First in a series on Stalin & the Soviet Union
EDITOR'S PREFATORY NOTE
Anti-Stalinism has served for many decades as psychological and disinformation shorthand (not to mention ubiquitous battering ram) for anti-Sovietism, and, in general, anticommunism. Therein lies its immense value to Western capitalist propaganda. It is clear that once you successfully implant the false equation that Stalin's sins—as proclaimed by his legion of detractors— equals communism, the rest is straightforward: it's far easier to demonise a man than a whole complex system which many people, despite the unrelenting propaganda, find intriguing and often, when capitalist brutality and indecency show their true face, downright attractive.
But while "Stalin", both the real man and the symbol, due to his utility to Western demonology, continues to be the target of insidious studies and open attacks (1), there are those who have fought against this tide of mendacity and bad faith seeking to attain a more balanced and truthful picture of this complex man and his times. Among these, Ludo Martens (1946-2011), a Belgian historian and activist noted for his work on francophone Africa and the Soviet Union, and also the chairman of the Workers' Party of Belgium, stands out for the scope and forcefulness of his work. The book that made him famous and infamous at once, was Another View of Stalin (1994).
To say that Ludo Martens was a brave and principled man is to proclaim the obvious. In his youth, presented with the option to study medicine, which guaranteed a life of comfort if not opulence, Martens rejected all that to put himself at the service of the proletariat and oppressed peoples. The genuine love he inspired among his comrades in the Belgian Communist Party (PTB) is reflected in the moving obituary he received upon his rather untimely death:
On the afternoon of 5 June, following a long illness, Ludo breathed his last. With this, the heart of one of the boldest defenders of communism, one of the most implacable enemies of imperialism in the present-day international working-class movement, ceased to beat. His death has brought great loss to the anti-revisionist movement and the gap left by his departure will be felt in the coming days.
In his article ’Serve the People’, Cde Mao Zedong wrote:
“A man must die, but death can vary in significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said: ’Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather’. To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.” (September 1944, Selected Works, Vol 4, p.228). In view of Ludo’s dedicated service to the working-class movement, his death weighs heavier than Mount Tai."
As mentioned, in 1994 Martens published Another View of Stalin (Un autre regard sur Staline), as a history of the Soviet Union under Stalin that challenges in particular the historically accepted view of collectivisation in the USSR and the Great Purge. He explained his motivation for writing the book in the introduction:
Defending Stalin's work, essentially defending Marxism-Leninism, is an important, urgent task in preparing ourselves for class struggle under the New World Order.
Martens writes primarily in French; however, his books, especially Another View of Stalin, have been translated into Dutch, English, and numerous other languages. In Another View of Stalin, Martens regards as the main factor behind the Ukrainian famine (Holodomor) to be bad conditions and class enemy sabotage. With regard to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's research Gulag Archipelago, Martens stated:
This man became the official voice for the five per cent of Tsarists, bourgeois, speculators, kulaks, pimps, maffiosi and Vlasovites, all justifiably repressed by the socialist state.
International Communist Seminar (Brussels)
Within the International Communist Movement, he is noted for having proposed the unification of the four main tendencies of the Marxist-Leninist movement. These are the pro-Soviet groups, the pro-Chinese, the pro-Albanian, and pro-Cuban. In addition there are "independents." Martens has put forward that while at a certain time these separations were important and based on principle, they can now be overcome and the movement can be united on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. In order to develop this unification process, the Workers Party of Belgium hosts the International Communist Seminar in Brussels, which is attended by 150 organizations around the world. According to Martens:
Today, as a result of the restoration of capitalism under Gorbachev, the "pro-Soviet" tendency crumbled into innumerable tendencies. In the sixties, a "pro-Chinese" tendency emerged but split into various tendencies after Mao's death. There has been a "pro-Albanian" tendency, which also split after the collapse of socialism in Albania, and a so-called "pro-Cuban" tendency, mainly in Latin America. Some parties, finally, maintained an "independent" position vis-a-vis the tendencies mentioned. Whatever one's opinion about the correctness or the necessity of these splits at a certain point in history may be, it is nowadays possible to overcome these divisions and to unite the Marxist-Leninist parties, which are divided in different currents.
Martens' book is eloquent and straightforward, without the stylistic conceits of bourgeois historians or the abstruse arguments and gyrations of many Marxist polemicists. We thought its foreword would therefore provide the proper introduction to his work. Ultimately, in judging Stalin and Soviet rule, with all its real and imagined qualities and shortcomings, we must ask the crucial question challenging any serious revolutionist: How does a socialist revolution protect itself from its innumerable enemies inside and out without a centralised state?
That a famous Soviet dissident, now living in `reunited' Germany, a man who in his youth was so fanatically anti-Stalin that he planned a terrorist attack against him, who filled entire books with vehement denunciation of Stalin's political line in every possible way, that such a man would, in his old age, pay homage to Stalin is remarkable.
Many who consider themselves Communist have not shown such courage. It is very difficult to raise one's feeble voice against the torrents of anti-Stalin propaganda.
Unfortunately many Communists do not feel at ease on this battlefield. Everything that sworn enemies of Communism had claimed for thirty-five years was supposedly confirmed by Khrushchev in 1956. Since then, angry, unanimous condemnations of Stalin have come from the Nazis and the Trotskyists, from Kissinger and Brzezinski, from Khrushchev and Gorbachev, and many others, each adding to the `proof'. To defend the historic rôle of Stalin and the Bolshevik Party becomes unthinkable, even monstrous. And most people who firmly oppose the murderous anarchy of world capitalism have become intimidated.
Today, for a man such as Zinoviev, seeing the destructive folly that has taken hold of the ex-Soviet Union, with its trail of famine, unemployment, criminality, misery, corruption and interethnic wars, has led to the reassessment of prejudices firmly held since adolescence.
It is clear that, throughout the world, those who wish to defend the ideals of Socialism and Communism must at least do the same. All Communist and revolutionary organizations across the globe must re-examine the opinions and judgments that they have formed since 1956 about Comrade Stalin's work. No one can deny the evidence: when Gorbachev succeeded in eradicating all of Stalin's achievements, crowning thirty-five years of virulent denunciations of `Stalinism', Lenin himself became persona non grata in the Soviet Union. With the burial of Stalinism, Leninism disappeared as well.
Rediscovering the revolutionary truth about this pioneer period is a collective task that must be borne by all Communists, around the world. This revolutionary truth will arise by questioning sources, testimony and analyses. Clearly, the aid that might be offered by Soviet Marxist-Leninists, sometimes the only ones with direct access to sources and to witnesses, will be vital. But today they work under very difficult conditions.
Our analyses and reflections on this subject are published in this work, Another view of Stalin. The view of Stalin that is imposed on us daily is that of the class that wants to maintain the existing system of exploitation and oppression. Adopting another view of Stalin means looking at the historic Stalin through the eyes of the oppressed class, through the eyes of the exploited and oppressed.
This book is not designed to be a biography of Stalin. It is intended to directly confront the standard attacks made against Stalin: `Lenin's Will', forced collectivization, overbearing bureaucracy, extermination of the Old Bolshevik guard, the Great Purge, forced industrialization, collusion between Stalin and Hitler, his incompetency during World War II, etc. We have endeavored to deconstruct many `well-known truths' about Stalin, those that are summarized --- over and over --- in a few lines in newspapers, history books and interviews, and which have more or less become part of our unconscious.
`But how is it possible', asked a friend, `to defend a man like Stalin?'
There was astonishment and indignation in this question, which reminded me of what an old Communist worker once told me. He spoke to me of the year 1956, when Khrushchev read his famous Secret Report. Powerful debates took place within the Communist Party. During one of these confrontations, an elderly Communist woman, from a Jewish Communist family, who lost two children during the war and whose family in Poland was exterminated, cried out:
`How can we not support Stalin, who built socialism, who defeated fascism, who incarnated all our hopes?'
In the fiery ideological storm that was sweeping the world, where others had capitulated, this woman remained true to the Revolution. And for this reason, she had another view of Stalin. A new generation of Communists will share her view.
(1) As people who have followed the vicious trajectory of the US-UK centered campaign to demonise and entrap Putin and Russia via Russiagate, the Skripals, the MH7 accusations and much more, can attest, the Western propaganda machinery is formidable and peerless in creating monsters through nonstop vilification. Every single leader and nation that ever opposed (or obstructed) Washington and its accomplices has received the same treatment, and the bad part is that it works, that most people have believed it. It is logical therefore that if the Western propaganda machine can turn Putin into a monster on short notice, a handful of years (after regarding him as a possible corruptible leader Washington "could do business with", as they did with Yeltsin, and Gorbachev before him), then think how much deeper is the truth about men like Stalin buried and deformed to suit American narratives, after being the target of unrelenting demonisation for practically 50 years.
That is a sobering thought, indeed, to which we must add the soft and alarmingly naive nature of the "New Left" in the West, and the factionalism and infighting among communist ranks themselves. In such an atmosphere, the truth about the much hated system of communism was not likely to ever emerge anywhere in Western establishment information venues, and, in fact, it did not. To think otherwise is to be guilty of extreme naivete about the vile and pervasive nature of the imperialist system that social change activists confront at home and abroad.
The effects of this anticommunist propaganda vectored through Stalin are so ubiquitous that barely a single discussion of the topic can be entertained without the usual epithets being heard from the lips of both respected left figures, academics, the usual Trotskyist cadre, communist apostates, and ordinary citizens regurgitating the injected claptrap. On /reddit, for example, in groups such as "socialism", "communism", "social democracy". "ask a historian", etc., one encounters an abundance of opinions which basically conform to the same mould: "Stalin killed millions for no reason at all," Stalin was a brutal, power-hungry thug; evil incarnate, a paranoid despot who...hijacked the revolution and the communist movement for personal gain; and, perhaps most damning for people interested in leftists ideals, "Stalin abandoned the principles of communism and the global workers' movement." The anti-Stalin rhetoric is never nuanced; only insults will do, until the sheer extravagant caliber of the invective will convince the listener that such intensity can only originate in truth. As to sources for this torrent of slanders and half-truths, almost invariably, the threads lead in almost circular pattern to academics like Tim Snyder, less than scrupulous in their research, or widely recognised CIA propagandists like Robert Conquest.
Despite this, the truth is finally asserting itself, and a different, far more nuanced and even favorable picture of Stalin is emerging not only in Russia, where new historiography is rapidly eroding much of the "evil Stalin" narrative, but even in the West. Among the latter, besides the Ludo Martens testimony, readers should examine the work of Prof. Grover Furr, who has devoted much of his life to unearthing the truth about Stalin and the USSR. Furr is the author of many books and articles debunking the "official" line about Stalin and the Soviet Union. Check for example Khrushchev Lied, or Blood Lies, a patient but irrefutable deconstruction of Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands, just the latest example of media-celebrated academic anti-communism. This short list of suggestions would be incomplete without mentioning the invaluable work of Prof. Michael Parenti, especially Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism. TGP has published many essays and lectures by Parenti, whose lucidity in the defence of revolutionary history matches his passion for truth. See for example, Michael Parenti: Reflections on the Overthrow of Communism, Left Anticommunism: the unkindest cut. —PG
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ANOTHER VIEW OF STALIN BOOK IN PDF FORMAT
Oct 18, 2018
Justin and Jeremy from Proles of the Round Table join Breht to elucidate the Marxist-Leninist perspective on Joseph Stalin.
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Sources for this episode include, but are not limited to, the following:
"Another View of Stalin" by Ludo Martins
"Fraud, Famine and Fascism" by Douglas Tottle
"Khrushchev Lied" by Grover Furr
"Class Struggles in the Soviet Union" by Charles Bettelheim
"Stalin" by Ian Grey
"Stalin" by Isaac Deutscher
"Origins of the Great Purges" by J. Arch Getty,
"Blackshirts and Reds" by Michael Parenti
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Puke if you must
This bloodsoaked monster is probably the most evil person on planet earth https://t.co/nGq2H1EPHt
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) April 9, 2020
^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse.
All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions.
The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it.
CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it.
Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.
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