Tony Cliff

Russia From Stalin To Khrushchev


Tony Cliff, Russia from Stalin to Khrushchev, London 1956.
Published by Michael Kidron.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“O great Stalin, O leader of the peoples,
Thou who broughtest man to birth.
Thou who fructifiest the earth.
Thou who restorest the centuries,
Thou who makest bloom the spring,
Thou who makest vibrate the musical cords.
Thou, splendour of my spring,
O Thou, Sun reflected by millions of hearts ...”
                          (Pravda, August 28, 1936.)

“I would have compared him to a white mountain – but the mountain has a summit.
I would have compared him to the depths of the sea – but the sea has a bottom.
I would have compared him to the shining moon – but the moon shines at midnight, not at noon.
I would have compared him to the brilliant sun – but the sun radiates at noon, not at midnight.”
                                (Znamya, Soviet Authors’ Union Monthly, October 1946.)

Harry Pollitt, writing Stalin’s obituary “with tear-blinded eyes and a grief we have not the language at our command to describe”:

“I have met Comrade Stalin many times. Never since my first meeting with him in 1921, together with Comrade Lenin, have I met anyone so kindly and considerate, so easy to talk to and exchange views, and one so obviously only actuated by the desire to help.

“Never the dictator; never to lay the law down – always eager and willing to understand another’s point of view, and then to express in the most simple way his own thoughts about the, matter under discussion.”

Stalin had “written golden pages in world history whose lustre Time can never efface; indeed, with the advance of years their grandeur and nobility will increase.”
                                                                                   (Daily Worker, March 1953)


Russia from Stalin to Khrushchev

Khrushchev’s and Bulganin’s visit to England has been preceded by an immense amount of propaganda. The Russian bureaucracy has leant over backwards in an attempt to prove their democratic nature. The themes of democracy and collective leadership have been thumped out especially loudly since the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was held in February this year. This pamphlet will show that the much-lauded “changes” have changed very little since Stalin died, that Russia is still the Stalinist Russia of old.

Who was Stalin?

March 5 was the third anniversary of Stalin’s death. Three years ago the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union mourned his death by swearing that “the immortal name of Stalin will always live in the hearts of the Soviet people and of all progressive mankind.” Three years later, the date of Stalin’s death passed without mention in Pravda; the official organ of the CPSU, without comment in the East European satellite press and without a line in the Daily Worker.

Khrushchev, who at the 19th Congress of the CPSU lavished praise on “the genius leader and teacher Comrade Stalin” (Soviet News, November 29, 1952), ignores him now. Mikoyan, who thought that “Stalin illumines our life with the bright light of science,” who thought his new book on the Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR a “treasure-house of ideas” (Ibid., November 11, 1952), is now the most outspoken critic of Stalin and “the cult of the individual,” and the greatest debunker of Stalin’s last book, about which he says, “it is doubtful whether ... (it) ... can be of any help to us or is correct” (For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy! March 2, 1956). Harry Pollitt, who, at the 19th Congress declaimed to “loud and prolonged applause” that Comrade Stalin was “the teacher, guide and friend of the working people of the entire world,” and ended with “Long live the great leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the whole Soviet people and all working people throughout the world, Comrade Joseph Stalin!” – this Harry Pollitt quickly jumped on the bandwagon of disdain and forgetfulness.

“Who is Stalin, Harry?”

“Never heard of him.”

The “New Democracy”

Stalin has been buried with indecent haste. Has Stalinism and Stalinist totalitarianism gone with him? To listen to the new leaders – yes. But facts tell a different tale.

Even at the famous 20th Congress held recently there was no departure from the rigging and ritualism of Stalin’s days: every one of the resolutions passed was passed unanimously. Not one of the more than 1,300 delegates dared oppose or even abstain from the smallest amendment. If the line was to convene plenary meetings of city committees of the Party once every three months, that was the holy writ. Once in four months or once in two months would be unthinkable – now, as before under Stalin.

“Election” practices are also unchanged under the new “collective leadership.” In the March, 1954, elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the traditional poll of 99.89 per cent of the electoral register turned out to signify almost unanimously their approval of the single list of candidates (Soviet News, March 22, 1954). In other words, 9,989 out of every 10,000 eligible voters actually voted – illness, death, childbirth, can hardly be known in Russia! In the elections for all the Government organs of the RSFSR in February last year there were 833,376 candidates. Each one of them – every single one – was duly elected (Soviet News, March 8, 1955).

The New Consumers’ Paradise

The speechmakers at the 20th Congress of the CPSU promised the Russian workers a heaven of consumer goods on this hitherto barren earth. These promises echo the ones already given immediately after Stalin’s death.

Unfortunately for the Russian people, the record shows that delivery does not follow the order form. Look at the figures: in 1954 the Budget allocated 133 milliard roubles to heavy industry and 36.6 milliard to light (consumer goods) industry; in the following year (1955) the Budget raised heavy industry’s share by 33.6 milliard to 163.6 milliard roubles and cut the allocation to light industry by nearly a quarter, to 27.9 milliard roubles; for 1956 heavy industry is promised 158.7 milliard roubles, while light industry’s share will be 26.0 milliard, or less than it was two years ago.

Military expenditure has not changed significantly either since Stalin’s death and the inauguration of the “New Era”. Stalin spent 93.9 milliard roubles on defence in 1951, and 113.8 milliard in 1952 (more than twice the war-time total of 56.1 milliard in 1940). His successors show a similar record: 1954, 100.3 milliard: 1955, 112.1 milliard; and 1956 (plan), 102.5 milliard.

Complaints about the daily hardships caused by the lack of consumer goods frequently reach the Press. A director of one of the biggest department stores in the USSR, wrote to Izvestia: “Customers have been complaining for some months that they cannot obtain an ordinary broomstick in our department store. They are right to be dissatisfied, but we cannot help them.” (Izvestia, September 8, 1954.) Another letter, to Pravda, complained that “woollen stockings tear the second or third day.” “We pay from 22 to 25 roubles for a pair and use them only because there are no better stockings to hand” (Pravda, July 2, 1954). (The average worker’s monthly wage is some 600 roubles, equal to some 40-45 pairs of stockings!) Another paper wrote: “Razor blades are very scarce.” “Trade organisations in Sverdlovsk asked for 20,000,000 blades for 1955 but only 3,300,000 were allotted to them. The city of Kuibyshev received 2,400,000 instead of 8,000.000 and Chelyabinsk received 1,400,000 instead of 5,000,000.” The planned target for blades for the whole country in 1955 was 515 million, although the number required was 11-2 thousand million (Trud, August 3, 1955). The number planned is enough to give less than 8 blades a year to each man above the age of 18! As for the quality: “... a good blade can be used four or five times while a poor one can be used only once or twice. Often shaving even with a new blade is a torture.” (Ibid.) Again the paper wrote: “‘Where can I buy work clothes?’ Working people constantly ask this question at various central establishments.” “As early as the beginning of 1954, officials of the Chief Clothing Trade Administration of the Ministry of Trade reported that extensive trade in workers’ clothes would begin in the very near future. Then the indicated time was postponed to the end of the year, And in March of this year a new date was fixed: “ But still nothing happened (Trud, August 20, 1955).

Bureaucratic Managers in Control

One of the main features of the regime in Stalin’s time was the absence of any vestige of workers’ control in the factory, all power being concentrated in the hands of the managers. As one Soviet paper put it: “It is necessary above everything to strengthen one-man management. It is necessary to proceed from the basic assumption that the Director is the supreme chief in the factory. All the employees in the factory must be completely subordinated to him.” (Za Industrializatsiu, Moscow, April 16, 1934.)

Nothing has changed in the official attitude since Stalin’s death. Only seven weeks after he died, Pravda (of April 26, 1953) called for “a further strengthening of one-man management and an increase in the role of the leader.” B.P. Beshchev, Minister of Transport, stated: “The managers must be granted greater power ... We must increase the role and importance of the middle and lower commanding levels, particularly the chiefs of stations, depots, road sections and construction sections and foremen at shops and depots” (Pravda, May 19, 1954). Premier Bulganin said in a speech to the Central Committee of the Party: “We must strengthen one-man management ... The extension of the Director’s powers and the enhancement of the foreman’s and section manager’s role are urgent problems in industry and building.” (N.A. Bulganin, Tasks of the Further Development of Industry, Technical Progress and Better Organisation of Production, Moscow 1955, pp.57, 80.) The Central Committee accordingly resolved: “The powers of Directors, shop managers and foremen must be extended.” (Decision of the Plenum of the CC, CPSU, held in July 1955, Moscow 1955, p.25.)

Though Stalin has left the scene, the power of the factory managers has not diminished. On the contrary, it has gone from strength to strength.

Some Still More Equal Than Others

Factory managers and top Party and State bureaucrats get fat salaries; they own a dacha (summer residence) or two, have a chauffeur to drive their cars, and many other privileges which seen outrageous luxuries amidst the prevailing poverty. Their incomes are some 50-100 times greater than that of the average worker.

To take one example only. If a private in national service dies his family gets a pension of between 40 and 240 roubles a month (I.I. Ectikhiev and V.A. Vlassov, Administrative Law of the USSR (Russian), Moscow 1946, p.164), but the family of a deceased colonel gets 1,920 roubles a month (Ibid., p.418). And when Colonel-General V.A. Yuskevich died, his widow was granted a lump sum of 50,000 roubles and a pension of 2,000 roubles a month for life (Pravda, March 17, 1949).

It is impossible in this short pamphlet to show under what conditions of poverty and oppression the mass of workers and kolkhoz (collective farm) members live. But some idea can be gained from the Law’s extreme harshness towards any violation of property. Just as men were condemned to barbarous punishments for the theft of a few shillings in the Elizabethan England of 400 years ago, so in Russia today punishment for stealing is extremely severe. The Soviet Press – after Stalin’s death as much as during his lifetime – is full of particulars of thefts and the punishment meted out to the thieves, punishment so harsh that there can be only one reason for risking it – extreme poverty. Thus on June 28, 1953, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that two youths who demanded money from two students, threatening them with a knife and a razor, were condemned to 20 years’ confinement in a corrective labour camp. Four days later the paper reported a case in which four thieves were arrested, one of whom was condemned to 25 years’ imprisonment in a corrective labour camp, two others to 10 years each, and “the girl Nina Nedilko, a minor,” to eight years (Komsomolskaya Pravda, July 2, 1953). Two other thieves who assaulted a citizen and tried to take his watch from him were condemned to 15 years’ imprisonment (Leningradskaya Pravda, July 18, 1953). Another three who tried to rob a citizen of 285 roubles (less than £20) were condemned to 10 years (Ibid.). In another case three youths who stole and robbed were condemned to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fourth to 20 years (Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 18, 1953). Another four thieves were condemned to 25 years, three more (two women and a man) to 20 years (Pravda, December 4, 1953), and so on in daily succession.

The Law’s harshness – and its frequent violation – are inevitable where great privileges exist in the midst of general poverty. Stalin’s departure has left the subordination of man to property; the oppression and exploitation, untouched.

Great-Russian Imperialism Persists

Stalin kept a tight hold over his Empire under the guise of “Socialist Federation”. Today Moscow continues to exercise firm control over the non-Russian peoples. The clearest indication of this is the fact that the Ministers of the Interior (those who control the security police) in the “National Republics” are not appointed from the local nationalities, but are Russians. After Beria’s downfall, practically all the Ministers of the Interior of the National Republics were removed. On August 22, 1953, a new Minister of the Interior was appointed in the Azerbaidzhan Republic – Anatoly Mikhailovich Guskov, whose name alone betrays that he is not an Azerbaidzhani. On August 23, 1953, Kirgizia got a new Minister of the Interior – Aleksander Vladimirovich Tereshchenko. On September 11, 1953, Turkmenistan was presented with a new one – Vasily Timofeyevich Vaskin. In Tadzhikistan, Dmitry Konstantinovich Vishnevsky was appointed in September 23, 1953. The Kazakhstan Republic got its new Minister on September 29, 1953 – Vladimir Vladimirovich Gubin. No trouble was taken to cloak the clearly Russian names of each of these. Imagine British Ministers of the Interior in India, South Africa or Canada!

Part and parcel of Russia’s imperialism under Stalin was the glorification of the Tsars who built the Empire, and their generals: Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Suvorov, Kutuzov, etc. Stalin’s heirs continue in the same tradition. On May 18, 1954, Pravda announced that a special memorial plaque was to be put up for Admiral S.O. Makarov who commanded the Tsarist navy in the 1904-5 war against Japan. Voroshilov, President of the USSR, sang the praises of “the great Russian General, Aleksander Vasilyevich Suvorov and the glorious Admiral Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov.” (Pravda, October 15, 1955). The following slant was given to the occupation of the Ukraine by Tsarist Russia: “The reunion of the Ukraine with Russia (in 1654) ... was of tremendous progressive significance for the future political, economic and cultural development of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.” “Re-union with the strong centralised Russian State assisted the economic and cultural development of the Ukraine.” “The admission of the Ukraine into Russia was also of great international significance. It struck a blow at the Poland of the gentry” (Soviet News, January 21, 1954). Imagine a British Communist writing: “The union of India with Britain was progressive. It had great international significance as it struck a blow at the aggressive aspirations of imperialist France!” Again, imagine a British Communist praising Clive, Rhodes or Kitchener!

Finally, today as under Stalin, the only people in the USSR referred to as “great” are the Russian people.

Though Stalin exists no more, the Russian Empire continues!

The Party – Still a Bureaucrat’s Club

Khrushchev’s Party, like Stalin’s, is a political weapon of the bureaucracy. This is clear from its policies. Its social composition shows this even more clearly. It is true that the practice of publishing information on the social composition of the Party was stopped in 1930 and never resumed (in itself a highly significant omission), but it is still possible to gain some indication from data published on the educational qualifications of its members.

While not one in ten of the adult population in Russia gets more than elementary education, the percentage of Party members who did was 33.7 percent on January 1, 1939, and had risen to 63.6 percent by January 1, 1954 (Partiinaya Zhizn, No.9, August 1954). The percentage of First Secretaries of Party District Committees who received only primary education or incomplete secondary education fell from 47.5 percent in 1946 to 5.3 percent in 1954: the percentage fell from 49.6 to 6.2 percent for Secretaries of District Committees in general, and from 61.3 to 15.8 for Chairmen of Party District Executive Committees (Ibid.). There are thus almost no ordinary workers on the District Committees of the Party, not to speak of the Central Committees of the Republics, or the Central Committee of the CPSU The Central Committee, CPSU, elected by the 20th Congress, contains some 40 generals and admirals, tens of factory managers and high State officials (including a number of secret police officers, like the infamous General Serov), but not one rank-and-file worker from the bench.

That the Party is still made up of the bureaucracy and the aristocracy of labour is clear. It is quite ridiculous to expect anything but the defence of privilege from it.

The New “Collective Leadership”

But what of the newly-established principle of collective leadership? Is it not a fundamental change in the nature of the regime?

Real collective leadership implies democracy. As such it is incompatible with the hierarchical structure of Russian society, with the division between State capital and the mass of toilers, and with one-man management – the guiding principle in the economy. The fact that the present leaders proclaim that a collective leadership has now been established suggests one of two possibilities:

Either a faction fight is being waged at the summit and each group of bureaucrats is struggling to remain alive by upholding the collective principle;

Or Khrushchev has actually emerged as the supreme leader Stalin’s real heir – and finds it expedient to use the mantle of “collective leadership” to cover his personal rule.

There is good ground for accepting the second hypothesis, if only by analogy with Stalin’s rise to power. Stalin repeatedly pledged his adherence to “internal Party democracy and collective leadership.” Thus, for instance, he said:

“The Russian Bolsheviks would have wrecked the cause of the Russian revolution if they had not been able to subordinate the will of individual comrades to the will of the majority, if they had not been able to act collectively. The ability to act collectively, readiness to subordinate the will of individual comrades to the will of the collective – it is this which we call genuine Bolshevik courage. Because without such courage, without the capacity to overcome one’s own pride, let us say, and to subordinate one’s will to that of the collective – without these qualities there is no collective, there is no collective leadership and no Communism.” (Stalin, quoted in Pravda, July 4, 1953.)

The fact that Khrushchev is not worshipped as Stalin was during the last eighteen years of his life does not contradict the possibility of his supremacy. On Stalin’s fiftieth birthday (December 1929), when he was already established as the supreme ruler of Party and State, modest enough praise was bestowed on him: “The best disciple of Lenin,” “one of the leaders of the Revolution,” wrote M.I. Kalinin (not the leader); “it must be said that the Party can be completely satisfied with Stalin’s leadership in his struggle (against the Opposition), “ etc. etc. Such praise is daily bestowed on Khrushchev.

Again, the fact that Khrushchev does not carry out mass executions (if we exclude Beria and his protégés) does not contradict the existence of one-man rule. In 1934, seven years after the Trotskyist Left Opposition was smashed, and six years after the elimination of the Bukharinite Right Opposition, the “Lefts”, Pyatakov and Ossinsky, and the “Rights”, Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky, were re-elected to the Central Committee of the Party. Bukharin, until his arrest and execution, was editor-in-chief of Pravda, while Radek, the former Trotskyist leader, was a major contributor. Indeed, it was only eight years after the consolidation of his power that Stalin found it necessary to resort to mass purges and executions (and then only after the success of the two first Five-Year Plans had resulted in no tangible advantage to the Russian masses and had thus increased the opposition to the regime and the necessity for finding scapegoats).

Nothing is frozen, under the present “collective leadership”. Khrushchev is not idle. Like Stalin (until 1941) Khrushchev prefers to remain outside the Government while consolidating his position. Like Stalin he uses his First Secretaryship of the Central Committee of the CPSU as the greatest lever of power. Besides he has created a special organ of his own in the Bureau of the CC, CPSU, for the RSFSR, whose Secretary he is. He has also managed to strengthen his hold over the security police by replacing Kruglov as Minister of the Interior of the USSR with his protégé Dudorov, who was head of Moscow City Party Committee’s Building Department during Khrushchev’s Secretaryship (1949-53).

There are a few other signs pointing to Khrushchev’s possible supremacy; one was the sacking of Malenkov from the Premiership for his self-confessed “responsibility for the unsatisfactory state of affairs in agriculture” (Pravda, February 9, 1955). In fact, it was Khrushchev, and not Malenkov, who was the author of all the resolutions on agriculture in the period between Stalin’s death and Malenkov’s resignation. During this time the whole Press left no doubt that Khrushchev was the manager of Soviet agriculture; Malenkov did not deliver a single report on the subject in the Central Committee or the Supreme Soviet during this period. Suddenly, the blame for all the troubles in agriculture were laid at Malenkov’s door without anyone daring to mention Khrushchev’s responsibility. By then Khrushchev must already have gained tremendous power. The fact that immediately after Malenkov’s “resignation” Khrushchev proposed Bulganin, a man who had had no experience at all in agricultural matters, as Premier, showed even more clearly the strength of Khrushchev’s position.

Soviet Press reports are even more explicit. Reports of the speeches of the Soviet leaders follow a single monotonous pattern: while speeches of simple deputies to the Supreme Soviet are never followed by “applause”, those of Ministers are, members of the Politbureau gain “prolonged applause”, while Khrushchev and Bulganin – and only Khrushchev and Bulganin – are met with “prolonged applause turning into ovation. All rise” at the end of every speech. The consistency with which this procedure is followed makes a mockery of the “collectivism” of leadership, and shows the strength of Khrushchev’s position.

Why is Stalin purged?

The present leadership is after Stalin’s blood. The more they denigrate their former chief the more do they expect to gain poptllarity both at home and abroad.

For many years Khrushchev, Bulganin, Malenkov, Mikoyan and the rest of the present leadership did Stalin’s dirty work without a murmur. Malenkov was Stalin’s private secretary for a number of years. Then, during the great purges of the ’thirties, he was appointed deputy to Yezhov, head of the NKVD. [1] Khrushchev rose to head the Party and Government of Ukraine (in 1938) on the bodies of all thirteen former members of the Ukrainian Politbureau, and practically the whole of the Ukrainian Government. Bulganin was an official of the security police for four years and headed the Moscow administration during the great purges. They must have all served Stalin well during this period if they managed to keep alive and even rise in the hierarchy – for of the 139 members of the Central Committee of the Party elected in 1934, only 24 remained members five years later. (A few, perhaps, died naturally, but the overwhelming majority were executed or imprisoned.)

But the present leaders want to start with a clean slate. Even if they benefited from and were active in the mass murders, even if they helped create the slave camps and implement the forced collectivisation and the other monstrosities of the State Capitalist regime, it serves their purpose to put the responsibility at the door of the dead master. Even the most sordid gangsters aim to achieve respectability.

After nearly thirty years of quick industrialisation the people of Russia are still poverty-stricken. Fact upon fact shows this. For instance, in 1953 there were fewer cows than in 1916, as Khrushchev himself admitted (N.S. Khrushchev, Measures for the Further Development of Agriculture in the USSR, Moscow 1953); butter production in Siberia (a famous butter exporter before the First World War), was smaller in 1952 than in 1913; the output of vegetables was extremely low (ibid.); housing conditions are terrible, whole families live in one room, sharing a kitchen with other families; queues form in shops to buy bad quality expensive consumer goods – a sure testimony to their scarcity. On the other hand, production of steel, coal, electricity, machines and so on increases continuously. This disproportion between production and the satisfaction of their daily needs must certainly make the Russian people very disgruntled, to say the least.

When Stalin was alive he claimed all industrial achievements as his own, putting the responsibility for all scarcities, defects and poverty on subordinate officials who were duly liquidated. With Stalin dead the leaders have a choice. They can either raise living standards by greatly increasing capital investments in light industry, by encouraging livestock production, building houses for the people on a large scale, cutting armaments and investments in heavy industry, curtailing the privileges of the bureaucracy, and so on – all of which goes very much against the grain of Bureaucratic State Capitalism; or, alternatively, they can choose a much cheaper and easier way. They can put the responsibility for the suffering of the people on the dead dictator and his executioner Beria, and ask the people to wait. After all, it is only three years since the devil died. You can’t expect us to undo his works in such a short time.

But even if the main reason for purging Stalin is to buy time for Stalinism, there is no doubt that the present leaders would like to get rid of a number of the excesses – excesses in terms of the needs and interests of the totalitarian bureaucratic regime itself – of the last few years of Stalin’s rule.

For instance, the campaigns against “cosmopolitanism”, the notion that Russia invented everything and needs to learn nothing from abroad, the prohibition on marriages with foreigners, etc., led to a chauvinism (far beyond that accepted even by such ultra-nationalists as Mussolini or Franco) that had detrimental effects on economic effort (see Bulganin’s Report, op. cit.), that were a standing insult to the great Chinese people and State and that put the country to ridicule abroad. What damage could be done by a handful of Russian women marrying foreigners?

Again, slave labour, once welcomed and encouraged by the bureaucracy as a method of breaking bottlenecks in the economy and of using the abundant unskilled labour force as “shock troops” for capital accumulation, is becoming too expensive. Slave labour is not very productive, and when labour becomes short, as in Russia today (because of the expanding industrial economy and the stagnation of agriculture which still keeps two-thirds of the population in the countryside) it becomes uneconomical. Thus it is most unlikely that in future there will be mass arrests for filling the camps; repeated amnesties will continue depleting many of the existing ones. The camps in Russia would then fulfil the same function as Hitler’s or Mussolini’s, which served as weapons of political terror and not as a means of economic activity (except during the war years).

In this connection it is significant that when Moscow declared a partial amnesty for inmates of slave camps on March 27, 1953, and September 17, 1955, so-called political crimes were specifically omitted. Section 58.1(c) of the Criminal Code, for example, was excluded. This is the section which stipulates that in the event of flight abroad by a person in military service all adult members of his family who abetted him or even knew about the contemplated flight are subject to imprisonment of from 5 to 10 years; all dependents who did not know of the planned flight are subject to exile in Siberia for 5 years.

While terror is part of the Bureaucratic State Capitalist regime, and therefore is retained by the new rulers of Russia, some of its most blatant excesses – the irrational and unnecessary ones imposed by the one-time omnipotent Stalin – will doubtless be removed. After all, even Stalin found that the mass purges of the ‘thirties sometimes had the opposite effect of what was intended. They were supposed to tighten discipline, to get the Russian people to toe the line. But they achieved such proportions that very often the lower bureaucrat was afraid to obey his boss, lest the boss be purged as a counter-revolutionary. On the other hand, not to obey would leave him open to charges of counter-revolutionary activity himself. To keep the State going, Stalin had to stop the purges. Beria was brought from Georgia to purge the arch-purger Yezhov in 1938, and thereafter no mass purge took place, although the terror continued and took its toll of individual victims from even the highest places (such as Voznessensky, head of the State Planning Commission, who disappeared in 1949).

Small reforms after the death of an autocrat are not new in Russia. When Tsar Nikolai I died and Aleksander II succeeded to the throne (1855), serfdom was abolished, new organs of local government were established, the censorship was relaxed (the Russian edition of Marx’s Capital was published shortly after) and many similar measures were taken. So far Khrushchev has done nothing as far-reaching as this in the way of reform.

How to Make Friends

Khrushchev is distributing a largesse of “liberalism” in his first steps of power. But he is not the first. Stalin showed the way.

At the Congress that sealed the fate of the Trotskyist Opposition and showed that Stalin was the unrivalled boss of the Party and the State (Fifteenth Congress, 1927) the work week was cut from 48 hours to 40.8 (until the 48-hour week was restored in 1940). In his speech to the 20th Congress Khrushchev declared that the working week in Russia would be cut during the coming Five-Year Plan to 41 hours!

During 1928-9, only a short time after the 15th Congress and the banning of the Trotskyist Opposition, Stalin let a couple of thousand former Trotskyists come out of prison or return from exile in Siberia on condition that they ceased all organised Opposition work. Unfortunately for Khrushchev, he will find it very difficult to do the same. He cannot release thousands of old Bolsheviks simply because only a handful can be alive after twenty years of persecution. However, the few that he might release would serve him in the same way as they served his former master – a bait of leniency and democracy for the unwary.

Who knows, Khrushchev might even crown his magnanimous actions with another Constitution, even more democratic, if that is possible, than the one Stalin gave on the eve of the Great Purges? (Alas, this most democratic Constitution remained alive only on paper.)

Khrushchev Exports Reaction

Khrushchev has adopted Stalin’s foreign policy of the mid-’thirties. It is based on two planks: the use of every contradiction in the world outside Russia to further the national interests of the Russian bureaucracy and State: and, secondly, the freezing of the social status quo by means of pacts with the most reactionary forces abroad, without regard to the needs of the international working class, and using the Communist Parties as pawns in the diplomatic game.

Khrushchev’s Russia supplies arms to the slave-owner, King Saud of Arabia, and to the dictator Nasser, oppressor of the Egyptian workers and gaoler of the Communists. When visiting India Khrushchev and Bulganin gave full support – economic, political and moral – to the Big Business Congress government. In its current flirtation with the French Government, Moscow Radio keeps absolutely silent about French imperialist oppression in North Africa. If Khrushchev and Bulganin can manage to drive a bargain with capitalist Britain tomorrow, they would not hesitate a moment to support British Imperialism in Malaya, Kenya and elsewhere, just as Stalin and the Stalinists supported British rule in India during the Second World War.

Khrushchev’s emphasis on the possibility of co-existence and on the peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism are not as new as he would like to suggest. We have only to remember what Earl Browder wrote in America and Harry Pollitt in this country during the War to realise that Stalin and his agents have said the same things hundreds of times. What Khrushchev means by “peaceful transition” is also subject to debate. The rape of Eastern Europe can hardly qualify as an example. But whatever he means by “peaceful”, the main importance of the new emphasis on co-existence is this: Khrushchev says to the other Imperialist Powers: “Let us strike a bargain. If we do, the Communist Parties of your countries will accept it. We’ll see to it that they do not upset the social status quo by giving support to revolutionary upheavals.”

Khrushchev theory of co-existence is nothing but the cover for a counter-revolutionary foreign policy.

Moscow Pulls the Strings

It is now clearer than ever that the Communist Parties all over the world are the tools of the Kremlin.

On March 17, Ulbricht, First Secretary of the East German Communist Party, stated that “Stalin was a despot who had turned the State Security services loose on his own Party comrades without justification, and thus made a mockery of Soviet democracy.” (Quoted in Tribune, March 23, 1956). Khrushchev stated that 5,000 of Russia’s best officers were murdered during the blood baths which followed the secret trial for treason of Marshal Tukhachevsky in 1937 (The Times, March 17, 1956). If it takes twenty years for the truth to come out, how can we be sure that in another twenty years we shall not be told that under Khrushchev similar monstrosities did not take place?

And Harry Pollitt? If he could not recognise the existence of despotism in the fifty visits he has paid to Russia over the last thirty years and believed that there was real democracy in the country notwithstanding Stalin’s statues and pictures and the other trappings of the leader cult, how could he see the hidden slave camps? How can anyone take his testimony on labour laws in Russia or workers’ living standards or the privileges of the bureaucracy seriously?

Khrushchev at least had an excuse for hiding the truth – he was frightened of Stalin (in the same way, to be sure, as Himmler or Goebbels were “frightened” of Hitler). But Harry Pollitt has not even this excuse. Was he frightened of losing his job, his power or prestige?

People who have hidden the truth for two decades, who have lied so consistently, cannot change. Liars remain liars.

Stalin is dead, Stalinism lives

Whoever believes that one person’s death can change fundamentally an economic, social and political order is himself a victim of the cult of the individual. Even the megalomaniac Stalin did not believe that the history of Russia, and of the world, would be affected greatly by his death.

The dictator’s death will not break the Bureaucratic State Capitalist, regime. Its overthrow, whether under Stalin or under Khrushchev, is a historical task to be accomplished not by bureaucrats, but by the working people of Russia.



1. While Yezhov’s deputy, Malenkov wrote: “Under the leadership of the Stalinist People’s Commissar, Comrade Yezhov, the Soviet Intelligence Service inflicted merciless and striking blows at the fascist bandits.” He added in a somewhat forced tone of adulation: “The Soviet people love their Intelligence Service, because it defends the vital interests of the people and it is their flesh and blood ... The faithful guardians of Socialism (the NKVD men) under the leadership of their Stalinist People’s Commissar, Comrade Yezhov, will continue in the future to crush and to root out the enemies of the people – the vile Trotskyite, Bukharinite, bourgeois-nationalist and other agents of Fascism. Let the spies and traitors tremble! The punishing hand of the Soviet people (the NKVD) will annihilate them! Our ardent Bolshevik greetings to the Stalinist People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Nikolai lvanovich Yezhov.” (Partiinaya Zhizn, December 1937.)


Last updated on 20.12.2004