Peter Petroff May 1936

Modern Hero Worship

Source: Labour, May 1936, p. 230;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

During the past two decades there is be observed an appalling regress in the sphere of those sciences which combine or generalise the various intellectual activities of mankind – in philosophy, sociology and history.

In technics and generally in applied natural science tremendous headway has been made. But the ever-growing volume of knowledge has necessitated a far reaching specialisation focussing the individual intellect to a strictly defined branch of scientific research. This is not a congenial atmosphere for the development of non-applied general science, and so far very few scientists have succeeded to keep their mind on the forest while studying their individual tree.

Society during this period has been in state of constant crisis. The ruling class has long passed its zenith and is on the decline. It therefore turns away from scientific thought, seeking refuge in various forms of mysticism.

Thus we find in philosophy a turning away from materialism to metaphysics; in sociology the belief that he who wields political power can override economic and sociological laws; in history the revival in a vulgarised form of the idea that history is not governed by innate laws but “made” by the deeds of great – or little – men.

Already a century ago Saint Simon has shown that the development of human society is not governed by chance but follows certain laws, Thomas Buckle, in his History of Civilisation in England, proved that history is not a chain of casual events but that historic events follow definite laws and are capable of scientific interpretation. Applying scientific methods to historic research he tried to raise history to the level of a science. Marx and Engels, following the same road, discovered those laws of historic development which Buckle and others had been seeking.

What leeway has mankind made since that time!

Now that in Germany, Italy and a number of other countries the open play of social forces has been driven underground, active organisations, the free press and objective research eliminated, the idea that dictators can mould the life of a nations like a bit of clay according to their designs has been revived.

The Fascist organisation, the Fascist state, is based on the principle of leadership [2 or 3 words unreadable] should the historian, the sociologist bother to unveil the various forces active under the surface – a study the “leader,” his biography, his qualities and moods, his plans and intentions suffices for shallow minds.

In Russia, where two generations of Socialists have been systematically applying Marxist methods in analysing the economic, social and political life of the country, where Marxist philosophy had found such a brilliant exponent as George Plekhanov, and where to this very day, lip-service is paid to Marxism, a peculiarly vulgar hero-worship has grown up.

While Lenin was alive Marxism was considered the official doctrine of the Communist party. Lenin always considered himself Marxist. After his death, when the dictatorship narrowed down and the Marxist theory became inconvenient, the term Leninism was introduced in order to camouflage the flight from Marxism and to smuggle in the idea of the infallible leader.

According to Soviet official history of the time there had been nothing but chaos and darkness until Lenin came and brought light. Sentences from Lenin’s works and speeches were quoted like scripture in season and out season.

Soon the object of this became apparent – when Lenin was God, Stalin would be his prophet. An army of pens and tongues was brought into motion to boost up the cunning General Secretary and make him appear a great theorist, a great scientist, a great publicist. Expressions like “the theory of Marx-Lenin-Stalin” became a constant feature of the regimented Russian press and repeated at numerous meetings. Soon no article could be written, no speech delivered without some quotation from Stalin.

Though he had never expressed any idea in philosophy, economics or any other science Stalin was proclaimed the “great teacher and leader” of the workers of the world and the highest authority in practically all spheres of intellectual activity From the youngest Komsomol speaker at the last village meeting to the President of the Central Executive reporting at a Party or Soviet Congress nobody dares to speak without offering his tribute of flattery to the great Stalin.

“I bring flaming kolkhos greetings to our great leader and teacher, Comrade Stalin” says a peasant woman from Azerbeidzhan, at a delegate meeting in Moscow, and the ten other delegates speaking after her repeat the same phrase. (Pravda January 24, 1936)

“To thee, organiser of the victories of Socialism, leader of the peoples of the Soviet Union and of the workers of the world, inspirer and creator of the unconquerable forces of defence of our great fatherland, we are sending our militant red-armist greetings,” begins an address to Stalin, sent – as has now become the custom – by a conference of Stakhanovite tankists of the Red Army. It concludes: “Under thy wise leadership dear Comrade Stalin, nothing will stop our county on its militant course towards Communism” (Pravda, January 26, 1936.)

At the last session of the Central Executive Committee, all speakers including Kalinin, the president of the C.E.C, Molotov, the president of the Council of People’s Commissars, Meshlauk, chairman of the State Plan Commission, Grinko, People’s Commissar of Finance, sprinkle their speeches with quotations from “the great Stalin,” and with base flattery, they testify that all that has been achieved in the Soviet Union in agriculture, industry, transport, education, science, literature is due to the genius of the great leader Stalin. Grinko, actually speaks of “Stalin’s theory of money,” and refers to 1935 as “a year of Stalinite pathos” – (Pravda, January 17, 1936.)

Another address in the true Asiatic spirit, handed to Stalin by delegates of the autonomous Buriat- Mongols, reads:-

“Our great leader and beloved teacher!

We are now leaving the red capital of our great fatherland – the U.S.S.R. (Our hearts are full of joy and happiness there – there are no words to express this. How many great wishes and unrealised hopes have we had to bury before we lived to see the present great and happy days. The days when thou, our leader and teacher, did us the great honour to receive us like a real father.” Pravda, February 13 1936.

Thus, Stalin’s regime in the One-Party-State produces the same reactionary tendency of hero worship. All the talk about the materialist conception of history cannot hide this fact.