaboration in the presumed primacy of a given relation—that sole entity which can be said to hold the capability of active and conscious pursuit of change, i.e.: humanity—over any and all relations, the Marxian “dialectic” was thus unbalanced from the outset, skewed as a matter of faith in favor of humans. Such disequilibrium is, of course, not dialectical at all. It is, however, quite specifically Eurocentric in its attributes, springing as it does from the late-Roman interpretation of the Judeo-Christian assertion of “man’s” supposed responsibility to “exercise dominion over nature,” a tradition which Marx (ironically) claimed oft and loudly to have “voided” in his rush to materialism.”

As Marx quite truly stated in his Theses on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Indeed this has come to form the core of much of Marxist theory and practice, however for Churchill to take a quotation like this and make a jump into presuming that Marx was ascribing some kind of transcendental and transhistorical superpower to human agency is inaccurate at best. I also find this critique a little strange in that it comes a completely different direction than many other critics of Marx who felt that he was far to deterministic and actually tended towards undermining the power of human agency.

Marx was quite clear though that what he was looking at was the conditions in which humans can act, and he is clear that these conditions are independent of the will of the actors, a position that is best summed up in these two quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” – “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.”

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.”

We must also take into account that these conditions that Marx speaks of are eminently historical. In other words they had come from somewhere, and they will go somewhere. It also follows on from this that they are eminently social. To sum it up, when Marx speaks on the range of action and the range of inaction available to humans in a particular place and time, he is talking about the constrictions of the social reality; this involves the economics, the politics, the religious, the cultural, so on, so forth. All of these factors for Marx are social.

The next contention by Churchill is that Marx failed to see the human existence as being one relation among several, with Marx most conspicuously leaving out the relation of nature. However for Marx even the concept of nature itself is social. This is because Marx feels that nature is not a given, but rather something that exists only in relation to human being. However, if we take the idea that nature is a relation, and not a deified and transhistorical category, it exists because some humans define it as such, it does not mean that we feel natural events like hurricanes or blizzards will bend to the will of humans, rather we see that the categories we as humans use to define and describe the world around us are also historical and relational, which is to say that they are dialectical.

We also must realize that humanity exists within geography and territory, and hence is effected by the various effects that nature has, such as temperature and landscape. However we must also recognize that we have managed to alter these effects, namely temperature and landscape. In other words, we have been able to alter nature. It’s still relational, still dialectical. Even if we describe nature as being something separate from humanity, Engels is right to point out that whatever we define as nature is going to be historical, continuously coming into being and changing.

Churchill is also quite correct to state that Marx is a humanist and anthropocentric, however I feel his incorrect to conflate this with a continuation of the Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. Again I feel this is misleading on Churchill’s part, because while it certainly does very well sum up the history of Stalinism, it conflates this with all of Marxism, and certainly ignores the development of ecosocialism. However, if we go back to Marx himself we can see that even his supposed anthropocentrism is dialectical and does not ignore the myriad relations in which humans exist, certainly not that of nature. Marx’s writings are also not speaking of a Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. An excellent rejonder to this often brought up criticism of Marx is the book Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature by John Bellamy Foster. In the book Foster shatters the notion that Marx cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. By covering not just Marx, but also other thinkers like Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig Feuerbach, P. J. Proudhon, and William Paley he is able to construct a materialist conception of nature and society, and thereby also challenge the mysticism and spiritualism prevalent in the modern Green movement, pointing toward a method that offers more lasting and sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis.

I could say more about that book and the other works of Foster, and indeed I highly suggest that anyone even thinking of calling themselves Marxist or radical read his works, however, summing up his work is not the point of this essay, so instead I will a quote from Engels’ The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man that find to be particularly devastating to Churchill’s argument:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. […] Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

The quote speaks for itself, the simple fact is that Marx and Engels were in no way ignorant of humanity’s position as being one relation existing dialectically among many, most certainly not separate from nature, but in nature. This also means that nature is eminently social. To that we can add that Marx and Engels were also both concerned with what we now often refer to as “sustainable development.” Simply, they didn’t think humans fucking up the environment was a good idea. They were actually highly critical of ecological destruction and degradation. As for Churchill’s assertion of Marx continuing the Judeo-Christian of human dominion over nature goes, let us consider Marx’s own words:

“Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” – “Capital Vol. III Part VI: Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent.”

The simple fact is that Churchill’s assertion that Marx and Engels support the domination of nature of man is just plain wrong. It goes to show that Churchill, like many other critics of Marx, whether Marxist, non-Marxist, Indigenist, religious or whatever has failed to actually read Marx in anyway but a superficial manner before attempting to present a coherent argument against Marxism.

Historical and Dialectical Materialism:

After attacking Marx’s notions of dialectics and nature Churchill moves on to attempting to examine the heart of Marxist theory, historical materialism. To begin Churchill makes the assertion that historical materialism examining human society as a mass of contradictions rather than as a unified whole, that all of human history is simply the history of contradictions reconciling themselves to production. Churchill then tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The so-called orthodox Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel (whom Churchill cites), assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.

I will admit that there is a grain of truth in Churchill’s assertions here, however he launches into a full scale attack on historical and dialectical materialism before providing a coherent account of them, with his attacks relying on wildly out of context quotations from Althusser and Baudrillard. Because of this it is very difficult to actually provide a defence of them against Churchill’s assertions. Perhaps in this case the best way to present a critique of Churchill is to actually provide a brief summary of historical and dialectical materialism, and in this way hopefully provide an answer to some of his problems.

The primary concept behind Marx’s theory of historical materialism is that all of history is based on, and driven by, material realities rather than mysterious forces. Another way of putting this is that it is not so much the ideas we have that determine our existence as much as it is the factors of our material existence that determine our ideas. This does not mean that ideas have absolutely no effect on the course of history, rather just that they only have effect when put into material action.

The Marxist model of historical materialism looks for the various causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to live, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society. But what is meant by economics in this context? We often hear the term “mode of production” get thrown around alot, e.g., capitalism is a mode of production. If we break down, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, etc and in order to do these things they have to produce things, in one fashion or another, and the “mode” is how the production is organized and carried out. Like all other factors, this organization to is intrinsically social and its impact and been seen and felt on all other aspects of society, including: culture, politics, the state, and law. To put it simply, our social relations of production play a major role in how our social relations are organized in general.

However, any given mode of production that a society utilizes does not appear out of thin air and and neither do things like culture and ideas. The fact is that these develop together, and develop because of the course of human actions and interactions. However, importantly, the behaviours and courses of action taken by people are determined by the possibilities, limits, and imperatives of historical conditions.

Additionally it must be noted that economics is not the sole factor in driving the course of human history, as other factors can, and do, play roles in this. The point here is that they can not be separated from one another, and one cannot ignore the foundational aspect of the material social realities. Also, different modes of production can and do exist at the same time, over the same spaces, but it also the case that there is one that is clearly more dominant and determining than others.

So now let us return to Churchill’s original critiques. By now I would hope that a few things have become apparent. Firstly, the mass of human society is a set of contradictions. However these contradictions are parts of a whole and they are determined by the logic of that whole. However the whole is not necessarily “unified,” however Churchill does not really explain what he means by that term anyway. Also, the contradictions do not actually have to reconcile themselves to production. Production is itself upheld by its own set of contradictions. The productive relations are fundamental, but they do not determine “all and everything.” Finally, it is true that human consciousness is determined by their material existence. Existence precedes essence, and not the other way around. However, the whole point of revolution is that the productive relations people enter into are independent of their wills doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.

Labour Theory of Value:

The final area of Churchill’s critique of Marxism that I will examine is Marx’s labour theory of value.

Churchill is partially correct in saying that the LTV forms the core of Marxist thought, as it actually forms the bedrock of the Marxist economic theory of capitalism as a mode of production. In the essay, Churchill describes the LTV as meaning that:

“value can be assigned to anything by virtue of the quantity and quality of human labor—i.e.: productive, transformative effort—put into it. This idea carries with it several interesting sub properties, most strikingly that the natural world holds no intrinsic value of its own.”

Again, this is partially true.

For us to really be able to understand the rationale behind Marx’s ideas on the LTV we examine what Marx is actually attempting to do with it. Marx’s drive behind formulating the LTV was to try and discover “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. What this means for us, and it is central in our attempt here to refute Churchill, is that Marx’s analysis is entirely specific to capitalism as an economic system.

So what is Marx speaking of when talks about value? Well, he is specifically speaking of the value of commodities. Now by this he means that a commodity is a thing that has some kind of use, though it does not matter how one defines that use. In Capital, Vol. 1 Marx states that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value.” What he is saying is that things can and do have intrinsic value of their own, though only when they are viewed from the perspective of humans. We also need to be crystal clear about what Marx meant by “use.” If a person derives aesthetic, spiritual, or some kind of non-physical use from a thing it is still a use. It may be a different kind of use-value, but still a use-value none the less. This means that use-value is subjective. However Marx did not mean this when he spoke of “value”.

In order for a commodity to be one it has to have some sort of exchange-value. So how do two disparate use-values find themselves being equated for exchange? There is a medium, money in the case of capitalism, which facilitates this exchange. However, what determines the particular exchange-value of a thing? For Marx, exchange-value is created by the labour required to actually produce the thing. This means that exchange-value is determined by the labour required for its production in a capitalist economy. This is what Marx means when he is talking about the LTV. This means that in the capitalist market-economy value is expressed as, and through, exchange-value, and exchange-value has nothing to do with a given thing’s use-value.

It is also entirely possible for something to have a use-value while having no exchange-value, meaning that it is not a commodity. Marx put it like this:

“A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity.” – “Capital, Vol. 1.”

With this in mind it is now possible for us to fully understand what Marx meant in Capital when he said, “nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” Here he is is quite specifically talking of exchange-value. If a thing is not useful to someone else, it will not be exchanged, and hence has no value in the capitalist economy.

What Churchill says is right on in terms of how a capitalist economy views value and Marx would have no problem in sharing Churchill’s critique, though it’s not actually the critique of Marx or Marxism the Churchill tries to present it as. Churchill says:

“A mountain is worth nothing as a mountain; it only accrues value by being ‘developed’ into its raw productive materials such as ores, or even gravel. It can hold a certain speculative value, and thus be bought and sold, but only with such developmental ends in view. Similarly, a forest holds value only in the sense that it can be converted into a product known as lumber; otherwise, it is mere an obstacle to valuable, productive use of land through agriculture or stock-raising, etc. (an interesting commentary on the Marxian view of the land itself). Again, other species hold value only in terms their utility to productive processes (e.g.: meat, fur, leather, various body oils, eggs, milk, transportation in some instances, even fertilizer); otherwise they may, indeed must be preempted and supplanted by the more productive use of the habitat by humans.”

As for what Churchill refers to as the “Marxian view of the land itself,” I would refer you back to the earlier quotes from Marx and Engels. I should also point out that Marx is very clear that nature is as much a source of wealth as labour, and was quite vociferous in his criticism of those who thought that labour alone was a source of wealth:

“Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” – “Critique of the Gotha Programme.”

Getting back to my earlier point about Churchill’s critique of Marxist ideas on dialectics and nature, it would seem that his critiques of the labour theory of value have little, if any, detailed analysis behind it. Again, it appears that Churchill has attempted nothing but the most superficial reading of Marx and Engels. Hence he comes off as little more than ignorant of what he trying to speak about.

However, the point behind this “anti-critique” of sorts is that what Churchill is presenting in his essay might go on to form the basis of further mistaken critiques of Marxism. I also feel that it is important the truth of Marxist thought is certainly not the kind of Soviet Marxism that Churchill and others repeatedly conflate with Marxism on the whole.

On a final note, I disagree with Churchill that Marxism and Indigenism are mutually exclusive. This perhaps because, rather than use his definition of Indigenism as being a mix of deep-ecology, soft-path technology and anarchism (more like minarchism), I prefer the definition given by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla. His definition of Indigenism boiled down to six basic demands:

* Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
* Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
* Equal political rights in relation to the state.
* The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
* The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
* The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.

These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from sections of the Red Power movement (especially in Canada), to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada. There is also absolutely no reason that this form of Indigenism cannot be compatible with Marxism and struggles for socialism, and I am proud to call myself both a Marxist and an Indigenist.

However, the indigenism that Ward Churchill propagates has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to a primitivist life-style, or at least a certain level of deindustrialization. This is also not far off of what Churchill, Means and others seek. However, the simple fact is that true Indigenism, not the vaguely disguised primitivism of Means and Churchill, it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.

Compilation of Interviews and Correspondence with J.V. Stalin

joseph-stalin-1949

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reply to the Letter of Mr. Richardson, Representative of the Associated Press News Agency
The Importance and Tasks of the Complaints-Bureaus
Marxism versus Liberalism: An Interview with H.G. Wells
Interview Between J. Stalin and Roy Howard
Replies to the Questions of Ralph V. Barnes
Talk With the German Author Emil Ludwig
Mr. Campbell Stretches the Truth
Talk With Colonel Robins
Greetings to the Red Army on its Fifteenth Anniversary
Reply to A Letter From Mr. Barnes

Reply to the Letter of Mr. Richardson, Representative of the Associated Press News Agency

To Mr. Richardson,

This is not the first time that false rumours that I am ill are circulating in the bourgeois press. Obviously, there are people to whose interest it is that I should fall ill seriously and for a long time; if not worse. Perhaps it is not very tactful of me, but unfortunately I have no data capable of gratifying these gentlemen.

Sad though it may be, nothing will avail against facts, viz., that I am in perfect health. As for Mr. Zondeck, he can attend to the health of other comrades, which is why he has been invited to come to the U.S.S.R.

J. Stalin

* In a letter dated March 25, 1932, addressed to J.V.Stalin, Mr Richardson , representative of Associated Press news agency asked if about the truth of the rumors in the foreign press that the Berlin physician m Zondeck, had been invited to Moscow to treat J.V.Stalin

The Importance and Tasks of the Complaints-Bureaus

The work of the Complaints Bureaus (1) is of tremendous importance in the struggle to remove shortcomings in our Party, Soviet, economic, trade-union and Komsomol apparatuses, in improving our administrative apparatus.

Lenin said that without an apparatus we should have perished long ago, and that without a systematic, stubborn struggle to improve the apparatus we should certainly perish. This means that resolute and systematic struggle against conservatism, bureaucracy and red tape in our apparatus is an essential task of the Party, the working class and all the working people of our country.

The tremendous importance of the Complaints Bureaus consists in their being a serious means of carrying out Lenin’s behest concerning the struggle to improve the apparatus.

It is indisputable that the Complaints Bureaus have considerable achievements to their credit in this field.

The task is to consolidate the results attained and to achieve decisive successes in this matter. There can be no doubt that if the Complaints Bureaus rally around them all the more active sections of the workers and collective farmers, drawing them into the work of administering the state and attentively heeding the voice of the working people both within and without the Party, these decisive successes will be won.

Let us hope that the five-day review of the work of the Complaints Bureaus will serve as a stimulus for further expansion of their work along the line indicated by our teacher Lenin.

Notes

(1) The Complaints Bureau was set up in April 1919 under the People’s Commissariat of State Control, which in 1920 was changed to the Peoples’ Commissariat of Workers’ And peasant’ Inspection. The tasks and scoop of the work of the Central Bureau of Complaints & Applications were defined by a regulation dated May 4, 1919, and those of the local departments the Central Bureau by a regulation dated May 24th, 1919, published over the signature of Stalin, People’s Commissar of State Control. From the day they were formed the Central and local bureaus did much work in investigating and checking complaints and statements of working people, enlisting in this work an extensive active of workers and peasants. From February 1934 the Bureau of Complaints and Applications was included in the system of the Soviet Control Commission under the Council of People’s Commissariats, and from September 1940 it has formed a department of the Peoples Commissariat (subsequently Ministry) of State Control of the USSR.

Stalin’s article, “The Importance of the USSR Complaints Bureaus” was written in connection with the all-Union five-day review and checking of the work of the bureaus carried out on April 9-14th, 1932, by a decision of the Presidium of the Central Control Commission of the CPSU(B), and the Collegium of the People’s Commissariat of the USSR.

Marxism versus Liberalism: An Interview with H.G. Wells

23 July 1934

Wells: I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Stalin, for agreeing to see me. I was in the United States recently. I had a long conversation with President Roosevelt and tried to ascertain what his leading ideas were. Now I have come to ask you what you are doing to change the world. . .

Stalin: Not so very much.

Wells: I wander around the world as a common man and, as a common man, observe what is going on around me.

Stalin: Important public men like yourself are not “common men”. Of course, history alone can show how important this or that public man has been; at all events, you do not look at the world as a “common man.”

Wells: I am not pretending humility. What I mean is that I try to see the world through the eyes of the common man, and not as a party politician or a responsible administrator. My visit to the United States excited my mind. The old financial world is collapsing; the economic life of the country is being reorganized on new lines. Lenin said : “We must learn to do business, learn this from the capitalists.”

Today the capitalists have to learn from you, to grasp the spirit of socialism. It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganisation, the creation of planned, that is, socialist, economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas, between Moscow and Washington? In Washington I was struck by the same thing I see going on here; they are building offices, they are creating a number of state regulation bodies, they are organising a long-needed Civil Service. Their need, like yours, is directive ability.

Stalin: The United States is pursuing a different aim from that which we are pursuing in the U.S.S.R.

The aim which the Americans are pursuing, arose out of the economic troubles, out of the economic crisis. The Americans want to rid themselves of the crisis on the basis of private capitalist activity, without changing the economic basis. They are trying to reduce to a minimum the ruin, the losses caused by the existing economic system. Here, however, as you know, in place of the old, destroyed economic basis, an entirely different, a new economic basis has been created. Even if the Americans you mention partly achieve their aim, i.e., reduce these losses to a minimum, they will not destroy the roots of the anarchy which is inherent in the existing capitalist system. They are preserving the economic system which must inevitably lead, and cannot but lead, to anarchy in production. Thus, at best, it will be a matter, not of the reorganisation of society, not of abolishing the old social system which gives rise to anarchy and crises, but of restricting certain of its excesses. Subjectively, perhaps, these Americans think they are reorganising society; objectively, however, they are preserving the present basis of society.

That is why, objectively, there will be no reorganisation of society.

Nor will there be planned economy. What is planned economy? What are some of its attributes? Planned economy tries to abolish unemployment. Let us suppose it is possible, while preserving the capitalist system, to reduce unemployment to a certain minimum.

But surely, no capitalist would ever agree to the complete abolition of unemployment, to the abolition of the reserve army of unemployed, the purpose of which is to bring pressure on the labour market, to ensure a supply of cheap labour. Here you have one of the rents in the “planned economy” of bourgeois society. Furthermore, planned economy presupposes increased output in those branches of industry which produce goods that the masses of the people need particularly. But you know that the expansion of production under capitalism takes place for entirely different motives, that capital flows into those branches of economy in which the rate of profit is highest. You will never compel a capitalist to incur loss to himself and agree to a lower rate of profit for the sake of satisfying the needs of the people. Without getting rid of the capitalists, without abolishing the principle of private property in the means of production, it is impossible to create planned economy.

Wells: I agree with much of what you have said.

But I would like to stress the point that if a country as a whole adopts the principle of planned economy, if the government, gradually, step by step, begins consistently to apply this principle, the financial oligarchy will at last be abolished and socialism, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, will be brought about. The effect of the ideas of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” is most powerful, and in my opinion they are socialist ideas. It seems to me that instead of stressing the antagonism between the two worlds, we should, in the present circumstances, strive to establish a common tongue for all the constructive forces.

Stalin: In speaking of the impossibility of realising the principles of planned economy while preserving the economic basis of capitalism, I do not in the least desire to belittle the outstanding personal qualities of Roosevelt, his initiative, courage and determination. Undoubtedly, Roosevelt stands out as one of the strongest figures among all the captains of the contemporary capitalist world. That is why I would like, once again, to emphasize the point that my conviction that planned economy is impossible under the conditions of capitalism, does not mean that I have any doubts about the personal abilities, talent and courage of President Roosevelt. But if the circumstances are unfavourable, the most talented captain cannot reach the goal you refer to. .

Theoretically, of course, the possibility of marching gradually, step by step, under the conditions of capitalism, towards the goal which you call socialism in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, is not precluded. .

But what will this “socialism” be? At best, bridling to some extent, the most unbridled of individual representatives of capitalist profit, some increase in the application of the principle of regulation in national economy. That is all very well. But as soon as Roosevelt, or any other captain in the contemporary bourgeois world, proceeds to undertake something serious against the foundation of capitalism, he will inevitably suffer utter defeat. The banks, the industries, the large enterprises, the large farms are not in Roosevelt’s hands. All these are private property. The railroads, the mercantile fleet, all these belong to private owners. And, finally, the army of skilled workers, the engineers, the technicians, these too are not at Roosevelt’s command, they are at the command of the private owners; they all work for the private owners. We must not forget the functions of the State in the bourgeois world.

The State is an institution that organises the defence of the country, organises the maintenance of “order”; it is an apparatus for collecting taxes. The capitalist State does not deal much with economy in the strict sense of the word; the latter is not in the hands of the State. On the contrary, the State is in the hands of capitalist economy. That is why I fear that in spite of all his energies and abilities, Roosevelt will not achieve the goal you mention, if indeed that is his goal. Perhaps, in the course of several generations it will be possible to approach this goal somewhat; but I personally think that even this is not very probable. .

Wells: Perhaps, I believe more strongly in the economic interpretation of politics than you do. Huge forces driving towards better organisation, for the better functioning of the community, that is, for socialism, have been brought into action by invention and modern science. Organisation, and the regulation of individual action, have become mechanical necessities, irrespective of social theories. If we begin with the State control of the banks and then follow with the control of transport, of the heavy industries of industry in general, of commerce, etc., such an all-embracing control will be equivalent to the State ownership of all branches of national economy. This will be the process of socialisation. Socialism and individualism are not opposites like black and white. .

There are many intermediate stages between them. .

There is individualism that borders on brigandage, and there is discipline and organisation that are the equivalent of socialism. The introduction of planned economy depends, to a large degree, upon the organisers of economy, upon the skilled technical intelligentsia, who, step by step, can be converted to the socialist principles of organisation. And this is the most important thing. Because organisation comes before socialism. It is the more important fact. .

Without organisation the socialist idea is a mere idea. .

Stalin: There is no, nor should there be, irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the interests of the individual person and the interests of the collective. There should be no such contrast, because collectivism, socialism, does not deny, but combines individual interests with the interests of the collective. Socialism cannot abstract itself from individual interests. Socialist society alone can most fully satisfy these personal interests. More than that; socialist society alone can firmly safeguard the interests of the individual. In this sense there is no irreconcilable contrast between “individualism” and socialism. But can we deny the contrast between classes, between the propertied class, the capitalist class, and the toiling class, the proletarian class?

On the one hand we have the propertied class which owns the banks, the factories, the mines, transport, the plantations in colonies. These people see nothing but their own interests, their striving after profits.

They do not submit to the will of the collective; they strive to subordinate every collective to their will. On the other hand we have the class of the poor, the exploited class, which owns neither factories nor works, nor banks, which is compelled to live by selling its labour power to the capitalists which lacks the opportunity to satisfy its most elementary requirements. How can such opposite interests and strivings be reconciled? As far as I know, Roosevelt has not succeeded in finding the path of conciliation between these interests. And it is impossible, as experience has shown. Incidentally, you know the situation in the United States better than I do as I have never been there and I watch American affairs mainly from literature. But I have some experience in fighting for socialism, and this experience tells me that if Roosevelt makes a real attempt to satisfy the interests of the proletarian class at the expense of the capitalist class, the latter will put another president in his place. The capitalists will say : Presidents come and presidents go, but we go on forever; if this or that president does not protect our interests, we shall find another. What can the president oppose to the will of the capitalist class?

Wells: I object to this simplified classification of mankind into poor and rich. Of course there is a category of people which strive only for profit. But are not these people regarded as nuisances in the West just as much as here? Are there not plenty of people in the West for whom profit is not an end, who own a certain amount of wealth, who want to invest and obtain a profit from this investment, but who do not regard this as the main object? They regard investment as an inconvenient necessity. Are there not plenty of capable and devoted engineers, organisers of economy, whose activities are stimulated by something other than profit? In my opinion there is a numerous class of capable people who admit that the present system is unsatisfactory and who are destined to play a great role in future socialist society. During the past few years I have been much engaged in and have thought of the need for conducting propaganda in favour of socialism and cosmopolitanism among wide circles of engineers, airmen, military technical people, etc. It is useless to approach these circles with two-track class war propaganda. These people understand the condition of the world. They understand that it is a bloody muddle, but they regard your simple class-war antagonism as nonsense.

Stalin: You object to the simplified classification of mankind into rich and poor. Of course there is a middle stratum, there is the technical intelligentsia that you have mentioned and among which there are very good and very honest people. Among them there are also dishonest and wicked people, there are all sorts of people among them, But first of all mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division and from the antagonism between poor and rich means abstracting oneself from the fundamental fact. I do not deny the existence of intermediate middle strata, which either take the side of one or the other of these two conflicting classes, or else take up a neutral or semi-neutral position in this struggle. But, I repeat, to abstract oneself from this fundamental division in society and from the fundamental struggle between the two main classes means ignoring facts. The struggle is going on and will continue. The outcome will be determined by the proletarian class, the working class.

Wells: But are there not many people who are not poor, but who work and work productively?

Stalin: Of course, there are small landowners, artisans, small traders, but it is not these people who decide the fate of a country, but the toiling masses, who produce all the things society requires.

Wells: But there are very different kinds of capitalists. There are capitalists who only think about profit, about getting rich; but there are also those who are prepared to make sacrifices. Take old Morgan for example. He only thought about profit; he was a parasite on society, simply, he merely accumulated wealth. But take Rockefeller. He is a brilliant organiser; he has set an example of how to organise the delivery of oil that is worthy of emulation. Or take Ford. Of course Ford is selfish. But is he not a passionate organiser of rationalised production from whom you take lessons? I would like to emphasise the fact that recently an important change in opinion towards the U.S.S.R. has taken place in English speaking countries. The reason for this, first of all, is the position of Japan and the events in Germany. But there are other reasons besides those arising from international politics. There is a more profound reason namely, the recognition by many people of the fact that the system based on private profit is breaking down. Under these circumstances, it seems to me, we must not bring to the forefront the antagonism between the two worlds, but should strive to combine all the constructive movements, all the constructive forces in one line as much as possible. It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you, Mr. Stalin; I think the old system is nearer to its end than you think.

Stalin: In speaking of the capitalists who strive only for profit, only to get rich, I do not want to say that these are the most worthless people, capable of nothing else. Many of them undoubtedly possess great organising talent, which I do not dream of denying. We Soviet people learn a great deal from the capitalists. And Morgan, whom you characterise so unfavourably, was undoubtedly a good, capable organiser. But if you mean people who are prepared to reconstruct the world, of course, you will not be able to find them in the ranks of those who faithfully serve the cause of profit. We and they stand at opposite poles. You mentioned Ford. Of course, he is a capable organiser of production. But don’t you know his attitude to the working class?

Don’t you know how many workers he throws on the street? The capitalist is riveted to profit; and no power on earth can tear him away from it. Capitalism will be abolished, not by “organisers” of production not by the technical intelligentsia, but by the working class, because the aforementioned strata do not play an independent role. The engineer, the organiser of production does not work as he would like to, but as he is ordered, in such a way as to serve the interests of his employers. There are exceptions of course; there are people in this stratum who have awakened from the intoxication of capitalism. The technical intelligentsia can, under certain conditions, perform miracles and greatly benefit mankind. But it can also cause great harm. We Soviet people have not a little experience of the technical intelligentsia.

After the October Revolution, a certain section of the technical intelligentsia refused to take part in the work of constructing the new society; they opposed this work of construction and sabotaged it.

We did all we possibly could to bring the technical intelligentsia into this work of construction; we tried this way and that. Not a little time passed before our technical intelligentsia agreed actively to assist the new system. Today the best section of this technical intelligentsia are in the front rank of the builders of socialist society. Having this experience we are far from underestimating the good and the bad sides of the technical intelligentsia and we know that on the one hand it can do harm, and on the other hand, it can perform “miracles.” Of course, things would be different if it were possible, at one stroke, spiritually to tear the technical intelligentsia away from the capitalist world. But that is utopia.

Are there many of the technical intelligentsia who would dare break away from the bourgeois world and set to work reconstructing society? Do you think there are many people of this kind, say, in England or in France? No, there are few who would be willing to break away from their employers and begin reconstructing the world.

Besides, can we lose sight of the fact that in order to transform the world it is necessary to have political power? It seems to me, Mr. Wells, that you greatly underestimate the question of political power, that it entirely drops out of your conception.

What can those, even with the best intentions in the world, do if they are unable to raise the question of seizing power, and do not possess power? At best they can help the class which takes power, but they cannot change the world themselves. This can only be done by a great class which will take the place of the capitalist class and become the sovereign master as the latter was before. This class is the working class. Of course, the assistance of the technical intelligentsia must be accepted; and the latter in turn, must be assisted. But it must not be thought that the technical intelligentsia can play an independent historical role. The transformation of the world is a great, complicated and painful process. For this task a great class is required. Big ships go on long voyages.

Wells: Yes, but for long voyages a captain and navigator are required.

Stalin: That is true; but what is first required for a long voyage is a big ship. What is a navigator without a ship? An idle man, Wells : The big ship is humanity, not a class.

Stalin: You, Mr. Wells, evidently start out with the assumption that all men are good. I, however, do not forget that there are many wicked men. I do not believe in the goodness of the bourgeoisie.

Wells: I remember the situation with regard to the technical intelligentsia several decades ago. At that time the technical intelligentsia was numerically small, but there was much to do and every engineer, technician and intellectual found his opportunity. That is why the technical intelligentsia was the least revolutionary class. Now, however, there is a superabundance of technical intellectuals, and their mentality has changed very sharply. The skilled man, who would formerly never listen to revolutionary talk, is now greatly interested in it. Recently I was dining with the Royal Society, our great English scientific society. The President’s speech was a speech for social planning and scientific control. Thirty years ago, they would not have listened to what I say to them now. Today, the man at the head of the Royal Society holds revolutionary views and insists on the scientific reorganisation of human society. Mentality changes. Your class-war propaganda has not kept pace with these facts.

Stalin: Yes, I know this, and this is to be explained by the fact that capitalist society is now in a cul-de sac. The capitalists are seeking, but cannot find a way out of this cul-de-sac that would be compatible with the dignity of this class, compatible with the interests of this class. They could, to some extent, crawl out of the crisis on their hands and knees, but they cannot find an exit that would enable them to walk out of it with head raised high, a way out that would not fundamentally disturb the interests of capitalism. This, of course, is realised by wide circles of the technical intelligentsia. A large section of it is beginning to realise the community of its interests with those of the class which is capable of pointing the way out of the cul-de-sac.

Wells: You of all people know something about revolutions, Mr. Stalin, from the practical side. Do the masses ever rise? Is it not an established truth that all revolutions are made by a minority?

Stalin: To bring about a revolution a leading revolutionary minority is required; but the most talented, devoted and energetic minority would be helpless if it did not rely upon the at least passive support of millions.

Wells: At least passive? Perhaps sub-conscious?

Stalin: Partly also the semi-instinctive and semiconscious, but without the support of millions, the best minority is impotent.

Wells: I watch communist propaganda in the West and it seems to me that in modern conditions this propaganda sounds very old-fashioned, because it is insurrectionary propaganda. Propaganda in favour of the violent overthrow of the social system was all very well when it was directed against tyranny. But under modern conditions, when the system is collapsing anyhow, stress should be laid on efficiency, on competence, on productiveness, and not on insurrection.

It seems to me that the insurrectionary note is obsolete. The communist propaganda in the West is a nuisance to constructive-minded people.

Stalin: Of course the old system is breaking down and decaying. That is true. But it is also true that new efforts are being made by other methods, by every means, to protect, to save this dying system.

You draw a wrong conclusion from a correct postulate.

You rightly state that the old world is breaking down.

But you are wrong in thinking that it is breaking down of its own accord. No, the substitution of one social system for another is a complicated and long revolutionary process. It is not simply a spontaneous process, but a struggle, it is a process connected with the clash of classes. Capitalism is decaying, but it must not be compared simply with a tree which has decayed to such an extent that it must fall to the ground of its own accord. No, revolution, the substitution of one social system for another, has always been a struggle, a painful and a cruel struggle, a life and death struggle. And every time the people of the new world came into power they had to defend themselves against the attempts of the old world to restore the old power by force; these people of the new world always had to be on the alert, always had to be ready to repel the attacks of the old world upon the new system.

Yes, you are right when you say that the old social system is breaking down; but it is not breaking down of its own accord. Take Fascism for example.

Fascism is a reactionary force which is trying to preserve the old system by means of violence. What will you do with the fascists? Argue with them? Try to convince them? But this will have no effect upon them at all. Communists do not in the least idealise the methods of violence. But they, the Communists, do not want to be taken by surprise, they cannot count on the old world voluntarily departing from the stage, they see that the old system is violently defending itself, and that is why the Communists say to the working class : Answer violence with violence; do all you can to prevent the old dying order from crushing you, do not permit it to put manacles on your hands, on the hands with which you will overthrow the old system. As you see, the Communists regard the substitution of one social system for another, not simply as a spontaneous and peaceful process, but as a complicated, long and violent process. Communists cannot ignore facts.

Wells: But look at what is now going on in the capitalist world. The collapse is not a simple one; it is the outbreak of reactionary violence which is degenerating to gangsterism. And it seems to me that when it comes to a conflict with reactionary and unintelligent violence, socialists can appeal to the law, and instead of regarding the police as the enemy they should support them in the fight against the reactionaries. I think that it is useless operating with the methods of the old insurrectionary socialism.

Stalin: The Communists base themselves on rich historical experience which teaches that obsolete classes do not voluntarily abandon the stage of history.

Recall the history of England in the seventeenth century. Did not many say that the old social system had decayed? But did it not, nevertheless, require a Cromwell to crush it by force?

Wells: Cromwell acted on the basis of the constitution and in the name of constitutional order.

Stalin: In the name of the constitution he resorted to violence, beheaded the king, dispersed Parliament, arrested some and beheaded others!

Or take an example from our history. Was it not clear for a long time that the tsarist system was decaying, was breaking down? But how much blood had to be shed in order to overthrow it?

And what about the October Revolution? Were there not plenty of people who knew that we alone, the Bolsheviks, were indicating the only correct way out?

Was it not clear that Russian capitalism had decayed?

But you know how great was the resistance, how much blood had to be shed in order to defend the October Revolution from all its enemies, internal and external.

Or take France at the end of the eighteenth century.

Long before 1789 it was clear to many how rotten the royal power, the feudal system was. But a popular insurrection, a clash of classes was not, could not be avoided. Why? Because the classes which must abandon the stage of history are the last to become convinced that their role is ended. It is impossible to convince them of this. They think that the fissures in the decaying edifice of the old order can be repaired and saved. That is why dying classes take to arms and resort to every means to save their existence as a ruling class.

Wells: But there were not a few lawyers at the head of the Great French Revolution.

Stalin: Do you deny the role of the intelligentsia in revolutionary movements? Was the Great French Revolution a lawyers’ revolution and not a popular revolution, which achieved victory by rousing vast masses of the people against feudalism and championed the interests of the Third Estate? And did the lawyers among the leaders of the Great French Revolution act in accordance with the laws of the old order? Did they not introduce new, bourgeois revolutionary laws?

The rich experience of history teaches that up to now not a single class has voluntarily made way for another class. There is no such precedent in world history. The Communists have learned this lesson of history. Communists would welcome the voluntary departure of the bourgeoisie. But such a turn of affairs is improbable; that is what experience teaches. That is why the Communists want to be prepared for the worst and call upon the working class to be vigilant, to be prepared for battle. Who wants a captain who lulls the vigilance of his army, a captain who does not understand that the enemy will not surrender, that he must be crushed? To be such a captain means deceiving, betraying the working class. That is why I think that what seems to you to be old-fashioned is in fact a measure of revolutionary expediency for the working class.

Wells: I do not deny that force has to be used, but I think the forms of the struggle should fit as closely as possible to the opportunities presented by the existing laws, which must be defended against reactionary attacks. There is no need to disorganise the old system because it is disorganising itself enough as it is. That is why it seems to me insurrection against the old order, against the law, is obsolete; old-fashioned. Incidentally, I deliberately exaggerate in order to bring the truth out more clearly. I can formulate my point of view in the following way :

first, I am for order; second, I attack the present system in so far as it cannot assure order; third, I think that class war propaganda may detach from socialism just those educated people whom socialism needs.

Stalin: In order to achieve a great object, an important social object, there must be a main force, a bulwark, a revolutionary class. Next it is necessary to organise the assistance of an auxiliary force for this main force; in this case this auxiliary force is the Party, to which the best forces of the intelligentsia belong. Just now you spoke about “educated people.” But what educated people did you have in mind? Were there not plenty of educated people on the side of the old order in England in the seventeenth century, in France at the end of the eighteenth century, and in Russia in the epoch of the October Revolution? The old order had in its service many highly educated people who defended the old order, who opposed the new order. Education is a weapon the effect of which is determined by the hands which wield it, by who is to be struck down.

Of course, the proletariat, socialism, needs highly educated people. Clearly, simpletons cannot help the proletariat to fight for socialism, to build a new society. I do not underestimate the role of the intelligentsia; on the contrary, I emphasize it. The question is, however, which intelligentsia are we discussing?

Because there are different kinds of intelligentsia.

Wells: There can be no revolution without a radical change in the educational system. It is sufficient to quote two examples: The example of the German Republic, which did not touch the old educational system, and therefore never became a republic; and the example of the British Labour Party, which lacks the determination to insist on a radical change in the educational system.

Stalin: That is a correct observation.

Permit me now to reply to your three points.

First, the main thing for the revolution is the existence of a social bulwark. This bulwark of the revolution is the working class.

Second, an auxiliary force is required, that which the Communists call a Party. To the Party belong the intelligent workers and those elements of the technical intelligentsia which are closely connected with the working class. The intelligentsia can be strong only if it combines with the working class.

If it opposes the working class it becomes a cipher.

Third, political power is required as a lever for change. The new political power creates the new laws, the new order, which is revolutionary order.

I do not stand for any kind of order. I stand for order that corresponds to the interests of the working class. If, however, any of the laws of the old order can be utilised in the interests of the struggle for the new order, the old laws should be utilised.

I cannot object to your postulate that the present system should be attacked in so far as it does not ensure the necessary order for the people.

And, finally, you are wrong if you think that the Communists are enamoured of violence. They would be very pleased to drop violent methods if the ruling class agreed to give way to the working class. But the experience of history speaks against such an assumption.

Wells: There was a case in the history of England, however, of a class voluntarily handing over power to another class. In the period between 1830 and 1870, the aristocracy, whose influence was still very considerable at the end of the eighteenth century, voluntarily, without a severe struggle, surrendered power to the bourgeoisie, which serves as a sentimental support of the monarchy. Subsequently, this transference of power led to the establishment of the rule of the financial oligarchy.

Stalin: But you have imperceptibly passed from questions of revolution to questions of reform. This is not the same thing. Don’t you think that the Chartist movement played a great role in the Reforms in England in the nineteenth century?

Wells: The Chartists did little and disappeared without leaving a trace.

Stalin: I do not agree with you. The Chartists, and the strike movement which they organised, played a great role; they compelled the ruling class to make a number of concessions in regard to the franchise, in regard to abolishing the so-called “rotten boroughs,” and in regard to some of the points of the “Charter.”

Chartism played a not unimportant historical role and compelled a section of the ruling classes to make certain concessions, reforms, in order to avert great shocks. Generally speaking, it must be said that of all the ruling classes, the ruling classes of England, both the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, proved to be the cleverest, most flexible from the point of view of their class interests, from the point of view of maintaining their power. Take as an example, say, from modern history, the general strike in England in 1926. The first thing any other bourgeoisie would have done in the face of such an event, when the General Council of Trade Unions called for a strike, would have been to arrest the trade union leaders.

The British bourgeoisie did not do that, and it acted cleverly from the point of view of its own interests.

I cannot conceive of such a flexible strategy being employed by the bourgeoisie in the United States, Germany or France. In order to maintain their rule, the ruling classes of Great Britain have never foresworn small concessions, reforms. But it would be a mistake to think that these reforms were revolutionary.

Wells: You have a higher opinion of the ruling classes of my country than I have. But is there a great difference between a small revolution and a great reform? Is not a reform a small revolution?

Stalin: Owing to pressure from below, the pressure of the masses, the bourgeoisie may sometimes concede certain partial reforms while remaining on the basis of the existing social-economic system.

Acting in this way, it calculates that these concessions are necessary in order to preserve its class rule. This is the essence of reform. Revolution, however, means the transference of power from one class to another. That is why it is impossible to describe any reform as revolution. That is why we cannot count on the change of social systems taking place as an imperceptible transition from one system to another by means of reforms, by the ruling class making concessions.

Wells: I am very grateful to you for this talk which has meant a great deal to me. In explaining things to me you probably called to mind how you had to explain the fundamentals of socialism in the illegal circles before the revolution. At the present time there are only two persons to whose opinion, to whose every word, millions are listening : you, and Roosevelt. Others may preach as much as they like; what they say will never be printed or heeded.

I cannot yet appreciate what has been done in your country; I only arrived yesterday. But I have already seen the happy faces of healthy men and women and I know that something very considerable is being done here. The contrast with 1920 is astounding.

Stalin: Much more could have been done had we Bolsheviks been cleverer.

Wells: No, if human beings were cleverer. It would be a good thing to invent a five-year plan for the reconstruction of the human brain which obviously lacks many things needed for a perfect social order.

(Laughter.)

Stalin: Don’t you intend to stay for the Congress of the Soviet Writers’ Union?

Wells: Unfortunately, I have various engagements to fulfil and I can stay in the USSR only for a week.

I came to see you and I am very satisfied by our talk. But I intend to discuss with such Soviet writers as I can meet the possibility of their affiliating to the PEN club. This is an international organisation of writers founded by Galsworthy; after his death I became president. The organisation is still weak, but it has branches in many countries, and what is more important, the speeches of the members are widely reported in the press. It insists upon this free expression of opinion – even of opposition opinion.

I hope to discuss this point with Gorky. I do not know if you are prepared yet for that much freedom here.

Stalin: We Bolsheviks call it “self-criticism.” It is widely used in the USSR. If there is anything I can do to help you I shall be glad to do so.

Wells: (Expresses thanks.)

Stalin: (Expresses thanks for the visit.)

Interview Between J. Stalin and Roy Howard

(On March 1, 1936, Comrade Stalin granted an interview to
Roy Howard, President of Scripps-Howard Newspapers.)

Howard: What, in your opinion, would be the consequences of the recent events in Japan for the situation in the Far East?

Stalin: So far it is difficult to say. Too little material is available to do so. The picture is not sufficiently clear.

Howard: What will be the Soviet attitude should Japan launch the long predicted military drive against Outer Mongolia?

Stalin: If Japan should venture to attack the Mongolian People’s Republic and encroach upon its independence, we will have to help the Mongolian People’s Republic. Stomonyakov, Litvinov’s assistant, recently informed the Japanese ambassador in Moscow of this, and pointed to the immutable friendly relations which the U.S.S.R. has been maintaining with the Mongolian People’s Republic since 1921. We will help the Mongolian People’s Republic just as we helped it in 1921.

Howard: Would a Japanese attempt to seize Ulan- Bator make positive action by the U.S.S.R. a necessity?

Stalin: Yes.

Howard: Have recent events developed any new Japanese activities in this region which are construed by the Soviets as of an aggressive nature?

Stalin: The Japanese, I think, are continuing to concentrate troops on the frontiers of the Mongolian People’s Republic, but no new attempts at frontier conflicts are so far observed.

Howard: The Soviet Union appears to believe that Germany and Poland have aggressive designs against the Soviet Union, and are planning military cooperation.

Poland, however, protested her unwillingness to permit any foreign troops using her territory as a basis for operations against a third nation. How does the Soviet Union envisage such aggression by Germany? From what position, in what direction would the German forces operate?

Stalin: History shows that when any state intends to make war against another state, even not adjacent, it begins to seek for frontiers across which it can reach the frontiers of the state it wants to attack, Usually, the aggressive state finds such frontiers.

It either finds them with the aid of force, as was the case in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium in order to strike at France, or it “borrows” such a frontier, as Germany, for example, did from Latvia in 1918, in her drive to Leningrad. I do not know precisely what frontiers Germany may adapt to her aims, but I think she will find people willing to “lend” her a frontier.

Howard: Seemingly, the entire world today is predicting another great war. If war proves inevitable, when, Mr. Stalin, do you think it will come?

Stalin: It is impossible to predict that. War may break out unexpectedly. Wars are not declared, nowadays. They simply start. On the other hand, however, I think the positions of the friends of peace are becoming stronger. The friends of peace can work openly. They rely on the power of public opinion. They have at their command instruments like the League of Nations, for example. This is where the friends of peace have the advantage. Their strength lies in the fact that their activities against war are backed by the will of the broad masses of the people. There is not a people in the world that wants war. As for the enemies of peace, they are compelled to work secretly. That is where the enemies of peace are at a disadvantage. Incidentally, it is not precluded that precisely because of this they may decide upon a military adventure as an act of desperation.

One of the latest successes the friends of peace have achieved is the ratification of the Franco-Soviet Pact of Mutual Assistance by the French Chamber of Deputies. To a certain extent, this pact is an obstacle to the enemies of peace.

Howard: Should war come, Mr. Stalin, where is it most likely to break out? Where are the war clouds the most menacing, in the East or in the West?

Stalin: In my opinion there are two seats of war danger. The first is in the Far East, in the zone of Japan. I have in mind the numerous statements made by Japanese military men containing threats against other powers. The second seat is in the zone of Germany. It is hard to say which is the most menacing, but both exist and are active. Compared with these two principal seats of war danger, the Italian-Abyssinian war is an episode. At present, the Far Eastern seat of danger reveals the greatest activity. However, the centre of this danger may shift to Europe. This is indicated, for example, by the interview which Herr Hitler recently gave to a French newspaper. In this interview Hitler seems to have tried to say peaceful things, but he sprinkled his “peacefulness” so plentifully with threats against both France and the Soviet Union that nothing remained of his “peacefulness.” You see, even when Herr Hitler wants to speak of peace he cannot avoid uttering threats. This is symptomatic.

Howard: What situation or condition, in your opinion, furnishes the chief war menace today?

Stalin: Capitalism.

Howard: In which specific manifestation of capitalism?

Stalin: Its imperialist, usurpatory manifestation.

You remember how the first World War arose. It arose out of the desire to re-divide the world. Today we have the same background. There are capitalist states which consider that they were cheated in the previous redistribution of spheres of influence, territories, sources of raw materials, markets, etc., and which would want another redivision that would be in their favour. Capitalism, in its imperialist phase, is a system which considers war to be a legitimate instrument for settling international disputes, a legal method in fact, if not in law.

Howard: May there not be an element of danger in the genuine fear existent in what you term capitalistic countries of an intent on the part of the Soviet Union to force its political theories on other nations?

Stalin: There is no justification whatever for such fears. If you think that Soviet people want to change the face of surrounding states, and by forcible means at that, you are entirely mistaken. Of course, Soviet people would like to see the face of surrounding states changed, but that is the business of the surrounding states. I fail to see what danger the surrounding states can perceive in the ideas of the Soviet people if these states are really sitting firmly in the saddle.

Howard: Does this, your statement, mean that the Soviet Union has to any degree abandoned its plans and intentions for bringing about world revolution?

Stalin: We never had such plans and intentions.

Howard: You appreciate, no doubt, Mr. Stalin, that much of the world has long entertained a different impression.

Stalin: This is the product of a misunderstanding.

Howard: A tragic misunderstanding?

Stalin: No, a comical one. Or, perhaps, tragicomic.

You see, we Marxists believe that a revolution will also take place in other countries. But it will take place only when the revolutionaries in those countries think it possible, or necessary. The export of revolution is nonsense. Every country will make its own revolution if it wants to, and if it does not want to, there will be no revolution. For example, our country wanted to make a revolution and made it, and now we are building a new, classless society.

But to assert that we want to make a revolution in other countries, to interfere in their lives, means saying what is untrue, and what we have never advocated.

Howard: At the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A., President Roosevelt and Litvinov exchanged identical notes concerning the question of propaganda.

Paragraph four of Litvinov’s letter to President Roosevelt said that the Soviet government undertakes “not to permit the formation or residence on its territory of any organisation or group – and to prevent the activity on its territory of any organisation or group, or of representatives or officials of any organisation or group – which has as its aim, the overthrow, or preparation for the overthrow of, or the bringing about by force of a change in the political or social order of the whole or any part of its territories or possessions.” Why, Mr. Stalin, did Litvinov sign this letter if compliance with the terms of paragraph four is incompatible with the interests of the Soviet Union or beyond its control?

Stalin: The fulfilment of the obligations contained in the paragraph you have quoted is within our control; we have fulfilled, and will continue to fulfil, these obligations.

According to our constitution, political emigrants have the right to reside on our territory. We provide them with the right of asylum just as the United States gives right of asylum to political emigrants.

It is quite obvious that when Litvinov signed that letter he assumed that the obligations contained in it were mutual. Do you think, Mr. Howard, that the fact that there are on the territory of the U.S.A., Russian white guard emigrants who are carrying on propaganda against the Soviets, and in favour of capitalism, who enjoy the material support of American citizens, and who, in some cases, represent groups of terrorists, is contrary to the terms of the Roosevelt-Litvinov agreement? Evidently these emigrants enjoy the right of asylum, which also exists in the United States. As far as we are concerned, we would never tolerate on our territory a single terrorist, no matter against whom his criminal designs were directed. Evidently the right of asylum is given a wider interpretation in the U.S.A. than in our country. But we are not complaining.

Perhaps you will say that we sympathize with the political emigrants who come on to our territory.

But are there no American citizens who sympathize with the white guard emigrants who carry on propaganda in favour of capitalism and against the Soviets? So what is the point? The point is not to assist these people, not to finance their activities. The point is that official persons in either country must refrain from interfering in the internal life of the other country. Our officials are honestly fulfilling this obligation. If any of them has failed in his duty, let us be informed about it.

If we were to go too far and to demand that all the white guard emigrants be deported from the United States, that would be encroaching on the right of asylum proclaimed both in the U.S.A. and in the U.S.S.R. A reasonable limit to claims and counterclaims must be recognised. Litvinov signed his letter to President Roosevelt, not in a private capacity, but in the capacity of representative of a state, just as President Roosevelt did. Their agreement is an agreement between two states. In signing that agreement both Litvinov and President Roosevelt, as representatives of two states, had in mind the activities of the agents of their states who must not and will not interfere in the internal affairs of the other side. The right of asylum proclaimed in both countries could not be affected by this agreement.

The Roosevelt – Litvinov agreement, as an agreement between the representatives of two states, should be interpreted within these limits.

Howard: Did not Browder and Darcy, the American Communists, appearing before the Seventh Congress of the Communist International last summer, appeal for the overthrow by force of the American government?

Stalin: I confess I do not remember the speeches of Comrades Browder and Darcy; I do not even remember what they spoke about. Perhaps they did say something of the kind. But it was not Soviet people who formed the American Communist Party.

It was formed by Americans. It exists in the U.S.A. legally. It puts up its candidates at elections, including presidential elections. If Comrades Browder and Darcy made speeches in Moscow once, they made hundreds of similar, and certainly stronger speeches at home, in the U.S.A. The American Communists are permitted to advocate their ideas freely, are they not? It would be quite wrong to hold the Soviet government responsible for the activities of American Communists.

Howard: But in this instance, is it not a fact that their activities took place on Soviet soil, contrary to the terms of paragraph four of the agreement between Roosevelt and Litvinov?

Stalin: What are the activities of the Communist Party; in what way can they manifest themselves?

Usually their activities consist in organising the masses of the workers, in organising meetings, demonstrations, strikes, etc. It goes without saying that the American Communists cannot do all this on Soviet territory. We have no American workers in the U.S.S.R.

Howard: I take it that the gist of your thought then is that an interpretation can be made which will safeguard and continue good relations between our countries?

Stalin: Yes, absolutely.

Howard: Admittedly communism has not been achieved in Russia. State socialism has been built.

Have not fascism in Italy and National-Socialism in Germany claimed that they have attained similar results? Have not both been achieved at the price of privation and personal liberty, sacrificed for the good of the state?

Stalin: The term “state socialism” is inexact.

Many people take this term to mean the system under which a certain part of wealth, sometimes a fairly considerable part, passes into the hands of the state, or under its control, while in the overwhelming majority of cases the works, factories and the land remain the property of private persons. This is what many people take “state socialism” to mean. Sometimes this term covers a system under which the capitalist state, in order to prepare for, or wage war, runs a certain number of private enterprises at its own expense. The society which we have built cannot possibly be called “state socialism.” Our Soviet society is socialist society, because the private ownership of the factories, works, the land, the banks and the transport system has been abolished and public ownership put in its place. The social organisation which we have created may be called a Soviet socialist organisation, not entirely completed, but fundamentally, a socialist organisation of society.

The foundation of this society is public property : state, i.e., national, and also co-operative, collective farm property. Neither Italian fascism nor German National-“Socialism” has anything in common with such a society. Primarily, this is because the private ownership of the factories and works, of the land, the banks, transport, etc., has remained intact, and, therefore, capitalism remains in full force in Germany and in Italy.

Yes , you are right, we have not yet built communist society. It is not so easy to build such a society. You are probably aware of the difference between socialist society and communist society. In socialist society certain inequalities in property still exist. But in socialist society there is no longer unemployment, no exploitation, no oppression of nationalities. In socialist society everyone is obliged to work, although he does not, in return for his labour receive according to his requirements, but according to the quantity and quality of the work he has performed. That is why wages, and, moreover, unequal, differentiated wages, still exist. Only when we have succeeded in creating a system under which, in return for their labour, people will receive from society, not according to the quantity and quality of the labour they perform, but according to their requirements, will it be possible to say that we have built communist society.

You say that in order t o build our socialist society we sacrificed personal liberty and suffered privation.

Your question suggests that socialist society denies personal liberty. That is not true. Of course, in order to build something new one must economize, accumulate resources, reduce one’s consumption for a time and borrow from others. If one wants to build a house one saves up money, cuts down consumption for a time, otherwise the house would never be built.

How much more true is this when it is a matter of building a new human society? We had to cut down consumption somewhat for a time, collect the necessary resources and exert great effort. This is exactly what we did and we built a socialist society.

But we did not build this society in order to restrict personal liberty but in order that the human individual may feel really free. We built it for the sake of real personal liberty, liberty without quotation marks. It is difficult for me to imagine what “personal liberty” is enjoyed by an unemployed person, who goes about hungry, and cannot find employment.

Real liberty can exist only where exploitation has been abolished, where there is no oppression of some by others, where there is no unemployment and poverty, where a man is not haunted by the fear of being tomorrow deprived of work, of home and of bread. Only in such a society is real, and not paper, personal and every other liberty possible.

Howard: Do you view as compatible the coincidental development of American democracy and the Soviet system?

Stalin: American democracy and the Soviet system may peacefully exist side by side and compete with each other. But one cannot evolve into the other.

The Soviet system will not evolve into American democracy, or vice versa. We can peacefully exist side by side if we do not find fault with each other over every trifling matter.

Howard: A new constitution is being elaborated in the U.S.S.R. providing for a new system of elections. To what degree can this new system alter the situation in the U.S.S.R. since, as formerly, only one party will come forward at elections?

Stalin: We shall probably adopt our new constitution at the end of this year. The commission appointed to draw up the constitution is working and should finish its labours soon. As has been announced already, according to the new constitution, the suffrage will be universal, equal, direct and secret.

You are puzzled by the fact that only one party will come forward at elections. You cannot see how election contests can take place under these conditions. Evidently candidates will be put forward not only by the Communist Party, but by all sorts of public, non-Party organisations. And we have hundreds of these. We have no contending parties any more than we have a capitalist class contending against a working class which is exploited by the capitalists.

Our society consists exclusively of free toilers of town and country – workers, peasants, intellectuals.

Each of these strata may have its special interests and express them by means of the numerous public organisations that exist. But since there are no classes, since the dividing lines between classes have been obliterated, since only a slight, but not a fundamental, difference between various strata in socialist society has remained, there can be no soil for the creation of contending parties. Where there are not several classes there cannot be several parties, for a party is part of a class.

Under National-“Socialism” there is also only one party. But nothing will come of this fascist one party system. The point is that in Germany, capitalism and classes have remained, the class struggle has remained and will force itself to the surface in spite of everything, even in the struggle between parties which represent antagonistic classes, just as it did in Spain, for example. In Italy there is also only one party, the Fascist Party. But nothing will come of it there for the same reasons.

Why will our suffrage be universal? Because all citizens, except those deprived of the franchise by the courts, will have the right to elect and be elected.

Why will our suffrage be equal? Because neither differences in property (which still exist to some extent) nor racial or national affiliation will entail either privilege or disability. Women will enjoy the same rights to elect and be elected as men. Our suffrage will be really equal.

Why secret? Because we want to give Soviet people complete freedom to vote for those they want to elect, for those whom they trust to safeguard their interests.

Why direct? Because direct elections to all representative institutions, right up to the supreme bodies, will best of all safeguard the interests of the toilers of our boundless country. You think that there will be no election contests.

But there will be, and I foresee very lively election campaigns. There are not a few institutions in our country which work badly. Cases occur when this or that local government body fails to satisfy certain of the multifarious and growing requirements of the toilers of town and country. Have you built a good school or not? Have you improved housing conditions?

Are you a bureaucrat? Have you helped to make our labour more effective and our lives more cultured?

Such will be the criteria with which millions of electors will measure the fitness of candidates, reject the unsuitable, expunge their names from candidates’ lists, and promote and nominate the best.

Yes, election campaigns will be very lively, they will be conducted around numerous, very acute problems, principally of a practical nature, of first class importance for the people. Our new electoral system will tighten up all institutions and organisations and compel them to improve their work. Universal, direct and secret suffrage in the U.S.S.R. will be a whip in the hands of the population against the organs of government which work badly. In my opinion our new Soviet constitution will be the most democratic constitution in the world.

Pravda
5 March 1936

Replies to the Questions of Ralph V. Barnes

1st Question: Certain circles in America are intensely discussing at the present time the possibility of Bending to Moscow an unofficial American trade representative, accompanied by a staff of specialists, for promoting the establishment of closer trade connections between the United States and the USSR What would be the attitude of the Soviet Government to such a proposal?

Stalin: In general, the USSR gladly receives trade representatives and specialists of countries which maintain normal relations with it. As regards the USA, I believe the Soviet Government would look favorably upon such an undertaking.

2nd Question: If certain of the obstacles existing on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to an expansion of Soviet-American trade were removed, what would be the approximate volume of orders that the USSR would be in a position to place in the United States?

Stalin: It is difficult to name a figure in advance without the risk of making a mistake. In any event the growing requirements of the USSR and the vast possibilities of the industry of the USA fully warrant the belief that the volume of orders would increase several times over.

3rd Question: Certain responsible circles in the USA are under the quite definite impression that obvious similarity has been revealed in the reaction of the Soviet and the American Governments to events in the Far East during the last seven months, and that in general as a consequence of this the divergence in policy between the Soviets and America has become less than hitherto. What is your opinion in this regard?

Stalin: It is impossible to say anything definite, since unfortunately it is very difficult to grasp the essentials of the Far Eastern policy of the USA As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, it has adhered, and will continue to adhere, to a firm policy of maintaining peace both with Japan and with Manchuria and China as a whole.

4th Question: There is a great difference between your country and mine, but there is also obvious similarity. Each occupies a vast territory in which there are no such obstacles to trade as tariff barriers. Stupid traditions, of course, interfere less with economic activity in the USSR and the United States than in other first-rate powers. The process of industrialization in the USSR is more like the same process in the United States than that in other West-European Powers. In my preceding question I already indicated that in some cases policy in Moscow and Washington is not so much at variance as might have been expected. Lastly, there is undoubtedly a deep friendly feeling between the American and Soviet peoples despite all the obvious difference between them. In view of these facts, would it not be possible to inspire the conviction in the minds of both peoples that no armed clash between the two countries should ever under any circumstances be allowed to occur?

Stalin: There can be nothing easier than to convince the peoples of both countries of the harm and criminal character of mutual extermination. But, unfortunately, questions of war and peace are not always decided by the peoples. I have no doubt that the masses of the people of the USA did not want war with the peoples of the USSR in 1918-19. This, however, did not prevent the USA Government from attacking the USSR in 1918 (in conjunction with Japan, Britain and France) and from continuing its military intervention against the USSR right up to 1919. As for the USSR, proof is hardly required to show that what its peoples as well as its government want is that “no armed clash between the two countries should ever under any circumstances” be able to occur.

5th Question: Contradictory reports have been spread in America concerning the real nature of the Second Five-Year Plan. Is it true that between January 1, 1933, and the end of 1937 the daily needs of the Soviet population will be satisfied to a greater extent than hitherto? In other words, will light industry really develop to a greater extent than before?

Stalin: Yes, light industry will develop to a much greater extent than before.

Talk With the German Author Emil Ludwig

Ludwig: I am extremely obliged to you for having found it possible to receive me. For over twenty years I have been studying the lives and deeds of outstanding historical personages. I believe I am a good judge of people, but on the other hand I know nothing about social-economic conditions.

Stalin: You are being modest.

Ludwig: No, that is really so, and for that very reason I shall put questions that may seem strange to you. Today, here in the Kremlin, I saw some relies of Peter the Great and the first question I should like to ask you is this: Do you think a parallel can be drawn between yourself and Peter the Great? Do you consider yourself a continuer of the work of Peter the Great?

Stalin: In no way whatever. Historical parallels are always risky. There is no sense in this one.

Ludwig: But after all, Peter the Great did a great deal to develop his country, to bring western culture to Russia.

Stalin: Yes, of course, Peter the Great did much to elevate the landlord class and develop the nascent merchant class. He did very much indeed to create and consolidate the national state of the landlords and merchants. It must he said also that the elevation of the landlord class, the assistance to the nascent merchant Class and the consolidation of the national state of these classes took place at the cost of the peasant serfs, who were bled white.

As for myself, I am just a pupil of Lenin’s, and the aim of my life is to be a worthy pupil of his. The task to which I have devoted my life is the elevation of a different class-the working class. That task is not the consolidation of some “national” state, but of a socialist state, and that means an international state; and everything that strengthens that state helps to strengthen the entire international working class. If every step I take in my endeavor to elevate the working class and strengthen the socialist state of this class were not directed towards strengthening and improving the position of the working class, I should consider my life purposeless.

So you see your parallel does not fit.

As regards Lenin and Peter the Great, the latter was hut a drop in the sea, whereas Lenin was a whole ocean.

Ludwig: Marxism denies that the individual plays an outstanding role in history. Do you not see a contradiction between the materialist conception of history and the fact that, after all, you admit the outstanding role played by historical personages?

Stalin: No, there is no contradiction here. Marxism does not at all deny the role played by outstanding individuals or that history is made by people. In Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy and in other works of his you will find it stated that it is people who make history. But, of course, people do not make history according to the promptings of their imagination pr as some fancy strikes them. Every new generation encounters definite conditions already existing, ready-made when that generation was born. And 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. Thus it is precisely Marx’s view that people must not be counterposed to conditions. It is people who make history, but they do so only to the extent that they correctly understand the conditions that they have found ready-made, and only to the extent that they understand how to change those conditions. That, at least, is how we Russian Bolsheviks understand Marx. And we have been studying Marx for a good many years.

Ludwig: Some thirty years ago, when I was at the university, many German professors who considered themselves adherents of the materialist conception of history taught us that Marxism denies the role of heroes, the role of heroic personalities in history.

Stalin: They were vulgarizers of Marxism. Marxism has never denied the role of heroes. On the contrary, it admits that they play a considerable role, hut with the reservations I have just made.

Ludwig: Sixteen chairs are placed around the table at which we are seated. Abroad people know, on the one hand, that the USSR is a country in which everything must he decided collectively, but they know, on the other hand, that everything is decided by individual persons. Who really does decide?

Stalin: No, individual persons cannot decide. Decisions of individuals are always, or nearly always, one-sided decisions. In every collegium, in every collective body, there are people whose opinion must be reckoned with. In every collegium, in every collective body, there are people who may express wrong opinions. From the experience of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual persons without being tested and corrected collectively, approximately 90 are one-sided. In our leading body, the Central Committee of our Party, which directs all our Soviet and Party organizations, there are about 70 members. Among these 70 members of the Central Committee are our best industrial leaders, our best co-operative leaders, our best managers of supplies, our best military men, our best propagandists and agitators, our best experts on state farms, on collective farms, on individual peasant farms, our best experts on the nations constituting the Soviet Union and on national policy. In this areopagus is concentrated the wisdom of our Party. Each has an opportunity of correcting anyone’s individual opinion or proposal. Each has an opportunity of contributing his experience. If this were not the case, if decisions were taken by individual persons, there would he very serious mistakes in our work. But since each has an opportunity of correcting the mistakes of individual persons, and since we pay heed to such corrections, we arrive at decisions that are more or less correct.

Ludwig: You have had decades of experience of illegal work. You have had to transport illegally arms, literature, and so forth. Do you not think that the enemies of the Soviet regime might learn from your experience and fight the Soviet regime with the same methods?

Stalin: That, of course, is quite possible.

Ludwig: Is that not the reason for the severity and ruthlessness of your government in fighting its enemies?

Stalin: No, that is not the chief reason. One could quote certain examples from history. When the Bolsheviks came to power they at first treated their enemies mildly. The Mensheviks continued to exist legally and publish their newspaper. The Socialist Revolutionaries also continued to exist legally and had their newspaper. Even the Cadets continued to publish their newspaper. When General Krasnov organized his counter-revolutionary campaign against Leningrad and fell into our hands, we could at least have kept him prisoner, according to the rules of war. Indeed, we ought to have shot him. But we released him on his “word of honor.” And what happened? It soon became clear that such mildness only helped to undermine the strength of the Soviet Government. We made a mistake in displaying such mildness towards enemies of the working class. To have persisted in that mistake would have been a crime against the working class and a betrayal of its interests. That soon became guile apparent. Very soon it became evident that the milder our attitude towards our enemies, the greater their resistance. Before long the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries—Golz and others—and the Right Mensheviks were organizing in Leningrad a counter-revolutionary action of the military cadets, as a result of which many of our revolutionary sailors perished.

This very Krasnov, whom we had released on his “word of honor,” organized the whiteguard Cossacks. He joined forces with Mamontov and for two years waged an armed struggle against the Soviet Government. Very soon it turned out that behind the whiteguard generals stood the agents of the western capitalist states—France, Britain, America—and also Japan. We became convinced that we had made a mistake in displaying mildness.

We learnt from experience that the only way to deal with such enemies is to apply the most ruthless policy of suppression to them.

Ludwig: It seems to me that a considerable part of the population of the Soviet Union stands in fear and trepidation of the Soviet power, and that the stability of the latter rests to a certain extent on that sense of fear. I should like to know what state of mind is produced in you personally by the realization that it is necessary to inspire fear in the interests of strengthening the regime. After all, when you associate with your comrades, your friends, you adopt quite different methods than those of inspiring fear. Yet the population is being inspired with fear.

Stalin: You are mistaken. Incidentally, your mistake is that of many people. Do you really believe that we could have retained power and have had the backing of the vast masses for 14 years by methods of intimidation and terrorization? No, that is impossible. The tsarist government excelled all others in knowing how to intimidate. It had long and vast experience in that sphere. The European bourgeoisie, particularly the French, gave tsarism every assistance in this matter and taught it to terrorize the people. Yet, in spite of that experience and in spite of the help of the European bourgeoisie, the policy of intimidation led to the downfall of Tsarism.

Ludwig: But the Romanovs held on for 300 years.

Stalin: Yes, hut how many revolts and uprisings there were during those 300 years! There was the uprising of Stepan Razin, the uprising of Yemelyan Pugachov, the uprising of the Decemberists, the revolution of 1905, the revolution of February 1917, and the October Revolution. That is apart from the fact that the present-day conditions of political and cultural life in the country are radically different from those of the old regime, when the ignorance, lack of culture, submissiveness and political downtroddenness of the masses enabled the “rulers” of that time to remain in power for a more or less prolonged period.

As regards the people, the workers and peasants of the USSR, they are not at all so tame, so submissive and intimidated as you imagine. There are many people in Europe whose ideas about the people of the USSR are old-fashioned: they think that the people living in Russia are, firstly, submissive and, secondly, lazy.

That is an antiquated and radically wrong notion. It arose in Europe in those days when the Russian landlords began to flock to Paris, where they squandered the loot they had amassed and spent their days in idleness. These were indeed spineless and worthless people. That gave rise to conclusions about “Russian laziness.” But this cannot in the least apply to the Russian workers and peasants, who earned and still earn their living by their own labor. It is indeed strange to consider the Russian peasants and workers submissive arid lazy when in a brief period of time they made three revolutions, smashed tsarism and the bourgeoisie, and are now triumphantly building socialism.

Just now you asked me whether everything in our Country was decided by one person.

Never under any circumstances would our workers now tolerate power in the hands of one person. With us personages of the greatest authority are reduced to nonentities, become mere ciphers, as soon as the masses of the workers lose confidence in them, as soon as they lose contact with the masses of the workers. Plekhanov used to enjoy exceptionally great prestige. And what happened? As soon as he began to stumble politically the workers forgot him. They forsook him and forgot him. Another instance: Trotsky. His prestige too was great, although, of course, it was nothing like Plekhanov’s. What happened? As soon as he drifted away from the workers they forgot him.

Ludwig: Entirely forgot him?

Stalin: They remember him sometimes—but with bitterness.

Ludwig: All of them with bitterness?

Stalin: As far as our workers are concerned, they remember Trotsky with bitterness, with exasperation, with hatred.

There is, of course, a certain small section of the population that really does stand in fear of the Soviet power, and fights against it. I have in mind the remnants of the moribund classes, which are being eliminated, and primarily that insignificant part of the peasantry, the kulaks. But here it is a matter not merely of a policy of intimidating these groups, a policy that really does exist. Everybody knows that in this ease we Bolsheviks do not confine ourselves to intimidation but go further, aiming at the elimination of this bourgeois stratum.

But if you take the laboring population of the USSR, the workers and the laboring peasants, who represent not less than 40 per cent of the population, you will find that they are in favor of Soviet power and that the vast majority of them actively support the Soviet regime. They support the Soviet system because that system serves the fundamental interests of the workers and peasants.

That, and not a policy of so-called intimidation, is the basis of the Soviet Government’s stability.

Ludwig: I am very grateful to you for that answer. I beg you to forgive me if I ask you a question that may appear to you a strange one. Your biography contains instances of what may be called acts of “highway robbery. Were you over interested in the personality of Stepan Razin? What is your attitude towards him as an “ideological highwayman”?

Stalin: We Bolsheviks have always taken an interest in such historical personalities as Bolotnikov, Razin, Pugachov, and so on. We regard the deeds of these individuals as a reflection of the spontaneous indignation of the oppressed classes, of the spontaneous rebellion of the peasantry against feudal oppression. The study of the history of these first attempts at such revolt on the part of the peasantry has always been of interest to us. But, of course, no analogy can be drawn here between them and the Bolsheviks. Sporadic peasant uprisings, even when not of the “highway robber” and unorganized type, as in the case of Stepan Razin, cannot lead to anything of importance. Peasant uprisings can be successful only if they are combined with uprisings of the workers and if they are led by the workers. Only a combined uprising headed by the working class can achieve its aim.

Moreover, it must never be forgotten that Razin and Pugachov were tsarists: they came out against the landlords, hut were in favor of a “good tsar.” That indeed was their slogan.

As you see, it is impossible to draw an analogy here with the Bolsheviks.

Ludwig: Allow me to put a few questions to you concerning your biography. When I went to see Masaryk he told me he was conscious of being a Socialist when only six years old. What made you a Socialist and when was that?

Stalin: I cannot assert that I was already drawn to socialism at the age of six. Not even at the age of ten or twelve. I joined the revolutionary movement when fifteen years old, when I became connected with underground groups of Russian Marxists then living in Transcaucasia. These groups exerted great influence on me and instilled in me a taste for underground Marxist literature.

Ludwig: What impelled you to become an oppositionist? Was it, perhaps, bad treatment by your parents?

Stalin: No. My parents were uneducated, but they did not treat me badly by any means. But it was a different matter at the Orthodox theological seminary which I was then attending. In protest against the outrageous regime and the Jesuitical methods prevalent at the seminary, I was ready to become, and actually did become, a revolutionary, a believer in Marxism as a really revolutionary teaching.

Ludwig: But do you not admit that the Jesuits have good points?

Stalin: Yes, they are systematic and persevering in working to achieve sordid ends. Hut their principal method is spying, prying, worming their way into people’s souls and outraging their feelings. What good can there be in that? For instance, the spying in the hostel. At nine o’clock the bell rings for morning tea, we go to the dining-room, and when we return to our rooms we find that meantime a search has been made and all our chests have been ransacked…. What good point can there be in that?

Ludwig: I notice that in the Soviet Union everything American is held in very high esteem, I might even speak of a worship of everything American, that is, of the Land of the Dollar, the most out-and-out capitalist country. This sentiment exists also in your working class, and applies not only to tractors and automobiles, but also to Americans in general. How do you explain that?

Stalin: You exaggerate. We have no especially high esteem for everything American, nut we do respect the efficiency that the Americans display in everythingÑin industry, in technology, in literature and in life. We never forget that the U.S.A. is a capitalist country. But among the Americans there are many people who are mentally and physically healthy who are healthy in their whole approach to work, to the job on hand. That efficiency, that simplicity, strikes a responsive chord in our hearts. Despite the fact that America is a highly developed capitalist country, the habits prevailing in its industry, the practices existing in productive processes, have an element of democracy about them, which cannot be said of the old European capitalist countries, where the haughty spirit of the feudal aristocracy is still alive.

Ludwig: You do not even suspect how right you are.

Stalin: Maybe I do; who can tell?

In spite of the fact that feudalism as a social order was demolished long ago in Europe, considerable relies survive in manner of life and customs. There are still technicians, specialists, scientists and writers who have sprung from the feudal environment and who carry aristocratic habits into industry, technology, science and literature. Feudal traditions have not been entirely demolished.

That cannot be said of America, which is a country of “free colonists,” without landlords and without aristocrats. Hence the sound and comparatively simple habits in American productive life. Our business executives of working-class origin who have visited America at once noted this trait. They relate, not without a certain agreeable surprise, that on a production job in America it is difficult to distinguish an engineer from a worker by outward appearance. That pleases them, of course.

But matters are quite different in Europe.

But if we are going to speak of our liking for a particular nation, or rather, for the majority of its citizens, then of course we must not fail to mention our liking for the Germans. Our liking for the Americans cannot he compared to that!

Ludwig: Why precisely the German nation?

Stalin: If only for the reason that it gave the world such men as Marx and Engels. It suffices to state the fact as such.

Ludwig: It has recently been noticed that certain German politicians are seriously afraid that the traditional policy of friendship between the USSR and Germany will be pushed into the background. These fears have arisen in connection with the negotiations between the USSR and Poland. Should the recognition of Poland’s present frontiers by the USSR become a fact as a result of these negotiations it would spell bitter disappointment for the entire German people, who have hitherto believed that the USSR is fighting the Versailles system and has no intention of recognizing it.

Ludwig: I know that a certain dissatisfaction and alarm may he noticed among some German statesmen on the grounds that the Soviet Union, in its negotiations or in some treaty with Poland, may take some step that would imply on the part of the Soviet Union a sanction, a guarantee, for Poland’s possessions and frontiers.

In my opinion such fears are mistaken. We have al- ways declared our readiness to conclude a non-aggression pact with any state. We have already concluded such pacts with a number of countries. We have openly declared our readiness to sign such a pact with Poland, too. When we declare that we are ready to sign a pact of non-aggression with Poland, this is not mere rhetoric. It means that we really want to sign such a pact.

We are politicians of a special brand if you like. There are politicians who make a promise or statement one day, and on the next either forget all about it or deny what they stated, and do so without even blushing. We cannot act in that way. Whatever we do abroad inevitably becomes known inside our country, becomes known to all the workers and peasants. If we said one thing and did another, we should forfeit our prestige among the masses of the people. As soon as the Poles declared that they were ready to negotiate a non-aggression pact with us, we naturally agreed and opened negotiations.

What, from the Germans’ point of view, is the most dangerous thing that could happen? A change for the worse in our relations with them. But there is no basis whatever for that. We, exactly like the Poles, must declare in the pact that we will not use force or resort to aggression in order to change the frontiers of Poland or the USSR, or violate their independence. Just as we make such a promise to the Poles, so they make the same promise to us. Without such a clause, namely, that we do not intend to go to war for the purpose of violating the independence or integrity of the frontiers of our respective states, no pact can he concluded. Without that a pact is out of the question. That is the most that we can do.

Is this recognition of the Versailles system? No. Or is it, perhaps, a guaranteeing of frontiers? No. We never have been guarantors of Poland and never shall become such, just as Poland has not been and will not be a guarantor of our frontiers. Our friendly relations with Germany will continue as hitherto. That is my firm conviction.

Therefore, the fears you speak of are wholly without foundation, They have arisen on the basis of rumors spread by some Poles and Frenchmen. They will disappear when we publish the pact, if Poland signs it. Everyone will then see that it contains nothing against Germany.

Ludwig: I am very thankful to you for that statement. Allow me to ask you the following question: You speak of “wage equalization,” giving the term a distinctly ironical shade of meaning in relation to general equalization. But, surely, general equalization is a socialist ideal.

Stalin: The kind of socialism under which everybody would get the same pay, an equal quantity of meat and an equal quantity of bread, would wear the same clothes and receive the same goods in the same quantities—such a socialism is unknown to Marxism.

All that Marxism says is that until classes have been finally abolished and until labor has been transformed from a means of subsistence into the prime want of man, into voluntary labor for society, people will be paid for their labor according to the work performed. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” Such is the Marxist formula of socialism, i.e., the formula of the first stage of communism, the first stage of communist society.

Only at the higher stage of communism, only in its higher phase, will each one, working according to his ability, be recompensed for his work according to his needs. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

It is quite clear that people’s needs vary and will continue to vary under socialism. Socialism has never denied that people differ in their tastes, and in the quantity and quality of their needs. Read how Marx criticized Stirner for his leaning towards equalitarianism; read Marx’s criticism of the Gotha Programme of 1875; read the subsequent works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and you will see how sharply they attack equalitarianism. Equalitarianism owes its origin to the individual peasant type of mentality, the psychology of share and share alike, the psychology of primitive peasant “communism.” Equalitarianism has nothing in common with Marxist socialism. Only people who are unacquainted with Marxism can have the primitive notion that the Russian Bolsheviks want to pool all wealth and then share it out equally. That is the notion of people who have nothing in common with Marxism. That is how such people as the primitive “Communists” of the time of Cromwell and the French Revolution pictured communism to themselves. But Marxism and the Russian Bolsheviks have nothing in common with such equalitarian “Communists. “

Ludwig: You are smoking a cigarette. Where is your legendary pipe, Mr. Stalin? You once said that words and legends pass, but deeds remain. Now believe me, there are millions of people abroad who do not know about some of your words and deeds, but who do know about your legendary pipe.

Stalin: I left my pipe at home.

Ludwig: I shall now ask you a question that may astonish you greatly.

Stalin: We Russian Bolsheviks have long ceased to be astonished at anything.

Ludwig: Yes, and we in Germany too.

Stalin: Yes, you in Germany will soon stop being astonished.

Ludwig: My question is the following: You have often incurred risks and dangers. You have been persecuted. You have taken part in battles. A number of your close friends have perished. You have survived. How do you explain that? And do you believe in fate?

Stalin: No, I do not. Bolsheviks, Marxists, do not believe in “fate.” The very concept of fate, of “Schieksal,” is a prejudice, an absurdity, a relic of mythology, like the mythology of the ancient Greeks, for whom a goddess of fate controlled the destinies of men.

Ludwig: That is to say that the fact that you did not perish is an accident?

Stalin: There are internal and external causes, the combined effect of which was that I did not perish. But entirely independent of that, somebody else could have been in my place, for somebody had to occupy it. “Fate” is something not governed by natural law, something mystical. I do not believe in mysticism. Of course, there were reasons why danger left me unscathed. But there could have been a number of other fortuitous circumstances, of other causes, which could have led to a directly opposite result. So-called fate has nothing to do with it.

Ludwig: Lenin passed many years in exile abroad. You had occasion to be abroad for only a very short time. Do you consider that this has handicapped you? Who do you believe were of greater benefit to the revolution—those revolutionaries who lived in exile abroad and thus had the opportunity of making a thorough study of Europe, but on the other hand were cut off from direct contact with the people; or those revolutionaries who carried on their work here, knew the moods of the people, but on the other hand knew little of Europe?

Stalin: Lenin must be excluded from this comparison. Very few of those who remained in Russia were as intimately connected with the actual state of affairs there and with the labor movement within the country as Lenin was, although he was a long time abroad. Whenever I went to see him abroad—in 1906, 1907, 1912 and 1913—I saw piles of letters he had received from practical Party workers in Russia, and he was al- ways better informed than those who stayed in Russia. He always considered his stay abroad to be a burden to him. There are many more comrades in our Party and its leadership who remained in Russia, who did not go abroad, than there are former exiles, and they, of course, were able to be of greater benefit to the revolution than those who were in exile abroad. Actually few former exiles are left in our Party. They may add up to about one or two hundred out of the two million members of the Party. Of the seventy members of the Central Committee scarcely more than three or four lived in exile abroad.

As far as knowledge of Europe, a study of Europe, is concerned, those who wished to make such a study had, of course, more opportunities of doing so while living there. In that respect those of us who did not live long abroad lost something. But living abroad is not at all a decisive factor in making a study of European economies, technique, the cadres of the labor movement and literature of every description, whether belies letters or scientific. Other things being equal, it is of course easier to study Europe on the spot. But the disadvantage of those who have not lived in Europe is not of much importance. On the contrary, I know many comrades who were abroad twenty years, lived somewhere in Charlottenburg or in the Latin Quarter, spent years in cafes drinking beer, and who yet did not manage to acquire a knowledge of Europe and failed to understand it.

Ludwig: Do you not think that among the Germans as a nation love of order is more highly developed than love of freedom?

Stalin: There was a time when people in Germany did indeed show great respect for the law. In 1907, when I happened to spend two or three months in Berlin, we Russian Bolsheviks often used to laugh at some of our German friends on account of their respect for the law. There was, for example, a story in circulation about an occasion when the Berlin Social-Democratic Executive fixed a definite day and hour for a demonstration that was to be attended by the members of all the suburban organizations. A group of about 200 from one of the suburbs arrived in the city punctually at the hour appointed, but failed to appear at the demonstration, the reason being that they had waited two hours on the station platform because the ticket collector at the exit had failed to make his appearance and there had been nobody to give their tickets to. It used to be said in jest that it took a Russian comrade to show the Germans a simple way out of their fix: to leave the platform without giving up their tickets…. But is there anything like that in Germany now? Is there respect for the law in Germany today? What about the National Socialists, who one would think ought to be the first to stand guard over bourgeois legality? Do they not break the law, wreck workers’ clubs and assassinate workers with impunity? I make no mention of the workers, who, it seems to me, long ago lost all respect for bourgeois legality. Yes, the Germans have changed quite a bit lately.

Ludwig: Under what conditions is it possible to unite the working Glass finally and completely under the leadership of one party? Why is such a uniting of the working class possible only after the proletarian revolution, as the Communists maintain?

Stalin: Such a uniting of the working Class around the Communist Party is most easily accomplished as the result of a victorious proletarian revolution. But it will undoubtedly be achieved in the main even before the revolution.

Ludwig: Does ambition stimulate or hinder a great historical figure in his activities?

Stalin: The part played by ambition differs under different conditions. Ambition may he a stimulus or a hindrance to the activities of a great historical figure. It all depends on circumstances. More often than not it is a hindrance.

Ludwig: Is the October Revolution in any sense the continuation and culmination of the Great French Revolution?

Stalin: The October Revolution is neither the continuation nor the culmination of the Great French Revolution. The purpose of the French Revolution was to abolish feudalism in order to establish capitalism. The purpose of the October Revolution, however, is to abolish capitalism in order to establish socialism.

Mr. Campbell Stretches the Truth

A book in English entitled Russia — Market or Menace? written by Mr. Campbell, a well-known figure in the agricultural world, who had visited the USSR, recently made its appearance in America. In this book Mr. Campbell, among other things, gives an account of what he calls an “interview” with Stalin that took place in Moscow in January 1929. This “interview” is remarkable for the fact that its every sentence is either pure fiction or a sensational piece of trickery with the aim of gaining publicity for the book and its author.

It will not be amiss, in my opinion, to say a few words in order to expose these fictitious statements.

Mr. Campbell is obviously drawing on his imagination when he says that his talk with Stalin, which began at 1 p.m., “lasted until well after dark, in fact, until dawn.” Actually, the talk did not last more than two hours. Mr. Campbell’s imagination is truly American.

Mr. Campbell is stretching the truth when he asserts that Stalin “took my hand in both of his and said: ‘we can be friends.'” As a matter of fact, nothing of the kind happened or could have happened.

Mr. Campbell cannot but know that Stalin has no need of “friends” of the Campbell type.

Mr. Campbell again stretches the truth when he says that on sending him a record of the talk, I added the postscript: “Keep this record, it may be a very historical document some day… As a matter of fact the record was sent to Mr. Campbell by the translator Yarotsky without any postscript at all. Mr. Campbell’s desire to make capital out of Stalin obviously betrays him.

Mr. Campbell still further stretches the truth when he puts such words into the mouth of Stalin as that “under Trotsky there had been an attempt to spread communism throughout the world; that this was the primary cause of the break between hirnself [i.e., Stalin] and Trotsky; that Trotsky believed in universal communism, while he [Stalin] worked to confine his efforts to his own country.” Only people who have deserted to the camp of the Kautskys and the Welses can believe such stuff and nonsense, in which the facts are turned upside-down. As a matter of fact, the talk with Campbell had no bearing on the Trotsky question and Trotsky’s name was not mentioned at all in the course of it.

And so on in the same strain.

Mr. Campbell mentioned in his book the record of his talk with Stalin but he did not find it necessary to publish it in his book. Why? Was it not because publication of the record would have upset Mr. Campbell’s plan to utilize the sensational fables about the “interview” with Stalin in order to gain publicity for Campbell’s book among the American philistines?

I think the best punishment for the lying Mr. Campbell would he to publish the record of the talk between Mr. Campbell and Stalin. This would be the surest means of exposing his lies and establishing the facts.

J . Stalin

November 23, 1932

Record of the Talk with Mr. Campbell

January 28, 1929

After an exchange of preliminary phrases Mr. Campbell explained his desire to pay a visit to Stalin. He pointed out that although he was in the USSR in a private capacity, he had, before leaving the United States, seen Coolidge and also Hoover, the newly elected President, and received their full approval of his trip to Russia. His stay here showed him the amazing activity of the nation that has remained an enigma to the whole world. He particularly liked the projects for the development of agriculture. He knew of the existence of many wrong notions about Russia, but had himself been in the Kremlin, for instance, and had seen the work being done to preserve memorials of art and in general to raise the level of cultural life. He was particularly struck by the solicitude for working men and working women. It seemed to him an interesting coincidence that before his departure from the United States he was invited by the President, and saw Coolidge’s son and wife, while yesterday he was the guest of Mikhail Kalinin, President of the USSR, who impressed him tremendously.

Stalin: With regard to our plans of agricultural and industrial development, as well as our concern for the development of cultural life, we are still at the very beginning of our work. In the building up of industry we have done very little as yet. Still less has been done in carrying out the plans for agricultural re-construction. We must not forget that our country was exceedingly backward and that this backwardness is still a great handicap.

The difference between the former and the new leading figures in Russia consists, among other things, in the fact that the old ones considered the country’s backwardness one of its good points, regarding it as a “national characteristic,” a matter for “national pride,” whereas the new people, the Soviet people, combat it as an evil that must be rooted out. Herein lies the guarantee of our success.

We know that we are not free from mistakes. But we do not fear criticism, are not afraid to face the difficulties and admit our mistakes. We shall accept correct criticism and welcome it. We watch developments in the USA, for that country ranks high in science and technology. We would like scientific and technical people in America to be our teachers in the sphere of technique, and we their pupils.

Every period in the development of a nation is marked by a passion of its own. In Russia we now witness a passion for construction. This is her preponderating feature today. This explains the construction fever that we are. experiencing at present. It is reminiscent of the period that the USA went through after the Civil War. (1) This affords a basis and an opportunity for technical industrial and commercial cooperation with the USA I do not know what still needs to be done to secure contact with American industry. Could you not explain what now prevents such a rapprochement from being realized, if it is established that such contact would be advantageous to both the USSR and the USA?

Mr. Campbell: I am certain that there is a striking similarity between the USA and Russia in point of size, resources and independence. Mr. Stalin’s reference to the Civil War period is correct. After the Civil War extraordinary expansion was witnessed. The people in the USA are interested in Russia. I am sure that Russia is too big a country not to be a big factor in world relations. The people at the head of the Russian Government have grand opportunities to accomplish great things. All that is needed for this is clarity of judgment and the ability to be fair at all times.

I see the advantage of proper business contact and I am maintaining close connection with the government, although I am a private citizen. I am carrying on this conversation as a private person. Once I have been asked what hinders contact between the USA and Russia I want to answer with the utmost frankness and courage, with due respect for Mr. Stalin and without giving offence. He is very objective-minded and this allows me to converse with him as man to man for the benefit of both countries and absolutely confidentially. If we could have official recognition everybody would be anxious to get here to do business on a credit or other basis, as is being done everywhere. A reason why American firms hesitate to do business and grant long-term credits is the fact that our Washington Government does not recognize your Government.

The main reason for this, however, is not simply failure in the matter of recognition. The main reason, we assume (and this may be taken as certain), is that representatives of your Government in our country are trying all the time to sow discontent and spread the ideas of Soviet power.

We have in our country what is called the “Monroe Doctrine,” which signifies that we do not want to interfere in the affairs of any other country in the world, that we confine ourselves strictly to our own affairs. For that reason we do not want any country whatever – Britain, France, Germany, Russia or any other – to interfere in our private affairs.

Russia is so vast a country that she can by herself fulfill everything that her whole people decide to do. Russia has resources of her own of every kind, and although it will take more time the Russians in the long run will be able to develop their resources independently.

It gives us pleasure to feel that in many respects we are an ideal for the Russian people, and I believe we can be very useful to that people, particularly in economizing time. Since we have solved many economic problems and our methods are copied by many countries besides Russia, such enterprises as the building of state farms imply a strengthening of trade connections, and In the final analysis trade connections will be followed by diplomatic recognition on some equitable basis. The only way for nations, as for individuals, is to speak out frankly without discourtesy, and then the time will soon come for some kind of agreement. The better our upbringing the greater our conviction that more can be achieved by reason than by any other means. Great nations can differ in opinion without straining relations and great men can come to an arrangement on major problems. They usually wind up their negotiations with a definite agreement in which they meet each other halfway, no matter how far apart their initial positions were.

Stalin: I realize that diplomatic recognition involves difficulties for the USA at the present moment. Soviet Government representatives have been subjected to abuse by the American press so much and so often that an abrupt change is difficult. Personally I do not consider diplomatic recognition decisive at the moment. What is important is a development of trade connections on the basis of mutual advantage. Trade relations need to be normalized and if this matter is put on some legal footing it would be a first and very important step towards diplomatic recognition. The question of diplomatic recognition will find its own solution when both sides realize that diplomatic relations are advantageous. The chief basis is trade relations and their normalization, which will lead to the establishment of definite legal norms.

The natural resources of our country are, of course, rich and varied. They are richer and more varied than is officially known, and our research expeditions are constantly finding new resources in our extensive country. But this is only one aspect of our potentialities. The other aspect is the fact that our peasants and workers are now rid of their former burden, the landlords and capitalists. Formerly the landlords and capitalists used to squander unproductively what today remains within the country and increases its internal purchasing power. The increase in demand is such that our industry, in spite of its rapid expansion, cannot catch up with it. The demand is prodigious, both for personal and productive consumption. This is the second aspect of our unlimited potentialities.

Both the one and the other give rise to an important basis for commercial and industrial contact with the USA as well as other developed countries.

The question as to which state is to apply its forces to these resources and potentialities of our country is the object of a complicated struggle among them. Unfortunately the USA still stands quite aloof from this struggle.

On all sides the Germans are shouting that the position of the Soviet Government is unstable and that therefore one ought not to grant any considerable credits to Soviet economic organizations. At the same time they try to monopolize trade relations with the USSR by granting it credits.

As you know, one group of British businessmen is also carrying on a fierce anti-Soviet campaign. At the same time this very group and also the McKenna group are endeavoring to organize credits for the USSR The press has already reported that in February a delegation of British industrialists and bankers will come to the USSR They intend to submit to the Soviet Government an extensive plan for trade relations and a loan.

How are we to explain this duplicity of the German and British businessmen? It is to be explained by their desire to monopolize trade relations with the USSR, frightening the USA away and pushing it aside.

At the same time, it is clear to me that the USA has better grounds for extensive business connections with the USSR than any other country. And this is not only because the USA is rich both in technical equipment and capital, but also because in no other country are our business people given such a cordial and hospitable welcome as in the USA.

As regards propaganda, I must state most emphatically that no representative of the Soviet Government has the right to interfere, either directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of the country in which he happens to be. In this respect the most strict and definite instructions have been given to all our personnel employed in Soviet institutions in the USA I am certain that Bron and the members of his staff do not have the slightest connection with propaganda in any form whatsoever. Should any of our employees violate these strict directives as regards non-interference he would immediately be recalled and punished. Naturally we cannot answer for the actions of persons not known and not subordinate to us. But we can assume responsibility as regards interference by persons employed in our institutions abroad, and we can give the maximum guarantees on that score.

Mr. Campbell: May I tell that to Mr. Hoover?

Stalin: Of course.

Mr. Campbell: We do not know who those people are that sow discontent. But there are such people. The police find them and their literature. I know Bron and am convinced that he is an honest, straightforward gentleman, who does business honestly. But there is somebody.

Stalin: It is possible that propaganda in favor of Soviets is being carried on in the USA by members of the American Communist Party. But that party is legal in the USA, it legally participates in Presidential elections and nominates its candidates for President, and it is quite clear that we cannot be interfering in your internal affairs in this case either.

Mr. Campbell: I have no further questions. But yes, I have. When I return to the United States businessmen will ask me whether it is safe to do business with the USSR Engineering concerns in particular will be interested in the possibility of granting long-term credits. Can I answer in the affirmative? Can I obtain information on the measures now being taken by the Soviet Government to guarantee credit transactions; is there any special tax or other specific source of revenue set aside for this purpose?

Stalin: I would prefer not to sing the praises of my country. But now that the question has been put I must reply as follows: There has not been a single instance of the Soviet Government or a Soviet economic institution failing to make payment correctly and on tune on credits, whether short-term or long-term. Inquiries could be made in Germany on how we meet payments to the Germans on their credit of three hundred millions. Where do we get the means to effect payment? Mr. Campbell knows that money does not drop from the sky. Our agriculture, industry, trade, timber, oil, gold, platinum, etc. — such is the source of our payments. Therein lies the guarantee of our payments. I do not want Mr. Campbell to take my word for it. He can check my statements in Germany, for example. He will find that not once was payment postponed, although at times we actually had to pay such unheard-of interest rates as 15-20%.

As far as special guarantees are concerned, I believe there is no need to speak of this seriously in the case of the USSR

Mr. Campbell: Of course not.

Stalin: Perhaps it would not be amiss to tell you, strictly confidentially, about the loan, not credit but loan, offered by a group of British bankers – that of Balfour and Kingsley.

Mr. Campbell: May I tell Hoover about this?

Stalin: Of course, but don’t give it to the press. This group of bankers are making the following proposal:

They calculate that our debts to Britain amount approximately to £400,000,000. It is proposed that they be consolidated at 25%. That means £100,000,000 instead of £400,000,000.

Simultaneously a loan of £100,000,000 is proposed.

Thus our indebtedness will amount to £200,000,000 to be paid in installments over a period of several decades.

In return we are to give preference to the British engineering industry. This does not mean that we shall have to place our orders in Britain alone, but the British must be given preference.

Mr. Campbell, in expressing his thanks for the interview, says that Stalin has impressed him as a fair, well-informed and straightforward man. He is very glad to have had the opportunity of speaking with Stalin and considers the interview historic.

Stalin thanks Mr. Campbell for the talk.

Notes

(1) This refers to the Civil War between the northern and the Southern states of America in 1861-65.

Talk With Colonel Robins

Stalin: What can I do for you?

Robin: I consider it a great honor to have an opportunity of paying you a visit.

Stalin: There is nothing particular in that. You are exaggerating.

Robins (smiles) : What is most interesting to me is that throughout Russia I have found the names Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, linked together.

Stalin: That, too, is an exaggeration. How can I be compared to Lenin?

Robin: (smiles) : Would it also be an exaggeration to say that all this time the oldest government in the world has been the government of Soviet Russia — the Council of People’s Commissars?

Stalin: That, to be sure, is not exaggerated.

Robin: The interesting and important point is that this government has not taken a reactionary direction in its work and that it is the government set up by Lenin that has proved strong. It resists all hostile lines.

Stalin: That is true.

Robins: At the May Day demonstration Russia’s development during the past fifteen years impressed itself upon me with particular clarity and sharpness, for I witnessed the May Day demonstration in 1918, and now in 1933.

Stalin: We have managed to do a few things in recent years. But fifteen years is a long period of time.

Robins: Still, in the life of a country it is a short period for such great progress as Soviet Russia has achieved during this time.

Stalin: We might have done more, but we did not manage to.

Robins: It is interesting to compare the underlying motives, the basic lines followed in the two demonstrations. The 1918 demonstration was addressed to the outside world, to the proletariat of the whole world, to the international proletariat, and was a call to revolution. Now the motive was different. Now men, women and the youth went to the demonstration to proclaim: This is the country we are building, this is the land we shall defend with all our strength!

Stalin: At that time the demonstration was agitational, but now it is a summing up.

Robins: You probably know that during these fifteen years I have interested myself in establishing rational relations between our two countries, and have endeavored to dispel the existing hostile attitude of the ruling circles in America.

Stalin: I knew of this in 1918 from what Lenin had said, and afterwards on the basis of facts. Yes, I know it.

Robins: I have come here in the capacity of a purely private citizen and speak only for myself. The chief aim of my visit is to ascertain the prospects of establishing relations, to ascertain the actual facts concerning the ability to work and the creative, inventive capacity of the Russian workers. Anti-Soviet propaganda has it that the Russian worker is lazy, does not know how to work, and ruins the machines he handles; that such a country has no future. I want to counteract this propaganda not merely with words, but armed with the facts.

The second question of interest to me in this connection is the situation in agriculture. It is being asserted that industrialization has played havoc with agriculture, that the peasants have stopped sowing, have stopped gathering in the grain. Every year it is asserted that this year Russia is sure to die of famine. I should like to learn the facts about agriculture in order to refute these assertions. I expect to see the areas where new kinds of crops have been sown this year for the first time. What interests me in particular is the development of the principal grain crops of the Soviet Union.

The third question that interests me is public education, the development of children and the youth, their upbringing; how far public education has developed in the fields of art and literature, as regards what is called creative genius, inventive capacity. In America two types of creativeness are recognized — one is the creativeness of the study and the other is broad, life-inspired creativeness, manifestations of the creative spirit in life. I am interested in knowing how children and young people are developing. I hope to see in real life how they study, how they are brought up and how they develop.

On the first and third questions I have already obtained some valuable information and count on getting additional data. On the second question, concerning the development of agriculture, I expect to be able to discover the real facts during my trip to Magnitogorsk and from there to Rostov, Kharkov and back. I expect to have a look at collective farms and see how the archaic strip system of cultivation is being eliminated and large-scale agriculture developed.

Stalin: Do you want my opinion?

Robins: Yes, I would like to have it.

Stalin: The notion that the Soviet worker is by nature incapable of coping with machines and breaks them is quite wrong.

On this score I must say that no such thing is happening here as occurred in Western Europe and America, where workers deliberately smashed machines because these deprived them of their crust of bread. Our workers have no such attitude to machinery, because in our country machines are being introduced on a mass scale in conditions where there is no unemployment, because the machines do not deprive the workers of their livelihood, as with you, but make their work easier.

As far as inability to work, the lack of culture of our workers is concerned, it is true that we have few trained workers and they do not cope with machinery as well as workers in Europe or America do. But with us this is a temporary phenomenon. If, for example, one were to investigate where throughout history the workers learned to master new technical equipment quickest – in Europe, America, or Russia during the last five years – I think it will be found that the workers learned quicker in Russia, in spite of the low level of culture. The mastery of the production of wheeled tractors in the West took several years, although, of course, technology was well developed there. Mastery of this matter in our country was quicker. For example, in Stalingrad and Kharkov the production of tractors was mastered in some 12-14 months. At the present time, the Stalingrad Tractor Works is not only working to estimated capacity, not only turns out 144 tractors per day, but sometimes even 160, that is, it works above its planned capacity. I am taking this as an example. Our tractor industry is new, it did not exist before. The same thing is true of our aircraft industry – a new, delicate business, also swiftly mastered. The automobile industry is in a similar position from the viewpoint of rapidity of mastery. The same applies to machine tool building

In my opinion, this rapid mastery of the production of machines is to be explained not by the special ability of the Russian workers but by the fact that in our country the production of, say, aircraft and engines for them, of tractors, automobiles and machine tools is considered not the private affair of individuals, but an affair of the state. In the West the workers produce to get wages, and are not concerned about anything else. With us production is regarded as a public matter, a state matter, it is regarded as a matter of honor. That is why new technique is mastered so quickly in our country.

In general, I consider it impossible to assume that the workers of any particular nation are incapable of mastering new technique. If we look at the matter from the racial point of view, then in the United States, for instance, the Negroes are considered “bottom category men,” yet they master technique no worse than the whites. The question of the mastery of technique by the workers of a particular nation is not a biological question, not a question of heredity, but a question of time: today they have not mastered it, tomorrow they will learn and master it. Everyone, including the Bushman, can master technique, provided he is helped.

Robins: The ambition, the desire to master, is also required.

Stalin: Of course. The Russian workers have more than enough desire and ambition. They consider the mastery of new technique a matter of honor.

Robins: I have already sensed this in your factories where I have seen that socialist emulation has resulted in the creation of a new kind of ardour, a new sort of ambition that money could never buy, because the workers expect to get for their work something better and greater than money can procure.

Stalin: That is true. It is a matter of honor.

Robins: I shall take with me to America diagrams showing the development of the workers’ inventiveness and their creative proposals, which improve production and effect considerable savings in production. I have seen the portraits of quite a few such worker-inventors who have done very much for the Soviet Union in the way of improving production and achieving economies.

Stalin: Our country has produced a comparatively large number of such workers. They are very capable people.

Robins: I have been in all your big Moscow factories-the AMO Automobile Works, the Ball Bearing Works, the Freser Works and others – and everywhere I came across organizations for promoting workers’ inventive-ness. The tool room in a number of these factories impressed me particularly. As these tool rooms provide their factories with highly valuable tools the workers there exert all their faculties to the utmost, give full play to their creative initiative and achieve striking results.

Stalin: In spite of that, we have many shortcomings as well. We have few skilled workers, while a great many are required. Our technical personnel is also small. Each year their number grows, and still there are fewer of them than we need. The Americans have been of great help to us. That must be admitted. They have helped more effectively than others and more boldly than others. Our thanks to them for that.

Robins: I have witnessed an internationalism in your enterprises which produced a very strong impression on me. Your factory managements are ready to adopt the technical achievements of any country – France, America, Britain or Germany – without any prejudice against these countries. And it seems to me that it is just this internationalism that will make it possible to combine in one machine all the advantages possessed by the machines of other countries and thus create more perfect machines.

Stalin: That will happen.

On the second question, about industrialization allegedly ruining agriculture, that notion is also wrong. Far from ruining agriculture in our country, industrialization is saving it, and saving our peasants. A few years ago we had a greatly disunited, small and very small, peasant economy. With the increasing division of the land, the peasant allotments shrank so much that there was no room to keep a hen. Add to this the primitive farming equipment, such as wooden ploughs and emaciated horses, which were incapable of turning up not only virgin soil, but even the ordinary, rather hard, soil, and you will have a picture of the deterioration of agriculture. Three or four years ago there were about 7,000,000 wooden ploughs in the USSR The only choice left for the peasants was this: either to lie down and die or to adopt a new form of land tenure and cultivate the land with machines. This indeed explains why the Soviet Government’s call to the peasants issued about that time – to unite their tiny plots of land into large tracts and accept from the government tractors, harvesters and threshers for working these tracts, for gathering and threshing the harvest-found a very lively response among the peasants. They naturally seized on the proposal of the Soviet Government, began to unite their plots of land into large fields, accepted the tractors and other machines and thus emerged on the broad high-way of making agriculture large scale, the new road of the radical improvement of agriculture.

It follows that industrialization, as a result of which the peasants receive tractors and other machines, has saved the peasants, has saved agriculture.

The process of uniting small peasant farms by whole villages into large farms we call collectivization, and the united large farms themselves – collective farms. The absence in our country of private property in land, the nationalization of the land, makes collectivization much easier. The land is transferred to the collective farms for their use in perpetuity and, owing to the absence of private property in land, no land can be bought or sold here. All this considerably facilitates the formation and development of collective farms.

I do not mean to say that all this, i.e., collectivization and the rest, is proceeding smoothly with us. There are difficulties, of course, and they are not small ones.

Collectivization, like every great new undertaking, has not only friends, but also enemies. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the peasants are in favor of collectivization, and the number of its opponents is becoming smaller and smaller.

Robins: Every advance involves certain outlays, and this we take into account and include in our calculations.

Stalin: In spite of these difficulties, however, one thing is clear – and I have not the slightest doubt on this score: nineteen-twentieths of the peasantry have recognized, and most of the peasants accept the fact with great joy, that the collectivization of agriculture has become an irreversible fact. So then this has already been achieved. The predominant form of agriculture in our country now is the collective farm. Take the grain sowing or harvesting figures, the figures for grain production, and you will see that at the present time the individual peasants provide something like 10-15 per cent of the total gross output of grain. The rest comes from the collective farms.

Robins: I am interested in the question whether it is true that last year’s crop was gathered in unsatisfactorily, that at the present time the sowing campaign is proceeding satisfactorily, while last year the harvesting proceeded unsatisfactorily.

Stalin: Last year the harvesting was less satisfactory than the year before.

Robins: I have read your statements, and I believe they warrant the conclusion that this year the harvesting will be more successful.

Stalin: It will most probably proceed much better.

Robins: I think you appreciate no less than I do the tremendous achievement embodied in your successful industrialization of agriculture, a thing which no other country has been able to do. In all capitalist countries agriculture is undergoing a deep crisis and is in need of industrialization. The capitalist countries manage somehow or other to cope with industrial production, but not one of them can cope with agriculture. The great achievement of the Soviet Union is that it has set about the solution of this problem and is successfully coping with it.

Stalin: Yes, that is a fact.

Such are our achievements and shortcomings in the sphere of agriculture.

Now the third question — about the education of children and of the youth as a whole. Ours is a fine youth, full of the joy of life. Our state differs from all others in that it does not stint the means for providing proper care of children and for giving the youth a good upbringing.

Robins: In America it is believed that in your country the child is restricted in its development within definite, rigid bounds and that these bounds leave no freedom for the development of the creative spirit and freedom of the mind. Do you not think that freedom for the development of the creative spirit, freedom to express what is in one, is of extremely great importance?

Stalin: First, concerning restrictions — this is not true. The second is true. Undoubtedly a child cannot develop its faculties under a regime of isolation and strict regimentation, without the necessary freedom and encouragement of initiative. As regards the youth, all roads are open to it in our country and it can freely perfect itself.

In our country children are not beaten and are very seldom punished. They are given the opportunity of choosing what they like, of pursuing a path of their own choice. I believe that nowhere is there such care for the child, for its upbringing and development, as among us in the Soviet Union.

Robins: Can one consider that, as a result of the new generation being emancipated from the burden of want, being emancipated from the terror of economic conditions, this emancipation is bound to lead to a new flourishing of creative energy, to the blossoming of a new art, to a new advance of culture and art, which was formerly hampered by all these shackles?

Stalin: That is undoubtedly true.

Robins: I am not a Communist and do not understand very much about communism, but I should like America to participate in, to have the opportunity of associating itself with, the development that is taking place here in Soviet Russia, and I should like Americans to get this opportunity by means of recognition, by granting credits, by means of establishing normal relations between the two countries, for example, in the Far East, so as to safeguard the great and daring undertaking which is in process in your country, so that it may be brought to a successful conclusion.

Stalin (with a smile) : I thank you for your good wishes.

Robins: One of my closest friends is Senator Borab, who has been the staunchest friend of the Soviet Union and has been fighting for its recognition among the leaders of the American Government.

Stalin: That is so; he is doing much to promote the establishment of normal relations between our two countries. But so far, unfortunately, he has not met with success.

Robins: I am convinced that the true facts are now having a much greater effect than at any time during the past fifteen years in favor of establishing normal relations between our two countries.

Stalin: Quite true. But there is one circumstance that hinders it. Britain, I believe, hinders it (smiles) .

Robins: That is undoubtedly so. Still, the situation forces us to act above all in our own interests, and the conflict between our own interests and the course towards which other countries are driving us is impelling America, at the present time more than at any other, to establish such reciprocal relations. We are interested in the development of American exports. The only big market with great possibilities that have not been adequately utilized hitherto by anybody is the Russian market. American businessmen, if they wanted to, could grant long-term credits. They are interested in tranquillity in the Far East, and nothing could promote this more than the establishment of normal relations with the Soviet Union. In this respect, Mr. Litvinov’s Geneva declaration on the definition of an aggressor country follows entirely the line of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, which has played an important role in the matter of peace. Stabilization of reciprocal economic relations throughout the world is in the interest of America, and we fully realize that normal reciprocal economic relations cannot be attained while the Soviet Union is outside the general economic system.

Stalin: All that is true.

Robins: I was and I remain an incorrigible optimist. I believed in the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution as long as fifteen years ago. They were then depicted as agents of German imperialism; Lenin, in particular, was considered a German agent. But I considered and still consider Lenin a very great man, one of the greatest leaders in all world history.

I hope that the information I have received at first hand may help towards carrying out the plan of rapprochement and cooperation between our two countries about which I have spoken.

Stalin (smiling) : I hope it will!

Robins (smiles) : If you had expressed yourself in the American manner you would have said: “More power to your elbow.” He is not sure of having much strength left in his elbow.

Stalin: May be.

Robins: I think there is nothing greater and more magnificent than to participate in the making of a new world, to participate in what we are now engaged in. Participation in the creation and building of a new world is something of paramount significance not only now, but thousands of years hence.

Stalin: All the same this matter presents great difficulties (smiles).

Robins (smiles) : I am very grateful to you for the attention you have given me.

Stalin: And I thank you for having remembered the Soviet Union after an absence of fifteen years and for paying it another visit. (Both smile. Robins bows.)

Greetings to the Red Army on its Fifteenth Anniversary

To the Revolutionary Military Council of the U.S.S.R.

Greetings to the men, commanders and political personnel of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army!

Created under the leadership of Lenin, the Red Army covered itself with undying glory in the great battles of the Civil War, in which it drove out the interventionists from the U.S.S.R. and upheld the cause of socialism in our country.

The Red Army is today a bulwark of peace and the peaceful labour of the workers and peasants, the vigilant guardian of the frontiers of the Soviet Union.

The workers of our country, who have victoriously completed the five-year plan in four years, are equipping the Red Army with new instruments of defence. Your job, comrades, is to learn to handle those instruments to perfection and to do your duty to your country, should our enemies try to attack it.

Hold high the banner of Lenin, the banner of struggle for communism!

Long live the heroic Red Army, its leaders, its Revolutionary Military Council!

J. Stalin

Reply to A Letter From Mr. Barnes

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Your fears as to the safety of American citizens in the U.S.S.R. are quite groundless.

The U.S.S.R. is one of the few countries in the world where a display of national hatred or an unfriendly attitude towards foreigners as such is punishable by law. There has never been, nor could there be, a case of any one becoming an object of persecution in the U.S.S.R. on account of his national origin. That is particularly true with regard to foreign specialists in the U.S.S.R., including American specialists, whose work in my opinion deserves our thanks.

As for the few British employees of Metro-Vickers, (1) legal action was taken against them not as Britishers but as persons who, our investigating authorities assert, have violated laws of the U.S.S.R. Was not legal action taken similarly against Russians? I do not know what bearing this case can have on American citizens.

Ready to be of service to you,

J. Stalin

Notes

(1) Metro-Vickers—a British electrical-engineering firm which had contracted with the U.S.S.R. to render technical aid to enterprises of the Soviet electrical industry. In March 1933, criminal proceedings were instituted against six Britishers, employees of the Moscow office of Metro-Vickers, on the charge of engaging in wrecking at large Soviet electric power stations.

The investigation and the trial, which took place on April 12-19, 1933, established that the arrested Metro-Vickers employees had carried on espionage in the U.S.S.R. and, with the assistance of a gang of criminal elements, had organised damage to equipment, accidents and acts of sabotage at large U.S.S.R. electric power-stations for the purpose of undermining the strength of Soviet industry and of weakening the Soviet state.

Bill Bland: Stalin: The Myth and Reality

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A Paper Originally Scheduled To Be Read By Bill Bland At The Conference Of ‘International Struggle: Marxist-Leninist’ In October 1999; Paris.

Brief Foreword: This talk was never delivered as Comrade Bland at the very last moment could not attend. The talk is offered however as a useful distillation of several decades of thought and concrete, factual and hard Marxist-Leninist research. The talk itself, originated in one that Comrade Bland gave to the young Communist League in 1975 at a summer school. It was widely distributed and has influenced the Marxist-Leninist movement profoundly. However, its implicatiosn ahve yet to be fully absorbed by certain sections of the movement. That original talk, and a later one given to the Stalin Society of the UK in 1991, are both also presented on this web page elsewhere; and are completely referenced. This web-page, being a summary in the form of a talk is not referenced.

Today almost everyone who calls himself a Marxist-Leninist accepts that, in its final years, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was dominated by revisionists — that is, by people who claimed to be Marxist-Leninists but who had in reality distorted Marxism-Leninism to serve the interests of an embryonic capitalist class.

On one question, however, there is still disagreement, namely, when did the domination of the CPSU by revisionists begin?

These days, most people date it from the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956, when Khrushchev threw off his false Marxist-Leninist mask.

However, there are good grounds for believing that for many years prior to Stalin’s death in 1953, a majority of the Soviet leadership were either concealed or latent revisionists.

  • Why, for example, did Stalin, who played such an active role in the international communist movement in the 1920s, cease to do so after 1926?
  • Why did the publication of Stalin’s works, scheduled for sixteen volumes, cease with Volume 13 in 1949, four years before his death?
  • Why was Stalin not asked to deliver the report of the Central Committee to the 19th Congress in 1952?
  • Why were Stalin’s last writings confined to subjects like linguistics and the critique of a proposed textbook on economics — subjects which might be considered harmless to concealed revisionists had not Stalin turned them into attacks on revisionist ideas?
  • Why did the Soviet government surprise world opinion in 1947 by suddenly reversing its foreign policy in order to endorse the American proposal for the partition of Palestine which has proved so disastrous for the nations of the Middle East?

All this makes sense if — and I believe only if — we accept the fact that for some years before his death, Stalin and his fellow Marxist-Leninists were in a minority in the leadership of the Soviet Union.

The fact of the existence of a revisionist majority in the leadership of the CPSU was effectively concealed by the ‘cult of personality’ that was built up around Stalin.

Stalin himself criticised and ridiculed this ‘cult’ on numerous occasions. Yet it continued.

It follows that Stalin was either an utter hypocrite, or he was unable to put a stop to this ‘cult’.

The initiator of the ‘cult of personality’ around Stalin was, in fact, Karl Radek, who pleaded guilty to treason at his public trial in 1937.

A typical example of the ‘cult’ is the following quotation from 1936:

“Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all living men, our wise leader Comrade Stalin. We assure you, Comrade Stalin, that we will increase our Stalinist vigilance still more and close our ranks around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin.”

The author of these words was one Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced the ‘cult’ as an indication of Stalin’s ‘vanity’ and ‘personal power’.

It was Khrushchev too who introduced the term ‘vozhd’ for Stalin — a term meaning ‘leader’ and equivalent to the Nazi term ‘Fuehrer’.

Why should the revisionists have built up this ‘cult of personality’ around Stalin?

It was, I suggest, because it disguised the fact that not Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, but they — concealed opponents of socialism — who held a majority in the leadership. It enabled them to take actions — such as the arrest of many innocent persons between 1934 and 1938 (when they controlled the security forces) and subsequently blame these ‘breaches of socialist legality’ upon Stalin.

Stalin himself is on record as telling the German author Lion Feuchtwanger in 1936 that the ‘cult of his personality’ was being built up by his political opponents (I quote:)

“ . . . with the aim of discrediting him at a later date.”

Clearly, Stalin’s ‘pathological suspicion’ of some of his colleagues, of which Khrushchev complained so bitterly in his secret speech to the 20th Congress, was not pathological at all!

On one allegation both Stalin and the revisionists are agreed — that in Stalin’s time miscarriages of justice occurred in which innocent people were judically murdered.

The revisionists, of course, maintain that Stalin was responsible for these miscarriages of justice.

But there is a contradiction here.

Krushchev himself said in his 1956 secret speech (and I quote):

“The question is complicated here by the fact that all this was done because Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interest of the working class against the plotting of ememies. He saw this from the position of the interests of the working class, of the interest of the victory of socialism.”

But only a person who was completely insane could possibly imagine that the arrest of innocent people could serve socialism. And all the evidence shows that Stalin retained his full mental faculties right to his death.

However, the contradiction resolves itself if these judicial murders were carried out, not at the behest of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, but at the behest of the revisionist opponents of socialism.

At his public trial in 1938, the former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Genrikh Yagoda, pleaded guilty to having arranged the murder of his predecessor, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, in order to secure his own promotion to a post which gave him control over the Soviet security services. He then, according to his own admission, used this position to protect the terrorists responsible for the murder of prominent Marxist-Leninists close to Stalin — including the Leningrad Party Secretary, Sergei Kirov, and the famous writer Maksim Gorky.

And in order that the security services should not appear idle, Yagoda arranged for the arrest of many people who were not conspirators, but had merely been indiscreet.

After Yagoda’s arrest, the conspirators were successful in getting him succeeded by another conspirator, Nikolai Yezhov, who continued and intensified this process.

It was because of the suspicions of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists that the security services were acting incorrectly — were protecting the guilty and punishing the innocent — that they began to use Stalin’s personal secretariat, headed by Aleksandr Poskrebyshev, as their private detective agency.

And it was on the basis of the evidence uncovered by this Secretariat and submitted directly to the Party — that the concealed revisionists, to maintain their cover, were compelled to endorse the arrest of genuine conspirators, including Yagoda and Yezhov.

And it was on Stalin’s personal initiative that in 1938, his friend, the Marxist-Leninist Lavrenty Beria, was brought to Moscow from the Caucasus to take harge of the security services.

Under Beria, political prisoners arrested under Yagoda and Yezhov had their cases reviewed and, as Western press correspondents reported at the time, many thousands of people unjustly sentenced were released and rehabilitated.

Marxist-Lenininists in Britain, in particular, should have no difficulty in accepting the picture of a Marxist-Leninist minority in the CPSU.

How many members of the Communist Party of Great Britain came out in opposition to the revisionist ‘British Road to Socialism’, which preached the absurd ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ when it was adopted in 1951? I know of only four.

The question arises, of course:
if revisionists had a majority in the leadership of the CPSU from the 1930s, why did they not take any steps to dismantle socialism until 1956, after Stalin’s death?

The short answer is that they tried and failed.

In the early 1940s, the economists Eugen Varga and Nikolai Voznsensky both published books openly espousing revisionist programmes, and both were quickly slapped down by the Marxist-Leninists.

Of course, it is important not to exaggerate the extent of these miscarriages of justice.

In the 1960s, anti-Soviet propaganda originally published in Nazi Germany, was republished by a former British secret service agent named Robert Conquest under the more respectable cloak of Harvard University. In his 1969 book ‘The Great Terror’ Conquest puts the number of ‘Stalin’s victims’ (in inverted commas) at ‘between 5 and 6 million’.

But by the 1980s, Conquest was alleging that there had been in 1939 a total of 25 to 30 million prisoners in the Soviet Union, that in 1950 there had been 12 million political prisoners.

But when, under Gorbachev, the archives of the Central Committee of the CPSU were opened up to researchers, it was found that the number of political prisoners in 1939 had been 454,000, not the millions claimed by Conquest.

If we add those in prison for non-political offences, we get a figure of 2.5 million, that is, 2.4% of the adult population.

In contrast, there were in the United States in 1996, according to official figures, 5.5 million people in prison, or 2.8% of the adult population.

That is, the number of prisoners in the USA today is 3 million more than the maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union.

In January 1953, less than two months before Stalin’s death, nine doctors working in the Kremlin were arrested on charges of having murdered certain Soviet leaders — including Andrei Zhdanov in 1948 — by administering to them deliberately incorrect medical treatment.

The charges arose out of an investigation into allegations by a woman doctor, Lydia Timashuk, The accused doctors were charged with conspiracy to murder in conjunction with the American Zionist organisation ‘JOINT.

Western press correspondents in Moscow insisted that some of the most prominent Soviet leaders were under investigation in connection with the case.

But before the case could be brought to trial, Stalin conveniently died.

The Albanian Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha, a tireless oppponent of revisionism and not a man given to indulging in unfounded gossip — insists that Soviet revisionist leaders admitted — nay, rather boasted — to him that they had murdered him. And we know that Stalin’s son was himself arrested and imprisoned for having declared that his father had been killed as part of a plot.

Be that as it may, the arrested doctors were immediately released and officially ‘rehabilitated’.

Then Lavrenti Beria — a scourge of the revisionists second only to Stalin — was arrested in a military coup, tried in secret, and executed.

The way was open for the revisionist conspirators to throw off their masks, expel the remaining Marxist-Leninists from leading positions in the Party, and take the first steps towards the restoration of a capitalist society.

Conclusion

This, then, is the picture of Stalin that emerges from an objective examination of the facts.

It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who fought all his life for the cause of socialism and the working class.

It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who, although surrounded by revisionist traitors, succeeded during his lifetime in preventing this revisionist majority from significantly betraying the working class he loved and restoring the capitalist system he hated.

We in all countries who have taken on the task of rebuilding the international communist movement must see the defence of Stalin as a part of the defence of Marxism-Leninism.

There can be no greater compliment for anyone who aspires to be a Marxist-Leninist than to be called a Stalinist.

Alliance (Marxist-Leninist): Ultra-Leftism in Linguistics and the Communist Academy

1_Rouble_1947_Front

The usual picture of J.V. Stalin built up by the bourgeois is usually in the absence of facts. The paradigm built up is internally inconsistent. With respect to science, Stalin both destroyed true biological science by a rigid “Marxist” dogmatism; and he simultaneously destroyed linguistics, the latter because he could not bear to be challenged. However, Stalin’s polemics in linguistics was really an attack upon mechanical application of “Marxist” doctrine. On this there can be no doubt, as this attack is printed widely, and the bourgeoisie have to acknowledge Stalin’s written words. So, to bourgeois academics – How can these statements be both simultaneously true?

Another mutually contradictory view, is that V.I.Lenin and Stalin threw out: “old, established mores of pre-socialist society”; ie. they were philosophical and cultural barbarians towards previous bourgeois advances. Though supposedly, at the same time Stalin actively retarded developments, as he was enslaved by his “monkish” training as a boy.

Actually, ample data tells us that both Lenin and Stain thought, like Marx and Engels, that it was important to extract the best of bourgeois culture (in art and science) and build upon it to develop socialism :

“The old utopian socialists imagined that socialism could be built by men of a new type, that first they would train good, pure and splendidly educated people and these would build socialism. We always laughed at this .. it was playing with puppets, it was socialism as an amusement for your ladies, but not serious politics. We want to build socialism with the aid of those men and women who grew up under capitalism were depraved and corrupted by capitalism, but were steeled for the struggle.. We have bourgeois experts and nothing else. We have no other bricks with which to build.. The masses.. took power.. that is only half the task, but it is the greater half.. The working people are united in such a way as to crush capitalism by the weight of their mass unity. The masses did it. But it is not enough to crush capitalism. We must take the entire culture that capitalism left behind, and build socialism with it. We must take all its science, technology and art. Without these we shall be unable to build communist society. But this science technology and art are in the hands of and in the heads of the experts.. We will convince the bourgeois specialist that they have no alternative, that there will be return to the old society, and that they can do their work only in conjunction with the Communists who are working at their side.. whose object is to ensure that the fruits of bourgeois science and technology, the fruits of thousands of years of civilisation shall be enjoyed not by a handful of persons for the propose of distinguishing themselves and amassing wealth, but by literally all the working people.”

V.Lenin ” From The Achievements and Difficulties of the Soviet Government.” In “On the Intelligentsia”, Moscow, 1983, p.184-196. Collected Works 29: p 68-76.

As usual bourgeois scholars miss the boat by not caring to see the raging class struggle going on in the USSR. Instead all bad things are ascribed to Stalin’s “madness,” or “cruelties.” What is the truth about the views of Stalin upon how science should develop? Some aspects of Lenin and Stalin’s attitude to science are examined in this article.

The conventional wisdom is that Stalin imposed a dogmatic “Communist structured proletarian science.” But in fact Stalin stopped the building of a “Pure Communist” rival to the “Bourgeois” Academy of Sciences:

“Founded in June 1918, the Socialist (later Communist Academy) of Science ultimately developed a small section in the Natural Sciences, and more than one commentator saw it as a rival to the “bourgeois” Academy of Sciences It was never able to compete successfully with the older academy in the natural sciences. In the social sciences it enjoyed a period of flowering in the 20’s, and produced some of the best Marxist scholarship of Soviet history. In a sense, it succeeded too well in this area, since Stalin did not like independent minded marxists offering views on social issues, that might challenge his own. Stalin abolished the Communist Academy in 1936 at the beginning of his mass purges.”

Loren R Graham: “Science In Russia and The Soviet Union”, Cambridge, Mass. 1993, p. 86.

The main academic historian of Soviet science, Loren Graham, alleges that this was because Stalin:

“Did not like independent minded Marxists offering views on social issues that might challenge his own.”

p.86, Ibid, Graham.

But the Communist Academy had developed an anti-Marxist line that was openly (and not by subterfuge as suggested by so much bourgeois literature) fought by Stalin. The direct evidence for this is the attack that Stalin launched upon the Linguistic School, that centred upon the Theories of Marr. Stalin’s attitude to this and the timing of his critique of Marr, are a valuable source of evidence on his reasoning upon science. We examine this in detail below.

The Communist Academy of the Social Science was founded in 1918. E.A.Preobrazhenskii, was a key advocate of The Communist Academy and proclaimed:

“Marxism in Russia is the official ideology of the victorious proletariat; the Socialist Academy is the highest scientific institute of Marxist thought.. It recognises only the branches of socialist science which are anchored in Marxism… the theory of historical materialism is more important for the social sciences than the laws of Kepler and Newton are for physics.”

Cited, Alexander Vucinich, “Empire of Knowledge. The Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1917-1970).” Berkeley, California, 1984. p.81.

The Communist Academy was charged to form views of science and society consistent with Marxism-Leninism. But in reality the Communist Academy became little more than a:

“Library and a debating club, meeting infrequently and suffering from ambivalent goals and internal fragmentation.”

Vucinich, p.81-2.

But, in 1923, it became rather more energized, under the increasing class battles taking place with the various anti-Marxist-Leninist Left Opposition factions. It undertook to:

“Criticise the leading scientists who either displayed philosophical aloofness or opposed Marxist thought. The distinguished members of the Academy of Sciences served as particularly attractive targets for denunciatory attacks.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83.

This new approach was consistently an Ultra-Leftist one. This was to take the form of attacks on scientists, not for their science but for their politics. This line was explicitly advocated by L.Trotsky, and a group around N.Bukharin and Preobrazhenskii. It was a line that neither Lenin nor Stalin had adopted, and in fact attacked.

The most prestigious members of the Academy of Sciences at this stage were definitely anti-Marxist, and included V.I.Vernadskii and I.P.Pavlov. Both had expressed their anti-Marxism. The Communist Academy attacked them, and the Academy of Sciences as an institution itself:

“V.I.Vernadskii was accused of flirting with Bergsonian Vitalism and of challenging the notion of the material unity of the universe, firmly built into Marxist ontology.. The famed neurophysiologist I.P.Pavlov was the target of numerous innuendoes depicting him as the mastermind of recurring efforts to make the study of conditioned reflexes the only basis of scientific sociology and social psychology.. M.N.Pokrovskii, President of the Communist Academy made no effort to disguise his view of the Academy of Sciences as a sanctuary of bourgeois thought and an institutional antitheses to Marxist plans for organised research.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83

Most bourgeois tendencies allege that an Ultra-Left line towards science (i.e. anti-science line based purely on some alleged “Communist expediency”) was adopted by Stalin. But, the leading intellectual force of the Communist Academy, (as well as Preobrazenskii) was NOT Stalin, but in fact, Leon Trotsky:

“The Communist academy provided a forum for a group of Marxist theorists led by Leon Trotsky, who contended that the excessive worship of Pavlov’s theories worked against the burgeoning efforts to effect a fruitful synthesis of Marxism and Freudianism. Pavlov’s publicly expressed aversion to the use of revolutionary methods as a tool of resolving socials conflict was directed against the political strategy of the Bolshevik party. N.I.Bukharin, a member of the Communist Academy wrote a lengthy article refuting Pavlov’s claims that the October Revolution was a historical anomaly.”

p. 83, Vucinich, Ibid.

Despite this, the Bolshevik Government, (in both the Lenin and Stalin years) protected and aided both Vernadskii and Pavlov in their research. Pavlov in particular was greatly aided in his researches by both Lenin and Stalin after him. Lenin promulgated through the Council of People’s Commissars, a Decree ensuring that Pavlov would receive adequate state support for his work:

“Of tremendous importance to the working people of the world.”

(V.I.Lenin “Concerning The Conditions Ensuring the research Work of Academician I.P.Pavlov and His Associates.” In “On the Intelligentsia.” Ibid, p. 269. From CW Vol 32.p.69).

It is true that Pavlov’s research saw the legitimacy of environmental and organismal interaction, and this was congenial to Marxism-Leninism. But it does not alter the fact that a gifted researcher, though a self proclaimed and openly anti-Marxist, was given full rein to pursue science.

But even the members of the Communist Academy had great difficulty in agreeing how to view modern science from a Marxist perspective. There were two camps. The “Mechanists” led by L.I.Aksel’rod and A.K.Timiriazev and the self styled “Dialecticians”, led by A.M. Deborin. The battle between these two wings drew Stalin’s attention, and that of Vernadskii. The latter was an old “relic” of a scientist, actively still studying. He saw the two orientations from his view of science. He:

“Concluded that the philosophical stance of the (so called) mechanists was more realistic and more in tune with the spirit of twentieth century science. The mechanist orientation he said, was more satisfactory because it was further removed from Hegelian idealism and was closer to 18th Century materialism, which was based on the achievements and the logic of science and did not try to impose its authority on science.”

P. 151, Vucinich.

But Vernadskii was attacked on the grounds that his philosophy contradicted dialectical materialism. This attack was led by Deborin. As Vucinich says:

“That Vernadskii survived the attacks led by Deborin was proof of the willingness of the authorities to tolerate selected established scholars, in the natural sciences, despite demonstrative refusals to make dialectical materialism part of their thinking.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.152.

Deborin and his backer, Bukharin made other assertions. These included an attack upon Lenin, that alleged that Lenin was a man of action and not one of theory. Stalin identified the views of the Deborin group as an expression of “Menshevizing Idealism.” If that is so, there is a greater significance in Deborin’s attacks on Vernadskii. Not for the first time, it became obvious that simply using the terms Dialectical Materialism in an analysis did not make it dialectical, nor yet materialist! Obviously, Stalin cannot have supported attacks launched upon Vernadskii.

The CC of the CPSU(B), at that time still under the control of Marxist-Leninists, openly counter-attacked against Deborin in the theoretical journal : “Under the Banner of Marxism”:

“The organ defended the “general party line” and fought the two categories of philosophical deviationism:
‘the mechanical revision of Marxism, as the main danger at the present time, and the idealistic distortions of Marxism by the Deborin group.’
Deborin quickly admitted his errors.. particularly his ‘unsupportable’ assertion that while Plekhanov was primarily a theorist, Lenin was first of all ‘ a practical person, a revolutionary, and a leader.'”

Vucinich, Ibid, p. 151.

Deborin and his ally N.I.Bukharin then tried to make amends for their false characterisation of Lenin as being a man of action, and not a theorist. For instance at the 10th anniversary of Lenin’s death in 1923, both gave major eulogies of Lenin stressing his theoretical acumen. For Bukharin, this was the first time he had publicly credited Lenin for his theoretical contributions.

Despite this, the Communist Academy, continued to develop an Ultra-leftist line on several issues. M.B.Mitin later became a key proponent of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the main protagonist in the Biology Debates of a crude Reductionist Marxism. But at this earlier stage, Mitin became a leading “interpreter” of the relevance of dialectics to natural science. The thrust he used was to emphasise Lenin’s view in “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” that “too much mathematics” was equivalent to “formalism.” (Vucinich, Ibid, p. 154).

Here a new tactic was used. Later it became a more conscious strategy – one of hiding behind a Personalty Cult. Here the Cult was that of Lenin, later this would be of Stalin. This tactic would be to enshrine a view, and take it completely out of context to justify its application to unwarranted situations. For clearly Lenin, the author of “Empirio-criticism”; had not had any fundamental objections to mathematicians!

BUT, IF IT IS TRUE THAT THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY WAS AN ULTRA-LEFTIST ORGANISATION, AIMED ULTIMATELY AT DISCREDITING MARXISM-LENINISM, WHAT PROOF IS THERE OF THIS ASSERTION? WHAT WAS STALIN’S ATTITUDE TO THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY?

Luckily, we do have a very good “Test Case.” Firstly in 1938 the Communist Academy was closed, this of itself suggests a lack of support from the Politburo. But the real “test case” actually developed as an Ultra-Leftist line, emanating from within the Communist Academy. This specific Test Case, is the school of linguistics, built up within the Communist academy. Stalin critiqued it in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics.” Stalin’s text is very far from a doctrinaire and shrill attack on a “Classless” science. In fact the pamphlet is a sharp attack on the mindless, mechanical and formal introduction of Class issues into a scientific debate on the origins of languages.

This trend had been started by N.Ia.Marr (also translated as N.Y.Marr), who was a member of the Academy of Science from 1912-1934 when he died. In 1930 he became a party member and in 1931 became a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and achieved the Lenin medal for achievement in science.

“Because of certain rudimentary similarities between his views and Marxist theory, Communist scholars were quickly accustomed to treating his theory as Marxist linguistics. Marxists were attracted to his Japhetic theory, which sought a common base for Caucasian and Semitic languages, and for all languages of the world – the ideas of common origins and evolutionary unilinearity having been firmly built into Marr’s thought and into Stalin’s internationalism of the 1930’s.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.185.

This development was fostered and directly supported by the Communist Academy. Its President, Pokrovskii ensured that N.Ia Marr was made a member of the Communist Academy and became head of the subsection “of materialistic linguistics.” Pokrovskii’s commitment was emphatic:

“As stated correctly by a Leningrad comrade, Marr’s theory must recognise Marxism as its general philosophical and sociological base and Marxism must recognise the Japhetic theory as its special linguistic division.”

Cited, Vucinich A, Ibid. p.186.

WHAT WAS MARR’S THEORY, AND WHAT DID STALIN THINK OF IT? IN EXAMINING MARR, WE HERE TEST TWO OVERALL ASSUMPTIONS.

FIRSTLY How “rigid” was Stalin on his application of principles of dialectical materialism to a general scientific problem?
SECONDLY, how “rigid” was Stalin in conceding that in science there has to be back and forth, debate, full intellectual cut and thrust?

The discourse “Concerning Problems in Linguistics,” was written in the form of questions from “younger comrades’, and Stalin’s responses. Stalin had been approached by students to enter the debate.

As regards the behaviour of debate and academic back and forth by scientists in science, Stalin was quite clear. It must be remembered that this work was originally published in Pravda in 1950. This timing is significant, for it came after T.D.Lysenko effectively and exclusively ruled the roost in genetics. In other words, Stalin’s words in linguistics, are pertinent to understanding how he may, or may not have supported Lysenko:

“Question: Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion on problems of linguistics?

Answer: Yes it did. It has been brought out in the first place that in linguistic bodies, both in the center and in the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet Linguistics, even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called “new doctrine” in linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their posts or demoted for being critical of N.Y.Marr’s heritage or expressing the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified acceptance of N.Y.Marr’s theories.”

“It is generally recognised that no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism, But this generally recognised rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a closed group of infallible leaders, who having secured themselves against any possible criticism became a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased.”

Stalin, J.V. “Concerning Marxism in Linguistics”, Contained in Stalin, J.V. “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Foreign languages Press, Peking, 1972, p.29-30.

In the same section, Stalin states that besides exposing the fact that there was an extremely unhealthy climate in linguistics (‘a Regime’), there was a second reason why it was good to ventilate these issues openly. This was in order to clarify the controversial areas, from the scientific point of view:

“The usefulness of the discussion does not end here. It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal question of linguistics which prevails among the leading circle in this branch of science. Until the discussion began, the “disciples” of N.Y.Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence became impossible and they were compelled to express their opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N.Y.Marr’s teachings there are a number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy propositions. Why, one asks, have N.Y.Marr’s “disciples” begun to talk about this only now, after the discussion opened ? Why did they not see to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly, as befits scientists?”

J.V.Stalin, Ibid, p.31.

In the same section Stalin points out that, Marr’s status was such, that any mundane words of Marr’s were considered valuable holy writ. So much so, that when even the author Marr himself discredits one of his own textbooks, his followers insisted on its use! It is very obvious how this enshrining of a view can take a knife to that independence of thought crucial for aspiring Marxist-Leninists. Stalin saw the potential for mischief (Sabotage):

“If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade Meschaninov and the other linguistic leaders I would say that such conduct is tantamount to sabotage.”

Stalin, p.30, Ibid.

But what leads to this rather unhappy and unscientific state of affairs?

“How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyv regime established in linguistics, cultivates irresponsibility and encourages such arbitrary actions.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 30.

Arakcheyv was a:

“Reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, responsible for an unrestrained, dictatorial police state warlord despotism and brutal rule enforced in Russia in the first quarter of the 19th century.”

Editors notes to J.V.S. Edition (Peking) cited above, p.55.

BUT THEN HOW ARE WE TO CHARACTERISE MARR, ACCORDING TO STALIN?

“Save us from N.Y.Marr’s “Marxism”! N.Y.marr did indeed want to be, and endeavoured to become, a Marxist, but he failed to become one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the “proletcultist’ or the ‘Rappists.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Who were the ‘proletcult’ (also spelt Proletkul’t) or the ‘Rappists’?

They were organisations that represented the views of the visual artists and writers respectively, who were trying to define their role in the revolution. Their big debate was whether any of the “Old cultures” (ie Rembrandt or Tolstoy or medieval church icons etc) had any relevance to socialist life in the Soviet Union. The tendency towards Ultra-Leftism , exemplified with the attitudes of poet and artist, Vladamir Mayakovsky (“Out with the Old”) was dominant.

Both Bukharin, and A.Lunarcharsky were in contradiction with that of Lenin, upon the Proletkul’t, and the issues of whether a new separate proletarian culture could be evolved without recourse to the structure of previous “bourgeois culture.” Thus Lenin had to soothe Buhkarin, and tried to win him to a compromise when Bukharin refused to attend the Congress of the Communist Group at the First All Russian Congress of Proletkul’t, October 5-12 1920.

[Editor : Please see a fuller “Note On RAPP and The Proletkul’t”, Below (p.19)].

The general relationship of The Communist Academy to Proletkul’t, lay in their common Ultra-Left wing approach to the intelligentsia; and their applications of a mechanical simplistic reductionist “Marxism,” and not a dialectical understanding. In this Marr was characteristic.

Wherein did Marr’s Ultra-Left errors lie?

“N.Y.Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect and non-Marxist formula regarding the “class character”of language,and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Moreover Marr’s style was repugnant:

“Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest boastful, arrogant, tone alien to Marxism and tending toward a bald and off-hand negation of everything done in linguistics prior to Marr.
Marr shrilly abused the comparative historical method as “idealistic”. Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings the comparative-historical method is nevertheless better than Marr’s really idealistic four-element analysis, because the former gives a stimulus to work, and the latter only gives a stimulus to loll in one’s arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup of the celebrated four elements…
To listen to Marr, and especially to his disciples, one might think that there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science of language appeared with the “new doctrine” of Marr. Marx and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31-2.

Stalin did not reject all that Marr said:

“Of course the works of Marr do not consist solely of errors. Marr made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics elements of Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent theory of language, But Marr had certain good and ably written works, in which he, forgetting his theoretical claims, conscientiously and one must say, skilfully investigates individual languages, In these works one can find not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly these valuable and instructive things should be taken from Marr and utilized.”

Stalin, “Concerning Certain Problems of Linguistics, Reply to Comrade E.Krasheninnikova,” Contained in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Peking, Ibid, p.39

We have examined how Stalin viewed Marr, and what he at least said about the scientific method-the “clash of opinions.” There is not a little here that reminds one forcibly about the tone of the Biology debates undertaken by Lysenko.

To illustrate that Stalin was not a crude “Reducer to Class Reality,” we have to discuss his actual concrete objections to the Japhetic School of Marr.

BY UNDERSTANDING THIS, WE SEE THAT STALIN DID NOT ADVOCATE A CRUDE “MARXIST LEVELLING”:

Firstly Marr, argued that language was a “superstructure on the base.” This was a mechanical translation of the Marxist view that all the phenomena of a class society reflect the underlying economic structures:

“Question :Is it true that Language is a superstructure of the base?

Answer : No, it is not true. The base is the economic structure of society as the given stage of its development. The superstructure us the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political legal and other institutions corresponding to them.

Every base has its own corresponding superstructure, the base of the feudal system has its superstructure its political legal or other views, and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base has its own superstructure, so has the socialist base.

In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure. Take for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course of the past 30 years the old capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia and a new socialist base has been built. Correspondingly the superstructure on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created corresponding to the socialist base.. But in spit of this the Russian language has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution.. Language is not a product of one base or another, old or new within the given society, but of the whole course of history of the society and of the history of the bases for many centuries.. Language was created for by some by one class, but by the entire society, by the hundred of generations.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 3-6.

Secondly Marr argued that there were class languages, and now there was a “proletarian” languages pitched against a “bourgeois” language:

“Question: Is it true that language always was and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people?

Answer: “The first mistake is that…our comrade are confusing language with superstructure…since the superstructure has a class character, language too must be a class language, and not a language common to the whole people.

The Second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive the opposition of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the fierce class struggle between them as meaning the disintegration of society, as a break of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that since society has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but only classes, a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary. If society has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to the whole people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes and ‘class languages.’ Naturally every ‘class language’ will have its own ‘class’ grammar- a ‘proletarian’ grammar or a ‘bourgeois’ grammar.

True such grammars do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry these comrades: they believe that such grammars will appear in due course.

At one time there were ‘Marxists’ in our country who asserted that the railways left to us after the October Revolution were bourgeois railways, that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them, that they should be torn up and new ‘proletarian’ railways built. For this they were nicknamed ‘troglodytes.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p.16-7

Finally on Marr’s mechanical insistence that there were “stages” in language development, Stalin was equally blunt:

“It is said that the theory that languages develops by stages is a Marxist theory, since it recognises the necessity of sudden explosions as a condition for the transition for a language from an old reality to a new. This is of course untrue for it is difficult to find anything resembling Marxism in this theory.. Marxism does not recognise sudden explosions in the development of languages, the sudden end of an existing language, and the sudden erection of a new language. Lafargue was wrong when he spoke of a sudden “linguistic revolution” which took place between 1789 and 1794 in France (See Lafargue’s pamphlet The French Language Before and After the Revolution). There was not a linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden one, in France at that time.. Marxism holds that transition for a language from an old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion, of the destruction for an existing language and the certain of a new one, but by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality and hence by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality.”

“It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades who have an infatuation for explosions that the law of transitions from an old quality to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not only to the history of the development of languages; it is not always applicable to other social phenomena of a base or superstructural character. It applies of necessity to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not necessarily apply to a society which has no hostile classes.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 27.

Finally why did Stalin feel that he could so sharply pin down the weaknesses of Marr? It was not the case for biology. But the debates in biology; and their terms paralleled well the Linguistics Debate, upon which Stalin came out with a written piece, that exposed the shallowness of the hitherto “Linguistics Debate.” Furthermore, these polemics, upon Linguistics, are not after all, like the common image painted by the bourgeois. You know the sort of thing, “subtle, quietly intelligent, devious – quiet in public, stab you dead in the dark sort of thing.”

Even the line the polemics describe, is counter to the view that the bourgeois paint. Instead of the crude Marxist Levelling that bourgeoisie accuse him of, Stalin upholds a much more visionary view. After all, what could be more plain to a “Marxist” than that everything in society is a product of class warfare? The same bourgeois and Trotskyites, who castigate Stalin’s understanding of philosophy as “Class Reductionist” cannot explain his refusal to jump onto Marr’s bandwagon. This would appear to be a “perfect bandwagon,” from the standpoint of the usual Paradigm set up by the bourgeois academics.

Obviously, Stalin was enabled to put into print an attack upon Ultra-Leftism in the science of Linguistics because some students had the good sense to approach him for direction. But it cannot be irrelevant that one of his first theoretical books had been : “Marxism and the National Question.” Indeed it had been this book written in 1913, that had first attracted Lenin’s attention to Stalin. One could be forgiven for guessing that this work, allowed Stalin the critical scientific insight into the technicalities that allowed him to open an attack.

In biology, he may not have had the critical insights. But he could see the debate as an important debate, that was proceeding. The complexity of this debate was staggering; both “sides” had good points. The same issues (environment versus heredity) continue to plague honest and principled scientists now. Stalin probably realised this. Not being an “expert,” Stalin commissioned assessments, from specialists in the biological field such as Sukachev. Ultimately Lysenkoism as a crude unthinking “application” of dialectics to biology was reductionist and destructive.

The linguistics debate makes clear Stalin’s opposition to an anti-scientific approach to technical questions; and Stalin’s insistence that only “applications of dialectics” will explain the facts. As opposed to this was the reductionist view that “dialectics came first and then come the facts.” As Stalin says in the linguistics debate, there is a relationship between that latter incorrect view, and sabotage.

NOTE : AN ADDENDUM ON PROLETKUL’T (See P. above)

Both Proletkul’t, and RAPP were Ultra-Leftist organisations for the visual arts, and writing respectively. Both provoked Lenin’s disapproval on aesthetics, and their ultra-leftist insistence of “out with the old.” For example Lenin explicitly did not support abstractionism in art and expressly countered movements like the Futurists (supported by Proletkul’t). These movements, always popular amongst the “avant garde” Art For Art Sake-ists in the West, were highly abstractionist in their art, and their view of what “the masses needed.” All this, ultimately led to an open disagreement between the Minister for Culture A.Lunarcharsky and Lenin.

The latter viewed the Futurists and the like tendencies as being generally positive. At the First Proletkul’t Congress in 1920, Lunarcharsky attempted to downplay the role of the State apparatuses like the Education commissariat, in ensuring that the Ultra-Left tendencies of Proletkul’t did not go unrestricted.

In an open rebuke, Lenin proposed a Draft Resolution. Points One and Two, emphasised the leading role of the workers and peasants in creating socialism; and therefore the leading role of the vanguard Communist Party in pubic education. The Third point pointed out that history had vindicated the Marxist world outlook.

The 4th and 5th points emphasised that all culture had to be absorbed, and that the State Apparatuses had to be the final arbiters of public education :

“4. Marxism has won its historic significance as the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat because, far from rejecting the most valuable achievements of the bourgeois epoch, it has, on the contrary assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than 2,000 years of the development of the human thought and culture. Only further work in this basis and in this direction, inspired by the practical experience of the proletarian dictatorship as the final stage in the struggle against every form of exploitation can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

“5. Adhering unswervingly to this stand of principle, the All Russia Congress of Proletkul’t rejects in the most resolute manner, as theoretically unsound and practically harmful, all attempts to invent one’s own particular brand of culture, to remain isolated is self-contained organisations, to draw a line dividing the field of work of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Education and the Proletkul’t, or to set up a Proletkul’t “autonomy” within establishments, under the People’s Commissariat of Education and so forth. On the contrary the Congress enjoins all Proletkul’t organisations to fully consider themselves in duty bound to act as auxiliary bodies o the network of establishments under the People’s Commissariat of Education, and to accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet Authorities (Specifically the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party, as part of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship.”

V.Lenin CW: Vol 31, Moscow, 1966-86. p.316-7.

Buhkarin had refused to speak at the Congress, following Lenin’s draft resolution, as above. Bukharin’s grounds for refusal were that he would be in disagreement with Lenin on various issues, especially Point 4 of Lenin’s draft Resolution “On Proletarian Culture ” (See above). However, Lenin tried to assuage Bukharin’s refusal with the following note:

“Why now dwell on the differences between us (perhaps possible ones), it suffices to state (and prove) on behalf of the Central Committee as a whole:
1. Proletarian culture = communism.
2. Is carried out by the RCP (ie the party-ed).
3. The proletar.class = RCP=Soviet power.
We are all agreed on this, aren’t we?”

V.Lenin Oct. 11th, 1920. In CW. Moscow, 1944 Vol 44. p.445.

The Draft Resolution of Lenin was adopted by the Congress of Proletkul’t.

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Grover Furr: The Fallacies of Afrocentrism

EGYPT - JANUARY 01:  The mask of King Tutankhamun displayed in the Cairo Museum, Egypt.  (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

EGYPT – JANUARY 01: The mask of King Tutankhamun displayed in the Cairo Museum, Egypt. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

A few days ago I posted an article I wrote back in ’91 when the college’s black student org. invited Leonard Jeffries to come to speak. In it I ran through, though very briefly (for space), some of the fallacies of Afrocentrism. Here is a little more about them, in no special order.

  1. Afrocentrism seriously distorts Egyptian history. Egyptians were not “black” (Negroid) on the whole, though a few dynasties of rulers were. But Egyptians were also not racists, it seems, and people of different colors intermarried. We could do well to follow their lead in this!There is no evidence that Nefertiti or Cleopatra were ‘black’, for example. Nefertiti was not “white” (i.e. European) either (Cleopatra was either 3/4 Greek or, perhaps, entirely so, not Egyptian at all).
  2. Greeks did not “steal” their culture from Egypt. In the ancient Mediterranean world, cultural influences moved around a lot.
  3. The Egyptian rulers and their acolytes (like all the “-hoteps”, Imhotep, Ptahhotep, et al.) were an oppressive and expoitative aristocracy. Cheikh Anta Diop, whom Afrocentrists admire but, it seems, seldom read, has a very interesting review of Jacques Pirenne’s History of Ancient Egypt in one of his books. Diop comments favorably about Pirenne’s description of revolutions against the Egyptian rulers by lower-class Egyptians — something one would expect in an exploitative society. But the Afrocentrists who so admire Diop never mention this aspect of Ancient Egypt! In short, what they admire is the aristocratic, exploitative aspect of it.
  4. “African culture” is not a unity: there are many, many cultures in Africa. Ancient Egyptians are not the ancestors, either culturally or genetically, of the peoples of West Africa or of the American black population.
  5. The whole “ice man-sun man” thesis of Francis Welsing is racist crap, without a shred of evidence to support it. Welsing seldom publishes her ‘research’; same with Jeffries. I know: I’ve tried to get it; with lots of effort, I’ve gotten a very little bit. The infamous “Melanin” Conferences at which these ideas are promoted are virtually secret, their ‘proceedings’, if any, not available to anyone.
  6. The premises of Afrocentrism are false and racist against blacks, among others.
  • it is false and racist that anyone has any business taking “pride” in the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, since intelligence, creativity, etc., are not inherited, and furthermore no one can take any credit for anything they have not achieved themselves. This is the case even if modern blacks were the descendants of ancient Egyptians, which they are not. Besides, if one takes credit for the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, why not also assume the blame for the atrocities committed by the same ancestors?
  • it is false and racist to say that “blackness”, “melanin” (or “whiteness”, etc.) confers intelligence, or any characteristics at all. If it were true, all blacks with any degree of white ancestry would be “sub-human” just as the “ice person” thesis claims whites are; most American blacks, if not all, therefore.

Where does Afrocentrism come from? Historically, it’s a reaction to the tremendous upsurge of racism spurred by 18th and 19th century European imperialism. I think Bernal [Black Athena, Volume I] is right when he points out that after 1800 study of Egypt — and also of the Semitic mid-east— was systematically denigrated for racist reasons. Some scholars reacted against this marginalization of Egypt and the Mid-East, including some black scholars (but not only them). This is the ancestry of Afrocentrism, sketched by Bernal rather convincingly. What is not convincing about Bernal (Volumes 1 and 2) is his derivation of Greek civilization from Egyptian colonists. However, even if it were true, it would not mean what the Afrocentrists say it means.

Today, Afrocentrism is a racist, highly conservative, nationalist pseudo-science (by the latter term I mean: based upon phony scholarship and premises). It victimizes black students almost exclusively, since it is they who have this nonsense foisted off upon them as truth.

The fact that it is tolerated and even promoted at various universities, including the one I teach at, is a tribute to higher education’s racism against black students. This kind of worthless, reactionary crap would never be tolerated if it were being purveyed to white students!

Afrocentrism is another form of authoritarianism. It tells black students: Believe “your leaders” because they are black! Since there’s no evidence worthy of the name for these theses, “believe your black leaders” is all that’s left.

Who are these misleaders, phony scholars? I do not see any division into “responsible” and “irresponsible.” Asante and Karenga write the same kind of nonsense as Jeffries and Welsing. If you want to read some real authoritarian crap from somebody with a Jesus complex (i.e. he believes he’s the chosen of God), read Asante’s Afrocentricity, in which he claims the belief structure was “granted” him as a “vision”, like Paul on the road to Damascus. He even reprints it!

Afrocentrism, being racist against blacks, is useful to the racist US ruling class, and I think that’s why it’s tolerated. It serves to inculcate racist, anti-white views among black students, and to keep them obedient to whatever the highly conservative ‘authorities’ tell them.

The same kind of nationalism flourished in the ’60s, where it served to keep blacks from uniting with anti-racist whites to fight racism. That’s the function of Afrocentrism today, and very valuable it is to the tactic of “divide and conquer”, by which white and black workers and students are kept divided from one another.

However, Afrocentrism is nowhere near as influential as overt anti-black racism of the Murray/Herrnstein Bell Curve kind, or of the D’Amato/Christy Whitman/Joe Bruno kind. Anti-black racism is sharply on the increase, under the guise of “attacking Affirmative Action”, attacks on welfare, and so on.

Racism is on the increase because the ruling class always uses racism to divide the working class against one another, the better to fleece it — to lower the standard of living and increase profits. Afrocentrism helps them, and so continues to flourish, as do the right-wing fascists, militias, etc., all of which are also racist to the core.

Racism is the key issue here. If there were a mass anti-racist movement involving many whites, as there was in the ’60s, the “cultural nationalists” like the Afrocentrists, like the Farrakhans, would be an insignificant force as they were then. As it is, with racism against blacks rising rapidly, and no multi-racial, anti-racist movement, it is the nationalists who appear, to some, to be at least ‘doing something’ about racism, something to assert the equality and dignity of black people. They are not doing this; but the appearance that they are is what attracts many black students and others.

You want to weaken Afrocentrism? FIGHT ANTI-BLACK RACISM!

Grover Furr, English Department

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