“A great Marxist-Leninist” – Inscription on wreath for Stalin brought to Moscow by Chou En-lai.
1. Khruschev’s notorious secret speech, made nearly nine years ago at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, represented primarily a gigantic cover-up for the assassination of Stalin and an insurance policy against being found out in this and other crimes committed to usurp the party leadership.
2. In order to understand this, we must review briefly the events in world politics that have a direct bearing on this matter. Not only must we make an honest and objective appraisal of all such incidents in order to draw correct conclusions, but this is all the more necessary because the revisionists have made every effort to distort and disguise the significance of these events for transparently dubious motives. To accomplish this task, to penetrate the fog of revisionist propaganda, we must take all the more seriously the distinction made by Stalin in his last published work between appearances in politics and those forces operating below the surface which nevertheless determine events.
3. In making this analysis, only published material has been used, all of which, can be checked by interested comrades. The material used is broadly speaking of two kinds. First, the published statements and theoretical works of Stalin, especially his “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.”, completed only a few months before his death. Second, Press reports which can be checked from newspaper files and other reference works. Most readers will remember the events referred to, and many will at one time or another have read the statements of Stalin either quoted or cited. That the statements were made is undeniable, that the events happened is also undeniable. I not only suggest to readers that they check this public material, I urge them to do so, in order to form their own judgment in matters of decisive importance to the international communist movement.
4. So much for our material, the class reality we are attempting to analyse and interpret. In making that analysis we must use a potent weapon, that of Marxism, Many sincere and well-meaning comrades tend to neglect Marxist theory, or do not fully understand its role. But what is even more our concern at the moment is that many who pay lip-service to theory, who discuss eagerly and at length its application to historical and cultural questions, do not in practice even consider its use in formulating at least a tentative solution to pressing political problems, above all on inner-party matters. Yet to what has Marxism a more direct application than to class struggle and above all to the class conflict within the communist movement?
5. To demonstrate this, to show how revisionism provides only a deceptive surface answer to important questions, we take as our starting point the question of “stagnation”, and see what lies behind it. One of the basic revisionist themes is that Soviet society was in a condition of stagnation in the last years of Stalin’s life, that he was primarily responsible for this, and that this has since been replaced by the energetic, dynamic leadership of Khruschev. So much for revisionist legend.
6. To analyse this question and all others we must ask: what is the most basic, elementary principle of Marxism? It is the idea of internal contradiction, the principle that the conflict between opposites is the law of development of everything in nature, thought and society. This will be our main weapon in analysing the Stalin question, for it will in fact reflect the actual contradictions which determined the events we are considering. Clearly the law of internal contradiction applies also to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. The actions of leading members of that committee, and the decisions of that committee in the period we are considering, reflected in the main the conflict between opposing forces within that committee, a struggle which it is now clear was in essence the struggle between Marxism and revisionism, between proletarian and bourgeois ideology. This was in turn part of the internal conflict between Marxism and revisionism in the international communist movement, a struggle which derives ultimately from the basic division in modern society: the conflict between the two main classes which is taken as the starting point of the first programme document of Marxism, the Communist Manifesto. However “dialectical” comrades may be, however much they talk of contradiction and the unity of opposites, if they resist the use of this principle on this question they are saying in practice that internal contradiction applies to everything in the world except the Soviet Central Committee, they are discarding the basic weapon of Marxist analysis in a matter of decisive importance to Marxism.
7. What then is the truth behind the “stagnation” theory? It is that there were two opposing forces in the Soviet leadership, a Marxist group headed by Stalin being opposed by right-wing, nationalist forces headed by the Soviet revisionists. For the immediate post-war period Stalin was in the ascendant, but by 1950 the revisionist forces were fast developing and by 1952 Stalin was definitely in a minority in the leadership. The so-called “stagnation” around 1950 was nothing of the kind, but on the contrary, a fierce struggle going on below the surface in which neither of the two contending forces could obtain a decisive victory.
8. Certainly there was no sign of this so-called stagnation in the immediate post-war years in the Soviet Union. The rapid reconstruction, the perspectives outlined in Stalin’s speech of February, 1946, the price cuts, the currency reform, the abolition of rationing before rationing ended in Britain, the abolition of capital punishment (since used wholesale by Khruschev against profiteers in a desperate attempt to deal with the effects of his own retreat). Most striking of all, despite the war and its effects, the rapid advance of nuclear research until it could be announced that the imperialist atomic monopoly had been broken. In the international field, the inauguration of the Communist Information Bureau at a time when the French and Italian parties held posts in bourgeois governments, the British party was supporting a bourgeois government, Titoism had not been exposed, and the decisive turn to proletarian rule had not been accomplished in Eastern Europe (Rumania, for example, was still a monarchy). Later came the launching of the international peace movement to oppose and undermine imperialism.
9. Why then can it be said that in 1952 Stalin was definitely in the minority? The most decisive evidence of this is surely the 19th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in that year. For the first time since the death of Lenin, Stalin did not give the political report. His only direct public contribution to the 19th Congress was a speech of greeting to the foreign delegates. Such a report was eagerly awaited by the international proletariat, who had come to expect from Stalin on these occasions a thorough class analysis of world affairs presented with the theoretical clarity for which he was justly noted. What then prevented such a report being given? Was it due to Stalin’s age, or his health, or a desire to present Malenkov as a future party leader? By no means. Stalin later showed himself fully capable of theoretical analysis in his published work on the economic textbook. We must reject as explanations also the stories concerning Stalin’s health, that his death in the following year was due to a developing and ultimately fatal illness. Granted that the fulfillment of his unprecedented war responsibilities must have aged him, granted also his actual age, foreign observers who had discussions with Stalin up to shortly before his death reported him in good condition both physically and mentally.
10. As for Malenkov, the point “becomes clearer when we compare the content of the 19th Congress report with Stalin’s speech to his electors in February, 1946, a comparison which can be made only briefly here. Stalin’s post-war statement set long-term targets for heavy industry, to guard against “accidents”, an attitude best seen in the context of a then new feature in the world situation, the imperialistic possession of nuclear weapons. Only a few years later, however, Malenkov’s congress report emphasises light industry. Our conclusion can only be that such a report was made in direct opposition to Stalin’s earlier perspective by decision of the revisionist majority, that Stalin used his position to resist these decisions, or refused to give his name to such a report. Malenkov is often treated as a Stalinist by Western “experts”, and was so regarded by many comrades after the 19th Congress. In reality, in my view, he represented the extreme revisionist forces in the Soviet leadership, who were prepared to make concessions to the imperialists almost to the point of capitulation. For the moment, it is sufficient for our purpose to note that both Malenkov and Khruschev appeared as leaders at the 19th Congress. The different standpoints represented by them will be examined later, together with the significance of Malenkov’s emphasis on light industry. At all events, the role of Stalin at the 19th Congress was a visible sign to the world proletariat of his minority position in the Soviet leadership.
11. Why did Soviet revisionism develop rapidly after 1949? Here we may mention that the post-war publication of Stalin’s collected works, originally announced in 16 volumes, appears to have been suspended after the publication in 1949 of volume 13. This volume, moreover, ends in January, 1934, and it was precisely the period from 1934 onwards that was selected by Khruschev for his main attack on Stalin. What happened in 1949 that began to strengthen revisionism in the Soviet leadership until within two years it became the majority viewpoint? The answer to this question has become clearer in subsequent years owing to the very development of Soviet revisionism and the energetic and unprincipled propagation of its viewpoint by Khruschev. When we consider from this vantage point Khruschev’s attitude towards China, his opposition to the Communist Party of China and the way in which this has brought him into tacit alliance with U.S. imperialism, is it not clear that the liberation of China at the end of 1949 raised new and “alarming” perspectives for the revisionists in the Soviet leadership? This hostile attitude hardened in subsequent years, after the 20th Congress, and was strengthened by fears of the loss of the revisionist position in the international communist movement. It is, therefore, no accident that the forces of Soviet revisionism were strengthened after 1949. The Soviet revisionists regarded independent China as a new and eventually formidable danger to their national interests, as Khruschev later made crystal clear.
12. Not only had such a viewpoint in the Soviet leadership long been detected by Stalin, but he had publicly declared his principled opposition to it many years before the liberation of China. In 1925, in a talk to the students of Sverdlov University, he analysed the opposition of certain Soviet diplomats to a proletarian foreign policy, He presented the viewpoint of these diplomats thus: “Why support the movement for the emancipation of China? Will that not be dangerous? Will that not involve us in quarrels with other countries? Would it not be better to re-establish ’spheres of influence’ in co-operation with some of the great powers? Such is the nationalist frame of mind of a new type which aims at doing away with the foreign policy of the October Revolution”. Not only does Stalin’s exposure of this earlier tendency towards a retreat from proletarian internationalism fit Khruschev’s policy like a glove, but it is worth recording also his own expressed opposition to such a policy in the same talk: “This would be the road to nationalism and degeneration, the road of the full liquidation of the inter national policy of the proletariat. People possessed of this disease see our country not as part of a whole, which is called the world revolutionary movement, but as the beginning and end of that movement, thinking that the interests of all other countries should be sacrificed to the interests of our country”. (Works, volume 7, pages 167-9).
13. In a later work, Stalin clearly contrasted two opposite lines in foreign policy for the Soviet Union. One line was that “we continue to pursue a revolutionary policy, rallying the proletarians and the oppressed of all countries around the working class of the U.S.S.R.” The other was that ”we renounce our revolutionary policy and agree to make a number of fundamental concessions to international capital”. Stalin gave this example: “America demands that we renounce in principle the policy of supporting the emancipation movement of the working class in other countries, and says that if we made this concession everything would go smoothly,.. we cannot agree to these or similar concessions without being false to ourselves”. (Works, volume 11, pages 58-60). It is clear that, both in this and the above example, Stalin is not arguing in the abstract but resisting a tendency in the Soviet leadership dating back on the evidence of these quotations alone to immediately after the death of Lenin. Note also in the first example that the opposition is directly stated to come from the diplomats, i.e. from non-proletarian elements in Soviet society.
14. Further on this question of Soviet responsibility to the international working class, it is possible to make a direct and striking comparison between Stalin and Khruschev. In a speech to managers of socialist industry in 1931, Stalin explained why it was not possible to slacken the tempo of industrial development. He declared: “We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us. This is what our obligations to the workers and peasants of the U.S.S.R. dictate to us”. Then he added this significant sentence: “But we have other, still more serious and more important obligations. They are our obligations to the world proletariat. They coincide with our obligations to the workers and peasants of the U.S.S.R. But we place them higher”. Can any reader who has studied Khruschev’s worsening attitude in recent years imagine Khruschev saying that, and saying it moreover to an audience of business managers? Did not Khruschev by contrast publicly and brutally repudiate the role of vanguard of the international communist movement for the Soviet Communist Party on more than one occasion? At a speech to delegates from fraternal parties of the socialist countries on February 4, 1960, Khruschev declared: ”What does ’at the head’ give us materially? It gives us neither milk nor butter, neither potatoes nor vegetables nor flats. Perhaps it gives us something morally? Nothing at all!” Again in a speech to fraternal delegates on June 24, 1960, he declared: “What is the use of ’at the head’ for us? To hell with it!” All readers with the cause of the working class at heart ore invited to consider these declared attitudes of Stalin and Khruschev, and to choose between them.
15. It is clear that Stalin resisted the retreat from Marxism both before and after the 19th Congress. Clearly also Khruschev’s criticisms of Stalin’s resistance to collective decisions have their origin in this period. Stalin pursued the struggle against revisionism to the end of his days, in particular by his use of the party discussion round a new economic textbook to oppose the retreat from Marxism and to clarify the questions concerned. Unable directly to lead a majority on the central committee, Stalin now sought an indirect means of beginning to correct the situation. Stalin’s “Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.” is not only one of the most valuable works of post-war Marxist analysis, it is also clear and undeniable evidence of the existence of two opposing groups in the Soviet leadership and the anti-Marxist standpoint of those in opposition to Stalin. All comrades are recommended to re-study the work thoroughly in this light. Here only the briefest of references can be made to the controversies implicit in Stalin’s theoretical polemic.
16. To recall the main questions dealt with in Stalin’s work reveals several such indications. There are comrades in the leadership who think that the Soviet Government can now ignore the Marxist laws of social development, “believe that the transition to communism will he a relatively simple matter, have a poor understanding of the operation of Marxist economic laws in the Soviet Union, wish to sell the means of production to the collective farms and do not understand that an increase in commodity circulation will be a barrier to the development towards communism. Stalin takes the opportunity also to move outside a strict interpretation of his terms of reference and deal with misconceptions regarding the questions of war and peace, questions on which the distortion of Marxism by the Soviet revisionists has since been clearly exposed by our Chinese comrades, above all in the work “More on the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Ourselves”. Finally, after exposing the main deviations from Marxism in a section of the Soviet Leadership, Stalin makes the clearest possible reference, in a situation of developing revisionism in the international communist movement, to “the inadequate level of Marxist development of the majority of the Communist parties abroad”. Anyone with the slightest pretension to theoretical grounding should note that it is Marxism and Leninism that Stalin was defending against the leading Soviet revisionists here. It is not a question of collective leadership, the cult of the individual or the revisionists of all people “returning to Lenin” or any of the rest of the claptrap with which the revisionists of all countries, not least in Britain, have covered up their retreat from Marxism and their betrayal of the working class. In particular in this work, Stalin defends Marxist-Leninist principles against the view held by the Soviet revisionists that Lenin’s analysis of imperialism was “obsolete”.
17. Finally on this question of the internal contradiction in the Soviet leadership, what more evidence of opposing groups is needed than Khruschev’s secret speech itself, with its squalid grabbing at every item of gossip, its thoroughgoing distortion of every issue and its revelation of ineradicable personal hatred? It is worth recalling also that Khruschev’s attack was directed not only against Stalin but also against Zdhanov, Vyshinsky and Beria, both explicitly in the speech and in subsequent developments, and we shall have occasion to refer to this point later.
18. At a certain point the leading Soviet revisionists faced the final obstruction of Stalin and any of his remaining direct supporters in their path to the possession of the party leadership and the direction of Soviet policy along completely revisionist lines. It is clear that Stalin was using his position and prestige to resist any such major decision. It is conceivable that Stalin’s opponents in the central committee were for a time waiting for death to remove this obstacle to their path, and that this would be the final answer, from their point of view, to Stalin’s analysis of their theoretical errors. What urgent considerations prompted the leading revisionists to hasten events by direct intervention in this matter?
19. The evidence points to two such considerations. First there is the obviously important question, not publicly dealt with in the “Economic Problems”, of imperialist possession of nuclear weapons. If we recall, however, that the essence of Stalin’s work of 1952 is his resistance to the retreat from Marxism in deciding major questions of Soviet policy, the conflict over this issue becomes clear, and has since been made explicit by Khruschev’s subsequent auctions.
20. As every genuine Marxist knows, thanks above all to the public discussion of this major Issue by our Chinese comrades, one of the hallmarks of the modern revisionists is their attitude to nuclear weapons. To make a fetish of this destructive power in the hands of the imperialists, to imagine that the existence of nuclear weapons cancels out Marxism and makes any principled policy “out of date”, is for many leading revisionists and their supporters the starting point of their class collaboration and their ideological capitulation. The essence of Khruschev’s position in this respect was long ago publicly recognised by a leading capitalist politician, Harold Macmillan, who described Khruschev approvingly as “the first Soviet statesman to recognise that Karl Marx was a pre-atomic man”. The point could hardly be more clearly put. Why should British workers lag behind the British ruling class in their evaluation of Khruschev’s essential role?
21. As stated, the opposing points of view on this question are, unlike others, not obvious from a study of the “Economic Problems”, but they become clear if we review the pattern of events. In the immediate post-war situation, despite the temporary imperialist nuclear monopoly, Stalin carried forward a consistent policy without concessions or ideological retreat, knowing that the answer to the perennial imperialist threat lay in unwavering opposition to imperialism, and the mobilisation of the socialist camp and all anti-imperialist forces to this end. This policy he had carried on unflinchingly and with marked theoretical clarity and foresight for more than 20 years. From the death of Lenin to the victory over fascism, Stalin had. personified, the firm Soviet opposition to the class enemies of socialism. His resistance to any earlier attempts at retreat, even under conditions of capitalist encirclement, has already been briefly indicated.
22. As shown earlier in this document, Stalin had repeatedly stated in answer to implicit opposition to such a policy that consistent opposition to imperialism and the mobilisation of all class forces to this end was the only principled answer to imperialist pressure. The Marxist position on this question is also directly stated in the “Economic Problems”, in Stalin’s defence of Lenin’s fundamental standpoint that imperialism is the source of war. The launching of the international peace movement in Stalin’s day had the aim of carrying this policy forward on a broad front, again as a principled and practical answer to imperialist pressure.
23. By contrast, the revisionist position with regard to imperialism has been fully exposed in the documents published by the Communist Party of China. The revisionists, led by Khruschev, have used the existence of nuclear weapons in order to contract out of Marxism. In addition, in a basic retreat from Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, the revisionists depart from the position that imperialism is the source of war in the modern world. Instead, they assert the fundamental revisionist view that the source of war is the conflict between the two camps of imperialism and socialism. This is reduced by the Soviet revisionists to the direct conflict between the Soviet Union and British and American imperialism. Here the basic Soviet revisionist strategy reveals itself. If imperialism is not the source of war in the modern world, if war is not inherent in the very nature of imperialism, if from their viewpoint the question is reduced to the relations between the Soviet Union and one or other of the leading imperialisms, then the “answer” to this question and to the problem of imperialist pressure is relatively simple from the revisionist standpoint. It is a deal between the Soviet revisionist leadership and the imperialists.
24. Prom this basic perspective of a deal with the imperialists stems other revisionist policies of which Khruschev has been the leading spokesman. Such a perspective involves attempting the basically impossible task of curbing the class forces engaged in actively resisting imperialism. This contribution from the Soviet revisionist side towards agreement with the imperialists, a pre-condition to any possible deal, is presented in deceptive form as a contribution to peace. Such a policy is clearly in fundamental opposition to that of Lenin and Stalin, whose perspective was the very different one of assisting resistance to imperialism, with the revolutionary aim of its ultimate overthrow, by using the contradictions of imperialist to organise all the class forces hostile to it.
25. Such a perspective involves the Soviet revisionists and their supporters in hostile attacks upon any principled opposition to the adaption of working class policy to imperialism. In particular, it becomes a matter of the highest importance to the revisionists to retain control of all possible sections of the international communist movement, in order to resist to the utmost not only the inevitable opposition to such a policy but its ultimate reversal in the interests of the international working class. Prom this adaptation to imperialism by the revisionist stems the split in the international communist movement, and the present ideological controversy between Marxism and revisionism. Such a perspective also leads the modern revisionists, from Khruschev to Palme Dutt, to lecture those resisting imperialism on the use of force, a role formerly confined to bourgeois ideologists and Social-Democrats.
26. Observe also how revisionist policy complements and supports that of imperialism. Already concerned with the visible world development from capitalism to socialism, and the developing opposition to imperialism, the imperialists believed that their possession of nuclear weapons, especially in the period of their temporary monopoly, was at last the unprecedented military force that would enable them to arrest and if possible reverse the wheel of history. In other words, the imperialists are using all their class power in an attempt to maintain their class position, to preserve the imperialist status quo. That is the role of nuclear weapons for the imperialists. From the revisionist side, the existence of nuclear weapons is used to support the plea that the social forces hostile to imperialism should not pursue the path or armed struggle imposed on them by imperialist aggression, in order that these “local conflicts,” as the revisionists describe them, should not lead to the use of nuclear weapons by the imperialists. A distorted version of Lenin’s attitude to “peaceful coexistence” is used to cover unprincipled retreat from Lenin’s thoroughgoing opposition to imperialism. As for the presentation of such a policy as a contribution to peace, the development towards war arises from the social system of imperialism, not the social system of socialism. To split the socialist camp with a revisionist policy of adaptation to imperialism is to weaken the main barrier to imperialism’s drive towards war. This revisionist policy has led to Khruschev’s direct supply of arms to a capitalist power (India) in its conflict with a member of the socialist camp. It has culminated in the alliance with imperialism, based on a mutual interest in nuclear monopoly, implicit in the test ban treaty. Conversely, to look back from the test ban treaty to its origin in the new Soviet revisionist strategy confirms such an analysis as basically correct.
27. As further confirmation, we should note that Stalin’s immediate successor was not Khruschev but Malenkov. He it was who publicly declared on this very question that the use of nuclear weapons would mean the end of civilisation, a view later subjected to a public correction. Malenkov’s statement, however, may be taken as visible evidence of the viewpoint of the section of the leadership he represented: that the Soviet Union must at all costs buy off the threat of nuclear destruction by concessions to the imperialists. In the new post-war conditions this was in essence a return to the pre-war Trotksyite position on concessions, this time with the added incentive of imperialist nuclear blackmail. Since the removal of Stalin from the Soviet leadership resulted directly in the elevation of Malenkov, it is reasonable to assume that Malenkov’s more extreme position on this question was the principal one at this time.
28. This, then, was the situation prior to Stalin’s death. The leaders of the revisionist majority in the central committee had reached the position of ignoring or discarding Marxism on major questions of Soviet policy. In particular, to them Marxism was now out-dated by the existence of nuclear weapons. Stalin’s Marxist standpoint on these questions was regarded by them as mere dogmatic obstinacy, the general attitude of opportunists to a genuinely principled stand. We have already noted Stalin’s earlier analysis of “the nationalist frame of mind” among certain elements in Soviet society that aimed at doing away with a foreign policy based upon the interests of the international working class. In the postwar years this attitude developed under new conditions, in which a section of the leadership came to believe that they alone possessed the key to the protection of Soviet interests, in particular against the threat of nuclear destruction, and were prepared to contract out of their obligations to the international working class in order to do this. Clearly, with this strategy in mind, they did not greet liberated China as a welcome ally in the fight against imperialism, but as a new and ultimately formidable danger to their plans. To the new Soviet nationalists, an independent China was a possible rival to their interests, while the prestige of a party that had achieved the conquest of power by the application of Marxism to exceptionally difficult conditions was bound to affect the revisionist position within the international communist movement.
29. At a certain point, the revisionists were able to command a majority of votes in the Soviet Central Committee in general support of their viewpoint. In these Circumstances, they became increasingly angry at Stalin’s rejection of this policy and his stubborn resistance to it, position all the more frustrating to the revisionists since they had to hand their ready-made “solution” to these increasingly pressing problems. They believed that Stalin’s thoroughgoing opposition to imperialism was becoming highly dangerous to Soviet interests, which only they could protect by their policy of a deal at the expense of the international working class. To the revisionists, the need for a final resolution of this situation in their favour was becoming increasingly urgent, a need which almost certainly led to factional intrigue and private consultations and understandings on the imperative necessity of finding ways of removing this remaining obstacle in the path to their usurpation of the party- leadership, and the operation of the nationalist policy which had become their only real consideration. It was in this already tense situation that the leading Soviet revisionists were suddenly presented with even more urgent reasons for the swift hastening forward of their plans.
30. In January 1953, less than two months before Stalin’s death, it was announced that an investigation was proceeding into a conspiracy among opposition elements, that these elements were linked with British and American intelligence, and that arrests had already been made. The investigation had been initiated directly from Stalin’s secretariat, and one conclusion was now announced: that opposition elements had been responsible for Zdhanov’s death in 1948. Zdhanov had been the best Marxist theoretician in the Soviet Union after Stalin, and together in the immediate post-war years they had done much to correct deviations from proletarian ideology arising in the main from the concentration upon the war effort, the wartime alliance with capitalism and the war losses, which must have destroyed some of the best elements among the party rank-and-file and cadres while leaving the administrators, academicians and other non-proletarian elements relatively protected. Zdhanov too had led the Soviet delegations to the inaugural meetings of the Communist Information Bureau. In both these fields of activity, he thus became a natural target for both Soviet and European revisionists, to say nothing of the imperialists themselves.
31. The situation within the leadership was now at its sharpest point. The announcement meant that Stalin was probing urgently into opposition conspiracies. Either the position was resolved in favour of the revisionists, and the new strategy upon which they had reached private agreement, or a new stage was about to begin that would undermine the revisionist majority and begin the turn to the restoration of Marxism. As the investigation proceeded, the leading revisionists may well have attempted to direct it elsewhere, but the probe was obviously coming too close for comfort, and swift and resolute action was necessary if the full extent of revisionist intrigues was not to be revealed.
32. Thus it was that on the night of the first Wednesday in March, 1953, after a still unexplained three- day delay, Moscow Radio announced that Stalin had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage on the previous Sunday night and was now in a critical condition. Further detailed medical bulletins were issued until the announcement of Stalin’s death two days later. A study of the official announcements reveals two points we should note. First, that apart from the first brief reference to a brain haemorrhage, there is no further report on the cause of Stalin’s death. Second, that in the very first bulletin, the Soviet leaders hasten to emphasise that even in the event of Stalin’s recovery, he would be unable to return to his leading responsibilities. Obviously it was of the highest importance to them to make it clear from the beginning that the direction of Soviet policy would now pass into other hands, and to use the occasion to accustom the Soviet people to this change.
33. At the present point in history, no one as yet except those directly concerned can know the exact cause of Stalin’s death. Whatever conclusion we reach on the available evidence does not invalidate the undeniable existence of two opposing groups in the Soviet leadership, and the equally undeniable conflict between their policies and their basic ideology. But it must be said that if Stalin’s death was from natural causes at that exact critical juncture in the struggle within the Soviet leadership, it was not only an extremely providential turn of events for the leading Soviet revisionists, but also the most striking coincidence in world history. The mystery of Stalin’s death in those circumstances is surrounded, moreover, by other coincidences and indications.
34. The deaths of proletarian revolutionaries need always to he regarded with the greatest vigilance by the working class movement, especially when they occur in conditions of isolation or semi-isolation, such as in prison, under close medical attention, or on board ship. There has been no investigation as yet into the cause of Stalin’s death, and no official report on the subject. Various casual remarks have been made by Khruschev, and at one point an obviously fantastic version was put out by Ilya Ehrenburg, in which it was noteworthy that Beria is made to play the leading role. Obviously Ehrenburg could not have known the facts, and the leading Soviet revisionists were using him as an indirect means that could always be officially denied. It is worth noting also that Ehrenburg1s over-simplified propaganda which, in the closing stages of the war, made the task of the advancing Red Army more difficult, to say nothing of the problem of the setting up of the East German state, and earlier been publicly corrected by Stalin.
35. From an examination of all available reports of the circumstances surrounding Stalin’s death, one conclusion is reasonably certain: that on the night of March 1 a group of Soviet leaders went to confront Stalin on policy matters and that as a result of that meeting Stalin died. It seems certain also that both Khruschev and Mikoyan were leading members of this group. It is also probable that the way was prepared for them, and any intervention made impossible, by a picked force possibly under the command of Zhukov. In other words, Stalin may well have died following a cerebral haemorrhage, but this in itself was the result of a physical attack. We must note at this point that Western correspondents in Moscow have reported that two weeks before Stalin’s death, an announcement of the “sudden death” of General Kosynkin appeared in Izvestia of February 17. General Kosynkin was Chief of the Department for the Security of the Administration of the Kremlin. For the time being, this assertion is recorded here, but if the death of Stalin was unexpected and. from natural causes, the prior death in this situation of the Kremlin security chief is clearly a remarkable coincidence.
36. Readers will recall that Khruschev’s secret speech, together with other statements made both before and after, the 20th Congress, is not only a denunciation of Stalin, but also of Zdhanov, Beria and Vyshinsky. Not only had Stalin died in mysterious circumstances, but shortly before his death, the announcement of the investigation initiated by his secretariat had publicly asserted that the death of Zdhanov had been arranged by opposition elements. On the analysis presented, it seems clear that this public assertion hastened Stalin’s own end. We must recall also that soon after Stalin’s death, Beria was denounced to the central committee, and his arrest followed, but his execution after a secret trial was not announced until six months later. In typical revisionist fashion, the secret military-judicial disposal of Beria was covered by a good deal of public talk from Malenkov about individual rights and legality, talk that would have sounded ironic to Beria had he been in any position to hear it. Recall also Khruschev’s interview with a French socialist delegation, after taking over from Malenkov, in which he explained that Beria was trapped and shot at a committee meeting, Mikoyan playing a leading role in this. Only afterwards, according to this interview, did a young security official obligingly “discover” that Beria, undetected by Stalin, had been an imperialist agent since 1919, a “fact” then solemnly blazoned forth both by the Soviet and British revisionists. Lastly, in November, 1954, the sudden death of Vyshinsky from heart failure was announced from the headquarters of the Soviet mission in New York. On the following day, Vyshinsky’s body was flown back to Moscow for State burial, accompanied by a Soviet official. In other words, all the people denounced by Khruschev died prior to the 20th Congress, either under mysterious circumstances or under conditions in which there could be no investigation of the cause of death.
37. Further, the occasion of the 20th Congress itself was distinguished by another remarkable coincidence: the death of Bierut, general secretary of the Polish Workers’ Party, while in Moscow. Even in his funeral oration, the Polish communist Ochab referred to Bierut’s “unexpected” death. Following this incident, Khruschev rushed to Poland to reinstate Gomulka, who had been earlier correctly characterised as representing the right-wing nationalist deviation in the Polish party leadership. Khruschev and Gomulka were political blood brothers, as they are today. How convenient for Khruschev that he was enabled to remould the Polish party leadership in his own revisionist image by such neatly-timed co-operation from the now dead Bierut.
38. Further, Tito visited the Soviet Union after the 20th Congress, and relations between the two countries were formally restored. The way had already been paved for this by the previous visit to Yugoslavia of a top Soviet delegation headed by Khruschev, who had publicly blamed the dead Beria for the breach in relations. After his return from consultations with the Soviet leaders, Tito was reported in July 1956 to have told a senior official of a NATO country that from his visit to the Soviet Union he had formed the opinion that Stalin had been murdered by members of the Soviet party leadership. It is not difficult to see here a device known to bourgeois diplomacy, of hinting at an unpalatable truth by indirect means that could always be denied, just as Khruschev’s secret speech itself could for some time have been officially denied had events taken an unfavourable turn for the Soviet revisionists. In other words, a renegade from Marxism stated that an outstanding proletarian revolutionary had been murdered by other renegades from Marxism, a statement that in all probability was made on their behalf as part of the “leaking” of this information to the world. This statement was printed in the British Press, in the Daily Telegraph for example under the heading “Tito says Stalin was murdered.” Yet even the rank-and-file of the British Communist Party had for five years been so lulled by their revisionist leadership into illusions of class peace, had so lost their revolutionary vigilance, that this public statement could pass without an outcry in the party and without any public party comment.
39. Finally on this question, we have the decision pushed through the 22nd Congress, that Stalin’s body be removed from the Lenin mausoleum to a Kremlin grave. Do you imagine that this was merely an act of revenge, of political sadism on the part of Khruschev, merely the culminating point in a campaign of denigration? What also happened at that congress? A courageous speech from Chou En-lai, which Khruschev angrily told delegates not to applaud. Khruschev had been faced with the withdrawal of public support from the powerful Communist Party of China and the unwelcome prospect of open polemics undermining the revisionist position in the international communist movement. Nor could this opposition be dealt with by Khruschev’s control of the state machine. This was a new and unpleasant prospect for Khruschev. It is clear that this decision was an urgent practical necessity for the leading Soviet revisionists, and there are rumours that Stalin’s body was reduced to ashes before burial. In advance of any “unfavourable” turn of events, Khruschev wished to prevent any later independent investigation into the cause of Stalin’s death.
40. After the Soviet revisionists had usurped the party leadership and consolidated their position they were confronted with a difficult question: how their new strategy and the basic retreat from Marxism it entailed was to be presented. For a time they were prepared to rule in Stalin’s name, a process they began, as already noted, from the very first bulletin issued immediately prior to his death. Even as late as February, 1955? Khruschev’s speech to the Supreme Soviet proposing Bulganin as the new premier referred to him as “one of the closest comrades-in-arms” of Stalin, Clearly the revisionists could make no real progress in this fashion, but if the wholesale distortion of Marxism was to be accomplished it could not be done at once but in a series of stages. It was three years after Stalin’s death before the ground had been sufficiently prepared for Khruschev to make his congress speech, which even then was never published in the Soviet Union. This proved a wise precaution for the Soviet revisionists, for even the rumours of the nature of this speech immediately after the congress were sufficient to lead to riots, demonstrations and industrial unrest. Further, it was not until several years later that the Soviet revisionists attempted what was for them an essential task: the public repudiation of all Stalin’s theoretical work from virtually the death of Lenin onwards.
41. The main propaganda barrage came from Khruschev, as the champion of Soviet revisionism, at the 20th Congress. To cover up the retreat from Marxism, the retreat from Stalin’s firm Leninist position, might have seemed impossible. It was accomplished by the public presentation of the policy as its opposite, as a policy based on Marxism, while the real breach in Marxism that opened the minds of many to revisionism, was made by the personal attack on Stalin. In order to deceive the international communist movement, the leading Soviet revisionists had to present the question as if they were restoring Leninism instead of departing from it. As a means of restraining the imperialists instead of adapting Soviet policy to imperialism. As the pursuit of peace instead of splitting the socialist camp, the main barrier to imperialist aggression.
42. For a time this policy was all too successful. The authority of the Soviet party, an authority derived from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, was used to cover up a retreat from Marxism-Leninism. The authority the Soviet party derived from its base in the Soviet industrial working class was used to depart from consistent proletarian ideology. From what other source than the Soviet Communist Party would communists have accepted the denigration of Stalin? In Britain the already revisionist party leadership readily accepted the 20th Congress and played the leading role in disseminating the denigration of Stalin among the British working class. From what other source would British workers have accepted that denigration than a combination of the Soviet Communist Party, the British Communist Party and the Daily Worker? Even now it is encouraging to find support for Stalin among workers, usually those not directly subject to party pressure.
43. Khruschev’s speech had also a further function: as an insurance policy against being found out. Had the crimes committed by the Soviet revisionists in usurping the party leadership come to light before the 20th Congress, they would have been in a dangerous position. After the congress, however, are not the arguments Khruschev and his international supporters would have used to justify this action obvious? Is there not already a back-handed justification of this type in Khruschev’s speech itself, when he tells his audience: “It is not excluded that had Stalin remained at the helm for another several months Comrades Molotov and Mikoyan would probably not have delivered any speeches at this congress”. Will not the same arguments be used now? Would not the final argument in the Soviet Union itself have been that Stalin had to be “removed” to protect national interests, that Stalin’s opposition to imperialism would lead Russia into nuclear war. That this need was made more urgent by the threat of nuclear weapons, which cancelled out all other considerations? Among European revisionists, for example, when Kadar quotes an anonymous peasant as saying that if Stalin had still been alive there would have been a third world war, is this not a post-dated “justification”? Are not precisely the same arguments used by both Soviet and British revisionists against the thoroughly correct and consistent anti-imperialist stand of the Communist Party of China? Is this not also a “justification” of the whole revisionist policy of an accommodation with imperialism in the face of nuclear threats?
44. We have now to examine the fate of this policy of a deal with the imperialists, and the resultant manoeuvres both before and after the 20th Congress. While Malenkov was still leading the Soviet Government, Churchill, then British Premier, made several public statements that were widely interpreted as overtures to the new Soviet leadership, and to which Malenkov also publicly responded. Right-wingers in the British Communist Party, and no doubt their counterparts in the Soviet leadership also, read too much into these dubious gestures from a ruling class politician, as if the Fulton orator of 194-6 had returned to his war-time strategy of an Anglo-Soviet alliance. In fact Churchill had a clear class purpose in mind. With the British ruling class already toying with the plans for the Suez adventure, Churchill intended his empty public gestures towards the new Soviet leadership as a warning to American imperialism not to interfere with the British plans for maintaining its imperialist position in this area. American imperialism was neither deceived nor greatly impressed.
45. We must recall also in this connection the visit paid to the new Malenkov leadership by the Labour leaders. While out of office, leading Labour politicians often play an unofficial role for the British ruling class in precisely this fashion. British newspapers mentioned at the time that the Labour delegation carried with them a secret personal message to Malenkov from Churchill. Moreover, a significant statement on the purpose of the British Labour delegation was made at the time by Morgan Phillips, then General Secretary of the British Labour Party, in a press conference immediately before the delegation left. This statement was printed only in the Sunday Pictorial (now Sunday Mirror) which, as British readers will know, is a sensational rather than a directly political paper. For this reason its account of the press conference was less guarded than that published in the more serious papers and included this statement for its obvious news interest. In answer to a question on the purpose of the delegation, Morgan Phillips said that they were going to see if what had been done in Yugoslavia could also be done in the Soviet Union.
46. In February, 1955? Malenkov was replaced by Khruschev and Bulganin, and the declaration was made that the previous emphasis on light industry, which had been the main real content of Malenkov’s report to the 19th Congress, was now considered largely erroneous. Reference has already been made to the public correction of Malenkov’s statement on nuclear weapons. At this point we must ask what connection exists between Malenkov’s advocacy of light industry and his capitulationist attitude to imperialist nuclear threats, and what the significance was of his replacement by Khruschev and Bulganin, and the difference in viewpoint of the two groups they represented in the Soviet leadership. Is it not clear that the more firmly Malenkov and his supporters clung to the illusion that a policy of concessions would solve the problem of the relations between the Soviet Union and imperialism, the more firmly they held the belief that such a bargain would put off the prospect of a real military conflict for an indefinite period, the less need there was from this viewpoint to continue to gear the Soviet economy to the needs of heavy industry and to continue to strengthen to the utmost Soviet military capacity?
47. Stalin had repeatedly explained that priority for heavy industry had been necessary in the first place as the basis for the Soviet economy and later, to ensure the reproduction of that economy. In particular, as we have noted, only six years before Malenkov’s report to the 19th Congress, Stalin had publicly set new targets for iron, steel, coal end oil production, and declared that “perhaps three new Five-Year-Plans, if not more” would be required to reach these targets. Only one such plan had been completed by the time of the 19th Congress. Stalin had added: “Only under such conditions can we regard our country as guaranteed against any accidents.” (Speech to his electors, February, 1946). To Malenkov and his supporters, however, not only was their new policy sufficient guarantee against “accidents,” but the avoidance of any major military collision must, with the existence of nuclear weapons, become an absolute determinant of policy. Stalin’s principled alternative was to organise all possible class forces in conflict with imperialism in order to undermine it and ultimately achieve its overthrow, and for the Soviet Union and the rest of the socialist camp to play a leading role in this. This, however, the new Soviet leaders considered too dangerous to the nationalist interests that were now their only real concern.
48. Further, the leading Soviet revisionists had to fear the reaction to their policy inside the Soviet Union itself in the first place. But here again they had a ready-made solution to hand arising from their policy. If it was no longer necessary to give priority to heavy industry, if the resources diverted to defence needs could be reduced, then correspondingly greater attention could be given to the production of consumer goods. This in turn would help the new leadership to stabilise itself among the Soviet people, and to give them what have since been called “material incentives” for the support of that policy.
49. From the replacement of Malenkov by Khruschev and Bulganin it would seem that there was a change in the majority opinion held by leading elements in the Soviet Central Committee, and that the viewpoint represented by Malenkov was now regarded as going too far, precisely from the standpoint of the protection of nationalist interests that was now the predominant consideration. The view primarily represented by Khruschev hardened that though the basic strategy was still a deal with imperialism, and in the course of bargaining for such a deal concession would have to be made, out of such a deal Khruschev and his associates hoped to gain some advantages from their nationalist viewpoint, and to bargain from any position of weakness would be to make a bad bargain indeed. Khruschev has ever since visibly involved himself in the dual policy of on the one hand being the champion of “material incentives” within the Soviet Union, and on the other, constantly reminding the Western politicians of Soviet nuclear capacity in an effort to compel them to bargain with him.
50. Following his replacement by Khruschev and Bulganin, Malenkov was then dispatched on a swift electioneering tour of Britain in preparation for their official visit. The strategy of Khruschev and Bulganin was clear. They had decided that an agreement with the British would split the imperialist camp and solve their problems by thus turning the balance of power against American imperialism. This policy was determined by their wishes and illusions, not by a Marxist analysis of objective reality. Stalin had earlier made skilful use of the conflicts within imperialism, but the Western politicians were too wily to be out-manoeuvred again in this manner in a period of mounting danger for their system. Since 1948 in particular the imperialists had visibly formed a common front against the international working class and the oppressed peoples, other imperialisms for the time being accepting the leadership of America in this. True, the contradictions within imperialism still existed, and could still be understood and taken into account in framing any genuine Marxist policy. But revisionists are not Marxists, and their whole policy has been based precisely upon ignoring the fundamental laws of social systems.
51. Here we must note the timing of events. Malenkov left for Britain and the official Soviet visit followed immediately after the calculated “leaking” of Khruschev’s denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress to the Western capitalist press. This publication of Khruschev’s speech abroad but never in the Soviet Union itself has been seen in Britain at least almost entirely from the angle of bourgeois liberalism. There were, however, real considerations at work. Not only did the Soviet revisionists have good reason to fear the reaction inside the Soviet Union itself, to which brief reference has been made, but the virtually full publication of the speech abroad had a definite role to play, both in the task Khruschev and his associates had to perform within the international communist movement and above all in the manoeuvres with imperialism. A similar role in relation to British imperialism was performed in this respect by the sudden public production of Burgess and Maclean before press representatives in Moscow on the very eve of the 20th Congress.
52. We must recall that some time later, it was said from the Soviet side that during Khruschev and Bulganin’s initial consultations with Western politicians before the 20th Congress, they raised “the Stalin question” with the imperialists, and were “advised” that a full public ventilation was the best course. Lt first sight, it seems strange that the responsible heads of the ruling party of the first land of socialism should ask the advice of capitalist politicians on a matter of decisive importance to the international communist movement. Is it not clear that this is a “diplomatic” disguise, a cover for what actually happened? Is it not clear that the coming public denunciation of Stalin was to be regarded from the capitalist side as the best evidence in practice of Khruschev’s “good faith,” as his public repudiation of Stalin’s consistent anti-imperialist line in practice, and as a pre-condition of any possible accommodation?
53. Subsequent developments appear to indicate that the Soviet leaders were deliberately deceived in this by the British ruling class. They were led to believe that if the promised developments took place, certain desirable results would transpire. They were led to believe this not only by Churchill’s public overtures, his private message to Malenkov conveyed by the Labour leaders, and the direct diplomatic liaison that exists for such purposes, but also by agents of the British Foreign Office in contact with revisionists in the Soviet Union.
54. Whatever Khruschev and Bulganin expected to gain from their visit to Britain, whatever Malenkov had led them to expect from his prior contact, they were very soon disillusioned. When they arrived in London and took part in the initial talks at Downing Street with Eden, who had replaced Churchill as Premier, British newspaper reports made clear that at this meeting they were confronted with a united battery of imperialist politicians, including Churchill and Attlee, and that some very tough talking took place. Shortly after this disconcerting experience, Khruschev made a curious public remark in the course of a series of speeches to gatherings of the political, military and business representatives of the British ruling class, when he said that the new Soviet leadership had already done much and should not be asked to do impossibilities. This was not only an indication of the nature of the discussions then proceeding, but an attempt to use public pressure as part of the bargaining.
55. At all events, Khruschev and Bulganin returned to the Soviet Union without having achieved any visible deal. Not only was this first failure of their strategy a set-back for their plans, but they had no doubt intended, by moving so quickly in conjunction with the 20th Congress, to present the Soviet people, immediately after that congress, with a first “victory” for their new policy as proof of the results to be achieved by retreat from Stalin’s position, and that this would make their task within the Soviet Union considerably easier. They then switched openly in their public statements to a new revisionist line. Since the major nuclear threat came from American imperialism, the complexities of these as yet unrewarding manoeuvres were brushed aside in typical Khruschev fashion, and the new policy pursued of a direct deal with the United States. Prom this period dates the public praise of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, the “Camp David” spirit and the repeated praise of American farming and agriculturists. Is not this praise audible evidence of a desire for such a deal with American imperialism as the “solution” to the protection of Soviet interests in the increasing complex of world contradictions? In fact, far from being any solution to world contradictions, it is in sharp conflict with them, being based upon the illusion of a long period of class peace between American imperialism and working class power, just as Browder envisaged.
56. During this period also, from 1958 onwards, Khruschev had consolidated his personal position. Despite his dishonest talk of collective leadership, he had taken over the role of premier as well as party leader, a dual role which Stalin assumed for the first time only in May, 1941, in visible preparation for the sharp turn in the international situation which came a few weeks later. Yet Khruschev has only one “success” to report in the field of foreign policy, his much-vaunted test-ban treaty. Yet what is the essence of that treaty in reality? A mutual interest with the imperialists in nuclear monopoly, a mutual interest in the nuclear blackmail of China. The direction of this treaty is shown clearly by the name of the Chinese signatory: none other than Chiang Kai-shek. We must note further at this point that the strategy of a deal with American imperialism does not preclude, from the point of view of the Soviet revisionists, engaging in rocket and space rivalry with America with its obvious military connotations, as a bargaining counter. Was not Khruschev’s first comment on the 1957 sputnik that this would show the Americans that the Soviet Union possessed the inter-continental ballistic missile? But the effect of Soviet revisionist policy, if unchecked, would be to disintegrate the strength of the socialist camp in the face of imperialist aggression and nuclear blackmail.
57. The basic reasons for the failure of Khruschev’s policy are outlined in the following article, “Stalin and Modern Revisionism,” From the increasingly visible nature of that failure we note two consequences. First, the more the policy fails, the more Khruschev, despite his self-appointed propaganda role as a saviour of peace, is compelled to brandish nuclear weapons at the imperialists in an effort to compel them meet him half-way. But since Khruschev’s bluff was called in the fiasco of his policy over Cuba, and he was forced to submit to Kennedy to retrieve the situation, the imperialists are no longer impressed by his threats. Here the wheel turns full circle, and Khruschev joins the imperialists by adopting what is in essence the same attitude to nuclear weapons. For Khruschev and his supporters, nuclear weapons are a force in themselves, outside economic laws, outside social systems, outside Marxism, the threatened use of which can act as some kind of catalyst in international politics to compel these real social forces to conform to an illusory and fundamentally reactionary view of the world.
58. We should note also in this connection that when Palme Dutt, as part of his choice of the revisionist side in the present controversy, publicly lectures Mao Tse-tung on “force” when Mao writes only of the rifle, he somehow fails to notice the unprecedented force involved in Khruschev1s threatened use of weapons of mass terror. Here for example, is Khruschev, from the platform of the last congress of the German Socialist Unity Party, publicly speculating on a possible target for a hundred-million-ton nuclear weapon: “I shall let you into a secret. Our scientists have developed a 100-megaton bomb. But a 100-megaton bomb, our military men hold, cannot be dropped on Europe, if our probable adversary unleashes war. Where can we drop it here – on Western Germany or France? But the explosion of such a bomb on this territory would also destroy you and certain other countries. That is why this weapon can be used by us, apparently, only outside Western Europe. I say this only to give you a clearer idea of the terrible means of destruction that now exist. A 100-megaton bomb is still not the limit. This, if I may say so, is the limit from the point of view of probable military expediency, because more powerful means of destruction might constitute a huge threat to those who dared to use them as well.” (Official text).
59. Secondly, a policy that fails needs a scapegoat, if the basic reasons for that failure are either not understood or cannot be admitted, and the manner in which the Soviet revisionist have used Stalin for this purpose even to this day hardly needs comment. When Stalin is blamed for the failure of Khruschev’s own agricultural policy, when moreover a further attack on Stalin on these grounds is made 11 years after his death, we must point out that this covers a period of more than two five-year-plans, and remind the reader what was achieved in the Soviet Union in such a period in Stalin’s day. When such attacks are made, even now, in an extension of the purpose of denigration of the 20th Congress, we should recall the words of Marx on this subject. When Victor Hugo wrote a scathing personal polemic against Louis Bonaparte, Marx commented that he made his literary victim seem great instead of small by this treatment “by ascribing to him a capacity for personal initiative without parallel in history.”
60. On this question, we should consider also the case of Ernst Thaelmann, a German proletarian revolutionary who died a hero’s death in a German concentration camp. Yet at one time, he was removed from the German party leadership and publicly denounced by the right-wingers with the slander that he was linked with the embezzlement of party funds. Had not Stalin and the Comintern intervened to reverse this position, had the situation been left to Bukharin and the right-wingers remained in control of the German party leadership, this removal and public denunciation would even now be regarded as the “historical truth” concerning Ernst Thaelmann. Readers are invited to read the account of this matter in Stalin’s “Leninism,” pages 249-252.
61. In “Left-Wing Communism,” Lenin gave some important advice to proletarian revolutionaries. He said that in order to over-throw capitalism, the proletariat must train its own class politicians to be as skilful as the bourgeois politicians. Stalin carried out Lenin’s advice to the full, and visibly out-manoeuvred the capitalist politicians. Did he not prevent the united imperialist attack on the Soviet Union by using his understanding of the contradictions of imperialism to split the imperialist forces?
Did he not gain everything possible in his war-time conferences with such imperialist politicians as Roosevelt and Churchill? Despite this war-time association, did he not immediately recognise the significance of Churchill’s Fulton speech in 1946 and expose it swiftly and sharply in the interests of the international working class? Compare this with Khruschev, who publicly praises such imperialist politicians as Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, while reserving his worst abuse for such staunch revolutionaries as Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. We must also compare Stalin’s unwavering policy of opposition to imperialism without concessions, even in the period of imperialist atomic monopoly, with Khruschev’s blunders, and the resultant relative weakening of the socialist camp, in a period after that monopoly had already been broken by the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership.
62. Further, in the post-war period, Stalin visibly out-manoeuvred the imperialists by rivetting their attention on Europe while revolutionary developments were taking place in Asia. After Khruschev’s ascendancy, however, the imperialists themselves used this strategy successfully against the Soviet Union. After the 20th Congress, had the timing of events in Hungary no connection at all with the work of British intelligence? Did this not divert the Soviet Government with its own sharp problem while the Suez adventure was pushed forward? Similarly, after Khruschev had broken a series of agreements with China, and after Nehru had visited Washington, did not Indian intransigeance over the border question probe at this weak point in the socialist camp simultaneously with the American “showdown” over Cuba? When the Soviet Press complained seriously that the Chinese attitude had lost the Soviet Union its best friend in India, the War Minister Krishna Menon, we may well ask whose game Khruschev was playing? By contrast, the Chinese leadership itself used the imperialist pre-occupation to complete its swift military action before the Western politicians and strategists could recover.
63. We can make further instructive comparisons between Stalin and Khruschev by comparing Khruschev’s own actions with his criticisms of Stalin at the 20th Congress. It is hard to believe now that Khruschev included among the anecdotes in his speech an incident at a diplomatic gathering, when Stalin asked him to demonstrate a folk dance to foreign visitors. Khruschev’s listeners were supposed to be horrified at the thought of such a person being asked to do anything so undignified. Yet whose public behaviour has been more undignified than Khruschev’s, ranging from that of bully to buffoon, to say nothing of his hooliganism at United Nations meetings in 1960? Yet he was then head of the Soviet state, as he had been since 1953. Did not Stalin, by contrast, behave with the greatest dignity, commanding even the respect of the Western politicians? Further, in a careful attempt tc involve the other Soviet leaders in his denigration of Stalin, Khruschev regaled his audience with a series of assertions: Bulganin feared an interview with Stalin, Stalin at one time had Molotov placed under house arrest, was suspicious of Voroshilov, and so on. Yet up to the day of Stalin’s death, these men were untouched in their leading positions. Who but Khruschev denounced them as the so-called “anti-party” group at the 21st Congress in 1959, removed them from their positions, publicly reviled them to workers abroad as “mangy sheep,” placed Molotov under close arrest when recalling him from Vienna, and publicly humiliated Voroshilov at state ceremonies? When we add that one of Khruschev’s major charges against Stalin was that his policy would have led to a breach with China, it is hardly necessary to comment. Instead we will quote the statement of the Communist Party of China, of February 29, 1964, as one example among many: “We have always had a proper appreciation of the friendly Soviet aid which began under Stalin’s leadership.” The same statement refers also to the sudden withdrawal of that aid and the Soviet experts, and the scrapping of contracts that took place under Khruschev. Truly, as Engels says, the irony of world history turns everything upside down.
64. Khruschev’s dishonest criticism of Stalin on the grounds of “collective leadership” goes so far in his secret speech as to present a picture of a man who in his last years was little better than a megalomaniac. Without further comment, we ask the reader to contrast the picture presented by Khruschev with this passage from Stalin’s “Economic Problems,” written only a few months before Stalin’s death: “During the discussion some comrades I ran down the draft textbook much too assiduously, berated its authors for errors and oversights, and claimed that the draft was a failure. That is unfair. Of course, there are errors and oversights in the textbook – they are to be found in practically every big undertaking. Be that as it may, the overwhelming majority of the participants in the discussion were nevertheless of the opinion that the draft might serve as a basis for the future textbook and only needed certain corrections and additions. Indeed, one has only to compare the draft with the textbooks on political economy already in circulation to see that the draft stands head and shoulders above them. For that the authors of the draft deserve great credit. I think that in order to improve the draft textbook, it would be well to appoint a small committee which would include not only the authors of the textbook, and not only supporters, but also opponents of the majority of the participants in the discussion, out-and-out critics of the draft textbook... The members of the committee should be temporarily relieved of all other work and should be well provided for, so that they might devote themselves entirely to the textbook.”
65. A working class comrade said to me recently that while Stalin was alive, whatever the twists and turns of the international situation, you could rely on the Soviet Union to act in the interests of the working class. Who could say that today of the Khruschev clique? We have referred already to the comparison between Khruschev1s praise of imperialist politicians while adding abuse of Mao Tse-tung to continued abuse of Stalin. The Soviet Union under Khruschev has armed capitalist India against people’s China, in addition to the tacit alliance with America against China. And how many well-meaning comrades were placed initially in a false position over the Soviet missiles in Cuba, by assuming wrongly that even Khruschev would not have made a blunder of such magnitude? British revisionists will admit Khruschev’s erratic and contradictory policy, saying that he will reverse course from one day to the next, as if that were somehow an admirable quality in the man. They seem to lose sight of the fact that we are not dealing with a political clown or chameleon, but the leading representative of the Soviet state and party, who bears a grave responsibility for his actions.
66. Khruschev’s secret speech is a ragbag of anecdote, gossip and virulent personal hatred, glossed over in typical revisionist style by references to Leninism. Yet how differently did Stalin analyse bitterly-fought inner-party struggles. Let us quote two examples. First, the beginning of Stalin’s speech on the Right danger in 1928: “I think, comrades, that we must first rid our minds of trivialities, of personal matters, and the like, in order to solve the problem of the Right deviation which interests us today.” (Leninism, page 228). Second, again a passage from the beginning of a speech on the Right deviation in the following year: “Some comrades think that the differences in our Party are of a fortuitous nature. That is wrong, comrades. That is absolutely wrong. The differences within our Party have their roots in the class changes, in the intensification of the class struggle which has been taking place lately and which is marking a turning point in development.” (Leninism, page 240).
67. We should follow Stalin’s example in this matter and discover for ourselves the class roots of the differences between Stalin and Khruschev. We know already that the external cause of the revisionism in the leadership of the Soviet Communist Party is the inescapable conflict between imperialism and working class power. But what is the class basis of Soviet revisionism? What is the class basis of the diametrically opposed policies of Stalin and Khruschev? Our answer must lie in the internal contradiction in Soviet society, in the class contradiction between proletarian and non-proletarian elements in that society. Is it not clear that Stalin represented the interests of the proletariat and was its class ideologist? That Khruschev by contrast is the political representative of the non-proletarian elements in Soviet society, and his 20th Congress speech represented the attack of those elements on proletarian ideology and Stalin as its chief protagonist, and the resistance of those elements to proletarian rule?
68. After the 20th Congress, the Manchester Guardian, certainly no friend of Stalin’s, commented in its analysis of the internal situation in the Soviet Union that Khruschev had been compelled to move carefully in this matter because the Soviet industrial working class know that Stalin was their man. Why should British workers lag behind bourgeois analysts of affairs, even in their limited understanding from a viewpoint hostile to the working class? Even in the comparatively few years that Khruschev has been at the head of Soviet affairs, it is not possible to see clearly his class role? When he cuts the real wages of Soviet industrial workers by sharp price rises in meat and other agricultural products in order to give peasants “material incentives,” is it not clear in whose class interests he is acting, whose class interests he represents? The point has been made previously that Khruschev and Gomulka are political blood brothers.
Let us quote Gomulka’s own words of June 15, 1964, when he told the Fourth Congress of the Polish Communist Party that small private farmers now “account for 86 per cent of the total area of farm land.” Clearly this is not socialism, not collective ownership, hut retreat. What was the class political significance of the machine and tractor stations in the Soviet Union hut as an essential part of proletarian leadership and control in agriculture? When Khruschev allows them to pass into the hands of the peasants, what is this hut the partial surrender of proletarian rule? Who but Khruschev is engaged in liquidating the proletarian character of the Soviet party and state with the false slogans of the party of the whole people and the state of the whole people? When Soviet economists discuss the role of profit in the Soviet economy, what is this but an expression of the mode of existence of the non-proletarian elements on the surplus produced by the proletariat?
69. Marxism is the ideology of one class only, the proletariat. The class conflict between Stalin and Khruschev is the class conflict between Marxism and revisionism. The choice between Stalin and Khruschev is the choice between Marxism and political deception. It is here that we must see the significance of the attempt of the leading Soviet revisionists at wiping out the bulk of Stalin’s theoretical work, especially that part of it which analyses the origins of the present conflict between Marxism and revisionism, the significance of the Right deviation in the Soviet party and the retreat from Marxism in the present Soviet leadership. When the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet formally praises Khruschev for his contributions to Marxism, we must ask: which of the hundreds of thousands of words uttered by Khruschev are of any value to the working class? Are they not rather a source of the greatest international confusion? By contrast, the theoretical works of Stalin are a permanent acquisition of the international proletariat. Practice without theory is blind, said Stalin. Khruschev is bereft of any real theory, a man who can see a broken window on a collective farm, but not see that to sell the means of production to the collective farms is to retard the development towards communism, a man whose narrow practicalism is an expression of thoroughgoing and unprincipled opportunism in matters of theory.
70. Comrades who understand the meaning of the 20th Congress, or the significance of what has “become known as the Stalin question”, often find an attitude of cynicism or indifference on this question even among those who are now beginning to understand that the Communist Party in Britain has long abandoned Marxism, or who have joined the anti-revisionist struggle in recent years. Others avoid a principled stand with the excuse that a discussion of the Stalin question is “just what the Trotskyites want.” That is not true. What the Trotskyites want is what the ruling class wants, to leave the Stalin question as it is, as Khruschev left it. We cannot afford to be indifferent to the Stalin question, because it is a question of principle of decisive importance to the international communist movement. The attack on Stalin is an attack on Marx in disguised form. What was the propaganda barrage of the 20th Congress but the heavy artillery that opened the minds of many to revisionism?
71. We end as we began, with the internal contradiction within the international communist movement, the struggle between Marxism and revisionism, the class conflict between proletarian ideology and the ideology of its class enemies. It is in this light that we can judge the claim to priority so often heard from the leading British revisionists. Yes, it is true that the “British Road to Socialism,” with its illusory perspective of a peaceful, legal, constitutional, parliamentary path to the conquest of power, was published five years before the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party gave its official approval to a parliamentary perspective for the working class, an approval never given while Stalin was alive. Yes, revisionism reigned supreme in the British Communist Party five full years before Soviet revisionism was able to triumph fully at a party congress. But to what does this proud claim reduce itself? Is it not clear that Khruschev and his associates would not have been able to accomplish their revisionist task had not the ground been prepared for them by the previous victory of revisionism in a number of Communist Parties, including the British Communist Party? The publication of the “British Road to Socialism,” together with its circulation in the international communist movement and the appearance of similar programmes in other English-speaking countries, was a necessary pre-condition of the victory of revisionism at the 20th Congress. What then is the real meaning of the British revisionist claim to priority? It is that the propagation of the “British Road to Socialism” was a definite contribution to the revisionist side in a struggle that resulted in the death and denigration of one of the outstanding proletarian revolutionaries of this century. History will not record this as a matter for pride. I am confident that the best elements in the British working class, in their own way and in their own time, will make their own comment on this prior claim of the British revisionists. For as Mao Tse-tung has truly said, the working class is not only the most revolutionary and the most organised class. It is also the class which is most just.