J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 8, January-November, 1926, pp. 157-163
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
I have had a talk with Shumsky. It was a long talk, lasting over two hours. As you know, he is dissatisfied with the situation in the Ukraine. The reasons for his dissatisfaction may be reduced to two main points.
1. He considers that Ukrainisation is progressing far too slowly, that it is looked upon as an imposed obligation and is being carried out reluctantly and very haltingly. He considers that Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian intelligentsia are growing at a rapid pace, and that if we do not assume control of this movement it may by-pass us. He considers that the movement should be headed by people who believe in Ukrainian culture, who are or want to be acquainted with it, who support and are capable of supporting the growing movement for Ukrainian culture. He is particularly dissatisfied with the conduct of the top leadership of the Party and trade unions in the Ukraine, which, in his opinion, is hindering Ukrainisation. He thinks that one of the principal faults of the top leadership of the Party and trade unions is that it does not draw Communists who are directly linked with Ukrainian culture into the direction of Party and trade-union work. He thinks that Ukrainisation should be carried out first of all within the ranks of the Party and among the proletariat.
2. He thinks that if these shortcomings are to be corrected, it is necessary in the first place to alter the composition of the Party and Soviet top leadership with a view to its Ukrainisation, and that only on this condition can a change of sentiment in favour of Ukrainisation be brought about among the cadres of our functionaries in the Ukraine. He proposes that Grinko should be appointed to the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and Chubar to the post of Political Secretary of the C.C., Ukr.C.P.(B.), that the composition of the Secretariat and the Political Bureau should be improved, and so forth. He thinks that unless these and similar changes are made, it will be impossible for him, Shumsky, to work in the Ukraine. He says that should the Central Committee insist, he is prepared to return to the Ukraine even if the present conditions of work are left unchanged, but he is convinced that nothing would come of it. He is particularly dissatisfied with the work of Kaganovich. He thinks that Kaganovich has succeeded in putting Party organisation work on proper lines, but he considers that the predominance of the organisational element in Comrade Kaganovich’s methods renders normal work impossible. He is convinced that the effects of the organisational pressure exerted by Comrade Kaganovich in his work, of his method of relegating higher Soviet institutions and their leaders to the background, will make themselves felt within the very near future, and he cannot guarantee that these effects will not take the form of a serious conflict.
Here is my opinion.
1. As regards the first point, there is some truth in what Shumsky says. It is true that a broad movement in favour of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian public life has begun and is spreading in the Ukraine. It is true that we must under no circumstances allow that movement to fall into the hands of elements hostile to us. It is true that a number of Communists in the Ukraine do not realise the meaning and importance of that movement and are therefore taking no steps to gain control of it. It is true that a change of sentiment must be brought about among our Party and Soviet cadres, who are still imbued with an ironical and sceptical attitude towards Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian public life. It is true that we must painstakingly select and build up cadres capable of gaining control of the new movement in the Ukraine. All that is true. Nevertheless, Shumsky commits at least two serious errors.
Firstly. He confuses Ukrainisation of the apparatus of our Party and other bodies with Ukrainisation of the proletariat. The apparatus of our Party, state and other bodies serving the population can and should be Ukrainised, a due tempo in this matter being observed. But it is impossible to Ukrainise the proletariat from above. It is impossible to compel the mass of the Russian workers to give up the Russian language and Russian culture and accept the Ukrainian culture and language as their own. That would be contrary to the principle of the free development of nationalities. It would not be national freedom, but a peculiar form of national oppression. There can be no doubt that with the industrial development of the Ukraine and the influx into industry of Ukrainian workers from the surrounding countryside, the composition of the Ukrainian proletariat will change. There can be no doubt that the composition of the Ukrainian proletariat will become Ukrainised, just as the composition of the proletariat in Latvia or Hungary, say, which was at one time German in character, subsequently became Latvianised or Magyarised. But this is a lengthy, spontaneous and natural process. To attempt to replace this spontaneous process by the forcible Ukrainisation of the proletariat from above would be a utopian and harmful policy, one capable of stirring up anti-Ukrainian chauvinism among the non-Ukrainian sections of the proletariat in the Ukraine. It seems to me that Shumsky has a wrong idea of Ukrainisation and does not take this latter danger into account.
Secondly. While quite rightly stressing the positive character of the new movement in the Ukraine in favour of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian public life, Shumsky fails to see its seamy side. Shumsky fails to see that, in view of the weakness of the indigenous communist cadres in the Ukraine, this movement, which is very frequently led by non-communist intellectuals, may here and there assume the character of a struggle to alienate Ukrainian culture and public life from general Soviet culture and public life, the character of a struggle against “Moscow” in general, against the Russians in general, against Russian culture and its highest achievement—Leninism. I shall not stop to prove that this is becoming an increasingly real danger in the Ukraine. I only want to say that even certain Ukrainian Communists are not free from such defects. I have in mind such a generally known fact as the article of the Communist Khvilevoy in the Ukrainian press. Khvilevoy’s demand for the “immediate de-Russification of the proletariat” in the Ukraine, his opinion that “Ukrainian poetry must get away from Russian literature and its style as fast as possible,” his statement that “the ideas of the proletariat are known to us without Moscow art,” his infatuation with the idea that the “young” Ukrainian intelligentsia has some kind of Messianic role to play, his ludicrous and non-Marxist attempt to divorce culture from politics—all this and much else like it sounds (cannot but sound!) more than strange nowadays coming from the mouth of a Ukrainian Communist. At a time when the proletarians of Western Europe and their Communist Parties are in sympathy with “Moscow,” this citadel of the international revolutionary movement and of Leninism, at a time when the proletarians of Western Europe look with admiration at the flag that flies over Moscow, the Ukrainian Communist Khvilevoy has nothing better to say in favour of “Moscow” than to call on the Ukrainian leaders to get away from “Moscow” “as fast as possible.” And that is called internationalism! What is to be said of other Ukrainian intellectuals, those of the non-communist camp, if Communists begin to talk, and not only to talk but even to write in our Soviet press, in the language of Khvilevoy? Shumsky does not realise that we can gain control of the new movement in the Ukraine in favour of Ukrainian culture only by combating extremes like Khvilevoy’s in the communist ranks. Shumsky does not realise that only by combating such extremes can the rising Ukrainian culture and public life be converted into a Soviet culture and public life.
2. Shumsky is right when he asserts that the top leadership (Party and other) in the Ukraine should be Ukrainian. But he is mistaken about the tempo. And that is the main thing just now. He forgets that there are not enough purely Ukrainian Marxist cadres for this as yet. He forgets that such cadres cannot be created artificially. He forgets that such cadres can be reared only in the process of work, and that this requires time. . . . What would be the effect of appointing Grinko to the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars at this moment? How might such a step be assessed by the Party in general and the Party cadres in particular? Will they not take it to imply that our line is to depreciate the weight and prestige of the Council of People’s Commissars? For it cannot be concealed from the Party that Grinko’s Party and revolutionary standing is considerably lower than Chubar’s. Can we take such a step now, in the present period of the revitalisation of the Soviets and of increasing weight and prestige of the Soviet bodies? Would it not be better, both in the interest of our work and in the interest of Grinko himself, to forego such plans for the time being? I am in favour of the Secretariat and Political Bureau of the C.C., Ukr.C.P.(B.), as well as the top Soviet bodies, being reinforced with Ukrainian elements. But it is wrong to represent matters as if there were no Ukrainians in the leading organs of the Party and Soviets. What about Skrypnik and Zatonsky, Chubar and Petrovsky, Grinko and Shumsky—are they not Ukrainians? Shumsky’s mistake is that, while his perspective is correct, he disregards the question of tempo. And tempo is now the main thing.
With communist greetings,
26. IV. 1926
1. This letter was published in part in the collection: J. V. Stalin, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question, Moscow 1934, pp. 172-173