Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Kenneth Neill Cameron, Stalin: Man of Contradiction, Strong Oak Press, Stevenage 1989, pp204, £15/£8.95

Glasnost notwithstanding, we know that the Stalinists have yet to produce a halfway honest account of Soviet history. But many years have surely passed since anything like this rolled off the presses:

National conspiracy turned to international conspiracy. As war loomed closer, the Bukharinites advocated economic deals with the Germans and Japanese whereby they would grant concessions in return for being recognised as the government when, as they and most international observers believed, the USSR would go down to inevitable defeat.

A picture of the extent of this sabotage emerged only in the trials of the various opposition leaders between 1936 and 1938, which also revealed that sabotage was linked with plans for the destruction of the Soviet Union in war. These public trials of the ‘opposition’ leaders, however, had revealed only the tip of the iceberg. They indicated the existence of followers everywhere – wrecking machinery, making the wrong parts, sending materials to the wrong places, poisoning farm animals, starting pit fires in mines, planning railway sabotage to build up to the immobilisation of the railways in the coming war ... Sergei Kirov, the popular head of the party in Leningrad, was assassinated, and terrorist plans seem to have been afoot to assassinate the whole top party leadership.

Professor Cameron is a genuine unreconstructed Stalinist – not one who merely despairs at Gorbachev, but who rubbishes Khrushchev (or ‘Krushchev’ or ‘Khruschev’, consistency is not his strong point) for sullying the good name of his hero.

Well, our Professor says that Stalin may have been a duffer at dialectics, and should have left genetics to experts like Lysenko, but these are mere spots on the sun. Under Stalin’s sublime guidance, the Soviet Union became an industrial and agricultural giant, and has 1936 Constitution gave Soviet citizens ‘a broader spectrum of rights ... than any in world history’. As for the chronic inefficiency, disproportionalities and wastage of Soviet agriculture and industry, the deportations of entire nationalities, famine, the handing over of German Communists to the Gestapo, Stalin’s ugly anti-Semitism, it’s as if they never existed. And just like another learned Professor, Vic Allen (The Russians are Coming, 1988), Cameron points to the arguments amongst Sovietologists over the numbers held in prison camps, to imply that the Gulag never existed. Academic titles do not prevent men from being fools or charlatans, or both.

Why go on? All the tall tales that Cameron trots out have been convincingly refuted time and again over the last five decades. If this book has any worth, it does confirm Stalin’s adage that paper will take anything that’s written on it. Otherwise it would, I suppose, make an ideal present for those geriatric Stalinists who pine for the days when wreckers were routed, Trotskyists trounced, and Uncle Joe gazed down benignly upon us all.

Paul Flewers

Updated by ETOL: 7.7.2003