From Fourth International, Vol.17 No.2, Spring 1956, pp.39-44, 70-71.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The following article is based on a speech given in New York City, March 24, by M. Stein.
BUREAUCRATS, with their inflated sense of importance, like to think of their congresses and gatherings as historic occasions. The bureaucrats at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were no exception. The speakers rarely failed to mention the historic importance of theiir words and actions. This time though they were dead right. The Twentieth Congress will be remembered as the congress that laid the Stalin cult to rest.
This is an event of major world importance. The Stalin cult had dominated Soviet political life for almost 30 years. It had poisoned the atmosphere of the world revolutionary movement for as long a time. This cult, built on the bones of the best of the revolutionary generation that founded the Soviet Union and at the expense of the Soviet working class, finally became insupportable even for the bureaucracy which was its sole beneficiary.
The Twentieth Congress opened Feb. 14. Twelve days of oratory followed on innumerable subjects. So far as speaking time was concerned, the repudiation of Stalin was only a minor part of the congress. The other items did not distinguish the Twentieth Congress to any appreciable degree from previous meetings of the bureaucracy.
They talked a lot about co-existence with the imperialists. But that’s nothing new. We’ve heard that since 1924 when the infamous theory of “socialism in one country” was introduced by Stalin. They talked about the virtues of the neutralist bourgeoisie of the colonial countries and elsewhere. That too has been heard before. And Khrushchev openly revised Lenin. I understand that this has outraged the dissident Stalinists – there is such a group here, expelled from the CP some time ago, but which has remained true to Stalin.
It’s true that Khrushchev revised Lenin on several points; namely, on the inevitability of war so long as imperialism lasts; on the parliamentary road to socialism; and on the nature and role of the Social Democracy. But the only reason that Stalin did not openly revise Lenin is that he found it more expedient to falsify Lenin, to suppress his writing, and to shoot the true Leninists.
The dissident Stalinists who could swallow Stalin’s crimes but who now gag at Khrushchev’s revision of Lenin cannot of course attract much sympathy. However, regardless of the comparative merits of the attitudes of Stalin and Khrushchev toward Lenin, the fact remains that the essence of their foreign policy remains basically the same.
Promises were also made of economic concessions to the Soviet industrial and agricultural workers. But these, too, do not set a new trend in Soviet life. Such concessions have been made continually since the end of World War II. Khrushchev’s promise to raise the real wages of the Soviet workers by 30% and the income of the peasants on the collectives by 40% during the sixth Five Year Plan ending in 1960 is essentially the same ratio of improvement claimed under the fifth Five Year Plan ending in 1955.
What is new, I repeat, is the repudiation of the Stalin cult. The first reference to it came from Khrushchev, who made the main report the first day. He introduced it somewhat haltingly, more or less as a philosophical question, under the topic of The Role of the Individual in History. Here are the first words of his report on the subject:
“In the struggle to promote in every way the creative activity of the Communists and of all the toilers, the Central Committee has taken measures to explain widely the Marxist-Leninist concept of the role of the individual in history.” (Izvestia, Feb. 15.)
When the bureaucracy, whose hallmark is contempt for theory, suddenly discovers theory, that of course is a signal to sit up and take notice. “Theory,” to the bureaucracy, always serves immediate practical ends. It first decides on a course and then hunts up quotations from Lenin or Marx to justify it. Khrushchev’s practical aims became clear with the very next sentence:
“The Central Committee has resolutely condemned as alien to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism the cult of the individual, which converts this or that leader into a hero or miracle worker and at the same time belittles the role of tihe party and of the popular masses and results in a lowering of their creative efforts. The spread of the cult of the the individual minimized the role of the collective leadership in the party, and led at times to serious shortcomings in our work.”
This is very mild, of course, and it doesn’t name the target. But, as the beginning, its meaning was unmistakable. The bureaucracy had decided to smash the Frankenstein it had itself created. Since there is no other force on earth, outside the bureaucracy, interested in maintaining the cult, the cult is finished. Who else will try to cling to Stalin’s name once the bureaucracy repudiates him? By the time even a partial record of Stalin’s crimes becomes widespread, where can anyone be found shameless enough to say, “I am a Stalinist and I’m proud of it”?
For ourselves, we know a lot about Stalin’s crimes, about his falsifications of history, his counter-revolutionary deeds, his frame-up system, his wholesale murder of innocent people, his extermination of the whole generation of Bolsheviks who led the October Revolution. To us this is not new. But I dare say that as the facts of Stalin’s 30-year rule become known, become fully known, even we will be shocked at the ghastly details. We may still have to wait a long time before all the facts are known. The Kremlin bureaucracy will continue to hide as much as it can get away with. And we can count only on the intervention of the Soviet masses to finally wipe the slate clean.
But even as it is we are a long way from those tragic days in the middle Thirties, when we had to explain the Moscow Trials and the mass purges. At that time we tried to prove to anybody who would listen that they were frame-ups. How difficult it was to get people to understand that the criminals were not in the prisoner’s dock but at the prosecuting table and in the Kremlin offices; that Kamenev and Zinoviev and Bukharin and all the countless other victims of the gigantic hoax were not really agents of the bourgeoisie. That they were not really trying to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union. That this would have been purposeless. That men who had spent their whole lives fighting capitalism could not suddenly become partisans of this outworn system after a victorious revolution. But sceptics would ask over and over again the same question: “Then why did they confess?”
Leon Trotsky did his utmost to expose the frame-ups – even offering to stake his life by appearing in court to answer Stalin’s charges if the Kremlin would only try to extradite him. The Kremlin did not accept his offer because Stalin’s charges could not stand up in court.
Trotsky offered to appear before an impartial commission of prominent liberals and labor figures. Such a commission was formed under the chairmanship of the world-famous philosopher and educator John Dewey. In 1937 it held hearings in Coyoacan, Mexico, at which Trotsky appeared and presented his evidence. The Stalinists of course refused to participate in a fair court like this. The verdict of the commission after careful examination of the facts was that Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov were innocent and that the Moscow Trials were frame-ups. From that time on, informed opinion the world over was aware of the fact that these show trials were fabrications run according to scripts prepared by Moscow’s secret political police.
Nevertheless, the same question cropped up again and again: “But why did they confess?” To most of the world it was the great mystery of the decade.
Of course for those who knew what Stalinism was really like it was no mystery. And today it is pretty well understood that under sufficient pressure there comes a breaking point where weakened men can become pliable tools of their enemies.
Now, however, almost 20 years later, we are once again confronted with the question, “Why did they confess?” The “they” in this case refers to Stalin’s loyal friends and collaborators, the perpetrators of the earlier frame-ups, now confessing to some of Stalin’s crimes.
It is reported that at a closed session of the Congress on Feb. 24, ten days after its opening, Khrushchev made another speech, lasting three and a half hours, in which he listed some of the things of which Stalin was guilty. From the high level of abstract theory where he began in taking up the cult of the individual in his opening report, he descended into the secret cellars of the GPU and revealed the names of some of Stalin’s victims, the circumstances under which they were framed-up and the terrible harm dealt the Soviet Union. We do not know the details of Khrushchev’s revelations. But it is reported that among other things he dealt with the purge of Marshal Tukhachevsky, head of the Soviet General Staff, and his co-workers in 1937. Some 5,000 Soviet army officers lost their lives in that purge. This occurred shortly before the Soviet Union had to face the German imperialist invasion. This purge was tantamount to opening the front to the Nazis.
Three of the Bolshevik leaders who founded the Soviet Union. Trotsky (left) was assassinated by an agent of Stalin in 1940. Lenin (center) died in 1924 and was converted into a “harmless ikon” by Stalin who sought to rule in Lenin’s name. Kamenev (right) was framed-up by Stalin in the infamous Moscow Trial of 1936 and shot as a “fascist mad dog.”
We remember well the Tukhachevsky purge. Trotsky had warned about its disastrous consequences. We saw his prediction borne out; first in the Finnish war when the mighty Soviet Union was stopped in its tracks by this outpost of Allied imperialism, and then in the war against Hitler when in its early stages millions of Soviet soldiers fell or were taken prisoner due to Stalin’s crime in beheading the armed forces.
But it wasn’t only the Soviet army that was beheaded! So was the Communist International. Whole leaderships of various national Communist parties were executed. Stalin rounded up all the foreign communists who had fled fascist persecution in their own countries and sought asylum in the Soviet Union. He murdered them. Extermination of revolutionists by Stalin and Co. proved even more disastrous to the international working class than the purge of the Soviet armies.
But to get back to the question – why did Khrushchev and the other heirs of Stalin begin confessing? They didn’t do it because of pressure from the secret political police. That’s for sure. They control the secret police. They control the state apparatus. They control the whole apparatus that proved so successful in extorting confessions from others.
Did they confess out of a sense of remorse? Such things are possible in the case of individuals, but I don’t believe it is possible in the case of a machine, and especially of a state machine. The machine generally manages to take care of people with a conscience.
So there’s obviously a force outside the state apparatus exerting powerful pressure, powerful enough to have forced Khrushchev and Co. to make this confession. We note that in confessing Stalin’s crimes they do not emerge exactly as heroes. The first question that occurs to everyone – and it has been raised at Stalinist meetings here in New York and elsewhere – is, where were Khrushchev and Kaganovich and Mikoyan and all the others when Stalin was committing these crimes, when this tyrant was lording it over the country? And what did they do about it? Stalin did not commit all these crimes single-handedly. He wasn’t that omnipotent. He had accomplices. It is the wrong way to start destroying the hero cult by creating a villain cult. One is as false as the other. Stalin headed a machine and these confessors of Stalin’s guilt were part of the machine. All of them were Stalin’s hand-picked men. Can they deny this? They, too, are guilty and that is why they cannot possibly come out of the situation unscathed.
We are sate in assuming that they know that by exposing the crimes and horrors of Stalin’s reign, they thereby expose their own complicity. From their viewpoint it would be preferable to keep quiet – as they did for three years after Stalin’s death – in the hope people would forget the whole period. Yet they finally broke their silence and began confessing. It is, therefore, safe to assume that the Kremlin is taking the present course under duress, under compulsion. That it is not really its own master and that it must yield to powerful pressure being exerted upon it from some quarter.
What is the source of this pressure? Let us see if we can discover it by process of elimination. Secretary of State Dulles, whose job is to help build an Eisenhower cult in this country, has tried to give the White House and the State Department the credit for the Soviet bureaucracy’s change in course. His reward – universal ridicule – was well earned. He never did explain, and never will, just how and why US pressure forced Khrushchev to attack the Stalin cult and expose some of Stalin’s crimes. The fact is – and it’s a cold historic fact – that the period of closest relations between Washington and Moscow was marked by the Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences when Stalin was master of the Soviet Union and sat down in person with the representatives of Wall Street. He was good old genial Uncle Joe at that time.
I might add that the State Department made not a small contribution in promoting the Stalin cult and in covering up for his crimes. Two instances out of many will indicate its role.
First, there was the book, Mission to Moscow, by Joseph E. Davies, American ambassador to Moscow during the infamous purge trials, which undertook to whitewash those trials. This was then made into a movie building up the Stalin cult and praising the foul dictator. It was produced under the inspiration of the State Department – a Hollywood movie that compares with some of the worst Stalin-cult movies filmed in the Soviet Union.
Secondly, there was Trotsky’s book: Stalin, A Political Biography. This was published in 1941 after Stalin’s assassination of Trotsky. Copies were sent out to reviewers. Then, at the instance of the State Department, came a frantic letter from the publishers to please return the review copies because the book had been withdrawn. Why? To please Stalin. This book was finally permitted to appear after the war when collaboration between the State Department and Stalin came to an end.
These very, very moral gentlemen in Washington played Stalin’s game and covered up his crimes when it suited their purposes.
The Stalin cult is not what stands in the way of friendly relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. What stands in the way is the conflict of two antagonistic social systems. Washington will accept the Stalin cult or any other cult; it will accept any murderous regime when it suits its class interests.
There has been wide support in the press for the idea that Stalin’s successors repudiated their master to clear the way for a unity approach to the Social Democrats and the liberal intellectuals. This view is bolstered by the fact that the congress, in addition to repudiating the Stalin cult, also revised Lenin on the nature and role of the Social Democracy and on the road to socialism.
The implication here is that the Stalin cult, or the tyranny that Stalin imposed on the Soviet people, stood in the way of good relations with the reformists or liberals. There is no more truth in this than there is in the contention that the cult prevented friendly relations with the imperialists. As a matter of fact in their relations with the Stalinists, the reformists and liberals have followed the turns and twists of their own bourgeoisie.
It was precisely during the monstrous Moscow trials that the French Socialists and bourgeois radicals joined in a people’s front alliance with the Stalinists. During the war and the immediate post-war period, while the Big Four alliance flourished, the Socialists and liberals worked hand in glove with the Stalinists, in and out of parliament, for a time holding ministerial posts together with them in France, Italy and elsewhere.
What the Social Democrats and the liberals chiefly opposed was the Russian Revolution itself and its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky. They warmed ufp to Stalin as he destroyed the Bolshevik generation in the Soviet Union and turned to class collaborationist policies internationally.
Present top dog among the hatchet men chosen by Stalin to succeed him in office; says he was “afraid” of dictator.
Another view as to why Khrushchev and Co. decided to end the Stalin cult is advanced by Max Lerner who writes “think” pieces for the N.Y. Post. In the March 24 issue he makes some juicy deductions. For example:
“It is more likely that the anti-Stalin campaign has been decided on the whole by the top Stalin elite, in the belief that the Russian people have too long been hypnotized by the Satanic figure of Stalin.”
If Stalin had the Russian people hypnotized, then why was his rule so bloody? Why have so many millions of people been sent do prisons and concentration camps? Hypnosis would have been a very cheap way of rule in comparison to the purges. Terror is generally used precisely when hypnosis does not work. The terror under Stalin testifies not to his hypnotizing the Soviet people, but on the contrary to the mass opposition to his rule. In fact the opposition is now shown to be so great that Stalin’s closest collaborators, seeking to gain favor with the people, must try to appear as victims of Stalin themselves. They try to pretend now to having something big in common with the Soviet people – fear of Stalin.
And if the top Soviet elite, as Lerner says, believe that the Russian people were hypnotized by Stalin, why should Stalin’s successors try to break the hypnosis? A people under the spell of a dead dictator could have been easily manipulated by ruling in his name as his loyal disciples. Khrushchev and Co., who were hand-picked personally by Stalin, could easily have done it. Instead, they are trying to cover themselves with Lenin’s glory, not Stalin’s. They are trying to wipe out, if they can, the whole era of Stalin by promising to go back to Lenin. Shouldn’t this in itself convince anybody capable of thinking that Stalin’s name is hated in the Soviet Union?
But Max Lerner continues to believe that the Russian people are hypnotized, so hypnotized that he feels sorry for them. Says Lerner further:
“But we may well ask what happens when a people has been conditionied to blind belief in a ruler, as the Russians have, and have come to lean on it as on a prop, then what happens when you remove the prop taking away what they once had and, giving them nothing to replace it?”
That’s a terrible plight. We have a whole great nation of 200,000,000 people, hypnotized, leaning on a prop, and suddenly Khrushchev pulls away the prop. What happens? Total collapse naturally.
Lerner typifies the bourgeois liberal who is anti-Stalinist. But his reasoning follows the same model as Stalinist reasoning. The Stalinists denounced every critic of Stalin, of his brutal rule, of his crimes, as anti-Soviet. A mere whisper against the oppressive bureaucracy was branded as counter-revolutionary. Why? Because to their way of thinking you could not separate Stalin from the Soviet Union. The same method of identifying the Soviet Union with Stalin and the Soviet working class with the bureaucracy, of identifying the ruler and the ruled, of seeing harmony and unity where there is contradiction and conflict guides the thinking of both the bourgeois liberal and the Stalinist. The difference is that where one sees only a minus sign the other sees only a plus.
We see in Lerner, the bourgeois liberal, what stupidities this method of thinking can yield. The consequences in the case of a Stalinist – and here I refer to the sincere worker who considers himself a communist – are even more disastrous. This way of thinking makes impossible any analysis of the living social forces in the Soviet Union. But if you cannot analyze the forces in the Soviet Union you become incapable of Marxist analysis of the world situation. You cannot understand the world without understanding the Soviet Union.
The fact is that the first one to take up the struggle against the Soviet bureaucracy was none other than Lenin himself. Even in his lifetime he saw the sharpening conflict between the rising bureaucracy and the Soviet masses. But he died at a crucial turn in the struggle just as he was preparing to crack down on Stalin. Part of Lenin’s legacy was continuation of this fight. Trotsky, as co-founder of the Soviet Unipn, remained true to the principle of opposing with all his strength the expanding power of the bureaucracy.
Stalinism represented that grasping bureaucracy which finally succeeded in pushing the Soviet workers out of the Soviets and out of the Communist Party and establishing the uncontrolled, absolutist rule of Stalin. Stalin was the personification of the bureaucracy, of its grasping nature, of its power madness, of its arbitrariness, of its hostility to democratic processes. His rule was far from being in harmony with the workers state established by the October Revolution. On the contrary, it was its antithesis and negation. It was in constant conflict with it.
Only the Stalinists and the bourgeoisie and their representatives have pretended that Stalinism and the Soviet Union are one and the same thing. The Stalinists exploited the great conquests of the October Revolution, attributed them to Stalin and deified him. The bourgeoisie, its propagandists, its theorizers, have exploited the crimes of Stalin in order to smear Bolshevism and the revolution. The capitalist propagandists and the Stalinists alike have tried through the years to identify Stalinism and socialism.
The confession at the Twentieth Congress by the bureaucracy itself that Stalin’s long rule was in fundamental conflict with the program and principles of Marxism-Leninism is confirmation in its way of the correctness of Trotsky’s long, tireless struggle against all the charlatans who sought to prove that Stalinism was the continuation of Leninism.
To understand why Stalin’s successors now seek to give the impression that they have finished with Stalinism, it is necessary to go back to Trotsky’s writings. I recommend especially Stalinism and Bolshevism, The Revolution Betrayed, and Their Morals and Ours, as first on the list for study. Trotsky’s explanation as to why the Stalin cult arose is the Marxist explanation. You will not get any such explanation from Khrushchev. He hasn’t mentioned a single good reason why the cult arose, why it flourished so long. Nor will you find a Marxist explanation in the remarks of the other speakers on the subject at the congress. And you cannot get a Marxist explanation from William Z. Foster. All Foster says is, wait for Khrushchev and the others to give the answer. They are more competent to do it. Having lived and worked with Stalin the closest, they are best qualified to re-evaluate the whole experience.
But it is not a detective job that is required in this case. What is required is a Marxist analysis as to how and why this monster with his medieval methods could come to rule a country born of a proletarian revolution, a revolution that established the most advanced forms of production in the world.
On Khrushchev’s premises, one can only conclude that the cult was a sort of ideological deviation from Marxism-Leninism. Can it be that the works of Marx and Lenin haven’t been available to the bureaucracy? Or that they haven’t studied them diligently enough? Was that why the cult arose?
The question of ideology is, of course, very important. But ideology itself is molded by social forces. Anybody who knows the ABC of Marxism knows that being determines consciousness.
If the cult of the individual is alien to Marxism, as Khrushchev correctly points out, then what ideology does it represent? Marxism is the ideology of the proletariat, of the working class in its struggle for socialism. As the only class hostile to all forms of inequality and oppression, the working class can construct socialism. But it can do so only through the most complete democratic participation of the toilers in industrial and political life. The Marxist party, expressing these interests, never seeks to substitute itself for the class, either in the struggle for power or after victory. The Bolshevik party and its leadership inspired and educated the working class to discharge its responsibility as the ruling class until such time as class society is outlived and the state withers away. For Stalinism to triumph, the Bolshevik Party had to be destroyed first.
The ideology of the leader cult is bourgeois. It is the ideology of a privileged minority seeking to immobilize the working class as a political force and to substitute its own interests for those of the working class. In other words, Stalin and Co. have been the bearers of bourgeois ideology precisely because they have been the bearers of bourgeois privileges in the Soviet Union.
The bureaucracy needed this anti-Marxist bourgeois cult of the individual in usurping political power from, the working class and fostering inequality and its own privileged position. Anyone who consciously or otherwise supported the Stalin cult has by that fact placed himself in the service of the bureaucracy and has worked against the interests of the Soviet workers, against the interests of the world working class. This is the truth that Khrushchev and Co. cannot reveal. On the contrary, they must do their utmost to conceal it. That is why they speak only half-truths and reveal no more than they are absolutely forced to.
Self-anointed “genius” deflated by his own hand-picked heirs.
The power compelling Stalin’s successor’s to throw overboard the cult of the late dictator, the cult that served them apparently so well up to now, is none other than the Soviet working class. This is the other force in the Soviet Union, the force the bureaucracy must face every day and every hour.
The Stalinists outside the USSR cannot even see the Soviet working class. They have only the eyes of the bureaucracy, Stalin’s eyes yesterday, Khrushchev’s eyes today. The Soviet working class with its interests, its aspirations for freedom, for an end to arbitrary bureaucratic rule, its aspirations for equality, for the re-constitution of the Soviets as the organs of democratic workers’ power, for the right to free speech, free assembly, the freedom to organize politically in its own interests – this does not exist for them. To the Stalinists these masses are only the object of clever maneuvers by a cynical bureaucracy. And that is why our own Stalinists right here as well as in other countries are so baffled by the Twentieth Congress. They cannot figure out the nature of this “maneuver.” They don’t know what its purpose is, whom it serves. Up to now they could explain every zig-zag of the Kremlin as another clever maneuver. They were never at a loss for explanations. Even the Stalin-Hitler pact in 1939 had its explanation. It was supposed to have gained the Soviet Union time to better prepare and arm itself for the coming showdown.
But now for the first time they cannot figure out the angle. The reason they cannot do it is because this is the first time the bureaucracy has been compelled to relieve the social pressures within the country not by another purge but by a political concession. The purges – they always had an answer. That was simple. The standard argument was that they were purging the “enemies of the people.” But how do you explain political concessions without admitting at the same time the existence of abuses? I dare say there are enough Stalinists around who would rather see another purge in the Soviet Union today, no matter how bloody, than to see this development. It confounds them; they cannot understand it.
From its inception, the Stalinist regime has been a regime of crisis. Mass purges as we have seen them in the Soviet Union throughout the years are not a feature of a well-ordered society. These are crisis measures of a state dominated by a force that dares not rule by democratic means. A regime that has the support of the people need not resort to such monstrous methods of rule. Purges have as their object the terrorization of the people. But while purges terrorize they also spread discontent. New and greater purges are always required to discourage opposition. And this by and large has been the Stalinist course. The purges kept multiplying and extending.
Following World War II, whole nationalities were purged in the Soviet Union and exiled to Siberia. The population of the forced labor camps kept mounting. In 1948 Stalin tried to purge Yugoslavia, a country of 16,000,000 people. Following that there were mass purges in all the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. When Stalin died in March 1953 another gigantic frame-up was in the making. That was when the Jewish physicians were arrested in preparation for a mass trial. No one can say how many more were scheduled for victimization. The physicians were only puppets in a bigger show that was in preparation.
The Monthly Review, the Sweezy-Huberman magazine, has the unfortunate distinction of being the only publication in this country outside of the direct Stalinist organs to have hailed that new purge, just on the eve of its exposure.
But all these purges did not prevent the workers in East Germany from rising up against the regime on June 17, 1953. The logic of the purge system would have demanded in this case the extermination of an entire people. These risings reverberated in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries.
In July 1953 there was a general strike of a half-million slave laborers in Vorkuta. Similar strikes occurred also in other camps during the following year. These strikes had the support of the free laborers in and around the camps as well as of the guards. We do not know how the Soviet workers reacted to this wave of unrest, but it is safe to assume that the strikes reverberated throughout the Soviet working class, which hates the bureaucracy no less than the slave laborers do.
Outstanding leader of the 1905 revolution in Russia, co-leader with Lenin of the October revolution that founded the first workers state, Leon Trotsky devoted the last years of his life to defending the Soviet Union from imperialist pressure and Stalinist degeneration. He was slandered, framed-up, hounded from country to country and finally murdered by Stalin. Now the end of the Stalin cult signals the beginning of the victory of Trotsky’s program of revolutionary socialism.
The logic of the purge system would once again demand the wholesale extermination of the population of the forced labor camps and elsewhere. As the resistance to the bureaucracy rose and the pressures built up, the bureaucracy was compelled to make a turn. It was compelled to take the course of concessions to the masses. The repudiation of the Stalin cult is a continuation of these political concessions to the Soviet workers.
But just as the purges have a logic of their own, leading to ever greater and more numerous ones, so do political concessions have a logic of their own. The masses will no doubt accept the abandonment of the Stalin cult as a concession. They will accept it jubilantly, accept it and demand more.
The bureaucratic propaganda about turning to collective leadership will be filled by the workers with their own content. The workers will demand that they be in the collectivity. They will not stop short of the fullest democratic rights. If Stalinism up to now has been a regime of crisis, it is today in its death agony. It is confronting today not an isolated opposition but the working class as a whole striving to enter the political arena, a working class that has grown tremendously in numbers and culture. The Soviet working class today is the second largest in the world – some 48,000,000 strong. It is profoundly socialist in its consciousness. The very fact that the bureaucracy tries to speak in Lenin’s name testifies to that. It has gained tremendously in self-assurance as a consequence of the revolutionary developments following World War II and especially the Chinese Revolution.
The situation is different, totally different, from what it was before World War II when the Soviet workers felt isolated, when they hated the bureaucracy but shied from struggle against the bureaucracy for fear it would give aid and comfort to the imperialists. To maintain itself in power, the bureaucracy is trying to fall back on a new line of defense. Its main concern is to prevent a conscious workers vanguard from appearing on the scene. It is trying to prevent a fusion of this gigantic working class with a conscious vanguard represented by the program, by the ideas of Trotsky. The bureaucracy is trying therefore to save at least ten years of Stalin’s 30-year rule. According to them Stalin’s first 10 years were progressive. The struggle against Trotsky and the others as “enemies of the people” must not be re-evaluated. It was only after Stalin elevated himself above the party following 1934 to rule as a dictator – that he became no good. In this manner the bureaucracy hopes to maintain a wall between the Soviet masses and the revolutionary ideas represented by Trotskyism.
Thus in continuing the struggle against Trotskyism it must by that very fact continue to falsify history. It must continue the frame-up system inasmuch as the struggle against Trotskyism was based from the beginning on frame-ups and falsifications.
The main ingredient of the frame-ups in the early stages in 1924 was Trotsky’s alleged hostility to the Old Guard which Stalin was ostensibly defending. This then shifted to the charge that Trotsky underestimated the peasantry. It was followed by the charge that he was a super-industrializer because he was the first to advance the idea of a five-year plan. Meanwhile Stalin waged a ceaseless campaign making out that he was defending Leninism against “Trotskyism.” Before long all argument stopped and Trotsky was falsely accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, of consorting and collaborating with White Guards. He was condemned as an agent of imperialism and a fascist. He was finally assassinated and Trotskyism was declared defeated once and for all.
Now 16 years after Trotsky’s assassination a new campaign is underway against him. What is the nature of this campaign? The charge that Trotsky was hostile to the Old Guard is no longer mentioned. This would be too grim a joke. Stalin crushed the Old Guard in his “protective” embrace. It’s no longer mentioned that Trotsky underestimated the peasantry. This charge too mustn’t be whispered. It was Stalin who killed millions of peasants by the most brutal method of forced collectivization. The charge now is that Trotsky never really understood the working class. They have dug up an old polemic between Trotsky and Lenin on the trade union question and are attempting to inflate this episodic disagreement as “proof.”
An article appeared in Pravda recently, written by Petrovsky, one of Stalin’s purge victims who has been rehabilitated and put to work denouncing Trotsky. He writes his memories of the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party held in 1921. This poor soul is given the job of charging Trotsky with inability to understand the workers. There were no proofs he could adduce. All the decisions of the congress were adopted unanimously. He pays tribute to Lenin for his great genius in unifying everybody at the congress by argument alone. But he manages to falsify just enough to give the impression that there was at least a dispute between Trotsky and Lenin over understanding the workers.
Khrushchev and Co., all hand-picked bureaucrats who came from nowhere, whom nobody knew until Stalin died, now try to cook up as an issue that Trotsky, the Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet in the first revolution in 1905, the organizer of the insurrection in 1917 and the organizer of the Red Army, did not understand the workers!
The purpose of this charge is obvious. It represents an attempt to convince the Soviet masses to look to the bureaucracy for real understanding.
The March 24 Daily Worker carried another charge against Trotsky. They say he was against industrialization. Imagine, the man they accused of being a super-industrializer in 1927 is today turned into an opponent of industrialization! But it is significant that they are starting an “ideological” campaign when their bloody campaign was supposed to have finished Trotskyism once and for all.
By this new campaign the bureaucracy betrays its real fear – the fusion of Trotsky’s program and ideas with the mass of the Soviet people who are struggling to become the masters of their own house. We feel today surer than ever they will win. There is no power on earth that can stop them. Victory is on the side of the Soviet people.
Last updated on: 7 April 2009