First Published: Turning Point Vol. IX, No. 6, August 1956
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
In our last issue we offered an outline analysis of the CPSU 20th Congress and announced that in future issues we would amplify all parts. This article acts as an amplification of Part III of that Outline: “Cult vs the Role of Stalin.”
On Feb. 24 and 25, 1956, the CPSU Congress held a secret session from which even the representatives of fraternal Communist Parties were barred. On this occasion, Khrushchev delivered a 25,000 word denunciation of Stalin’s alleged “cult of the individual.”
Why isn’t this secret speech a secret??? More – why is it (and we take into account the marriage of Grace Kelly) the least secret news of our time? Why did K take the greatest pains to circulate this speech globally after hypocritically warning:
“We cannot let this matter get out of the party, especially not to the press. It is for this reason that we are considering it here at a closed Congress session. We should know the limits; we should not give ammunition to the enemy; we should not wash our dirty linen before their eyes.”
K’s speech was meant to be a ruptured secret, a favorite form of calumny. Any cheap Hollywood publicity agent would grant that secrecy is promotion’s greatest propellant. However, K had to test and check audience reaction to the shock of an initial exhibition of what he terms his “dirty linen.” Therefore, the session was closed for the purposes of a theatrical preview - with one modification: critics were not welcome. At the preview, K could be certain of the largest “key” audience under “lock and key” circumstances. While details of the “Stalin cult” could be leaked at the discretion of K, details of opposition or even of unhappiness among the delegates could be muffled. Such acoustics are ideal for Khrushchevian revelations.
First, rumored items oozed out (certainly not by Osmosis) to the world capitalist press. These were “high quality” rumors – the kind which turn out to be accurate. We have always noticed that unreliable rumors tend to come from unreliable sources. Rumored reports of the secret speech proved to be reliable Khrushchevisms from a reliable source!
After the period of ooze, K considered it timely to advance to the next stage: a “purported text.” A “purported text” allows for revision, clarification, or amplification in event of misfires. For instance, the circulators of the “purported text” indicate certain missing items of a delicate nature.
It should be noted in understanding the ooze technique that even before the circulation of the “purported text.” certain alert colleagues of K, misguiding other Communist Parties, immediately understood their signals and began to “de-cultivate” their parties.
When K warned that “we should not give ammunition to the enemy,” he was being hypocritical in two distinct ways. First, he was deliberately giving ammunition to world capitalism in order to utilize anti-Communist forces in his anti-Stalin campaign. (This should receive historical recognition as K’s contribution to the tactics of the United Front.) Second, he was fostering the lie that Communists are afraid of open self-criticism. Since K, during his attack on Stalin, hypocritically poses as sensitive to enemy observation, let us allow Stalin to advise him:
“Some say that the exposure of its own mistakes and self-criticism are dangerous for the Party because they may be used by the enemy against the party of the proletariat. Lenin regarded such objections as trivial and entirely wrong. (“Foundations of Leninism”)
Then Stalin quotes Lenin’s famous passage from “One Step Forward”:
“…The Russian Social-Democrats are already steeled enough in battle not to be perturbed by these pinpricks and to continue, in spite of them, their work of self-criticism and ruthless exposure of their own shortcomings, which will unquestionably and inevitably be overcome as the working class movement grows.” Of course, if the criticism in question is scurrilous, it not only shouldn’t be discussed openly – it shouldn’t exist.
Communist self-criticism may sometimes look like ammunition to the enemy, but its high Marxist caliber precludes its misuse. However, K’s ammunition seems to fit the enemy bore. (Those who have been reading the New York Times know that without K that paper would shrink to the size of a holiday edition and create panic in the pulp industry.)
We are not in the least interested in proving that the K secret should not have leaked. On the contrary, it was designed for leakage; the point is that K found it opportune to collaborate with international capitalism to re-educate international Communism along Khrushchevite lines.
So open is this secret that the NYT was forced into rare modesty: it refused to rejoice in the claim of a captured secret document. On 6-5-56, the day it printed the “purported text,” a NYT heading suggested soberly: “Some Observers Think That Moscow Deliberately Put Speech in Western Hands.” A NYT editorial said happily: “...a sense of satisfaction must pervade every opponent of communism these past decades.” But, although the NYT was sober and happy, even it was shocked because – “it is a searing experience to read that speech.” We are sure that the NYT will recover from its “searing experience” quickly. But – how long will it take the Communist movement!
The “class-conscious” NYT takes some trouble to bring news to the capitalist world for the exhilaration of the rulers and the disillusionment of the oppressed; K’s information takes a detour behind enemy lines before it reaches the socialist sector.
Man is besieged by scoundrels, one worse than the next. K is not the worst type of scoundrel: the worst type is smooth, and K is crude. His crudeness lies in eclectic habits, a common failing of the opportunist.
The opportunist eclectic collects his arguments from various unmatched garbage pails. Therefore, his message lacks continuity and consistency. He is clumsily ambidextrous; he sets up with the right hand what he knocks down with the left. Ambidexterity without coordination does not allow an eclectic to keep track of his points. What he supports in his first paragraph he forgetfully undermines in his last. He is concerned hectically only with the point he is proving at the moment. What bearing this will have on his next point escapes him. While an honest eclectic is simply an untrained thinker, a dishonest one is a demagogue who doesn’t credit his audience with memory.
One night a crescent Moon sought to impress an earth-dweller with its thin cold light. It argued that the Sun was a completely vain projector of too much light. This didn’t impress the earth-dweller – who answered: “And what are YOU but a pale parasite reflecting too little of that light?” Obviously, the earth-dweller was not poetically awed by his momentary association with the Moon. He was an Australian aborigine with a knack for ballistics and sarcasm. Appreciating the design of the crescent Moon for symbolic reasons and adding some slight modifications for ballistic reasons, he fashioned an interesting missile which would first fly circuitously at its target, but which would, in event of a miss, strike back at its source. Thus was a missile with a conscience, the boomerang, invented to memorialize a very poor and dishonest argument.
Now that we have embroidered a boomerang as a proper coat-of-arms for K, let us dissect the technique of this pale parasite while he discredits Stalin in whose reflected accomplishments he basks at the moment.
Is K’s attack on Stalin objective? Although his attack stems from a definite opportunist ideology, its content is not politics or ideology – but scandal. Stalin is quite famous for many ideas and analyses. They are all to be found in his extensive works. Isn’t it strange that K shies away from this large, close target! Here is Stalin laid flat on an open page at K’s mercy, and K ignores this opportunity for scholarly dissection.
By way of comparison, how does Turning Point tackle K? In all fairness to K, we allow him to attack himself! – via his own works! – meager though they be! We have no need to invent a lurid sex life for him, and we have no need to invent or discover alleged documents – or even marginal notes. K’s self-incriminating word is good enough for us.
Not only does K bypass Stalin’s books, he liquidates them. Foolish! Even hardworking Hitler failed to burn out Communist literature. (Consistently, we would consider the loss of one word of K’s to be great historical waste. Only an unconscionable “editor” would attempt to deprive history of prime laboratory materials in the study of the famous 1956 eclipse.) The Soviet Encyclopedia has skipped for the time being Volume 40 which includes the chapter on Stalin.
Stalin will appear later, retouched in the image of K. We are confident that, some day soon, this volume of the encyclopedia will be a valuable collector’s item – and more than that, an appendix (an inflamed appendix!) to Stalin’s collected works.
A lie takes fewer words than its correction. Considering that K dropped 25,000 words worth of lie on the dead Stalin, it will be understood that this article will trace the trajectory of the boomerang only through some representative passages.
According to K, Stalin saw himself as a
“superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behavior.”
Stalin once said:
“And precisely in order that we may move forward and improve the relations between the masses and the leaders, we must keep the valve of self-criticism open all the time, we must make it possible for Soviet people to ’go for’ their leaders, to criticize their mistakes, so that the leaders may not grow conceited and the masses may not get out of touch with the leaders.” (1925 Report, p. 35, Vol. XI, Collected Works)
K, we suppose, would discount these as idle words and insist, as he did in the un-secret session:
“He never acknowledged to anyone that he made any mistakes, large or small...” An appropriate answer to this accusation appears at the beginning of Stalin’s collected “Works.” In an “Author’s Preface” to Volume I, Stalin restricts his attention to a single task: pointing out his own mistakes. Stalin does not, with affected modesty, merely admit mistakes. Honest self-criticism is specific. He painstakingly directs the reader’s attention to specific mistakes in specific articles. With this, he contrasts the correct position of Lenin, traces the history of the correction, and admits:
“…because of our inadequate theoretical training, and because of our neglect, characteristic of practical workers, of theoretical questions, we had not studied the question thoroughly enough and had failed to understand its great significance.”
And when did Stalin write this? At the end of his life. The boomerang we have just followed indicates that K is a wild variety of liar. We will conclude this example with a 19th Congress message from K about liars:
“’He who lies can be nobody’s friend,’ the proverb rightly says. Deceivers must be dragged into the light of day; we must mete out stern punishment to them and rid our ranks of them.”
And he finished his report with:
“Long live the wise leader of our Party and people, the inspirer and organizer of all our victories, Comrade Stalin!”
More than anything else, K would like to “anti-Leninize” Stalin, but this is rather difficult. Let us offer one of the most ridiculous of K’s daredevil attempts.
“At the same time Stalin gave proofs of his lack of respect for Lenin’s memory. It is not a coincidence that, despite the decision taken, over thirty years ago to build a Palace of Soviets as a monument to Vladimir Ilyich, this Palace was not built, its construction was always postponed, and the project allowed to lapse.”
What “monumental” proof we have here! Stalin has built mere paper monuments to Lenin in all his writings; K promises more solid stuff – brick on brick!
The story of the Palace of Soviets is an interesting one. Long ago, when photographs of the model were circulated, they aroused mixed feelings – as often as not of horror. The Palace was to rival the tallest and gaudiest structures in the world. A dubious honor! It was said (we think accurately) that it looked like a birthday cake gone mad, with a statue of Lenin perched perilously on top – in danger of falling into the icing. Architects, including Soviet ones, disagreed on this tour de force. The war put it out of the question for a few years because it would have consumed too much material. After the war, we understand, the Soviet Union thought better of this unthinking competition with foreign monstrosities and ditched the plan. More and more, Soviet architects, including those in K’s good graces, have been ridiculing over-ornateness and the skyscraper urge.
This is one of many cases (music, genetics, linguistics, etc.) of prolonged Soviet debate over controversial questions. For this reason, the birthday cake, heaved at Stalin in TV comedy style, also boomerangs. We are touched to see K sobbing over a delayed monument. We thought he was allergic to monuments! Perhaps he believes in a “cult”? Perhaps he confused the giant character of the monument with the picayune character of his attack on an architect whose whole life-plan complied with the difficult specifications of Lenin.
K gives us the benefit of his personal scrutiny. Stalin, we are told, was ”sickly suspicious.” We are unimpressed by K’s inside dope, but we might – with a little hindsight – even whisper that if Stalin was suspicious he turns out to have had good reason. For instance, didn’t K drop his mask after the funeral? We cannot condemn Stalin even if, according to K, he would look at a person (like K?) and say, “Why are your eyes so shifty today?” There are “shifty” people who sometimes betray themselves a bit through their ”shifty” eyes. Moreover, people who wear masks should not whine about the inevitable attention directed to their eyes!
We indulged ourselves above because we were examining a K portrait, but we won’t buy it. The capitalist world has always had a monopoly of such portraits, and Communists have never – before K – attempted to break that monopoly.
As painter, K shows little discipline. At one point when he is emphasizing egotist lines to prove Stalin’s “bragging tone,” his brush (or had he grabbed the palette knife?) actually tears through the canvas:
“…for every blow of the enemy we will answer with three blows.”
What low opinion of people does K have that he can present such a quote as an example of vanity. On several occasions, Stalin, in the name of the Soviet Union (“we”!) thus warned the hostile world when it began to threaten the Soviet Union. The promise materialized.
Perhaps K is not as bad as we think. Perhaps he is simply a gentle man who is upset by the ferocity of Stalin’s ”three blows.” K, however, destroys such a considerate approach by telling us:
“They [the fascists] would be well advised to bear in mind any attempt to raid our Ukrainian larder for bread is very apt to cost the raider his head. The Ukrainian people themselves prefer white bread and will dent the skull of anyone who sticks his dirty snout into our Soviet garden.” (Speech to 13th Congress, CPSU). (Our emphasis)
In all honesty, we do not object to harsh talk like K’s “dent the skull” (when applied to fascists), but we do not understand the preferability of such expression over Stalin’s less sensational “three blows.” Is it that K is searching too hard for Stalin’s sins?
These attacks are all clearly personal. There are other accounts of Stalin’s personal behavior to choose from. Ex-Ambassador to the Soviet Union Davies has given one of the most interesting and detailed accounts. Because his book answers K’s lies on so many grounds, we direct the reader’s attention to this issue’s supplement which extracts a few of Davies’ opinions.
In his attack on Stalin, Khrushchev equates mere assertions (inventions) with facts – without offering any proof. This is how K pictures Stalin’s alleged collapse during World War II:
“It would be incorrect to forget that after the first severe disaster and defeats at the front Stalin thought that this was the end. In one of those speeches in those days he said: ’All that Lenin created we have lost forever.’”
Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that K would identify and prove the existence of such a speech. We suppose we will not find it in Stalin’s collected works. To fill this vacuum, TP is toying with the idea of commissioning K to write and edit the “Collected Unwritten Works of Stalin.”
K refers to a wartime plenum which, he says, failed to materialize:
“They [C.C. members] waited two days for the opening of the plenum, but in vain. Stalin did not even want to meet and talk to the Central Committee members. This fact shows how demoralized Stalin was in the first months of the war… Our emphasis)
If this assertion (of Stalin’s self-imposed solitary confinement!) were a fact, it would prove bureaucracy, not demoralization. We bother with this point of logic only to remind the reader of K’s sloppy use of an alleged fact. However, since K’s “fact” is a new and surprising revelation, unsupported by proof, thinking people can qualify it only as an assertion. We understand that such distinctions do not trouble demagogues who flirt with the appearance of fact but who snub the meaning of fact.
Closely allied to this sample is another, that Stalin
“did not meet with and therefore could not know the opinions of party workers.”
Again, is this a fact or an assertion? Observing K leads us to believe that sometimes two wrongs do make a right. Sometimes, two scandalous assertions direct one (via deduction) towards truth. For instance, we noted earlier K’s assertion that Stalin saw himself as a ”superman” who ”can do anything.” Now K exposes a ”demoralized” Stalin. We therefore deduce that Stalin was both too demoralized to win the war and too self-confident to let anyone help him lose it!! We also deduce that it would be naive to trust such an unbalanced accounting of Stalin’s sins.
K asserts that Hitler caught Stalin napping despite a warning from Churchill. Assuming that the warning did occur (the Soviet Union received many warnings at various times and was on guard against provocation), we wonder at Churchill’s reliability and motives. K forgets his point and elucidates in a most correct manner:
“He had in this his own imperialist goals – to bring Germany and the USSR into a bloody war and thereby to strengthen the position of the British Empire.”
Here we agree with K. But why, therefore, support Churchill as Stalin’s reliable “intelligence”? In case Churchill’s word is not good enough, K, anti-climatically, offers alternate choices: either the word of an unnamed German soldier or a German civilian.
K asserts that Stalin was a dictator who was incapable of ”patient persuasion.” Stalin believed in patient persuasion, and often warned against the contrary - in the most famous case defending Trotsky.
“Shortly after this, when the Plenum of the Central Committee met and the Leningrad group, together with Kamenev, demanded Trotsky’s immediate expulsion from the Political Bureau, we also disagreed with this proposal of the Opposition, we obtained a majority on the Central Committee and restricted ourselves to removing Trotsky from the post of People’s Commissar for War. We disagreed with Zinoviev and Kamenev, because we knew that lopping method, the bloodletting method – and they demanded blood – was dangerous, contagious: today you lop of one, tomorrow, another, the day after tomorrow a third – what will we have left in the Party? (“Political Report of the CC. to the 14th Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B)”) – 1925) (Our emphasis)
It is not necessary to further disprove K here by drawing from Stalin’s writings. Involved is a simple point of logic. Dictators order; they do not argue. Hitler ordered; Mussolini ordered. Stalin spent a lifetime arguing the fine points of plans, theories, ideologies. His speeches and books are not orders or threats, they are expositions and polemics.
Sometimes K advances one step beyond the arbitrary assertion; he uses the latrine rumor – sometimes even with witnesses. The latrine rumor is justly famous in the U. S. Army (and we suppose in other armies). Its source is placed in the latrine for reasons both of poetry and accuracy. In promoting a particularly unbelievable rumor, one points to “Mike over there” as proof because he was in the latrine during the rumor’s first flush of life! Thus did K. After certain revelations he would say, there’s so-and-so sitting in the hall; he’ll prove it.
Let us illustrate this farce. K saw that Stalin ”had completely lost consciousness of reality,” that his only source of information was films, that he never saw people, cities, etc., that even during the war he “never visited any section of the front... except for one short ride on the Mozhaisk Highway during a stabilized situation at the front.” Moreover, “Stalin planned operations on a globe.” And before one can cough, K is pointing to a Marshal Bagramyan over here or a Vasilevsky over there as witnesses.
K objects to Stalin as a whole and piece by piece. He makes quite an attack on Stalin’s little finger. He informs us that Stalin had a habit of saying that he would shake that little finger and the opponent in question would be no more. For instance, K quotes (without source):
“I will shake my little finger – and there will be no more Tito.”
K has Stalin also shake his little finger at others – Kosior, Postyshev, Chubar, Voznesensky, Kuznetsov, etc.
In the chapter preceding the “Conclusion” in the “Short History of CPSU” Stalin says:
“These Whiteguard insects forgot that the real masters of the Soviet country were the Soviet people, and that the Rykovs [already rehabilitated by Khrushchev], Bukharins, Zinovievs, and Kamenevs were only temporary employees of the state, which could at any moment sweep them out from its offices as so much useless rubbish.
”These contemptible lackeys of the fascists forget that the Soviet people had only to move a finger, and not a trace of them would be left.” (Our emphasis)
As good Americans, we may be TV’d into the miracles of various laundry aids, but do we have to buy this one which, when applied to Stalin’s faith in the power of the Soviet people, bleaches it down to personal despotism? In truth, a lackey has removed the “Soviet people” from the style of Stalin and inserted the word “I”. This was a latrine rumor without witness.
Now, another “latrine rumor” – with witness:
“He said the academician, Vinogradov, should be put in chains, another one should he beaten. Present at this congress as a delegate is the former Minister of State Security, Comrade Ignatiev. Stalin told him curtly, ’lf you do not obtain confessions from the doctors we will shorten you by a head.’” And again (lucky for history), K has, without witness, preserved Stalin’s advice in all cases of opposition:
“…beat, beat and once again beat.”
Doesn’t the reader think that before K wrote his line into his speech the thought occurred to him that one should give some source, some foundation for such an incredible charge? After all, this sounds as bad as Bulganin’s recent observation on the new Soviet-Yugoslav relationship:
“We shall chop off the hands of anyone who dares to try to break the friendship.” (NYT, 6-7-56)
If someone is dying to believe K because it releases him from all kinds of responsibilities, the latrine rumor is enough. In fact, in such a case, the more advanced “latrine rumor with witnesses” is unnecessary. But, in other cases, the technique of K is self-incriminating.
Uneasy about the known accomplishments of Stalin and uneasy about the contradictions in his own speech, K uses a device which we will call the “period technique.” When he has, in embarrassment, to give Stalin his due credit, he says, oh, that was the early period; he changed in his “later period.” This is supposed to align all contradictions in K’s accusations. K cannot avoid admitting:
“The role of Stalin in the preparation and execution of the Socialist revolution, in the civil war, and in the fight for the Construction of Socialism in our country is universally known. Everyone knows this well.”
This is quite a statement and covers a lot of history. If Stalin’s contribution is positive in preparing the revolution, in making the revolution, in the civil war, and in the construction of socialism, we had better go easy about believing tall tales about his degeneration in the ”later period.” After all, the Trotskyites, whom K defends, cannot so easily be defended during the above continuous periods.
When does this glorious period end for Stalin? K tells us that it ends in 1934. This means that the “later period” is really quite a hunk of Stalin’s life – 18 years. Are we to gather that until 1935 Stalin did use that “patient persuasion” which K has accused him of lacking?
When K refers to the ideological fight against the Trotskyites up to 1934, he admits: “Here Stalin played a positive role.” When K laments the punishment of Trotskyites after 1934, he blames Stalin’s “willfulness,” his “administrative violence, mass repressions, and terror,” etc. K is concerned with all those people who were –
“doomed to... moral and physical annihilation... the only proof used... was the confession of the accused himself... acquired through physical pressures.”
We have already sampled K’s integrity, so we won’t be concerned here with an examination of an alleged sadistic Stalin. The Trotskyite trials were open, and we again refer the reader to the accompanying supplement. What intrigues us here is not the lurid picture of Stalin, but, more important, K’s own attitude – if he can stop shifting long enough to simulate an attitude. The problem is: if the Trotskyites, aside from ideological considerations, were criminal, would K agree that they should receive the penalties prescribed by Soviet law? This merits careful investigation.
K’s denunciation of the punishment of the Trotskyites in 1935-37-39 rests on the formula that it was alright to use ”extraordinary” methods during the fight, but, having won, Stalin should have desisted. K insists that after the 17th Congress –
“…the Trotskyites and the rightist opportunists were politically isolated.” K admits that there was no repression against the Trotskyites during the period of their political expose. His point is that –
“…when the ideological opponents of the party were long since defeated politically, then the repressions against them began.” (Our emphasis) There is one factor so far omitted – that after their ideological defeat, the Trotskyites ceased being a political trend and became a gang of anti-Soviet saboteurs. If this were true, would K withdraw his charges against Stalin? K admits that –
“Extraordinary methods would have been resorted to only against those people who had in fact committed criminal acts against the Soviet system.” (Our emphasis)
Now we are getting somewhere. We may yet prove that with the help of roller skates even an eclectic can be followed. K says that the Trotskyites were victims of repression after they were defeated ideologically, and he says that this would be permissible only if they were criminals against the Soviet system. If only we could make K understand that they were criminals.
At the 18th CPSU Congress in 1939, wasn’t it Stalin who made the following references to sabotage?
“…agents of fascist espionage services – the Trotskyites, Bukharinites and bourgeois nationalists.”
”These monsters, these outcasts of human society, are the accursed of the people of the Soviet Ukraine.”
“…mad dogs... despicable Trotskyites… all the foul creatures which the foreign espionage services deposit on Ukrainian soil... enemies and traitors...
“The wreckers – the Trotskyites, Bukharinites and bourgeois nationalists – did everything to ruin stock raising in the Ukraine.”
No, it wasn’t Stalin; it was K expounding on criminals. So – K knows that their repression was permissible. But, what a man knows and what a scoundrel refuses to admit are worlds apart.
One point of common sense must be included here. K has called Stalin everything but a fool. Good – logic can survive even on morsels. Now, if Stalin were not a fool, why would he labor patiently for more than a decade exposing the ideology of the Trotskyites and then, after the achievement of their political isolation, begin repressions? Why didn’t he, with what K calls his “willfulness” destroy them in the first place – the easy way, the “willful” way?
K uses the “true – but!” technique. He deplores the unjust treatment of innocent people. True – innocent people were mistreated. But – who mistreated them, and who exposed such mistreatment? (K does not prove that the innocents mentioned by him were in fact innocent. And his “handling” of Beria, Bagirov, etc. since his rise to power hardly qualifies him to talk loudly on the subject.) It was Stalin and others, not K & Co., who exposed the victimization of innocent people. It was Stalin, most of all, who made it dangerous for unprincipled careerists to frame their critics with the label of Trotskyism. We offer an important case.
In 1938, in the course of discussion on the final victory of Socialism in the Soviet Union, a Young Communist League member got into hot water for insisting that while Socialism was victorious in the Soviet Union, the final victory of Socialism was possible only on a world scale. For this correct position, Ivanov was rewarded by being branded a Trotskyite (during the very period of the Trotskyite trials), removed from propaganda work and threatened with expulsion from the League. Ivanov stuck by his convictions – and also wrote to Stalin.
Stalin’s answer is typical. He told Ivanov that he was right, that his persecutor’s ”assertion can be explained only by his failure to understand the surrounding reality and his ignorance of the elementary propositions of Leninism, or by the empty boastfulness of a conceited young bureaucrat.”
Reassuring the young man, Stalin said:
“As for the fact that it appears that you, Comrade Ivanov, have been ’removed from propaganda work and the question has been raised of your fitness to remain in the regional committee of the Y.C.L,’ you have nothing to fear. If the people in the regional committee of the Y.C.L. really want to imitate Chekhov’s Sergeant Prishibeyev, you can be sure that they will lose in this game. Prishibeyevs are not liked in our country.” (Communist International of March 1938.)
The troublemaker was right; the righteous were wrong. And the Prishibeyevs grew to hate Stalin more and more.
Up to this point we have watched K operating without the document. In our next point, K tries a few alleged documents (copies of which he distributed to Congress delegates).
K attacks Stalin through the editing of history. He does this with three revelation documents. The first is the “infamous” forgery, the Lenin “Testament.” This forgery is to the arsenal of Trotskyism what the ”The Protocols of Zion” forgery is to anti-Semitism. In a future issue, we will trace the colorful history of the “testament” in detail, but for the moment a few basic points should be made.
1. K has given no proof for the authenticity of this “testament.” The burden of proof is on K. For decades, the CP’s of the world have exposed this invention and now they are using it because they will use any argument to achieve their liberation from orthodox Marxism.
2. A forgery is indicated most of all by some political considerations. Of all people in the world, Lenin could least accuse anyone of being ”rude,” etc. Lenin himself (like Marx before him) was the continual target of this Emily Post projectile. Lenin often scoffed at this whimpering complaint about rudeness. And Lenin was a consistent man with a consistent style which reflected his handling of politics.
3. Stalin was Lenin’s most ardent and consistent defender while he was alive (as he was after his death). Lenin knew this and made it plain in documents which exist. Stalin became General Sec’y of the CP while Lenin was alive and on his motion. We will take the trouble to circulate some of these documents since they are being ignored.
4. Lenin trusted Stalin as much as he mistrusted Zinoviev and Kamenev, whom he denounced as “strike-breakers.” On the eve of the revolution, Lenin attempted unsuccessfully to have Zinoviev and Kamenev expelled for divulging the date of the planned uprising.
5. There is one last thing to he said of great importance for all those who really do not believe in anyone’s cult. Let us say for the moment that Lenin did write this – what then? Very simple. Lenin would have proven himself wrong in his criticism of his best defender. An error would be proven against Lenin and not Stalin. We do not think that an error will thus be proven or that the document can be proven. We believe that only the skullduggery of K will be proven. Even K does not deny that during this early period, Stalin was the staunchest defender of the principles of Lenin in the fight against alien ideologies in the Party. Why, then, does K refuse to give Lenin credit for seeing at close range what K can see from a distance.
The second document is a letter from Lenin’s wife, Krupskaya, to Zinoviev and Kamenev complaining of Stalin’s rudeness. The third document is an alleged letter from Lenin to Stalin complaining of Stalin’s “rude summons of my wife to the telephone and a rude reprimand of her.” Lenin allegedly threatened a “severance of relations between us.”
Neither K nor his documents indicate what awfully rude remark Stalin made. In this respect, the lineup of documents fires a blank. A revelation of rudeness is being made, but the rudeness, itself, is not revealed! We will not get involved in the Krupskaya letter to Zinoviev and Kamenev except to say that, if true, she displayed a weak choice of shoulders to weep on. In any case, an opinion of Krupskaya would not prove anything about Stalin. It is perfectly possible that Stalin did criticize Krupskaya; he did later.
The Lenin letter is out of character for the reason given above regarding rudeness. Furthermore. Lenin wrote political letters - not personal threats. Again we say, if (?) these two documents were proven authentic, they would prove an error on Lenin’s part because Stalin was the arch enemy of Zinoviev and Kamenev and the political friend of Lenin. It is perfectly possible that a great man can momentarily incorrectly criticize his most staunch supporter, but this case is not very probable. The burden is on K to prove his documents, to put up or shut up, to get beyond the latrine rumor phase of polemics. Of course, we will hear more of this, because we understand from the NYT that a former secretary of Lenin has been found in Moscow. We would suggest to K that he immediately dump Molotov and elevate the secretary to the C.C. and then have her deliver a report to a secret session, which is then leaked to the capitalist press, which then leaks it to Communists.
K accuses Stalin of that “brutal force which had once so alarmed V. I. Lenin.”
This remark is made some time after having quoted Lenin’s alleged “testament,” and K hopes the reader’s memory has dimmed. But when we go back to the very quotes used by K we find no ”brutal force”; we find instead an alleged rudeness over the telephone, etc. Only an overconfident finagler could be so careless.
There is factual data on Lenin’s attitude towards Stalin – in Lenin’s own writings. We have no need to discover death-bed documents. As one would expect, these expressions are always political. They do not deal with how Stalin held a teacup but with the importance of his political contributions. As for personal feelings, Lenin felt a respect for Stalin’s intelligence and a warm comradeship for his principle. After all, at the time of some of the quotes which we are about to give, almost every important political name in Russia fought Lenin. Stalin, long before Lenin met him (or even knew his name and aliases), was independently supporting the Lenin line.
In April 1901, one of the most famous early demonstrations in Russia occurred in Tiflis – 2,000 factory workers under the leadership of Stalin. Writing in Iskra in July 1901, Lenin said:
“The event that took place on Sunday, April 22, in Tiflis is of historic import for the entire Caucasus; this day marks the beginning of an open revolutionary movement in the Caucasus.”
During the 1905 revolution, Lenin held a very high opinion of the Caucasus under Stalin’s leadership.
“In this respect we have been left behind by the Caucasus and Poland and the Baltic Region, i.e., precisely those centers where the movement had progressed farthest beyond the old terrorist methods, where the uprising was best prepared, where the mass character of the proletarian struggle was most forcibly and clearly evidenced.” (“The Present Situation in Russia and the Tactics of the Workers’ Party.”)
When Stalin led the Baku workers in a famous political strike in 1908, Lenin was deeply moved to remark:
“The last of the Mohicans of the mass political strike.”
In 1905, in an article in “Proletary” Lenin had a high opinion of an article by Stalin:
“In the article ’Answer to A Social-Democrat,’ we find an excellent formulation of the question of the famous ’introduction of consciousness from without.’” Then Lenin goes on to quote Stalin’s formulation in great detail.
In his article in 1911, “From the Camp of the Stolypin ’Labour Party’ (Dedicated to Our ’Peace-makers and Conciliators’),” Lenin wrote:
“Comrade Koba’s [Stalin’s] correspondence merits the utmost attention of all who hold our Party dear. A better exposure of Golos policy (and Golos diplomacy) a better refutation of the views and hopes of our ’peacemakers and conciliators’ can hardly be imagined...
“...It is not always that these Liquidators come in contact with Party workingmen: it is very rare that the Party receives information on their shameful utterances as exact as that for which we must thank Comrade Koba, but the group of Independent-Legalists preach always and everywhere in this very spirit.”
During the very important Prague Party Conference, Stalin had been arrested and was in exile in Solvychegodsk, but on Lenin’s proposal he was put at the head of a bureau of the Central Committee to lead Party work in Russia.
We have heard slurs on Stalin’s plagiarizing on the National Question from Lenin, but what did Lenin think? In 1913, Lenin wrote to Gorky:
“Regarding nationalism, I quite agree with you that it must be studied more earnestly. We have a splendid Georgian who has got down to work and is writing a big article for ’Enlightenment,’ after collecting all the Austrian and other data.”
Later, in “On the National Program of the R.S.D.L.P.,” Lenin wrote:
“In theoretical Marxist literature this state of affairs and of principles of the national program of S-D have already been elucidated recently (here Stalin’s article comes first.)”
On the eve of the revolution, Lenin argued with the Central Committee because they refused to move and endangered the revolution. Stalin stood with Lenin. Lenin felt forced to actually resign from the C.C. This is a fact which is not talked about but the fact is here in Lenin’s own words:
“I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee, which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the party and at the Party Congress.” (“The Crisis Has Matured” Oct 12, 1917)
On Oct. 24, 1917, the morning of the revolution, the editorial in Rabochy Put calling the people to revolt. “What Do We Need?” was written by Stalin.
And what more need be said than that Stalin was elected General Secretary of the CPSU on the motion of Lenin at a Plenum of the Central Committee on April 3, 1922.
K makes quite a case of the “Short Biography” of Stalin. He insinuates that, in effect, this book is a Stalin-controlled piece of flattery. Actually, the book is poorly written. Many of Stalin’s most interesting contributions are neglected. The book has one merit: it offers at least a sparse outline of the continuity of Stalin’s activity. Despite the alleged “cult,” very few books have been written about Stalin.
K refers to an alleged first edition with marginal notes:
“Here are some examples characterizing Stalin’s activity, added in Stalin’s own hand:
“’In this fight against the skeptics and capitulators, the Trotskyites, Zinovievites, Bukharinites and Kamenevites, there was definitely welded together, after Lenin’s death, that leading core of the party... that upheld the great banner of Lenin, rallied the party behind Lenin’s behests, and brought the Soviet people into the broad road of industrializing the country and collectivising the rural economy. The leader of this core and the guiding force of the party and the state was Comrade Stalin.’”
See the three dots? What do they mean: what was left out? Even the NYT wondered and looked up the “Short Biography” (which the reader can obtain from TP). This is what the three dots omitted:
“…consisting of Stalin, Molotov, Kalinin, Voroshilov, Kuibyshev, Frunze, Dzerzhinsky, Kaganovitch Ordzdonikidze, Kirov, Yaroslavsky, Mikoyan, Andreyev, Shvernik, Zhdanov, Shriryatov and others.”
We underlined Ordzdonikidze for a special reason. K, just before this in his secret speech, had sworn that Stalin had liquidated Ordzdonikidze by forcing him to shoot himself. But this is secondary. The important thing is that in K’s quote of Stalin, Stalin ignores all but himself. In the original, in this case available for scrutiny, Stalin takes the space to spread the honor quite a bit.
Most documents used by K are conveniently unavailable for the intelligent reader to check. However, here is a case of an available document, and when the reader checks he finds that K is an absolute scoundrel.
Again from this available text, K tries a trick with mirrors:
“In the draft text of this book appeared the following sentence:
“’Stalin is the Lenin of today.’
“This sentence appeared to Stalin to be too weak, so in his own handwriting he changed it to read:
“’Stalin is the worthy continuer of Lenin’s work, or, as it is said in our party, Stalin is the Lenin of today.’”
Now, excusing fools from the room for a moment, read these two versions and weep. Is the rewritten version built up or toned down? We say that whether or not Stalin wrote the alleged second version in the margin, it is toned down: the difference between the “Lenin of today” and “a worthy continuer of Lenin.” It might also be added that Stalin was, in a basic sense, “the Lenin of today,” as Henri Barbusse put it!
K also points out that Stalin edited the biography to state that the “Short History” was written by Stalin and approved by a commission of the Central Committee. We have only one thing to say. The “Short History” is the finest textbook we know of and worthy of Stalin’s style. There is no argument about the author of the most difficult part on dialectical materialism, so we suppose Stalin was capable of the less difficult parts.
In our outline analysis of the 20th Congress we gave a basic definition of Khrushchevism:
“Khrushchevism, a current form of revisionism and opportunism, is the attempt to dissolve the contradictions between peaceful coexistence and world revolution.”
We explained K’s concentration on Stalin as follows:
“Khrushchevism means placating the hostile world by the deletion of the MOST HATED IDEA and its MOST HATED EXPONENT. To the hostile world, the most hated idea is the proletarian revolution, and its most hated exponent in our time is Stalin.”
Therefore, we called our article “Proletarian Revolution and Renegade Khrushchev,” and subtitled it “In Defense of Stalin.” This brief recapitulation is calculated to remind the sympathetic reader not to develop oversimplified explanations of the 20th Congress based on K’s self-portrait.
We find it necessary to defend K against himself. The self-portrait is so disgusting that the viewer can easily mistake K’s technique for his purpose. K hates Stalin so hard that one can too easily decide that K has produced the current catastrophe in the S.U. simply to avenge himself against a corpse. K himself is to blame for this impression. It is true that the hate is there in concentration. But that is not K’s purpose; that is simply K’s method. The method of a principled Communist should be determined by objective needs. The method of K is highly personal because scoundrels have a wide and free choice of methods.
It must be noticed that K comes to rest on a defense of the Trotskyites. He perverts Leninism for many reasons, but sometimes simply for the purpose of discrediting Stalin in order to rehabilitate old Trotskyite friends. It is not inconceivable that K is an old Trotskyite in disguise. (We will deal with K’s background in another issue.) Although he has helped Trotskyism, we do not think that K’s basic purpose is to restore Trotskyism. In any case, his task is difficult because Lenin and Stalin fought Trotskyism together, because they had the beat opinions of each other, and because Trotskyism has a low opinion of both. K is playing with a forced mixture which will inevitably explode in his face.
K says “facts prove,” but, always, his ”facts prove” to be merely his own base assertions elevated into facts. Isn’t it surprising that although Communists all over the world were “deeply shocked” by K’s revelations, they accepted the new surprising facts immediately, easily and hypocritically? An ancient member of a Communist parry is told on the authority of one K that Stalin’s slogan was ”beat, beat, and once again beat,” and he is horrified. What is he horrified at – the smear technique of K? Oh no! He is horrified at Stalin, and also at the fact that no one told him sooner. He is not horrified at his own hypocrisy. But how can a Communist be so hypocritical? He can’t. Many people have been misusing the name Communist.
The wide acceptance of K and his tales is an accurate reflection of the low state of the Communist movement. We may be asked, ”but isn’t it true that Communists are disagreeing with specific points as made by K.” True – but the points raised prove the hypocrisy. K is not attacked for lying about Stalin. He is criticized because of the amateurish way that he slopped it up. He is not criticized for lies about the murderous Soviet regime under Stalin. He is criticized for not having explained his role in it. That’s the interesting point: the automatic acceptance of the word of a man who, according to his own evidence, played a false role since 1934.
We have heard that “truth shall set you free,” but all kinds of fake Communists are in the market for lies about the Soviet Union so that they can free themselves of Marxist responsibility and become “open-minded liberal.” The KHRUSHCHEV STORY hit the spot for such people.
We realize it is hard to think in a completely foul atmosphere. For some time the stench has been great. Now, however, the secret speech of K has acted as a knife cutting open the gangrene infection of opportunism. Let no one make the mistake of thinking that the stench has anything to do with Communism. It is the gangrene of opportunism that projects the stench. It is the stench that permeates the air of the new alliance between the alleged leaders of world Communism and the main enemies of world Communism. (We advocate a breath of fresh air to be found in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin.)
Inevitably, certain Communists will assert themselves and help deliver a climactic blow to this EPISODE in history. These will be Communists who are capable of (in Lenin’s words) –
“protecting the honor, the prestige, and continuity of the Party in periods of acute ’depression.’”
1. Hereafter: K
2. According to the New York Times, 6-9-56, Agenzia Continentale in Rome printed purported missing items regarding Stalin’s boners in Korea, India and China. It quoted K on “sycophants” who won Stalin prizes at home and abroad.
3. One of the important but less noticed results of K’s debut is the interruption of the printing of Stalin’s complete works. We can imagine how much data on Stalin’s “later period” K is trying to choke by the suppression of the later volumes.
4. Space does not allow our quoting here in detail. The interested and honest reader cannot afford to miss reading this preface in “J. V. Stalin Works,” Vol. 1, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1952. If the reader has trouble in acquiring a copy, TP will cooperate.
5. Davies (see supplement) has other information.
6. Chekhov’s police officer was a mixture of bureaucracy, stupidity, righteousness and cruelty.
7. Most of our quotes from Lenin, in this section are taken from Beria’s “On the History of Bolshevik Organization in Transcaucasia,” a scholarly and highly documented study of Stalin’s early writings and activities.
9. In our next article, we will consider the confusion caused by K’s speech in other Communist Parties and the resulting statement of the Central Committee of the CPSU.