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J.G. Wright

History à la Carte

(July 1935)

From New International, Vol. 2 No. 4, July 1935, pp. 140–142.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Outline History of the CPSU
By N. Popov
2 vols., 414 + 460 pp. New York. International Publishers. $4.

The blurb on the cover states: “This the most authoritative book on the subject, was translated from ... the sixteenth Russian edition.” The publishers also recommend the book as “a systematic history”.

N. Popov, the author (together with his publishers) have only a single authority and a single system: and that is Stalinism.

Popov is a Stalinist stooge; he dishes up history not in accordance with facts but according to Stalin’s prescription. When Stalin-Yaroslavsky changes the prescription, all the big and little stooges change their history. The system, however, remains the same: falsification, vilification and abomination by omission and commission.

“The student of the works of Lenin and Stalin” has been served in English with the sixteenth edition. But he has not been told that it is the revised edition of a revised, revised, revised original edition.

Were even such a student as the publishers have in mind to compare the several revised editions, he might very readily be induced to take an oath that Popov was quintuplets, i.e., at least five historians, each using both hands and both feet at one and the same time to write not only in different languages, but with entirely different viewpoints, on utterly unrelated topics. He would also learn that these historical quintuplets have one thing in common. All the Popovs have neither regard nor occasion for history in general, or the history of the Bolshevik party in particular.

In his introduction to the fourth Russian edition of this “history” (Moscow 1927), Popov declared,

“I do not belong to the school of jury-box historians, if only because I have never had the occasion to occupy myself either with history in general or the history of the party in particular.”

Is this modesty? Emphatically, no. These are Popov’s credentials to guarantee his Master faithful service.

How else could Popov serve as the “most authoritative, and systematic”?

How else could Popov qualify himself to serve originally as lecturer on party history in the city of Kharkov, in the Artemovsk University, during the term of 1924–1925?

With ignorance as his diploma, and servility as his guide, Popov preceded to instruct the youth in the “true principles of Leninism”. After the lectures were read, they were “hastily got ready for publication”. Why? “Because at that time, there was lacking [read: Stalinism was lacking] any sort [!] of adequate literature on the history of our party.” (Introduction to the fourth edition.)

Thus, from the very outset, Popov’s “lectures” served as a text-book in the Soviet schools. By 1929, eight monster editions were exhausted. But although the market improved, the requirements kept changing. Formulations “gave rise to misunderstandings”. From one edition to the next, Popov proceeded systematically to “render them more precise”. (Introduction to the eighth ed.)

To illustrate the “system” and the “authoritativeness” of Popov, we shall briefly compare the text of the ninth revised Russian edition – with the text of the sixteenth revised English edition. One should imagine that by 1929, after the 15th party congress, after the expulsion of Trotsky, and the final “annihilation of Trotskyism”, and after eight editions, Popov had arrived well-nigh to perfection in “rendering his formulations more precise”. By 1929, “Trotskyism”, as any authority on Stalinist history knows, had definitely been established as the “vanguard of counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie”. But alas, even in 1929, Popov was not informed of the counter-revolutionary requirements for 1932.

Ninth edition-1929-Popov was still unaware that the “party” (read: Stalinism) held an absolutely 305% Leninist position before, after, and during Lenin’s arrival from abroad in 1917.

In 1929, Popov thought it was 99–99¼% Leninist. He was so misinformed as to underscore the fact that after the overthrow of Czarism, “our organization was somewhat in a disrupted condition”. Worse yet, he goes on to underscore that even after the February revolution the party line was somewhat distorted. And he explains it, in part, by the return to the party of a “considerable number of old members” who returned to the party “with the old moods of 1906–1907” and whose “moods could not fail to reflect upon the line of our party”. (p. 212 Russian edition. Italics in the original.)

Still worse, even the line of the Pravda in 1917 did not at first

“fully coincide with those views which were advanced by comrades Lenin and Zinoviev and others abroad, and it [Pravda] deviated to the side of revolutionary defensism and the support of the Provisional Government”. (Id., our italics.)

Popov then proceeded to quote what Kamenev wrote on March 15, 1917, and to comment upon it as follows: “Such language differs very little from the usual language of the social-patriots at that time”. (p. 213, Russian ed.)

No mention is made of Stalin except to quote him in support of the above presentation. Not a word about his role, despite the fact that he, Stalin, was with Kamenev the editor of the Pravda in this period. Such was the historical “outline”, in 1929, in the ninth “authoritative” edition.

Ah, but what an improvement in the sixteenth!

Was it as difficult for our party to regain its positions as Popov said it was in 1929? Nonsense, student of Lenin and Stalin, nonsense! Turn to page 351, vol.I, and read for your edification, facts Popov forgot in 1929: “In spite of severe repressive measures, the Bolshevik party developed intense activity. On the eve of the revolution the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee was quartered in Petrograd and consisted Of Molotov, Shlyapnikov and Zalutsky.” (What, no Stalin?) Everywhere were carried on “widespread and fairly [!] systematic activities”.

True, things were not so very vigorous and firm in the provinces. But that was due to the influx of “new workers into the party organizations; these were revolutionary-minded, but still without adequate political training ...”

Were there any deviations from the party line? Nonsense: “The overwhelming majority of the party was opposed to rendering any sort of assistance to the Provisional Government.” And who led the fight? Stalin, of course. Against whom ? “Against some “elements ... even among the leaders, who inclined towards defensism ... This was particularly true of Kamenev ...”

And again there follows the Kamenev quotation of March 15 – but this time Popov has no comments to make. Instead he calls the attention of the students to an historical fact:

“Even before Lenin’s return the Central Committee and the Petrograd committee were obliged [!] to call Kamenev to account.” (p. 355, Vol. I)

Where? when? in what documents? Silence.

Moreover, Popov no longer keeps mum about Stalin, but has quotations in full showing how the party, with Stalin at the head, fought the deviators “even before Lenin’s return”. We suddenly learn in the sixteenth edition that immediately upon his return from exile, Stalin “outlined a course directed towards the creation of a government of the Soviets”.

A piece of news Popov was blissfully ignorant of in 1929. For, we repeat, he then quoted Stalin to prove how the best disciple of Lenin strove to correct “the then incorrect tactic of the party”. (p. 214, Russian ed.)

The English edition, naturally, contains neither the “incorrect” quotation from Stalin nor Popov’s “stupid” assertion that “Lenin’s arrival aided the party to rid itself of these erroneous views, speedily and with comparative ease”. (idem)

This scratches only the surface of the difference in treatment of this particular period in the two editions, not to mention the other editions. To do Popov justice, we would have to reprint his several editions in parallel columns. The reader has had a sufficient sample of the garbage Popov purveys, but let him bear in mind, even though his stomach may turn, that in this instance as well as throughout the whole book, Popov serves his Master with a colossal job of “rendering his formulations more precise”.

But we cannot leave unmentioned one of Popov’s most unskillful botchings. His “improved version” of the Brest-Litovsk episode in party history was vile enough to suit his taskmasters, in 1929. But even in that version, Popov admitted the following facts relating to the final vote in the Central Executive Committee on Lenin’s motion to accept the terms of the German imperialists:

“Voting for this motion were seven members of the C.E.C. (Lenin, Smilga, Stalin, Vverdlov, Sokolnikov, Trotsky and Zinoviev) ; six voted against (Uritsky, Joffe, Lomov, Bukharin, Krestinsky and Dzherzhinsky). The majority of one was obtained as a result of the fact that Trotsky who up to then sided with the opponents of peace voted for Lenin’s motion.” (p. 235, Russian ed.)

The Stalinist stooge had to admit, in a footnote, that it was Trotsky’s vote that carried Lenin’s motion. In 1929, the Stalinist falsifiers of history still proceeded “cautiously”.

In the sixteenth edition Popov positively becomes lyrical describing:


And, of course, it was Stalin who made possible the signing of the Brest-Litovsk treaty: “... a number of the Central Committee members HEADED BY COMRADE STALIN resolutely supported this [Lenin’s] viewpoint.” (p. 11, Vol. II, English ed.) And, of course, Popov forgot to. mention it in 1929, or in any previous editions.

From the time the first edition appeared, it became obvious to Popov that his outline suffered from being overloaded with “second rate factual material, as well as several unessential facts concerning party history”. Needless to say, the last edition does not contain a single fact relating to any “positive” aspects of Trotsky’s revolutionary activity, which still survived in footnotes, and sneering comments of the ninth edition.

It is impossible to list the omissions, subtractions, additions, and multiplications. Suffice to mention that Bukharin in 1929 was still cautiously defended by Popov on “his” slogan: “Enrich yourself!” More remarkable still is Popov’s original defense of the Chinese policy.

It is no joke being a Stalinist historian! Take the case of comrade Lozovsky. During the October Revolution this rather “well known” comrade, using Popov’s language, disagreed very violently with the party line. Not only did he publish a letter in Novaya Zhizn (the same paper in which Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s statement appeared) dissociating himself from the party line, but he left the party, and returned only in 1919.

For some unknown reason, Popov thought that this was an important and a safe piece of historical information, and he proceeded to give it, in 1929. (p. 254, Russian ed.) But, in the sixteenth edition, Lozovsky is conspicuous by his absence. Having subtracted Lozovsky, Popov added comrade Teodorovitch to the list of “conciliators”.

These mysterious appearances and disappearances turn the “outline” into a spiritualistic seance. Ghosts wander through the book – the maimed essence of Bolshevism wails from page to page, from edition to edition.

Every trace of Leninism is removed. Together with this ballast Popov threw out, first, all the programmatic documents he originally gave as a supplement, giving instead references at the end of each chapter. The sixteenth edition dispenses with these references, as well as others. The reader, if and when he is referred, finds only a volume given him, and a volume, thereto, of selected works. In return, however, Popov “tractates” more and more and more profusely “the opportunistic deviations from Bolshevism during the different periods of our party”. As one proceeds from one edition to the next, the improvements become more and more self-evident, more and more authoritative, and more and more systematic.

In any case, and this is incontrovertible, were Popov’s most apt pupil who conned the previous texts, to take his examination now, he would be promptly flunked, that is to say, reported by Popov himself as a counter-revolutionary renegade, vanguard of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the scum of reaction, etc., etc.

We close by sounding a warning to the students of the “works of Lenin and Stalin” to whom the International Publishers recommend this book: this is not the last authoritative “outline” – it still falls far short of the recent historical discoveries of Stalinism, and it will have to undergo further considerable “improvement”.


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