Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Stalin was key to growth of socialism

First Published: The Call, Vol. 8, No. 49-50, December 24, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Dec. 21 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Stalin, a great leader of the Russian revolution. Because Stalin’s name was virtually synonymous with the cause of the Soviet Union when it was a revolutionary country, he was widely slandered and attacked by capitalists everywhere. He became perhaps the most vilified revolutionary in history.

On this, the centenary of Stalin, it is a good opportunity to take a brief look at who he really was and what he represented.

Born the son of a shoemaker in Georgia on the Black Sea, Stalin became involved in the revolutionary movement that spread across Russia in the 1890s. While studying at a theological seminary, he established contact with underground groups of Marxists who had been exiled by the czarist government.

Stalin began conducting study circles at the seminary and was soon leading mass strikes and demonstrations as he and others worked to build a revolutionary party. As a result of his activities, he suffered imprisonment and exile at various times.

Along with V.I. Lenin, Stalin led the victorious uprising of 1917 that rid Russia of rule by the czar and established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin continued for the next 30 years guiding the USSR through the difficult task of socialist construction. He led the country to victory over the Nazi war machine and played a major role in organizing the international united front against Hitler that included the governments of the United States, Britain and France.

Stalin’s leadership was key to the defense of socialism in the Soviet Union when it was under attack from forces that ranged from the Trotskyists inside the USSR to the fascist legions of Hitler. At the same time, Stalin had many shortcomings and made mistakes that, especially in the light of history, can be better seen. While debate still continues over Stalin’s contributions historically, there can be no doubt that his forceful leadership was a key factor in the survival of the Soviet Union and the development of the world communist movement.

Among Stalin’s great theoretical contributions to Marxism-Leninism were his extensive studies and commentaries on the national question. Below are some observations on Stalin by Harry Haywood, a veteran Black communist who is one of the few living Americans to have seen Stalin at work in the Soviet Union.

The young Haywood studied there from 1926-30 at schools to train communists from around the world in revolutionary theory. He also participated in the Communist International, then under Stalin’s leadership. Today Haywood is a member of the CPML Central Committee:

“I still get attacked because of my support for Stalin. Of course, the man made mistakes. But that was inevitable, the course of socialism was pretty much uncharted then. The Soviet Union was after all the first socialist country in the world. I think I make my stand pretty clear in my autobiography, Black Bolshevik.

“We Blacks owe a lot to Stalin, and I do personally. It was because of Stalin’s impetus that we U.S. communists were able to put the Black question in the framework of a national question for the first time.

“Given the Soviet experience, Stalin always emphasized the need to build a common front between the working class of the West and the rising movements of the colonies, what we call third world nations and peoples today.

“When I was in the Soviet Union it was pretty clear to me that Stalin was a man loved by the people. This is no exaggeration. There was a tremendous sense of achievement, an all-pervasive feeling that the country had made great advances, and the people attributed much of this to Stalin’s leadership. I think this was true right up to the war and through the war [WW II – Ed.].

“Now, when he died in 1953, there was a big trend to the right throughout the world. Khrushchev and his cronies were part of that trend. They had to attack Stalin to achieve their own goals. With all the prestige the man had built up over the years, they really had to vilify him.

“You know, they speak about Stalin’s terrorism and all that stuff. But I remember walking down the street in Moscow, and every once in a while you’d see Stalin there, walking and talking with Molotov, his closest aide, without any guards at all (it seemed to me). They’d be walking down the street that went from the Comintern to the Kremlin and passers-by would move aside and say, ’Ah, hello, Comrade Stalin.’ “That’s how I remember the man.”