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Albert Gates

Stalin Goes – His Minions Remain

The 20th Congress and its Effects on World Stalinism

(Spring 1956)

From The New International, Vol. XXII No. 1, Spring 1956, pp. 18–28.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Behold the man – the greatest and most significant of our contemporaries ...

“He towers over Europe and Asia, over the past and the future. He is the most celebrated and yet one of the least studied men in the world ...

“A man with the head of a scholar, with the face of a simple working man, in the clothes of a simple soldier ...

“He is a man of iron. His name describes him. Stalin – steel. He is as inflexible and flexible as steel. His power lies in his profound common sense, his extensive range of knowledge, his amazingly ordered mind; his passion for precision, his inexorable consistency, rapidity, certainty and intensity of his decisions, constant care in choosing the right people for the right place ...” Henry Barbusse. (Emphasis mine – A.G.)

This paean to Stalin by a French Stalinist literary hack is one of a library of similar effulgences. If it was not written on orders, it was in unconscious compliance with and flowed naturally out of the Stalinist ideology. The ritual of Stalin-worship was integral to the system so long as “the friend and liberator of the peoples of the world” was alive and demanding. But, especially in the light of the destruction of the Stalin myth by his erstwhile disciples, the paean is a stale rendering of allegiance and offensive to sight.

Khrushchev now says that Stalin was the victim of “phobia,” “not himself” and suffered from “delusions and derangements.” At the start, Khrushchev limited these aberrations to his “later years.” He was not phobic, deluded, deranged and “not himself” during the decade when he destroyed the old Party, wiped out the revolutionary cadre and murdered the whole generation of Lenin’s co-workers! He couldn’t be, could he, since it was precisely in that period, and on the basis of the great purges, that so many of the present ruling class began their services as Stalin’s disciples?

We are told that certain trials and certain purges were frameups: that Stalin almost destroyed the Army; that the Stalin-Hitler pact was not just a mistake but almost proved the undoing of the nation; that the Vohzd threatened everywhere and everyone; that none were safe. Life described by Khrushchev seemed one prolonged nightmare.

Ten and twenty years ago, on the sixtieth and seventieth birthdays of Stalin, the very men who now talk and write like archeologists making a prehistoric discovery, expressed themselves with an energy surpassing all their previous panegyrics to the man they say they dreaded so much. The sickening sycophancy had the quality of totemism.

On Stalin’s sixtieth birthday, V.M. Molotov, forever first in line of Stalin’s idolators, wrote:

Under Stalin’s leadership, we have successfully demolished the enemies of the people, have cleared, and will continue to clear, the state apparatus of hostile elements, of spies and wreckers. As we know, such measures help greatly to improve the work of our organizations and to clear the way for the promotion of fresh, honest and politically enlightened cadres, and for the consolidation of our state.

This remark was made during the celebration of Stalin’s great strategic achievement, the pact with Hitler, so Molotov continues: “Comrade Stalin’s initiative and guidance have played a cardinal role in all those decisions in our home and foreign policy which have ensured tranquility and prolonged peace to the peoples of the Soviet Union ...” And that is why “Comrade Stalin enjoys the profound love and trust of the working people.”

How the times did mock his cardinal role in the struggle for peace! But, Khrushchev now reveals that he suffered Stalin’s emasculation of the army in silence! An afterthought! For then, the picture-book marshal, Klementi Voroshilov, Stalin’s official military biographer, declared:

One cannot speak or write of Stalin, without speaking or writing of the heroic history and heroic battles of the Red Army, just as one cannot speak or write of the Red Army without speaking or writing of Stalin ... That is why today, when our whole country, united in an outpouring of love and appreciation, is celebrating the anniversary of Comrade Stalin’s birth, all the men, commanders, commissars, the entire political personnel – all who make up the armed forces of the Soviet state – greet our great Stalin with a feeling of profound gratitude and joy.

And so, once more, “Long may our Stalin live, to the joy of the peoples of the Soviet Union and of all progressive humanity.”

What of Lazar Kaganovich? Having read, heard or been told that Marx said that “revolutions are the locomotives of history,” he proceeded to describe Stalin as the greatest locomotive engineer of all time, whether of steam or diesel. He “boldly [opened] the throttle still wider,” and “drove the locomotive of history down and up steep inclines and over sharp turns and curves; he left in the firebox only what was valuable as fuel to create driving power and promptly threw out the slag, without, however, littering the track.”

Isn’t that a beautiful image! You think that is all? Oh, no.

By choosing the exact moment to put on speed Comrade Stalin ensured the construction of a firm foundation ... had theoretically to plan the track and lay the rails so that the locomotive could move on other routes for which the theoretical rails had not yet been laid and for which even the track had only been generally indicated.

But above all, Stalin “smashed the enemies!” He is “the greatest organizer of a Party and a state in history” and “every leader must assiduously learn, learn and learn from Comrade Stalin.”

What of Mikoyan? “Today, our country and toiling humanity all over the world are doing honor to their leader, father and friend – Comrade Stalin.”

Stalin is the ...

universally recognized leader, but also a great theoretician ... created the theory of the building of socialism, which is enunciated in the Constitution of the Soviet Union ... enriched our theoretical science with his principles of organization ... illuminates the practical path of struggle with the rays of theory ... [is a] theoretical and organizational genius.

Mikoyan ended with: “May Comrade Stalin live many, many years, and remain as fresh, as young and as vigorous as ever!”

Khrushchev, too, entered the lists. Presumably unknown, he was yet important enough to be included in a volume of the leaders ordered by Stalin to pay their respects to him.

Today, on the sixtieth anniversary of Comrade Stalin’s birth, all eyes will be turned on our great leader of nations, on our dear friend and father (!) ... In Comrade Stalin the working class and all toilers, possess the greatest man of the present era, a theoretician, leader and organizer of the struggle and victory of the working class ... an outstanding authority in many fields.

These are but a few representative samples from a mountainous material produced in the greatest effort man has ever seen to make a genius of one so plain in everything except malevolence based on police power. Did these men believe all they wrote? What difference does it make? The history of it all is indelibly recorded and the present destruction of the Stalin myth has to be sought, just as the myth itself, in the nature of the Russian social order, in the ideology of that new class society.

AS WE HAVE OFTEN written, the Stalinist parties throughout the world, were mirrors of the Russians. As the Russian party was totalitarian, so were they. Each had a national Vohzd. In France, Thorez; in Italy, Togliatti; in England, Pollitt; in China, Mao; and in the United States, Foster. The party hierarchies were identical to the Russian. Each leader had his own coterie of hangers-on. Each party reflected the same totalitarian practices. In each, the same lack of freedom, lack of discussion, lack of debate, and the same deadly unanimity and abject conformity that characterized the Stalinist party in Russia.

If Stalin’s birthday was celebrated in Russia and in all Stalinist parties, Foster’s is celebrated in the United States, Duclos’ in France, Mao’s in China. The system had operated for so long that the conduct of the parties was automatic in their subservience to the events, instructions, and the forever changing strategies of the Kremlin.

Thus, when Khrushchev, Mikoyan, Bulganin and even Stalin’s heir, Malenkov, took to the hustings to open up their hearts on what a monster Stalin was, a disorientation for the entire Stalinist movement seemed to follow. And why shouldn’t it have? Think of all that has been poured into the Stalinist mold for the past two decades and it will be understandable. But Khrushchev was not really taking a chance. He knew the stuff this movement is made of. He knew that though there might be some dissatisfaction, perhaps even some disaffection, in the main, the movement, created, trained and educated in the image of the parent, would rally behind the new leadership of “Mother Russia.”

Who knows, the de-deification of Stalin might even give the movement some new life and the ranks a new confidence and a new attachment to Russia. But more important than this, the needs and interests of the Stalinist parties are subordinate to the Russian and, finally, there is no real chance of a serious disintegration or opposition inside these subject parties. In any case, what they are getting is a new myth!

It would be unbelievable if the Stalinist parties were not momentarily or partially stunned. This in no way contradicts the above. The great Stalin – the sun, moon, stars, nay, the whole firmament – is suddenly smashed by men who were his closest associates. Not one of them has a record of having opposed Stalin in anything, certainly not the very acts for which he is so bitterly denounced.

In all countries, reports have it that this or that individual leader was surprised and dissatisfied, and questioned the whole business. The common question asked: where were the present leaders when Stalin dominated the scene? Khrushchev answered the question in a way, even before he was asked: we were all afraid; we didn’t know who was going to be shot next.

It remains now for the Fosters, Duclos, Togliattis and their brethren to supply the explanations. In the United States, furthest from the frontiers of Russia, the Stalinist Party and its Daily Worker have opened a discussion to explain to their followers what it is all about and to “enlighten” them. The discussion began with self-questioning by its editor Alan Max, who wrote about how jolted he was by the news. He, too, wanted to know where the party leaders were during all this, and whether or not they are “giving proper weight to the achievements of Stalin.” He continued:

... we went overboard in defending things like the idea of Stalin as infallible, in opposing any suggestion that civil liberties were not being fully respected in the Soviet Union, in discouraging serious discussion and criticism of Soviet movies, books, etc. As a matter of fact, while the defense of the Soviet policy as a policy of peace was proper and necessary for the welfare of the American people, going overboard on these other matters was wrong and hence, self-defeating.

This was followed by a letter from Ring Lardner, Jr. in which he attacked the “near deification of Stalin (!)” and “the cloying panegyrics.”

“I wonder,” wrote Lardner, “if some of the rather maudlin testaments to William Z. Foster on his recent birthday are really the most mature and effective way of acknowledging the respect due America’s outstanding working class leader.”

Afraid of his own daring, and wondering where this will all lead to, Lardner suspects that “any expression of doubt regarding Soviet judicial procedure” could be “an unforgivable sin.” It would bring into question all the trials held in Stalinist Russia during the successive purges. What then would be left to a faithful believer in the cause? Anyway, this kind of public posturing might lead to God knows what, and “America’s outstanding working class leader” joined in the discussion to steer it away from dangerous channels.

With the same abjectness with which he accepted the denunciation of the former hero Tito as an imperialist agent, Foster accepts Tito’s exoneration on the say so of Khrushchev. He is toeing the line for the new Vohzd as he did for the old.

Foster asks a series of questions (they are only rhetorical for he is not really interested in the answers). Khrushchev’s policies are to him a “theoretical reevaluation.” He wants to know to what extent was there “a failure to develop a real collective leadership.” Above all:

“... what, if any, decisive political mistakes were made by Stalin? What alternative polices to Stalin’s were suggested by others and rejected? What resistance was made in top circles to Stalin’s trend [trend, mind you] toward supercentralization and denial of collective leadership? Were injustices committed during the purges?”

It would be pointless taking Foster’s questions seriously. He knows the answers to each of them as well as do those of whom he asks for answers. Even so, he offers a few answers in a feint at independence, which, even before the Daily Worker reached the newsstands, already required a new reorientation by him in order to fall in line.

Foster explained Stalin’s “excessive stress upon individual leadership” by the

prolonged struggle against the inner and outer party opposition, the long-continued, monumental effort to industrialize the country; the formulation and application of several five-year plans; the carrying through of the bitter world war against Hitlerism ...

But Foster, you see, wants to be quite fair about this whole business:

Stalin, in his earlier years earned an outstanding reputation as a Marxist by his great fight against the Trotsky-Zinoviev-Bucharin traitors, especially in the big struggle around the elementary [everything is so elementary to Foster] question of building Socialism in one country ...

But, Stalin did make mistakes:

... in any event, mistakes would have been made in handling the many immense and complex tasks that the USSR has had to face ever since its establishment.

What sycophancy! All these years we have heard nothing but that Stalin made no mistakes. He was the Father, the Benefactor, the Locomotive, the Genius, the Great Man of All Times. Foster even wrote a book entitled From Bryan to Stalin in order to emphasize his complete devotion to the bloody tyrant. How now mistakes? It is “elementary.”

The essence of Stalin’s errors is that he multiplied, complicated and intensified these mistakes by his virtual liquidation of collective leadership and by the atmosphere of omniscience and the extreme adulation with which he surrounded himself.

... the general effect was, more or less, to weaken the work of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government. This fact inevitably produced the present down-grading of his reputation.

How does Foster know what is the “essence of Stalin’s errors?” When did he learn all this? On March 27, the day before his new article appeared in the Daily Worker? Or had he known it all the time? If he did, then he was a sniveling coward for having kept quiet, and an unconscionable bureaucrat because he imitated, advocated and defended the Stalinist system. Or, is he accepting the word of Khrushchev in exactly the same way he accepted Stalin’s?

In either case, he remains a faithful Stalinist chinovnik. He does, however, grasp the essence of the attack on Stalin in that the present pack “did not deem it necessary to reverse the basic policy if the Party.” This is what is important in the whole situation and the theme to which we will return further on.

Foster’s leap into the discussion was, from the point of view of the American Stalinist summits, unavoidable. In a rash of “democratic” posturing, the Daily Worker opened its columns to a discussion of the “downgrading” of Stalin. Letters from readers reveal the stupefying effect on Stalinists of lower rank.

Even one of higher rank, Howard Fast, joined these writers in a brash display of his sophisticated cynicism. Fast finds refreshing interludes in the discussion. He is so enthralled that he felt it necessary to address a letter to Joseph Clark, an outstanding Daily Worker hack, to explain his wonderful feelings. Fast finds that “if there were no errors there would be no self-criticism and no correction. There would also be no life and no motion.”

“We in America,” he writes, “still have a criminal feeling about errors ... How many people have we both known who have felt that the admission of an error is the one unforgiveable sin.”

What Fast means is “we American Stalinists” have a criminal feeling about error because “error was impermissible. Error was sabotage; error was the agent of imperialism; error was the espionage technique of the British, the French, the Germans and the Americans. Error was “wrecking;” error was the use of infectious germs. We knew all through the years, as the Stalinists are being told only today, that the victims of “error” were really the innocent victims of frame-up, whose corpses were an offering to the insatiable blood-lust of Stalin.

Then, what is all this Fastian talk of error for? Merely to excuse his .Stalinist associates and himself from a devious, and murderous past of their own, so that he could employ Mark Ethridge’s defense of the New Deal: “For what in hell should we apologize?”

Another writer discovers that Stalin’s greatest mistake was to permit “that creature Beria to influence him.” This faithful follower, still under the narcotic of an older official line says:

“It is my belief that Beria was behind every colossal blunder that Stalin made. What prevented the USSR from failing were ... (among other things) ... the determination of Joseph Stalin in spite of Beria’s influence.”

Poor Beria! Never in his most halcyon days did he believe that he was anything more than Stalin’s hand-picked subordinate. Never in his wildest fantasies could he have believed that on his death he would rise to the greatest power in Russia, even above the Holy Father.

Other letter writers are frankly puzzled. Some attacked the lack of democracy, others the unquestioning acceptance of any line from above. One, however, quite pointedly writes:

These leaders who today rise like great new giants and hurl denunciatory rocks at the body of the dead Stalin must have been very willing to let that same Stalin make the decisions then. They did not dare assume the responsibility in those fateful critical days. Otherwise Stalin could not have attained such frightful, overwhelming personal power. But they were the eager and willing water, as it were, that, inevitably, made the Stalin plant grow.

Now, they howl with vast, righteous indignation! It would become them much better if they would, first, publicly make slashing, punishing attacks upon themselves.

I think it would have been far wiser and much more constructive to let a later generation (from which they would be excluded) to be the judge of Stalin ... The mind cries out: If there was so much self-serving invention substituted for fact all along, not, as far as we know, opposed by the present leaders, how do we know that they are telling the truth now?

As for us, the supreme lesson in this whole horrifying and shocking business is not to be creatures dancing to the (often unintelligible) grimaces of others, but to use our brains in our right, creatively, never abdicating individuality. Otherwise, the sun and the stars, the heavens and the earth – the whole universe placed in our pockets would be worthless.

This is honest indignation. One feels the outrage of the person who wrote the above letter. How strikingly refreshing it is to the dreadful conformity and depthless hypocrisy of a Foster calling for continued rank and file allegiance based on nothing more than faith. It was Foster who wrote that what really happened can be understood “most authoritatively only by those leaders who have worked closely with him [Stalin] in the top circles of the CP and the government of the Soviet Union.”

This call upon faith and belief contains within it also a plea by Foster not to be too hard on him because, after all, that is what he lives by. He has faith and belief in his Russian masters. He exonerates himself because he, too, only followed their gospel. What difference does it make whether a week ago it was Stalin; yesterday, Malenkov; today, Khrushchev; and tomorrow ...? The important thing is to play the game, to have faith and belief ... in the Russians.


THE CURRENT EVENTS in Russia demand more than just a game of speculation in which so many of the so-called Russian experts love to play. The character of Stalin is quite important in understanding present events, and so, for that matter, are the characters of the new leaders. But the important things about Stalin, theoretically, politically and personally, have already been said thoroughly enough by Trotsky, Souvarine, Wolfe and even Deutscher. Khrushchev, Mikoyan and their friends have added nothing. Indeed, they have said much less than has been said by others for several decades.

No doubt, the de-ikonization of Stalin has only begun. Where it will end, we do not know. It is not too important. Khrushchev goes back to the purges, the Stalin-Hitler pact, the Great War itself. It is now announced that Stalin was anti-Semitic and organized the frameups against Jewish party leaders and members and Jewish intellectuals and suppressed Jewish culture. Today, they say even as far back as 1922 Stalin was opposed to the genuine and justifiable aspirations of Russia’s national minorities when he proposed the incorporation of Ukraine, Byelorussia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia into Great Russia.

Yes, they may go even much further. The question still remains: why?

Everyone has noted the individuals who have been rehabilitated after death – their names, that is. Some are well known, others are obscure figures. Yet, throughout the world, a most insistently asked question is: What about Trotsky? They also ask what about Zinoviev and Bucharin? But most of all, what about Trotsky? Mikoyan faced this interrogation in India and all he could reply was: “There were ideological questions.” By which Mikoyan meant that the fight with Trotsky was a struggle between two antagonistic class forces in Russian Society.

This is not involved in the present drama, that is why this dethronement of Stalin has for the people of Russia, only a limited value. The de-ikonization of Stalin’s ghost flows from the current needs of the present bureaucracy, from its efforts to fortify and strengthen its own rule over the backs of a discontented population. That is the only way to understand what is going on in Russia.

In the rise of the Stalin dictatorship, which no one at the time but Trotsky understood fully, it was a pastime to seek an explanation of Stalin’s rise to power on the basis of his tougher character in a conflict of personalities. The bourgeoisie even saw Stalin as a moderate fighting against Trotsky the extremist. They hailed the victory of Stalin over Trotsky because they felt an unconscious kinship to Stalin in his fight against the socialist opposition.

Trotsky explained Stalin’s rise to power as the product of the specific social relations in the new state, to which the personalities involved unquestionably lent their influence. The latter determined the techniques and mechanics of the struggle for power. But, in objective, historical terms, Trotsky said, the struggle reflected the conflict between the revolutionary elements of 1917 and the new rising bureaucracy. Stalin was the personification of the bureaucracy, the bureaucrat par excellence.

The Russian bureaucracy emerged triumphant through a counterrevolution far bloodier than any revolution in history. Stalin’s victory was the defeat of the Russian Revolution.

To insure the rule of the new bureaucratic ruling class in the new bureaucratic collectivist society, Stalin liquidated the entire old party of Lenin. In this liquidation, a new generation of leaders came to the fore with Stalin as godhead. The new bureaucracy was without revolutionary, socialist, internationalist traditions, culture or aims. It was a national phenomenon, christened in a state of a defeated revolution, without ties to Czarist capitalism, and without ties to the socialist ideal.

The new bureaucracy rested upon a collectivist economy, and its wellbeing, prosperity and future was determined by it. Five-year plans, as an expression of planning in economy, were without socialist aims, but purely class objectives of the new power, initiated to strengthen its own rule and to fortify its own aggrandizement.

The industrialization of the country could only proceed, in the absence of socialist policy, by the ruthless exploitation of the masses, both proletarians and peasants. This required the perfection of the police state, and the Russian State under Stalin evolved into the most thorough and ruthless totalitarian state that the world has ever seen.

Being neither socialist nor capitalist, the new bureaucratic state looked upon both bourgeoisie and proletariat as its twin enemies. The general strategy of Stalinism was the struggle against both. Internally it meant not only the destruction of all forms of organization and expression on the part of the masses, but it required the destruction of the nations comprising the union. Great Russian chauvinism run triumphant, created a deep-going national resentment, just as the intense exploitation and suppression of the working class and the peasantry created an immense mass dissatisfaction and disaffection in the country.

Under Stalin, the intense police surveillance of the country, the periodic purges which became a matter of state policy, the creation of a phobia of imperialist intervention, the transformation of the party and the GPU as overseers of the people, kept the regime in power over the years. It was absolute power used absolutely.

Thus, the industrialization of the country, immense as it has been and continues to be, arose not as the end based on an equilibrium of industrial expansion and a corresponding rise of the living standards of the masses, but by a depression of those standards and by the maintenance of agriculture in a permanent state of crisis.

To maintain the Stalinist system, a series of punitive legal measures was enacted to insure the enslavement of the population, under which the free movement of the workers and peasants was made impossible. Whatever movement did exist was illegal, or government-sponsored, the latter directed primarily to the multi-million inhabited slave camps. State decrees on overtime, incentive pay, and intensification of production all fortified and guaranteed the most brutal exploitation in modern times.

Purges were the norm in Russian society. There were periodic, extraordinary, spectacular mass purges. But behind those were the steady daily unabating purges everywhere against tiny groups, families, individuals. There was no discrimination in the victims to be purged: bureaucrats, workers, peasants, soldiers – every segment of the population. This was a new type of “democracy,” we were told. Indeed it was. A democracy of the knout which spared no one. But of free speech, free organization, free press, free discussion, free election, free decisions, there were none. Yet this “ democracy” was proclaimed by the Stalinist of the world and their cynical intellectual supporters who fattened themselves on bourgeois democracy.

The Russian masses have only endured it. They endured it because of force, naked and unashamed force, employed against them. They endured it in fear that a worse fate awaited them in the invasion of foreign interventionists and conquerors. But there is not the slightest doubt that they hated it. The cynics who defended this police regime on the grounds that it was all right for the Russian masses who, in any case, never knew a better life, were accustomed to it, as it were, merely exhibited their own depravity.

Even before the war, in the first onrush of Hitler’s troops, tens of thousands of Ukrainians, White Russians and even Great Russians, soldiers and civilians, went over to the enemy – such was their hatred of the Stalin regime. After the war, returning veterans from the Eastern European battlegrounds brought back stories of the enormous contrast between the living standards of the people in these backward or second grade capitalist nations and those of the Russians. The bureaucracy had to warn the people not to listen to the “tales” of the returning soldiers for fear that discontent might give rise to even more serious rebellions by the people.

The end of the war was in fact a turning point. Not only were fascist Germany and military Japan, the two foremost threatening invaders destroyed as powers, but the capitalist world as well entered a new stage of crisis. The danger of foreign attack and dismemberment of Russia was no longer threatening. Russian power grew enormously. The new power of the nation was presented to the people and the whole Stalinist world as the supreme and exclusive achievement of Marshal Stalin.

The masses, in the light of the real achievements in the war, had hoped for an upturn of their fortunes. But such was not forthcoming. For now, the nation faced the cold war and once again, or, in continuous form, the people were asked to live on as before. So long as Stalin lived the regime remained unchanged. And so long as he lived, the hatred of the masses for him must have been enormous. The smashing of the idol would be inexplicable if that were not a fact.

With his death a new stage in Russian politics became inevitable. For even though it is unquestionably true that the regime reflected the nature of the Russian society, the character of the dictator gave it the particular stamp it bore. It was a hard, coldblooded and murderous regime. Even the bureaucracy was nettled by it: once grown large and prosperous itself, the bureaucrats felt stifled by The Boss, who could not but appear somewhat of a paradox, an anomaly, and ancient force in their lives. The Stalin who led them to power, a power now vastly secured, was undoubtedly an impediment to their further existence and expansion. Most of all, they had lived in dreaded fear of the “psychopathic,” “phobic,” “deranged” chief.

After Stalin’s death the fight for succession was truly not a momentous one. Malenkov did not last long enough to accomplish anything. But he did sense the restiveness of the nation when he made a gesture to the masses by promising an increase in the production of consumers goods and a rise in their standard of living.

Malenkov, however, was a parvenu. He was not in tune with the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy, it is true, enjoyed the lion’s share of Russian production and their living standard was so high in comparison to the masses, that the gap between them and the population was and is greater than the gap between the bourgeoisie, or parts of it, and the working masses of the United States. But it is not willing to rest there.

With its new power in the world, the bureaucracy is entering a new phase of competition with the capitalist world, an economic competition. The bureaucracy cannot afford to disturb the present equilibrium of the economy by increasing the share of the masses in production. All it can do is promise a reduction of the present 48-hour-week to 42 ... in 1957!

The bureaucracy, in the image of its Father, gives the masses no hope for material improvement of its lot. It was one of the characteristics of the Stalin regime to initiate purges and blame the conditions of the masses on spies, saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries who literally took the bread from the people. So the Khrushchev regime shoots Beria, demotes Malenkov, threatens Molotov and warns Kaganovich and Voroshilov and now – it gives the country the corpse of Stalin. That, we have no doubt, is a popular act!

WILL THE RUSSIAN MASSES accept this gratuitous gift in place of a real change in their conditions? Only under force of the police regime. Surely, the people must ask: How was it possible for the evil Stalin to do all this, to commit such horrors and crimes and yet to receive no rebuke from anyone? Where were all those who presently decry Stalin as a frame-up artist, a murderer, an anti-Semite, an enemy of the national minorities?

They know their Stalin and they know the forces that brought him to the helm of the country. They are the same forces that have now dethroned him. They know now, too, if they had any illusions about it, that there will be no genuine and lasting change of their own lot so long as the fundamental nature of the bureaucratic regime remains unchanged.

In all the huff and puff of the dramatic destruction of the Stalin myth, what real, decisive and fundamental change has been made in the structure and function of the regime? None, absolutely none! And what is more, none has been promised either. Isaac Deutscher, who forecasts a new democratic stage in Russia, notwithstanding, there has not been one decisively important step taken toward what he described as a fact, namely, a democratization of the regime and the country. The only democracy that has been given, is the democracy to attack Stalin.

What difference does it make if Khrushchev dances a solo or, if Khrushchev and Bulganin dance a pas de deux, or if they and a Zhukov, or someone else, do a pas de trois. The sharing of power by a new group would imply merely that no one single individual has reached a point of personal triumph in the dictatorial regime. But the essential totalitarian character of the state power remains. In that regime, Khrushchev, the party secretary, is the most powerful.

In that, too, there ought to be a lesson for the muddleheads who see in every Kremlin conflict “new” forces asserting themselves in the struggle for power. Once it is the secret police. Another time, the army. A third ... well, when the fog leaves, the party, no other force but the party, rules supreme. In the one-party dictatorship, it is the party and always the party that dominates. It is the party, because the party is the organized bureaucracy, its brain, its force, its ideologue, to which all other aspects of the state are subordinate.

The great discussion in the Stalinist world, so closely and justifiably watched by the entire world, can be misleading if one takes seriously the overinflated, repetitious obeisances paid to “collective leadership” by all the little Stalins of the Stalinist parties. The language and the ideas behind the language, “traitors,” “democratic centralism,” “re-evaluation,” “discipline and centralization,” are part of Stalinist homilectics. They serve the conscious purpose of creating confusion and avoiding a discussion of what is real. What is real is the warning of Pravda that the humbling of Stalin does not mean a free discussion; that the party will not tolerate the criticisms of “rotten elements.” We are not told exactly, but it is easy to guess who the rotten elements are. It is those who misinterpret the meaning of Stalin’s dethronement. Pravda warns against “slanderous statements directed against the party’s policy and its Leninist foundations ... hackneyed slanderous inventions of foreign reactionary propaganda ... provocative anti-party statements” and the “Bucharinite” views of an economist, one Yarishenko.

This is endemic in Stalinism. Words and deeds, denunciations and liquidations are Stalinist in essense. The system is Stalinism without Stalin. Pravda is warning that the bureaucracy intends to remain in power without relinquishing a single decisive aspect of that power.

The action of Khrushchev, nonetheless, has already had an enormous significance. It has affirmed all that Trotsky and those who supported him had said about the regime; not only they, but a host of other observers. It has stirred sections of the ranks of Stalinism and it has strengthened the anti-Stalinist socialist movements. It can well have consequences that Khrushchev has not taken into consideration. He took a chance, a calculated chance in an effort to soothe the passions of the Russian masses. And thus, it may serve to carry the regime and its policies along for another period. But there are limits to human endurance in exploitation and oppression and the Russian people are at an exhaustion stage. If the great leader Stalin was all that the present leaders say of him, and they stood silently by, what of them? We have no doubt that the people arc thinking of that.

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Last updated: 23 October 2019