David Breen

Have K and B Really Buried Stalin?

(May 1956)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 5 No. 8, May 1956, pp. 5–6.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Khrushchev and Bulganin have come and gone. They came as the emissaries of a “new” Russia. They came to forge a “new” pattern of international relations. They came to show that they intend writing history on a clean slate, unsullied by the errors of Stalin. Is there really something new under the Russian sun? Have Khrushchev and Bulganin broken with their recent past or are they denouncing Stalin merely in order to buy time for a new Stalinism? The answers to these questions have been given in a recent pamphlet by Tony Cliff, advertised elsewhere in these pages. This article touches on some of them.

Ever since the 20th Congress of the Russian leaders and the leaders Union held in February this year, the Communist Party of the Soviet and the Communist Parties in the rest of the world have made much of “collective leadership.” At last, they say, we have managed to restore the collective leadership that Stalin had suppressed during the twenty years of his dictatorship. We are the champions of collective leadership.

Stalin’s Pose

But Stalin also posed as the defender of collective leadership. If he had not he would never have said that:

“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 leadership and no Communism.” (Stalin, quoted in Pravda, July 4, 1953)

Same meat – different gravy

Can we be sure that the defenders of “collective leadership” today are doing anything that the acknowledged dictator Stalin would not have done in his day? Of course, Krushchev has still not staged the mass trials and purges that Stalin did. But Stalin took his time too. It was only 9 years after he had smashed the Trotskyist Left Opposition and 8 years after he had broken the Bukharinist Rights that Stalin resorted to mass execution.

Day in, day out the Daily Worker intones a hymn to the consumers’ paradise that is being built in Russia today, forgetting that they did the same when Stalin was alive. But the present leadership has been in power for three years already and still the Russian masses are starved for elementary necessities. For example, in 1955 the target for razor blade production was set at 515 million for the whole of Russia according to the trade union paper Trud (August 3, 1955). This would give less than eight blades per year to every male over 18. And yet Trud states that the target was nowhere near achievement while the quality ... well “... 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.)

At the same time, the new leaders have increased investment in heavy industry from 133 to 163.6 milliard rubles between 1954 and this year, and cut investment in consumer goods industry by more than 10 milliard rubles from 36.6 to 26.0 milliard. Russian men will have to wait for a clean shave indefinitely. Or do barber shops carry a sign: Bureaucrats Only, No Workers and Peasants allowed!

Puppets and Colonies

And what of the Russian colonies ? Does the purging of Stalin spell freedom for the minorities in Russia or the countries of Eastern Europe ?

It seems not. After Beria was killed in the Summer of 1953, all his proteges the Ministers of the Interior or heads of the security police in the minority republics – were removed and replaced. A whole series of Russian names were cut out of the Soviet Who’s Who and replaced by another series of Russian names. Guskov was appointed in Azerbaidzhan, Tereshchenko in Kirgizia, Vaskin in Turkmenistan, Vishnevsky in Tadzhikistan, Gubin in Kazakhstan. In Russian ears these names sound exactly the same as John Smith does to us. Who could imagine John Smith as head of the security police in India, Pakistan or Ceylon?

Eastern Europe, too

As for Eastern Europe, the arch-Titoist, Fascist and Trotskyite provocateur, Rajk, has now become the maligned, misjudged and martyred patriot of Hungary. Gomulka has reappeared in Poland. Slansky’s grave in Czechoslovakia is to be sanctified. We are told that their trials were faked by Beria at the orders of Stalin. The Eastern European countries could not have been independent then. Are they independent now or is the mass simultaneous resurrection of the dead in every one of the East European Satellites a mere coincidence?

Khrushchev came to London to further the cause of “co-existence.” Co-existence with whom? With the British workers or with the Tories? We heard no rousing appeal to the workers of this country to get rid of the Tories and build Socialism. All we heard was the mutual back-slapping around the tables of port and pheasant.

What co-existence means

This has been the line of the present rulers in Russia all along. “Co-existence” means arms to the slave-owner King of Saudi Arabia; it means arms to the military Dictator, Nasser of Egypt who is proud of the number of Communists he has jailed. “Co-existence” means keeping quiet about French atrocities in North Africa and, if Khrushchev can only conclude an agreement with the British Imperialists, it will mean supporting the oppression in Kenya, Cyprus and elsewhere. In a nutshell, “co-existence” in modern Russian means the support of the social status quo whether in Tory Britain, Fascist Spain, renegade-Socialist France or anywhere else.

And the British Communist Party will have to toe the line. Harry Pollitt speaking at a Moscow rubber plant in February said that he had been to Moscow 50 times since 1921 (Daily Worker, February 27, 1956). This Harry Pollitt saw no sign of the “cult of the individual” for forty-nine of these fifty times and on his fiftieth visit, after the leader had been dead three years, saw what he had missed all the time only after Khrushchev had told him to look. And yet this Harry Pollitt and the rest of the leadership of the British C.P. have gone through their own “Congress” and emerged unscathed.

A blind leadership

A leadership so blind to anything but the current Kremlin line and a Party so rigged as to perpetuate such a leadership despite the exposures of the past few months pretend to embody the interests of the British working class and of Socialism! What a farce, and yet what a danger. After all Khrushchev wants to “co-exist” with Tory Britain, and what Khrushchev wants is law to Pollitt and his pals and there’s very little the C.P. rank and file can do about it.

Last updated on 16 February 2017