Yet, throughout most of his rule the oracles almost constantly predicted his imminent downfall. At every rumbling of an explosion, onlookers expected that after the smoke had dispersed not a trace would be seen of Stalin. But each time Stalin was still there, in his old place, unscathed, and in a position more commanding and more awe inspiring than before; and at his feet lay the mangled bodies of his enemies and friends. He seemed to be the demi-god in command of the volcano. A whole Russian generation basked in his glory and trembled in his shadow. In the last fifteen years of his life, not only Russia but the whole world did the same.
Popular imagination saw him holding the destiny of mankind in his hands. How the son of a poor Georgian cobbler, a starving pupil of the Theological Seminary of Tiflis, a man outwardly so grey and inconspicuous, speaking in dry, scholastic formulae, rose to this almost mythical grandeur will for ever fascinate the student of human affairs. No wonder that after his death men should ask how large, for good or evil, is the gap Stalin has left, and how, if at all, it will be filled.
Without any desire to belittle the peculiar greatness of the man, it is still possible to think that much of the grandeur which surrounded him was one of those all too numerous optical illusions which circumstance and the human craving for illusion have combined to create and to fix into durable historical images.
It may be held that at best Stalin's grandeur reflected the magnitude of the issues and the vastness of the social processes underlying his career. Those who take this view will prefer to approach the demigod soberly, to scrutinize his real features, to strip him of his Olympian garments, and to establish his genuine stature. It is surely in such a balance that an answer to the questions posed by Stalin's departure should be sought. Having for so long tried to persuade us that Stalin was the greatest genius in history, the Marx and the Lenin of his time, the Stalinist now suddenly, although discreetly, advances the classical Marxist argument that individuals do not matter in history, because they are only the agents and representatives of broader forces, of the social classes which are history's real moving forces.
The peoples of the Soviet Union, we are told, have already found their new representative, mouthpiece, and leader, who will speak with Stalin's voice as Stalin had spoken with the voice of Lenin. In this argument the Stalin cult achieves its own self-exposure: what it implies is that the Stalin cult was merely a propaganda stunt and a hoax. In truth, the Stalin legend has been something more than this. But no matter how low a view one may take of it, the assurances that Stalin's death will entail no change in the Soviet Union are quite unconvincing, as we shall see later.
The whole world is supposed to be subject to dialectical change. Nothing in it is static. Everywhere rages the struggle of antagonistic elements which forms the essence of change. Everything is growth and decay. Only at the frontiers of the Stalinist realm is Dialectics refused an entry visa, apparently as a visitor suspect of un-Soviet activity. The Soviet realm is, of course, not immune from the laws of change to which the rest of this troubled world is subject. Moreover, despite some appearances to the contrary, these laws have been operating in Soviet Russia more intensively and on a vaster scale than elsewhere.
By itself the death of even the most powerful ruler may not alter the fortunes of a country. But it may act as a catalyst in latent processes of change which have been in operation for some time. What is the real nature of these processes? And is Stalin's death likely to act on them as a catalyst?
This is the chief subject of our inquiry. The anti-Communist, who has been under the hypnosis of the Stalin legend in a negative way, also assures us that there will be no change in Russia. He points to the immutable facade of the Stalin regime and concludes that behind it everything has been frozen into immutability. He sees nothing but the simple picture of a will-less, helpless, cowed people of millions or even of millions, if all Communist countries are considered , ruled by the tyrant's iron rod.
To those who adhere to this oversimplified view it never occurs to ask how it could happen that nations which have in our century given so many striking proofs of their revolutionary frame of mind and temperament have become so meek and numb. Or how could it happen that the Chinese, who also had shaken off dynasties, warlords, and republican regimes and appeared incapable of settling down politically, have apparently come to accept Mao Tse-tung and have submitted to the rigorous discipline he has been imposing on them?
On a more sophisticated level the argument is advanced that our age has brought with it new techniques of government, which enable a totalitarian ruler to transform the most turbulent and rebellious nation into his plaything. Modern mass media of propaganda, all-pervading networks of spies, the power of the State as an employer, and the terror of concentration camps, so the argument runs, assure the stability of any totalitarian government. Such a government, it follows, can be overthrown only from outside, through defeat in war, as the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini have been overthrown.
It is difficult to deny the validity of this argument. Contemporary experience has, unfortunately, provided all too much evidence which appears to support it. But the argument also has its important flaws. Those who expound it tend to think of the primitive Russian society of the 's and early 's and of present-day China in terms applicable only to a highly industrialized and organized Western nation.
Nor is it in China today. Nor are they as yet available in China. Three-quarters of the Russian nation read no newspapers at the time when Stalin was setting up his totalitarian regime. Nor does the vast majority of the Chinese people read newspapers today. The same is true of the instruments of political terror. These do not work in a vacuum. The effectiveness of their work depends largely on the nature of the material they work upon, and on the political morale of a country which can facilitate, obstruct or, in an extreme case, even bring to a standstill the machinery of terror.
Those who speak of the omnipotence of the totalitarian machine take a singularly unrealistic and superficial view of society, a curiously mechanical view which hardly befits writers who for the most part are so contemptuous of the materialist sociology of Marxism. As a rule, they ignore the economic, social, cultural, psychological, and moral trends in a nation's life.
Yet it is on these trends that the effectiveness of the mechanics of government largely depends. It is to them that we ought to turn our attention in order to find how they may affect the fortunes of Stalinism after Stalin. It will then be seen that it was the peculiar paradox of Stalinism that with one hand it fought ruthlessly and desperately to perpetuate its domination over the mind and the body of the Russian people and with the other it was, with equal ruthlessness and persistence, destroying the very prerequisites of self-perpetuation.
In other words, Stalin has done much, both negatively and positively, to ensure that Stalinism should not be able to survive him for very long. In the weeks before and after Stalin's death, the newspapers were full of speculation about the secret rivalries in the Kremlin, the many-sided plots in which now Beria was supposed to be trying to oust Malenkov and Molotov, now Malenkov and Beria were supposed to oust Molotov, while in still other versions Bulganin and Beria were preparing a coup against all the others.
There were probably a few sparks behind this tremendous output of journalistic smoke.
Stalin in contemporary Russia: admired and required
Not everything went smoothly within the walls of the Kremlin in the last weeks of Stalin's life, as the stories about the doctors' plot to assassinate some of the eminent personalities of the regime vaguely indicated. Since Stalin's death it has often been suggested that the real government of the U. Is it probable that history should repeat itself in such detail and that the pattern of events which followed Lenin's death should reproduce itself now?
The Russia of is very different from the Russia of Yet there are some indications that before long Stalin's successor may try to chase away even those phantoms. He seems indeed to have begun the chase already. Who is Malenkov? What does he represent?
What does his ascendancy promise to Russia and the world? In these pages an attempt will be made to sketch his career and character. This will not be easy. Until quite recently Malenkov's career ran its course behind the closed doors and the drawn curtains of Stalin's offices. But enough is known to provide some clues to Malenkov's personality and to the policies he is likely to pursue; and since his assumption of power he has given a few more clues, some of which are perhaps of greater significance than it appeared at first.
In what way Malenkov will act his part depends, however, less on himself than on the scene on which he has to act, on the forces in the background, and on the stage in the development of the plot at the moment of his entry. Once again then we have to take a broad view of the whole scene in order to approach the chief character and to see where he stands in relation to the heritage Stalin has left him. It is tempting to speak of Stalinism at large and to forget that Stalinism was not a static, unchanging phenomenon. On the contrary, it passed through several distinct phases, each with its special features.
It held under its sway several Soviet generations. Outwardly these generations may have appeared not to differ from one another. All have been steeped in the Stalin cult; and all seem to have behaved in the same way. Actually, the teachings, slogans, and myths of Stalinism have refracted themselves differently in the minds of each age group, for each has grown up in different social conditions.
What we are witnessing now is a crucial change of generations. The old Stalinist guard is gradually making its exit. What is the outlook of those who come to replace it? To what extent can they have developed new ideas and new aspirations? Where does Malenkov stand in relation to the changing generations? In Stalinism, the Russian revolution was blended with age-old Russian tradition, as has been pointed out in detail elsewhere. We know of only one significant instance in which a revolutionary-republican dictator tried to bequeath immense power and authority to a chosen heir.
In seventeenth-century England, Oliver Cromwell attempted to pass on the heritage of the Puritan revolution and of the Protectorate to his son Richard. Is it possible that Malenkov should be Stalin's Richard? In Russian history there are the memories of what happened after the death of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, the two Tsars with whom Stalin has often been compared. Under both these Tsars, Russia's power had grown immensely and her outlook had undergone profound changes, many of which survived their initiators and profoundly influenced posterity.
Yet after each of these Tsars, Russia's power receded and shrank. Is there any reason to suppose that something similar may occur again? One may also recall another Russian precedent. Thus Western observers saw her. Yet underneath the surface, influences were at work which made for change.
Only a few years after the close of the reign of Nicholas I, his successor Alexander II emancipated the Russian and the Polish peasant-serfs and introduced a number of quasiliberal reforms. No doubt to some extent every precedent may be irrelevant to the present situation. The parallels drawn from Russian history relate to regimes which were not revolutionary in origin and character, despite the sweeping reforms carried out by the rulers.
The analogies drawn from other revolutions may be partly invalidated by the different nature of the Russian revolution, and by the fact that no previous revolution, not even the French in its Napoleonic phase, had spread over as vast a portion of the globe as that which is now under the sway of Stalinism. Whither then is the Russian revolution going as its fourth decade draws to a close? These are the questions to be probed. But enough has perhaps already been said to foreshadow the general answer:. It is implausible to expect that Stalin's immediate successor will be merely Stalin's continuator.
No doubt, he will keep up the pretence of being just that, as Stalin kept up the pretence that he was merely Lenin's continuator. In truth, Stalinism was a continuation of Leninism only in some respects. In others it represented a radical departure from it. There is reason to think that whatever comes in Russia now will only be in part a continuation of Stalinism, while in some vital respects it will mark a break with the Stalin era. On what can you possibly base it? Only on the accident of Stalin's death in March ? No, not only on this accident. The prediction is less sweeping than may at first appear when it is added that the break with the Stalin era is likely to be similar to that by which Stalinism disengaged itself from the Leninist era of Bolshevism.
Stalinism developed out of Leninism, preserving some of the features of Leninism and discarding others. It continued in the Leninist tradition; but it also stood in a bitter and unavowed opposition to it. Whatever trend emerges in Russia in the near future is likely to adopt the same dual and ambivalent attitude towards Stalinism, preserving some of its features, modifying others, and discarding still others.
A crisis of Stalinism has been latent for some time past. All that Stalin's death can do is to bring the crisis into the open, partly or wholly, and to underline the need for a solution. Stalin, like Lenin before him, died at a crossroad of Bolshevik history. The heritage of the Stalin era and Russia's attitude towards it may then be seen in perspective.
At the time of Lenin's illness and death , Bolshevism was in the throes of a profound crisis, which was aggravated but by no means brought about by Lenin's disappearance. The Russian revolution was no longer able to travel along the road on which Lenin had led it. If Lenin had lived longer he would hardly have been in a position to go on leading it along the same road. He would have been compelled to change direction, one way or another; and his departure speeded up the change. The crisis in Bolshevik affairs which coincided with Lenin's death affected the domestic and foreign policies of Bolshevism, and indeed its whole moral climate.
Lenin had been brought up in the old Marxist school of thought, which had come into being in Western Europe, when Western Europe was leading the world in industrial development. The Marxian ideas of the proletarian revolution, the proletarian dictatorship, and the character of a socialist economy were working hypotheses designed to fit a highly industrialized, civilized, and organized capitalist society, with a very strongly developed industrial working class.
In the view of nearly all the early Russian Marxists these ideas had no immediate practical relevance to Russia. Until very late in his career, up to the First World War, Lenin refused even to countenance any thought about a socialist revolution in Russia in any foreseeable future.
Only shortly before did he change his mind and adopt the view that the Russian revolution would have to overthrow not merely Tsardom and what had remained of the feudal order, as he had thought hitherto, but the underdeveloped Russian capitalism as well. For a whole Century Russia had been fraught with revolution; but the revolutionary movement had been led by an intelligentsia which had had almost no following among the broader classes of the nation.
The workers could not be expected to content themselves with the overthrow of the Tsar and of the landed gentry, to whom they were opposed only indirectly. They saw the capitalist industrialists as their immediate enemies; and in a revolutionary situation they were bound to aim at the expropriation and the overthrow of the latter. This, however, would mark the beginning of a socialist revolution, leading to the establishment of a nationalized and planned economy.
Such was Lenin's attitude at the outbreak of the revolution of But it was still Lenin's and his party's conviction that Russia's industrial resources and the general level of her civilization were highly inadequate for the establishment of socialism. Thus Lenin expounded the idea of a socialist revolution in Russia and he himself led the revolution while recognizing that if victorious the movement could not achieve its ultimate purpose in Russia.
This was a fundamental contradiction in his attitude. He sought to resolve it by treating the Russian revolution as the first act of a much wider international upheaval, the main arena of which he saw, in accordance with Marxist tradition, in the industrial countries of Western Europe.
The Russian revolution was therefore, in Lenin's view, no self-sufficient, national-Russian phenomenon; and the chances of the future socialist order were not dependent on the inadequate resources of Russia alone. Western industry, technology, and civilization were to supply the basis and the elements of socialism; and Russia, raised up industrially and culturally with the help of Western revolutionary States, was to participate in the experience and the benefits of an international socialist order.
This was no mere theoretical construction. The whole emotional content of Bolshevism in and after centred on the expectation of a more or less imminent revolution in the West. Lenin and his associates were not the original authors of the prognostication about the impending downfall of Western capitalism. Nor did they for a moment imagine that it was they who could bring it about. A whole generation of European, especially German, social democrats had grown up in the belief that capitalism had outlived its day in the West. Karl Kautsky, the intellectual inspirer of that generation, the man whose modest disciple Lenin regarded himself up to , had argued along these lines ever since the beginning of the century.
But most Western European Marxists treated their own prognostications as ritualistic performances, as something like socialist variations on the Christian theme of the Last Judgment. They refused to be guided in their practical policies by their own preachings. In the pre Socialist International, the future leaders of the Russian revolution formed almost the only party which believed with passion and zeal in the near advent of international revolution. Lenin's death coincided with a crisis in this belief. From till , in the aftermath of the First World War, the revolutionary ferment which had engulfed Europe still kept the flame of that belief burning.
But the old order, slightly reformed, managed to survive in Europe; and by the revolutionary ferment had subsided. The Russian revolution was to remain isolated for an indefinite time. The Bolshevik assumptions appeared to have been refuted by the events. Bolshevik Russia had to adapt herself to her isolation. The dilemma to which this gave rise was in the centre of the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky.
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It remains a moot point whether Lenin himself would have been able to carry out such a revision, which would have gone against all his mental habits and cardinal beliefs. Rarely, if ever, has an initiator of a great revolutionary movement been able to throw overboard his cherished ideas and principles when these clashed with immediate reality or had been outpaced by events. The Russian revolution was withdrawing into its national shell; and Lenin, the Internationalist par excellence, might not have been able to withdraw with it.
At any rate, the great majority of his friends and disciples, who by his side had led the October Revolution and had built the Soviet State, found themselves at loggerheads with the new trend in Bolshevism. Lenin died at a moment when history had overtaken him. His illness and death relieved him of the bitter necessity to grapple with a dilemma which he might have found insoluble.
The crisis which confronted Leninism in its domestic policy was no less deep and grave. There, too, Lenin's party was marking time at a crossroad, while Lenin was on his deathbed. To put it in simpler terms, Lenin had frankly and without inhibition denied any political freedom to the former possessing and ruling classes and to their parties. His government, like any revolutionary government before it, claimed the right to suppress those who strove, arms in hand, to restore the pre-revolutionary order. This was the meaning of proletarian dictatorship.
But Leninism also committed itself in and afterwards to respect, to guard, to promote, and to extend in every possible way the political freedom of the working classes, who should have been the real masters in the new State. However, during the civil war, and even more so after it, the political freedoms of the working classes too were gradually curtailed and largely destroyed.
This is not the place to explain and analyse this development. The Bolsheviks had outlawed all rival parties, including the Mensheviks and Anarchists, who had had their main following among the workers, and the Social Revolutionaries, who had drawn their support from the peasantry. True enough, those parties had, because of their anti-revolutionary attitude, forfeited most or nearly all of their support among the working classes.
But in a proletarian democracy, as the Bolsheviks originally conceived it, those parties should have been allowed to go on competing with the Bolsheviks for influence over the masses. This they were not allowed to do. Lenin had never made a principle of the single party system; yet towards the end of his life the Soviet regime had become just such a system. The trend was leading from a proletarian democracy towards an autocracy speaking on behalf of the proletariat. Yet the idea of proletarian democracy had been deeply rooted in the mind of the party.
Lenin had proposed each of the successive restrictions of proletarian democracy as an emergency measure, to be cancelled after the emergency was over. During the civil war he outlawed the Mensheviks, the Social Revolutionaries, and other minor groups; then he allowed them to come into the open again and to renew activity; and then he drove them finally underground. Internal freedom in the Bolshevik Party survived the civil war; but it began to shrink rapidly soon afterwards. Emergency followed emergency, and the restrictive measures at first designed to be temporary came to stay.
The direction in which the regime was evolving disturbed profoundly important sections of the Bolshevik Party. Towards the end of the Leninist era the party was internally divided over this issue. Some of its leaders and members clamoured for a return to proletarian democracy, although only very few went so far as to demand the restoration of freedom to the defeated enemies of the revolution. Others strove to arrest halfway the drift towards a quasi-socialist autocracy. Still others, from conviction or self-interest or both, promoted the prevalent trend, saying or implying that the restoration of political freedoms would wreck the revolution, and that its safety lay in a further concentration of power at the top, in the Central Committee, in the Politbureau, and eventually in the hands of a single leader.
Bolshevism was torn between its democratic past and its undemocratic future. Lenin's position in this controversy was extremely difficult. He had been responsible for the measures which restricted the freedom of expression even of those who had supported the revolution; and he had also been the standard-bearer of proletarian democracy.
He tried to strike a balance between dictatorship and democracy. He himself did not rule his party with an iron rod. He dominated it by the sheer weight of his intellectual and moral authority. At all the party congresses over which he presided, he was openly assailed by many and sometimes very influential opponents. On occasions he was outvoted and then he either submitted to the majority or sought to reverse its decision by constitutional means.
In his last years Lenin struggled to arrest halfway the trend from proletarian democracy towards an autocracy. In nothing was this demonstrated more strikingly than in the story of Lenin's will.
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In it Lenin advised his followers to remove Stalin from the post of the party's General Secretary on the ground that Stalin had gathered too much power in his hands and was making too brutal a use of it. Lenin's advice had no effect. His successors ignored it and brushed it aside at the same time as they were initiating a quasi-religious cult of the dead Lenin.
If Lenin had lived longer he could not have grappled with the dilemma indefinitely, for otherwise the trend would have overpowered or bypassed him. He would have had to make up his mind either in favour of a gradual restoration of proletarian democracy or in favour of an autocratic form of government, and then he himself would have had to become the autocrat. In other words, he would have had to do either what Trotsky did or what Stalin did.
In Lenin's personality both these characters were in a sense blended; and it is at least doubtful whether he could have become either a Trotsky or a Stalin, without disintegrating his whole personality. Thus once again we see how the death of a great leader coincided with a crucial ferment, which was to drive his party from its accustomed road, to cause an upheaval in its outlook and its moral climate, and to regroup its leading personnel. So did Stalin's rise to power. The fact that he made a cult of Leninism does not contradict this assertion.
It was only by doing so that he could render Leninism harmless and irrelevant to practical policy. The Leninist tradition had dominated the party so strongly that the only way of effectively breaking away from that tradition was to present even that break as an act of devotion. In one fundamental respect Stalin did, of course, continue Lenin's work. He strove to preserve the State founded by Lenin and to increase its might. He also preserved and then expanded the nationalized and State-managed industry, in which the Bolsheviks saw the basic framework of their new society.
These important threads of continuity between Leninism and Stalinism were never cut. But when Stalin took over its direction the State was in such a condition that it could be preserved only by being politically refashioned almost into its opposite. In theory it might still have become either a proletarian democracy or an autocracy. In fact only one road was open to it: the one leading towards autocracy.
The Bolshevik regime could not revert to its democratic origin, because it could not hope for enough democratic support to guarantee its survival. After the civil wars, with their legacy of destruction, poverty, and famine, there was too much acute discontent in the classes which had helped the Bolsheviks to win these wars for the Bolsheviks to rely on their backing. In later years, when economic reconstruction was under way and the ruling group might have met with more popular support, its members were already fixed in undemocratic habits of government and had a stake in persisting in those habits.
It is as a rule easier for any government or party to move away from a democratic principle a thousand miles than to go back to it a single yard. Stalin was not inclined to go back a single inch. He identified himself wholeheartedly and unreservedly with the development towards autocracy.
He became its chief promoter and its chief beneficiary. Unswervingly he remoulded the Leninist State into a new, authoritarian-bureaucratic shape. He had even less hesitation in breaking away from the revolutionary internationalist aspect of Leninism. During the Leninist period he had, like every other Bolshevik, expounded the view that the Russian revolution could not be self-sufficient, and that its future depended on the progress of world revolution.
Even while he was reiterating this Leninist axiom, world revolution was to him merely an abstract idea. The immediate reality in which he was wholly immersed, and to which he genuinely responded, was the Russian revolution. Instinctively he adopted an attitude towards which the Russian revolution was in any case drifting, an attitude of national self-centredness and self-sufficiency. To many rank and file Bolsheviks world revolution had become a lamentable myth by , while the building of socialism in Russia was the exacting and exhilarating experience of their generation.
Despite all his verbal tributes to Leninist internationalism, Stalin became the chief mouthpiece of this sentiment. Whenever the interests of foreign communism clashed or appeared to clash with those of the Soviet Union, he sacrificed foreign communism. World capitalism was not to be allowed to overlap the frontiers of the Soviet Union. The Communist International still proudly claiming to be the vanguard of world revolution became the rear-guard of Stalin's diplomacy. It was used as an instrument of Soviet pressure upon capitalist governments rather than as a militant movement fighting for their overthrow.
The Russian Mind Since Stalins Death
Thus the statesmen of the Western world understood the formula; and most of them applauded Stalin's victory over Trotsky, in whom they saw the hateful incarnation of all the world-revolutionary aspirations of early Bolshevism. Little did those statesmen expect that one day they would feel threatened by a revolution carried on the point of the bayonets of Stalin's armies! As long as Bolshevism hoped and believed that its ultimate salvation would come from abroad, it remained in a sense elevated above its Russian environment. It did not feel dependent on that environment only.
During the early years of the Soviet regime, the Bolshevik leaders had the feeling that they were Marxists in partibus infidelium, West European revolutionaries acting against a non-congenial Oriental background, which temporarily restricted their freedom of movement and tried to impose its tyranny upon them. Only revolution in the West could relieve them from that tyranny; and that it was about to do so was beyond doubt.
No sooner had Bolshevism mentally withdrawn into its national shell than this attitude became untenable. The party of the revolution had to stoop to its semi-Asiatic environment.
http://www.farmersmarketmusic.com/images/biographies/classical-sheet-music-clair-de-lune-bergamasque-suite-c-debussy-solo.php It had to cut itself loose from the specifically Western tradition of Marxism. It had to lay itself open to the slow, persistent infiltration of native backwardness and barbarism, even while it struggled to defeat that backwardness and barbarism. The adjustment began in the early part of the Stalinist era, and it did so in every field of activity: in the method of government, in the approach to problems of culture and education, in the relations with the outside world, in the style of diplomatic dealings, and so on.
The process of infiltration was gaining momentum throughout the Stalinist era; and it reached a grotesque climax just at its end. This does not mean that Bolshevism surrendered to its native environment. This mutual interpenetration of modern technology and Marxist socialism with Russian barbarism formed the content of the Stalin era.
Shortly before his death Lenin had a premonition of the shape of things to come. He recalled the familiar historical phenomenon when a nation which has conquered another nation culturally superior to it succumbs to the political and cultural standards of the conquered. Something similar, so Lenin argued, may happen in class struggle: an oppressed and uneducated class may overthrow a ruling class culturally superior to it; and then the defeated class may impose its own standards upon the victorious revolutionary forces.
In a flash of extraordinary foresight, Lenin had the vision of his disciples, the former professional revolutionaries, adopting the methods of government and the standards of behaviour of the Tsars, the feudal boyars, and the old bureaucracy. Lenin warned his followers against this danger; but up to a point he himself furthered it. He argued, for instance, that in order to prepare Russia for socialism industrially, technologically, and educationally, Bolshevism must drive barbarism out of Russia by barbarous methods, as Peter the Great had done in his time. This obiter dictum, one of Lenin's many and sometimes contradictory sayings, became Stalin's guiding principle.
To sum up: the transition from Leninism to Stalinism consisted in the abandonment of a revolutionary internationalist tradition in favour of the sacred egoism of Soviet Russia; and in the suppression of Bolshevism's pristine attachment to proletarian democracy in favour of an autocratic System of government. The isolation of the Russian revolution resulted in its mental self-isolation and in its spiritual and political adaptation to primordial Russian tradition. Stalinism represented the amalgamation of Western European Marxism with Russian barbarism. We have seen that Marxist communism had had its cradle in the industrial West.
Marxism claimed to make articulate theoretically and to express politically the revolutionary aspirations of Western industrial workers. During many decades it then strove to convert and conquer the West through the exertions of the Western working classes. By the turn of the century great labour movements had sprung up all over Western Europe, which marched under Marxist banners and solemnly vowed to use their first opportunity to carry out proletarian revolutions.
Yet this apparent success of Marxism was spurious. More than a hundred years after the message of the Communist Manifesto had first resounded throughout the world not a single proletarian revolution has triumphed in the West. Not even a single full-scale attempt at such a revolution, an attempt genuinely backed by a majority of the working class, has taken place in the West, apart from the Commune of Paris, defeated in Instead Marxism has spread to the East; and by the efforts of the intelligentsia and a young and small working class it has conquered primitive peasant nations, from whom it had expected little or no response, and whom it had not considered capable of initiating a socialist order.
At the middle of this century Marxism has become in a sense displaced from the West and naturalized in Russia and China. It has indeed become so thoroughly transformed that the West has almost forgotten that Marxism is its own authentic product and has come to treat it almost as if it were an exotic Oriental religion. So profound has become the displacement and transformation of the greatest revolutionary and international movement of our age.
Yet it was not given to Christianity to convert the people from whose midst its Man-God and its Apostles had come. Instead, Christianity moved into a disintegrating pagan world, whose mind was no longer dominated by the old gods, where Jupiter's thunder no longer made men tremble, and Neptune was no longer able to shake the seas. It was in the temples of the old Graeco-Roman deities that Christianity made its conquests; and it began to breathe the air of their temples, to absorb and assimilate pagan myths, symbols, and beliefs.
It came to dominate its new environment while it was adapting itself to it. It ceased to be a Jewish heresy; it ceased to live on the Nazarene memories of the Old Testament and on Jewish oral tradition. It ceased to understand the Jews and it became incomprehensible to the Jews. From the Judaic creed of the oppressed it became the religion of the Roman Caesars.
But converting the Caesars, it also became converted to Caesarism, until the Holy See became an Imperial court, and until the hierarchical habits of the Roman Empire became its ecclesiastic canons. If Lenin was the St. Paul of Marxism, who set out to transplant the movement from its original environment into new lands, Stalin was already its Constantine the Great.
He was, to be sure, not the first Emperor to embrace Marxism, but the first Marxist revolutionary to become the autocratic ruler of a vast empire. As a rule, circumstances allow only one or, at the most, a few of a whole group of potential leaders to move to the front of the stage; and so the historical record contains the evidence only of their capabilities and deeds. Plekhanov applied this theory not only to politics. He argued, for instance, that if Leonardo da Vinci had not lived to produce his masterpieces, this would not have altered the broad trend of the artistic ideas of the Renaissance, because this trend had sprung from the social conditions and from the intellectual and moral climate of the age.
The same is true of the great scientific discoveries which bear the name of a single man. Such discoveries are the outcome of the stage of development which a certain branch of science has reached at a particular time, and it is more or less a matter of chance which individual actually makes them. Indeed, it often happens that several leading scientists make a discovery almost simultaneously and independently of one another. To return to political history: if, for instance, a certain General Bonaparte had been killed in a battle before he had time to become First Consul and Emperor of revolutionary France, another general would have filled his place with essentially the same effect.
There were in France at that time several military leaders capable of this. Bonaparte's rise prevented those potential Napoleons from becoming actual ones. Plekhanov's argument has given rise to considerable controversy, into which it is not proposed to enter here. Hardly any of Stalin's contemporaries, comrades and rivals alike, regarded him at first as in any way suited to the role he was to play. He appeared to them to have none of the gifts which make a great leader, Bolshevik or otherwise.
His ascendancy came as a complete surprise. Trotsky wrote of Stalin that he detached himself like a shadow from a Kremlin wall to succeed Lenin. Why was it that nearly everyone who had known Stalin before and during his rise was so utterly wrong about his chances? The typical Bolshevik leader of the Leninist era was, as a rule, a Marxist theorist, a political strategist, a fluent writer, and an effective orator, in addition to being some sort of Organizer.
Stalin did not count at all as a theorist. He was to the end a political tactician rather than a strategist: he showed his mastery in short-term manoeuvre rather than in long-term conception, although his genius for tactics did more than compensate his weakness as a strategist. He was cumbersome and ineffective as a writer and speaker. Only as an exceptionally gifted organizer had he made his mark in Lenin's lifetime. His contemporaries and rivals had reason therefore to think that he was unfit to be Lenin's successor.
Their mistake lay in the assumption that Bolshevik Russia after Lenin needed the type of leadership which Lenin had provided and which Lenin's closest associates might have provided collectively or individually. They misjudged the changing circumstances and the new need of the time; and so they failed to see that the man who might not have been qualified to act as the leader in one phase of the revolution might be eminently suited for that role in the subsequent phase. We know that among those changing circumstances Bolshevik Russia's political isolation in the world and mental self-isolation from it were the most important.
He merely took the situation as it was. He was reconciled to it and inwardly free to act within its framework; and therefore he thrived on it. Most of his rivals were unreconciled to Russia's isolation, incapable of overcoming their internationalist habits of thought, and not disposed to frame policies consistently within the context of isolation.
They were at odds with the root fact of the new time; and they were undone by it. The same is true of Stalin's as against his rivals' attitude in the dilemma of proletarian democracy versus autocracy, the other crucial issue in the transition from Leninism to Stalinism.
It was not Stalin who had destroyed the proletarian democracy of the early phase of the revolution. It had withered even before ; at most, Stalin delivered the coup de grace. His rivals, however, could not shed their democratic habits. They were not inwardly reconciled to the fact that, struggling for the preservation of its revolution, Bolshevism had deprived the working classes of freedom of political expression. They were entangled in their own regrets, scruples, and second thoughts.
They looked back longingly to the democratic origins of the revolution. Stalin did nothing of the sort. They were therefore not fitted to act effectively within the new, undemocratic framework of the Bolshevik State. He was. They were crushed by that framework, while he proceeded to build around it his autocratic System of government. If it hadn't been Stalin it would have been another. A similar view when expressed about other historical figures may seem implausible; but it is exceptionally convincing in the case of Stalin.
When one is told that another French general of the period of the Directory could have filled the place of Napoleon, one cannot help thinking about Napoleon's elan, intellectual brilliance, and romantic appeal; and one wonders just how much Napoleon's individual characteristics counted in the general course of events.
But when one contemplates Stalin, that grey, inconspicuous, almost faceless character, one is more than inclined to see in him but the vehicle of anonymous forces at work in the background. When the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky is viewed only in terms of individual gifts and talents, Stalin's victory over his rival remains inexplicable. Stalin had not a single gift that Trotsky did not possess in the same or in a much higher degree; in addition Trotsky had conspicuous talents which Stalin altogether lacked.
It is often said that Trotsky did not have Stalin's flair for organization. Nobody who has studied the history of the Red Army can seriously entertain that view. In so far as any single individual may be credited with this achievement, Trotsky was the true organizer of the army. To fill the vacuum with a new army demanded a genius for organization and administration superior to that required for making even the most effective use of an already existing and well-established army. It is also said that Stalin was superior to Trotsky as a political tactician.
Again, it is enough to study from original sources the tactical manoeuvres which Trotsky carried out on the eve of the October Revolution, and during the revolution itself, to realize that this too is incorrect. He won the insurrection almost without firing a shot: its most hostile eye-witnesses did not put the number of casualties on both sides at more than ten. Stalin, on the other hand, made no mark as a tactician in ; and, as the records of the Bolshevik Central Committee show, he did not put forward a single tactical idea throughout that year.
The question must therefore be asked: What made Trotsky, the genius in tactics of , into the inferior tactician of ? And what made Stalin, the indifferent tactician of , into the master of the later years? The answer may be found in the different general conditions of the two periods, in consequence of which Trotsky, not Stalin, was in his element in , while Stalin, not Trotsky, was in his some years later.
Stalin was fitted for his role not merely and not even primarily by his great talents for organization and tactics. His background, his experience, and his cast of mind had prepared him to lead Bolshevism in the break with its democratic origins and through the decades of its isolation and self-isolation. He had spent all his years inside Russia, mostly in his native Caucasus on the borders of Europe and Asia, where he had been insulated from the direct influences of Western European Marxism.
This was his weakness during the Leninist period, when Bolshevism was staking its future on revolution in the West. But this was also the source of his extraordinary strength when the revolution was withdrawing into its national shell. He, who had hardly ever looked beyond that shell, found little or no difficulty in divorcing Bolshevism from the Western Marxist outlook. There, for many years, they listened with enthusiasm to the great speeches of Jaures and Bebel, the pioneers and prophets of French and German socialism.
They absorbed the teachings of Kautsky and Guesde, the leading expounders of Marxism. They viewed with admiration and envy the scores of great socialist newspapers and journals, which were openly published and read by the million, while the Russian revolutionaries could bring out only a few small clandestine sheets, which they smuggled into Russia with much difficulty and great danger to themselves. Then came the great collapse of , when, despite all the previous professions of anti-militarism and internationalism, the power of the Western parties was harnessed to the war machines of the belligerent governments.
They found it hard to shed this belief even some years after they had themselves become Russia's rulers. Stalin had known none of their enthusiasms and none of their illusions. He had never sat at the feet of Jaures, Bebel, Kautsky, and Guesde. He had never had any first-hand impression of the apparent might of the Marxist movement in the West.
Even during the Leninist era when he too expressed hope for the spread of the revolution, he was merely adopting what was then the conventional Bolshevik idiom. When that hope was shattered, his inward balance was not upset. Unlike many old Bolsheviks, he did not feel that the Russian revolution and its makers were now suspended over an abyss. Even as early as the beginning of he had expressed icy scepticism about the revolutionary movements of the West, and brought upon his head a rebuke from Lenin. Paradoxically, Stalin's ignorance of the West led him to a more realistic appreciation of its revolutionary potentialities than that which other Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin, had reached after many years of first-hand observation and study.
The democratic orientation of the early Bolshevik leaders was also up to a point bound up with the Western Marxist tradition. Under the Tsar Bolshevism could exist and work only underground. Any underground movement, if it is to be effective, must be led in a more or less authoritarian manner. It must be strictly disciplined, hierarchically organized, and centrally controlled.
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Nearly all Russian revolutionary movements and all the Resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe of as well were characterized by such features. The chiefs of any clandestine party must exalt the idea of strict discipline and strong leadership on which survival of such a party largely depends. In his time Lenin exalted the principle of strong leadership with all the emphasis and over-emphasis peculiar to him. Yet even the underground Bolshevik organization of Tsarist days was by no means the monolithic body the Stalinist legend depicted.
The Bolshevik emissary who, on a false passport, travelled between Western Europe and Russia, was often torn between the democratic outlook of the Western parties and the clandestine authoritarianism of his own movement. He dreamt of the day when his party too would emerge into the open, freely debate its affairs, adopt democratic procedures, and freely elect its leaders.
Whenever the Bolshevik Party did emerge into the open, if only for a short spell as in , Lenin did indeed infuse democracy into it. And from to inner party democracy flourished in Bolshevik ranks. In view of the values important to the democratic world, Russia was making slow progress. In , Hungary, which previously been under Soviet control, rebelled. Mobs of Hungarians stormed Budapest, angrily protesting Communist rule and demanding their freedom.
Khrushchev responded by immediately sending Soviet troops into self-liberated Hungary, re-imposing it under Soviet rule. Nuclear war seemed imminent; both superpowers flexed their muscles threateningly to display their titanic strength, which could launch the world into a cycle of massive death and destruction. However, tensions lessened when the Russia, realizing that its navy could not take on that of the United States, backed off from naval confrontation.
Even so, the Cold War was far from over. Khrushchev, however, fell out of favor with the government in , because his eagerness to involve Russia in dangerous international affairs, and was forced to resign by the Central Committee. The Cold War was still going on, and the testing and production of nuclear weapons occurred on a large scale. The government increased censorship on writing and the KGB made enormous numbers of arrests of dissidents, putting some on show trials for the public.
In reality, none of the political prisoners were given fair trials and most were sentenced to interminable years in either labor camps or exile. That summer, Brezhnev invaded Czechoslovakia with armed forces, violently putting it under tight rein. As it can be seen through history, every leader that had come to rule the Soviet Union cared about only two things: obtaining personal power and increasing the might of the Soviet Union. The rights of the citizens did not seem to matter, so long as the economy was not hurt and Russia, as whole, was advancing as a superpower in the world. His former rival Konstatin Chernenko seized power and ruled until , when he also died of ill health.
Upon the death of Chernenko, the Politburo chose Mikhail Gorbachev, a young reformer, who, in pursuing democratic reforms, would cause the downfall of the entire Soviet system. In , Gorbachev announced glasnost, a policy of openness.