Last month we commemorated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the USSR. There is a virtual vendetta launched against Marxism by the Western media. In actual fact what collapsed 30 years ago was state capitalism or revisionism, not true Socialism. The path had already been paved by leaders like Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev earlier who eradicated the roots of Marxist or Socialist principles at the very base. Such leaders dismantled the very base of Socialist Society, by introducing profit motive and private farming, promoting consumerism and introducing private ownership of party members within collective farms. What they brilliantly did was to disguise themselves as Marxists by giving USSR a socialist face. The collapse created a huge psychological dent in the minds of the world people on the progressiveness of Communism or Marxism and paved the path for the triumph of consumerism and market forces worldwide.
USSR from 1917-1956 could boast of achievements unprecedented in history and giving power to the working class as never before. The first genuine workers state was established, with workers owing the means of production. Unemployment was unheard of, literacy was given to all, health system surpassed that of any bourgeois democracy, production figures attained record heights. In no place in the world did workers receive as much facilities for leisure and holidays, better housing, or as adequate transport and electricity facilities. Through collectivization peasants could integrate to produce for the collective good and serve the industrial labour community. No party ever constituted such a strong fraction of members of worker or peasant origin. Russia industrialized at rate 4 times quicker than any Western power. I would like readers to refer to books written by E.H.Carr, Alan Taylor ,Anne Loiuse Strong ,George Bernard Shaw or Sydney Beatrice Webb, refuting the lies of the Imperialist media on the USSR.,and portraying the nation in the correct light. In more recent times it is worth referring to writers like Grover Furr,Raymond Lotta ,Vijay Singh ,Joma Sison,Joseph Ball,Gonzalo, or Bruce Franklin. These include non -Stalinists or liberals, who vividly recount how Soviet Union overcame the most hazardous obstacles, to take proletarian welfare to heights unscaled.EH Car delves into the conspiracy of the colonial powers to topple USSR and how it was imperative for Lenin and Stalin to take certain steps. The methodology of the Soviet five year plans took production to region s untranscended. Carr is no Stalinist but morally summarises that USSR did exactly what it had to do in every step to confront being submerged or encircled by the colonial powers and Nazi Germany .The planned economy of USSR was a model for the entire world.
The important features from 1917 to 56 were the first establishment of the Soviets, as an instrument of working class power, Brest Litoskv treaty of 1918, Civil War of 1918-21 the New Economic policy of 1921 which introduced capitalism within a workers state, the collectivization of agriculture from 1928, the Great purges of 1933-38, War production from 1935 ,the introduction of the Constitution of 1935,, re-constructing Socialism after 1945,and 1952 self criticism of the party.
No doubt major errors or violations of Marxist practice occurred in Stalin era from the 1930’s.Tremendous excesses occurred in the purges. Innocent party members perished in the purges with democratic centralism lacking. Revolutionary democracy was suppressed to an extent from below leading to bureaucratism.Agriculture was neglected to an extent with too much emphasis on industry. Attention was given single-handedly to the base, neglecting the superstructure. Instead of persuasion collectivization was undertaken by force. A strata of a privileged class of party members was created with wage differentials imposed and a class of technicians created .This did not reconcile with Marxism Leninism. The Soviets were not able to function democratically to the full, being completely subordinated to the Communist party. Harsh treatment was meted out to poets, artists and writers not conforming with the system, with dissent not given sufficient voice. Stalin also went overboard in dealing with Scientist Lysenko .Stalin also did not display dialectical method in re-building the party after 1945 .Quoting Raymond Lotta “By 1934, Stalin and several others in leadership felt it was time to consolidate the political and social gains of the revolution. The new proletarian state was facing extreme and difficult objective conditions. War was looming. There was no prior historical experience for dealing with the magnitude of the situation. Adjustments were called for. But mistakes were made in how this dire necessity was dealt with. On the basis of the transformations in ownership that had gone on, there was a push for greater discipline and stepped-up production in the factories. But the development of the productive forces came to be seen as the guarantee of socialism. Leadership relied less on the conscious activism and initiative of the masses. The radical social and cultural experimentation of the 1920s and early 1930s was reined in – and things got consolidated in a way that strengthened more traditional relations. Socialism in the Soviet Union had to be defended. But the Soviet leadership tended to see the defense of the Soviet Union as being one and the same as the interests of the world revolution without any contradiction – and thus increasingly promoted national patriotism instead of proletarian internationalism.”
“He relied on purges and police actions to solve problems–rather than mobilizing the masses to take up the burning political and ideological questions on the overall direction of society. Mao was critical of Stalin’s approach and pointed out that Stalin had a tendency to mix up two fundamentally different types of contradictions: the contradiction between the people and the enemy, and contradictions among the people themselves. Repression, which should only have been directed against enemies, was used against people who were not enemies but merely were making mistakes or expressing disagreements with the policy of the government.”
It is worth pointing out how many foreign spies or saboteurs infiltrated the USSR within the party itself either of Western nations or Trotskyites, with imperialist nations engulfing the Soviet Union. Many of the orders of the purges were delivered by the far right opposition within the Bolshevik party. I justify Stalin’s stand towards Bukharin,Sergie Kirov ,Zinoviev and Kamanev who were all conspirators in dethroning the Russian state.
I mantain that USSR won the war against the German Nazis led by Hitler only because it adhered to Socialist ideology. Morally it is USSR that won World War 2 and not the Western allies. The Soviet victory at Stalingrad was arguably the greatest turning point in the last century. Historian Geoffrey Roberts testifies this.
After 1956 hypocritically Khrushchev launched a tirade against Stalin and derailed Russia from Socialist path. A private plot, profit motive concept was introduced, with economy decentralised. Managerial structures were re-introduced within factories. In 1964 Khrushchev was ousted and Brezhnev attempted to reverse it through some initiatives but all his methods were superficial.Gorbachev through Perestroika and Glasnost from 1985 gave revisionism another shape. Till the final official fall all these leaders virtually undid what Lenin and Stalin installed. Still even revisionist USSR posessed semblances of a Socialist state in terms of employment, literacy, health facilities, sports facilities and child care. It was less racist than any Western democracy.
On the International level Stalin did display big brother treatment towards Eastern European Countries and China in his time and took a wrong stand in advising the CCP to adopt path of urban insurrection. After 1956 USSR advocated peaceful co-existence and compromised on national liberation Struggles. It took reactionary steps like supporting emergency in India ,invaded Afghanistan in 1982,invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968,supported martial law in Poland in 1982,and adopted approach of detente towards USA. Through Comecon it virtually treated East European countries as Satellites and gave no effective moral support to 3rd world liberation movements. Still I mantain it was more progressive than America .USSR a sustained resistance to Apartheid in South Africa, supported Palestinian liberation against Israel, gave moral support to Cuba, supported anti-colonial movement of Angola and strongly supported Vietnam in the war against America.Today Russia is an imperialist country ,even though it challenges hegemony of superpower America. It has suppressed Islamic movements exhibiting chauvinism .Internally unemployment and inflation have reached sky high levels.
The most balanced analysis on Stalin is by Chairman Mao Tse Tung who evaluated that Stalin was 70% correct, and 30% wrong. Tooth and nail Mao upheld Stalin’s contribution to building a Leninist state but was critical of Stalin’s abuse of democratic centralism, neglecting superstructure and inability to invite democratic movements from below.Enver Hoxha’s writings are enlightening ,but still place no criticism of Stalin. A writer I profusely recommend is George Thomson who sums up that Stalin dealt with reactionary forces only through medium of police terror, and failed to encourage democratic initiative of the people. The Red Paper’s publication of “How Capitalism was restored in the USSR” is a classic in illustrating how USSR morally turned capitalist with the Party turning into a new class.Itmost extensively portrays the essence of revisionist politics in every sphere of life The Introduction of Bruce Franklin in ‘The Essential Stalin is also very insightful and factual.’’ ‘Set The Record Straight’ blog by Raymond Lotta to gives a balanced critique of Soviet Russia’s errors under Stalin.
It is worth mentioning how even today the memories of Lenin and Stalin shimmer in the hearts of Russians, with rallies of thousands staged in their memory. On their birthdays.Many Russians still feel in the main Lenin and Stalin were right. and rever their contribution. Even an anti-Stalinist like Issac Deutscher upheld USSR as a workers state under Lenin and Stalin.Deutscher maintained that Stalin could never be classed with a dictator like Hitler as he promoted a progressive ideology in contrast to a fascist one, and still left behind important ingredients of Russian culture, in sphere of literature and arts. Today majority of Russians feel conditions were better when it was formally USSR.I can’t forget the rallies staged by Russians in 1992 in Georgia, upholding Stalin. Today many intellectuals, including Marxists and Maoists, villify Stalin .I reccomend readers to refer to Enver Hoxha on ‘When Kruschev lied’ which traces how he bred a revisionist party.
I strongly believe that Lenin would not have tolerated certain methods of Stalin, which in my view were incoherent to Marxism-Leninism. However I doubt Lenin could have led USSR in the manner Stalin did during the war., to save the world from being enslaved by Hitler’s fascist Nazi rule.I recommend readers to understand how Leon Trotsky was essentially anti-marxist and conspired to sabotage Socialist USSR.I praise Stalin for his self –criticism in 1952 of the party.
I have strong conviction that the base of reversal in Soviet Union lay in Stalin’s errors, with the army delivering no effective resistance to Khrushchev’s takeover. Historians have a herculean task in what led to the overthrow of the genuine Bolshevik party and what sowed the seeds of revisionism.
Some of the most commendable work has come out in recent times defending Socialist USSR from 1917-56.by journal Revolutionary Democracy and outstanding research of Grover Furr.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.Toured India, particularly Punjab . Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly