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International Socialism, Spring 1961


Ken Coates

Spluttering Taper


From International Socialism (1st series), No.4, Spring 1961, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Proofread by Anoma Cartwright (April 2008).


Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party
Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov
Atlantic Books, Stevens. £2.2s. pp 379.

Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov is better (and more easily) known as Alexander Uralov, whose book, The Reign of Stalin, published in England in 1953, and translated into a number of other languages as well, described the growth of Stalin’s reign of terror after the assassination of Kirov, in considerable detail. This book was by no means unlearned (Avtorkhanov is a director of the Institute for the study of the USSR in Munich) but for all the knowledge of its author, and the bitter truth of his story, it left a distinctly bad taste in the mouth. To show why, here are its last words:

Everyone must realise that the world is faced by a single alternative – Stalinism or Democracy. In order to settle the question during his lifetime, Stalin has mobilised his fifth columns throughout the world ... In the end there can be only one solution of the problem for Stalinism – war. It is moving towards the choice of that solution.

The new book is far more interesting than the old one to the student of Soviet affairs, although, superficially, it covers the same ground. But whereas the 1953 publication was a ‘neutral’ description of the growth of Stalin’s Russia, the new one, although it calls itself ‘a study in the technology of power’, is in fact much more an account of the trials of the supporters of Bukharin, both before and after their Trials. Avtorkhanov himself was a follower of the right opposition, and he is able to throw a great deal of light, some of it brighter, perhaps, than he thinks, on the virtues and shortcomings of that ill-fated group.

One of the great gaps in the literature of the Russian revolution is the complete absence of any systematic account of the life and teachings of Bukharin, a man whose stature was large enough to make his shameful murder one of the lesser ingredients of his tragedy. It is unlikely that Mr Avtorkhanov, who has got far more lost than Bukharin ever did in the jungles of modern politics, could ever produce this. But he has produced a document, in this book, which will help considerably when the job does come to be tackled.

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