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Voorkant Wood 'Stalin and Stalinism - Second Edition' Alan WOOD
Stalin and Stalinism - Second Edition
London-New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group; Lancaster Pamphlets, 2005/2, 1990/1, 105 blzn.; ISBN: 02 0372 5581

Stalin leefde van 1879-1953 en was aan de macht van 1928-1953.

"No attempt has been made to psychoanalyse Stalin’s character and behaviour, and no details are given about his personal relationships and family life."(xiv)

"This is not the right place to discuss them, but what is important to realize is that what was actually being ‘restructured’, but ultimately dismantled, was essentially the political, social, economic and ideological system that was created by the man who ruled over the Soviet Union for twenty-five years (1928–53) as its unchallenged dictator – Joseph Stalin."(1)

"How was it that the initial enthusiasms and aspirations of the Russian Revolution in 1917, which promised a more just and humane society, became distorted into a totalitarian despotism which trampled on justice and humanity and plunged the Soviet Union into a nightmare of terror which reached almost genocidal proportions? Was Stalinism the logical and inevitable consequence of Lenin’s original revolutionary policies or, on the contrary, was it a grotesque perversion of Bolshevism, and was Trotsky right in calling Stalin ‘the gravedigger of the Revolution’? The impressive economic achievements of the Stalin era cannot be denied, turning Russia from an underdeveloped, peasant society into an industrial giant and a military superpower capable of withstanding the onslaught of Hitler’s armies in 1941–45, and terrifying the West during the years of the Cold War. As Stalin himself remarked, he found the country with the wooden plough and left her with the atomic bomb. But all this was accomplished at a dreadful price in human misery and suffering. Could it have been achieved by any other means than the oppressive weapons of coercion and control which Stalin wielded through the apparatus of a police state? Were there other, alternative, paths of economic development? Were the famines and forced labour camps, the millions of exiles and executions necessary for the building of ‘socialism in one country’? And how did one man come to wield such terrifying power over the Communist Party and the Soviet people?"(2)

[Mijn probleem is hier dat de auteur zo praat in termen van die ene persoon Stalin die als dictator 25 jaar ellende voor de USSR heeft veroorzaakt. Dat is zo ongelooflijk gemakkelijk. Die laatste vraag is de essentie: het was niet één man, net zo min als het bij het fascisme alleen maar draaide om een Mussolini of een Hitler. Het is gevaarlijk om je zo te concentreren op een persoon die de hoogste macht had. Je wordt blind voor de verantwoordelijkheid van allerlei mensen om zo iemand heen zonder wie hij of zij het nooit had kunnen redden. En je wordt nog meer blind voor het systeem op de achtergrond, de ideologie, de gekozen waarden en normen die maken dat mensen zich onderwerpen aan zo iemand.  Je leert niet veel van een boek vol verwijten aan het adres van ene Stalin of Hitler. En volgens mij is het ook een truuk van bijvoorbeeld neoliberalen om te kunnen schelden op het marxisme en communisme. Kijk, wij hebben geen dictatuur, wij hebben vrijheid en democratie. Maar dat maskeert even gemakkelijk de ellende die veroorzaakt werd en wordt door de rijke bovenlaag. Uiteindelijk is het kapitalisme ook een dictatuur met een kleine groep machthebbers die er alles voor over hebben om de baas te blijven. De methoden zijn misschien subtieler of meer onzichtbaar, maar het blijft onderdrukking.]

"Russia therefore had a long and deeply ingrained tradition of political subservience to a single, all-powerful ruler. Many historians consider that this autocratic tradition, which in some ways Stalin inherited, had its roots in the imperial power-structure of the Byzantine Empire, from which Russia adopted its Orthodox Christianity, and in the ‘oriental despotism’ of the Mongol khans who occupied Russia in the early middle ages."(6)

"Rather than following his father’s footsteps into the shoe trade, little Joseph (‘Soso’) was very fortunate, as the child of near-paupers, to be enrolled at the local elementary school run by the Orthodox Church. By all accounts he was a bright, diligent pupil and eventually completed his course with sufficient distinction for his teachers to recommend his matriculation into the Tiflis Orthodox Theological Seminary, one of the foremost higher-education institutions in the whole Transcaucasian region.
The move to the capital (in 1894) was to be a momentous step for the young Djugashvili. In the absence of any university in the area, the Tiflis Seminary attracted many of the most intelligent and independent-minded youth of Georgia into its austere surroundings, where a highly rigorous, if naturally heavily ecclesiastical, education was to be acquired. Tiflis was also then the centre of Georgian intellectual unrest, where narrow national dissidence jostled with a growing awareness of more cosmopolitan radical philosophies through the medium of the Russian language. "(12)

"A series of punishments failed to dampen his intellectual curiosity and served only to reinforce the spirit of rebelliousness and anti-authoritarianism now growing inside him. The combination of resentment at his personal treatment and the actual contents of the forbidden literature gradually caused him to question not only the authority of the monks and priests who taught him, but also the very religious principles on which their teaching was based. Exactly when Djugashvili abandoned his faith in Christianity is as unclear as the precise timing of his espousal of revolutionary Marxism as his new, alternative orthodoxy, but it was certainly some time during his five years at the Tiflis Seminary, from which he was duly expelled in May 1899."(13)

"In the words of one of his biographers, ‘his socialism was cold, sober and rough’, and stemmed not from sentiment, moral indignation or book-learning, but from the personal circumstances of his boyhood and youth among the disadvantaged and exploited lower classes of Georgian society. It came therefore not from the heart or the mind, but from the gut."(14)

"The decisive factor promoting Stalin to his new eminence within the party was the decision of the Provisional Government’s new Prime Minister, Alexander Kerensky (1881–1970), to arrest the Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin, in the aftermath of violent demonstrations in July that greeted yet another Russian military débâcle at the front. In the event Lenin decided not to submit to arrest, and instead went into hiding across the Finnish border. However, he and several other prominent Bolsheviks who were arrested, as well as Trotsky who had recently declared his solidarity with them, were now temporarily hors de combat, and in their absence Stalin thereby acquired a new authority. He was now not only a member of the Central Committee; he was also still a deputy on the Petrograd Soviet and editor of the party’s newspaper (renamed Rabochii Put’ – ‘The Workers’ Road’). Lacking the flamboyance, charisma or erudition of the Bolsheviks’ intellectual elite, Stalin nevertheless played a vital role during the next few weeks in the day-to-day routine work of organizing committees, cadres and caucuses, as well as editing Rabochii Put’ and generally keeping things going at a time when party fortunes were at a low ebb.
It is impossible to say whether this led to any resentment on Stalin’s part when Trotsky was released from gaol and began to overshadow him both as Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet and as a central figure in the planning and execution of the October Revolution. However, both of these roles were written out of the historical record during the period of Stalin’s later ascendancy and Trotsky’s political disgrace. Instead, a spurious version of the ‘Great October Proletarian Socialist Revolution’ was concocted that portrayed Stalin in the glorious role of Lenin’s closest comrade-in-arms and veritable genius of the Revolution."(17-18)

"Stalin was, throughout the political turmoil of 1917, sufficiently well entrenched among the triumphant party’s leading personnel, and sufficiently well experienced in organizational and ideological matters to win an automatic place as a People’s Commissar (i.e. Minister) in Lenin’s new revolutionary cabinet, the Sovnarkom. An added distinction was the fact that, of the fourteen commissariats created, Stalin’s – the Commissariat for Nationalities – was the only one without a precedent in the pre-revolutionary administration of the tsars or Provisional Governments. The importance of the new office was soon to be demonstrated as the centrifugal forces of national independence threathened to dismember the fledgling revolutionary republic during the coming years of fratricidal civil war."(19)

"Time was indeed essential, for no sooner had the Soviet government withdrawn from the international conflict than it was faced with the military resistance of its political enemies at home, supported logistically, financially and militarily by the governments of the western capitalist powers who wished, not only to get Russia back into the war, but also, in Winston Churchill’s words, ‘to strangle bolshevism in its cradle’."(21)

Van 1917-1921 burgeroorlog met de roden, witten, groenen, inmenging van buitenlandse troepen, guerillagroepen.

"There are many factors which help to explain the eventual Red triumph: Bolshevik control of the centre; access to First World War ammunition dumps; the political disunity of the White generals; withdrawal of the allied interventionist forces; and generally greater popular support for the revolutionary cause over those who would restore the old oppressive order. But some of the credit for the victory, albeit a pyrrhic victory, must also go to the creator of the Red Army, Lev Trotsky, though one would search in vain for any such acknowledgement in later official Soviet accounts of the conflict.
The conditions of warfare also gave ample scope for Stalin to demonstrate not only his organizational and administrative skills, but also those personal attributes of ruthlessness, implacability and authoritarianism that he was to display throughout his entire career. Although he never had any soldier’s training, he seemed at home in a military-style environment and was later to adopt regimental attitudes, titles and attire."(22)

"Apart from the Commissariat for Nationalities, Stalin also headed the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate (Rabkrin) and was a member of the party’s Organizational Bureau (Orgburo) and its powerful Political Bureau (Politburo). Each of these positions, by itself, gave him significant administrative and even executive power within the respective organizations. But combined in the hands of one man – a single-minded and manipulative man at that – that power became enormous. While his colleagues were engaged with more high-profile affairs, Stalin had succeeded unobtrusively to accumulate more bureaucratic authority than any other government or party official in the country. As if this were not enough, in April 1922 he was appointed to a newly created post which he was later to use as the springboard for his later dictatorial power – that of General Secretary of the Communist Party."(24)

"In 1921 the hated grain-requisitioning squads of War Communism were abolished and replaced with a limited market economy in the countryside, which encouraged private enterprise and profit-making in an attempt to re-harness the cooperation of the peasantry. This was the first stage of Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP).
NEP aroused bitter controversy within the party. Although the state still controlled heavy industry and had a monopoly on foreign trade – ‘the commanding heights of the economy’, in Lenin’s phrase – agriculture, light manufacturing and the service industries were for the most part privately owned and managed, often by their previous owners. Many communists regarded this situation not simply as a strategic retreat from full-blown socialism and centralized planning, but at best as a compromise with capitalism and the class enemy, the bourgeoisie and the rich peasants (kulaks), which was insupportable during the era of what was supposed to be ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’. Some called it an ‘economic Brest-Litovsk’. Lenin, however, argued that NEP was only a temporary measure, a tactical withdrawal that was essential for the stabilization of the economy, an increase in food production and the gradual reconstruction of industry."(25)

"That these economic debates and doctrinal disputes took place at all was of course a measure of the relative intellectual and political pluralism that existed during the 1920s in comparison with the rigid monolithism of the ’thirties. True, the country was already a oneparty state and the activities of the political police (the Cheka, set up as early as December 1917) had eliminated all organized opposition to the Communists’ monopoly of power. Within the party itself, the policy of ‘democratic centralism’ had been reinforced by the adoption of Lenin’s ‘Resolution on Party Unity’ at the 10th Party Congress in 1921, which outlawed the existence of organized ‘factions’ within the party. Nevertheless, debate and discussion did take place, both inside and outside the party, on a scale and with a diversity that was not equalled until the late 1980s. It was a truly revolutionary, experimental era. NEP was itself an experiment, the first peacetime attempt at running a ‘mixed economy’ with both nationalized and private sectors peacefully co-existing. Entrepreneurship flourished. Private traders, prosperous peasants, ‘bourgeois specialists’ (spetsy), black marketeers and commodity dealers (the so-called Nepmen) plied their profitable businesses while the planners and politicians were locked in hot debate. A cultural revolution, too, was taking place. Art and literature were in the avant-garde of contemporary European movements. Historians argued; critics contended; different schools of prose, poetry and the plastic arts vied for public attention as futurism, symbolism, imaginism, constructivism, formalism, realism and satire were challenged by the exponents of a self-consciously ‘proletarian culture’ (Proletkult). A whole constellation of innovative writers, artists, sculptors, dramatists, interior designers, cinematographers and scientists combined to make the 1920s one of the most vibrant, pulsating decades in the history of Russian culture. There was, too, a genuine attempt to make all this available to the masses. This involved such initiatives as a nationwide campaign to eradicate illiteracy, progressive educational experiments, the emancipation of women, easy availability of divorce and abortion, the establishment of ‘workers faculties’ (rabfaks) at the universities, the invention of new scripts for ethnic groups with no written language, and a reform of the Cyrillic alphabet, which simplified orthography and facilitated the printing of books and newspapers. In the clubs and bars of Moscow and Petrograd, the ‘fox-trot’ was all the rage."(27)

"It soon became clear that the body which dominated and controlled the newly emerging party bureaucracy was in a position of enormous power and influence. That body was the party Secretariat. Whoever dominated the Secretariat wielded commensurate authority. After 1922 that man was Joseph Stalin. From his office the General Secretary was able to issue administrative directives, organize agenda, make appointments, recommend promotion and dismissals, distribute personnel, and shuffle the cadres in accordance with his own preferences and ambitions. By the time Lenin died, therefore, Stalin had built up a formidable power base within the party apparatus from which he could with relative ease and on plausible pretexts conveniently isolate or neutralize those who stood in his way."(29)

"In 1928 he launched two major initiatives that were to plunge the country into an upheaval as great as the revolutions of 1917. These were the collectivization of agriculture and the first five-year plan for the rapid industrialization of the economy – Stalin’s ‘revolution from above’."(31)

"From 1929 the collectivization drive proceeded – quite literally – in deadly earnest. The Russian countryside was once again turned into a battlefield as millions of peasant households, traditional communes, landholdings, livestock and equipment were commandeered at gunpoint and dragooned into the huge new party-controlled collective enterprises. Kulaks were exempted. Instead, their property was con- fiscated and they were rounded up, herded into cattle-wagons, and forcibly transported in their millions to the ice-bound wastelands of Siberia and the far north where they were either left to rot or else turned into convict labourers in the work camps and industrialization projects of the five-year plan. Many resisted collectivization by burning their crops, refusing to sow, or slaughtering their herds and flocks rather than surrendering them to the collective farm (kolkhoz). The results, not unnaturally, were disastrous; so much so that in the spring of 1930 Stalin called a temporary halt to the campaign."(33)

"The calamitous consequences of the policy cannot be exaggerated. It yielded what has been described as a ‘harvest of sorrow’ for the Russian land. The collectivization drive was in effect a civil war unleashed by the party on the peasant population in which millions perished as a result of massacres, enforced deportations and manmade famines that decimated whole provinces. When delivery quotas were unfulfilled, Stalin questioned the loyalty and the efficiency of local party officials, who reacted with renewed savagery in exacting non-existent surpluses from starving peasant families. In Ukraine, a military cordon was thrown around the entire republic to prevent news of the mass starvation reaching the outside world. Millions perished in what had once been known as ‘the breadbasket of Europe’."(33)

"Like the rest of that society, collective farmers (kolkhozniki) were now mobilized to perform the bidding of the economic planners, delivering their compulsory quotas to the state at state-fixed prices, dependent on the government for mechanized equipment which was controlled through official Machine Tractor Stations (MTSs), tied to the land by a system of internal passports, and forced to respond to the dictates of party policy rather than the natural rhythms and requirements of the soil. Environmental conditions, irrigation and fertility patterns, seasonal fluctuations, local knowledge and custom were often ignored by city-trained agronomists whose scientific theories overruled traditional peasant wisdom and working cycles. Threequarters of a century after the abolition of peasant bondage in Russia, the lot of the collective farmers in Stalin’s USSR cannot have seemed so different from that of their enserfed forebears."(34)

"Another consequence of collectivization was the migration, part voluntary, part enforced, of nearly ten million able-bodied young peasants from the villages to join the new industrial armies of the first five-year plan (see below)."(34)

"In human terms, however, the cost of this industrial progress was staggering. Machinery and equipment had at first to be bought from abroad, purchased with the revenue from exports of grain screwed from the collective farmers while the people starved. Food and consumer goods disappeared from the shops; interminable queuing became a regular feature of daily existence; rationing was introduced; housing conditions in the overcrowded cities were appalling; wages failed to keep pace with rocketing prices."(36)

[En is dat nu zo anders verlopen bij de industriële revolutie in het Westen?]

"Just at the time when his power seemed more secure, when the Party seemed united, when the industrial and agricultural economies were showing results and the sacrifices of the recent past seemed justified, Stalin plunged the entire country into a paroxysm of pain and sheer terror that many still believe to be unprecedented in human history."(38)

"This was the beginning of the sinister process of political and physical blood-letting over the next four years, which is often referred to as ‘The Great Terror’. The public manifestation of this Soviet holocaust were the notorious show trials staged in Moscow between 1936 and 1938. It also meant the emasculation of the intelligentsia and the rape of Soviet science and culture. Poets and playwrights, novelists and newspapermen, musicians and mathematicians, scientists and sculptors were selectively torn from their professional environments and subjected to systematic persecution, humiliation or exile. Those who refused to conform to the rigid cultural commandments of the regime became martyrs to a mediocracy of philistinism and intellectual sterility in which they were either muzzled or murdered. Even technical experts were executed when natural disasters or failures occurred – for example, veterinary specialists blamed for cattle disease, or meteorologists for drought. That is not to say that absolutely nothing of creative or scientific merit emerged during this period, but what did survive were oases in an artistic desert."(42)

"Unfortunately, none of the explanations of the Great Terror so far advanced by historians, political scientists or psychoanalysts may be regarded as wholly safe or satisfactory."(48)

"Very little has so far been said about Stalin’s conduct of foreign policy. During the 1920s the Soviet Union pursued an ambiguous and seemingly contradictory course in its relations with the outside world. On the one hand, she needed to establish a peaceful working relationship with the hostile capitalist powers with which she was surrounded, if possible gaining diplomatic recognition and establishing overseas trade links. On the other hand, the government was still ideologically committed to the concept of world revolution and the overthrow of the capitalist system with which it was, nevertheless, striving peacefully to co-exist."(49)

"Stalin was later to reinforce the primacy of nationalist over internationalist aims with his policy of Socialism in One Country, even if this meant abandoning foreign comrades in favour of alliances with moderate political parties."(49)

"While not itself directly responsible, this ultra-sectarian policy towards the left certainly facilitated the electoral victory of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) as German Chancellor in 1933. But still Stalin underestimated the menace of fascism and Nazism, and continued with his myopic vilification of Europe’s non-communist left."(50)

"The victory was therefore bought at a terrible price, not only for the fighting men but also for the civilian population. Peace, however, brought only the briefest respite. As Stalin consolidated his grip on the countries of Eastern Europe and as the uneasy warmth of the Grand Alliance began to freeze and harden into the enmity of the Cold War, the long-suffering Soviet people now faced the Herculean task of national reconstruction, but in the face of renewed international hostility."(57)

"Genuine enthusiasm to make good the war losses was reinforced by a return to the strict communal discipline and draconian methods of the 1930s. Stalin abandoned the relative relaxations of the war years and marshalled all the resources of the police state to reimpose the controls of his totalitarian system with a renewed vigour."(59)

"In the humanities, linguistics, philosophy and even music were forced into the Stalinist straitjacket, but it was literature that bore the brunt of Stalin’s renewed attack on creative freedom. The ‘Great Educator’s’ chief hatchet-man in the artistic abattoir of the late 1940s was Andrei Zhdanov (1896–1948), the man who had succeeded the murdered Kirov as boss of the Leningrad party organization in 1934. In 1946 the so-called ‘Zhdanov decrees’ were promulgated, which introduced a period of such cultural sterility and talentless uniformity as to outrival even the ‘socialist realist’ mediocrities of the 1930s."(60)

"It is, however, possible to identify a number of the specific features of Stalinism, which, when fitted together, produce a kind of imperfect, identikit picture of a unique phenomenon.
First and foremost, there is the ‘command economy’ and the emphasis on heavy industry. From the inauguration of the first five-year plan and the collectivization of agriculture, every single aspect of economic life and financial activity in the Soviet Union was controlled, or at any rate was supposed to be controlled, by the state.
This is not just a matter of setting production targets or working out an annual budget. Even in free-enterprise economies, it is ultimately the government that controls fiscal policies and also decides on such things as whether industries and public services should be nationally or privately owned, whether students should receive grants or loans and patients pay for medical treatment. To that extent, central direction of economic priorities is also a feature of capitalist economies. Under the Stalinist-type command economy, however, the state planning authorities and the various centralized ministries were theoretically in charge of the entire economic system, from deciding the size of the national defence budget and industrial investment priorities to establishing wage levels, prices, rents, bus fares, food subsidies, pensions, kindergarten fees and funeral expenses. There were no such things as private banks, commercial advertising, stocks and shares, insurance firms or limited companies. A small amount of private trade was legally tolerated – for instance, collective farmers could sell the produce grown on their personal allotments at the local market – but even this facility was at the discretion of the state and could therefore be curtailed, extended or withdrawn by the government authorities."(69-70)

"The second, and in a sense perhaps most glaringly obvious, feature of the system is what Khrushchev described as the ‘cult of personality';"(70)

"The third, and most sinister, feature is the operation of the police state and the implementation of rule by terror. Again, earlier chapters have referred to the various manifestations of NKVD activity with which Stalin maintained his tyrannical rule."(71)

"The whole ghastly business of denunciation, arrest, interrogation, torture, imprisonment, exile, concentration camps and executions to which millions fell victim under Stalin was an indispensable element of his system of political coercion and social control."(72)

"Fourth, there is what might be called the ‘mobilized society’. This is something we are familiar with in times of total war, when not only the armed forces but every section of society is geared in some way towards the achievement of a common national goal – in this case the defeat of the enemy. Under Stalinism, in peacetime and in war, each individual citizen of the Soviet Union was recruited, educated, trained, exhorted, regimented and, ultimately, coerced into carrying out his or her patriotic/political duty in the great historical task of building socialism and marching under Stalin’s banner towards the inevitable victory of communism. This was not just a matter of fulfilling one’s work norm at the factory, farm or office. One’s entire life-style was conditioned by the policies of the Party and the leviathan state.
Independent clubs, associations and non-official unions were proscribed and persecuted out of existence. The Church was crushed. Even people’s leisure time activities were meant to have a place and a purpose in Stalin’s grand plan. Public or anonymous denunciations of suspected ‘deviationists’ were common, and even schoolchildren were encouraged to report to the authorities members of their family, their own parents, if they heard disloyal or critical opinions voiced in the dubious privacy of the home."(72-73)

"Stalinism also sought to mobilize not just the bodies but also the minds of the population. This was not just a case of toeing the party line on ideological or policy issues. It involved the whole apparatus of propaganda, literary censorship of everything written and printed – from scientific treatises to tram-tickets – political control of education, research and scholarship and a total ban on all manifestations of intellectual individualism, heterodoxy or dissent. Cultural standardization and uniformity was imposed not just on creative literature, but also on painting, music, theatre, ballet and even architecture – the great leader favouring the gigantic monstrosities of the so-called ‘Stalin-baroque’ style, of which the Hotel Ukraine and the central building of Moscow State University are prime examples."(73)

"Finally, although the list is not exhaustive, a characteristic feature of Stalinism, which it shares with other examples of totalitarianism, is its rampant nationalism."(74)

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