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Lukacs_Georg - Reflections on the Cult of Stalin

Lukacs_Georg - Reflections on the Cult of Stalin

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 Reflections On The Cult Of Stalin By: Georg Lukacs
Reflections on the Cult of Stalin
By: Georg Lukács 1962
First published: as “Brief an Alberto Carocci” in the special issues of 
 Nuovi Argomenti
, Nos. 57-58, 1962,devoted to the discussion of the Twenty-second Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; it wassubsequently published as “Privatbrief über Stalinismus, Brief an Alberto Carocci” in Forum, Nos. 115-117,1693; abridged English translation, published 1963;Transcribed: by André Nj.
 Dear Senor Carocci
,I am very tempted to reply at length to the problems which you raise in your “eightquestions”: for practically everything that has occupied the minds of many of us for years –  past is concentrated in them. Unfortunately, the circumstances in which I find myself compelme to renounce this intention. But since I do not wish to keep from you completely the ideasin my mind, I am writing just a simple private letter, which, of course, does not pretend at allto deal systematically with all the essential questions.I begin with the expression “cult of the personality.” Of course I regard it as absurd toreduce the substance and the problems of such an important period in the history of the world to the particular character of an individual. ...My first reaction to the Twentieth Congress concerned not only the personality but theorganization: the apparatus which had produced the cult of the personality and which had fixed it in a sort of endless enlarged reproduction. I pictured Stalin to myself as the apex of a pyramid which widened gradually toward the base and was composed of many ‘little Stalins”:they, seen from above, were the objects and, seen from below, the creators and. guardians of the “cult of the personality.” Without the regular and unchallenged functioning of thismechanism the “cult of the personality” would have remained a subjective dream, a pathological fact, and would not have attained the social effectiveness which it exercised for decades.It did not need much reflection to understand that this immediate image, without beingfalse, could give only a fragmentary and superficial idea of the origins, character and effectsof an important period. For thinking men who are truly devoted to the cause of progress, the problem inevitably arose out of the social genesis of this evolutionary stage, a problem whichTogliatti first formulated precisely, when he said that it was necessary to bring to light thesocial conditions in which the “cult of the personality” was born and consolidated. ... Togliattiadded, equally correctly, that this task was in the first place one for Soviet scholars. ...This research has remained, to the present day, an undischarged obligation for trueMarxism, and you cannot expect me, who am not a specialist in this field, to make even asimple attempt at a solution; certainly not in a letter, which necessarily has an even moresubjective and fragmentary character than an essay on the subject would have. In any case, itmust be clear to any thinking man that the point of departure can only be the internal and international situation of the Russian proletarian revolution of 1917. From, an objective pointof view we must think of the devastation caused by the war, of retarded industrialdevelopment, of the relative cultural backwardness of Russia (illiteracy, etc.), of the series of 1
 Reflections On The Cult Of Stalin By: Georg Lukacs
civil wars and foreign interventions from Brest-Litovsk to Wrangel, etc. As a subjectiveelement (often neglected) we must add ... Lenin’s possibilities of translating his exact theoriesinto practice. There is today ... a tendency to forget the resistance which he had to overcomeinside his own party. Anyone who knows even part of the background to November 7, to the peace of Brest-Litovsk, to NEP, will understand what I mean. (In later years a story wentaround that Stalin said at the time of the discussions within the Party on the Brest-Litovsk  peace: “The most important task is to ensure Lenin a firm majority in the central committee.”)After Lenin’s death, although the period of civil wars and foreign interventions was atan end, there was not the slightest guarantee that they, especially the interventions, would not begin again from one day to the next. Economic and cultural backwardness appeared to be ahardly superable obstacle to a reconstruction of the country, which would be at once the building of socialism and the assurance ‘of its defense against any attempt to restorecapitalism. With the death of Lenin the difficulties inside the Party naturally only got worse.Since the revolutionary wave set in motion in 1917 had subsided without establishing a stabledictatorship of the proletariat in other countries too, it was necessary to confront boldly the problem of building socialism in a single country (a backward one). It is in this period thatStalin showed himself a notable and far-seeing statesman. The vigorous defense of the newLeninist theory on the possibility of a socialist society in a single country, against the attacksof Trotsky in particular, represented ... the salvation of the Soviet form of development. It isimpossible to form a historically correct judgment of the Stalin problem unless the factionalstruggles within the Communist Party are considered from this point of view; Khrushchevdealt with this problem in the proper way at the Twentieth Congress.Permit me now a brief digression on the significance of the rehabilitations. It goeswithout saying that all those who in the thirties and later were unjustly persecuted, condemned or murdered by Stalin must be absolved of all the charges invented against them (espionage,sabotage, etc.). But this does not imply that their political errors ... should also be the subjectof “rehabilitation..”.. This applies above all to Trotsky, who was the principal theoreticalexponent of the thesis that-the construction of socialism in a single country is impossible.History has long ago refuted his theory. But if we take ourselves back to the yearsimmediately after the death of Lenin, Trotsky’s point of view inevitably gives rise to the need to choose between enlarging the base of socialism by revolutionary wars” or returning to thesocial situation before November 7, i.e. the dilemma of adventurism or capitulation. Herehistory cannot agree at all to the rehabilitation of Trotsky; on the decisive strategic problemsof the time Stalin was absolutely right. ...Equally unjustified in my view is the legend widely disseminated in the West that if Trotsky had come to power there would have been a more democratic development thanunder Stalin. It suffices to think of the discussion on the trade unions in -1921 to understand that this is a pure legend. ... I don’t want to deal with this problem at length. But it is certainthat, in the years that followed, Stalin followed de facto ... Trotsky’s line and not that of Lenin. If Trotsky later on sometimes reproached Stalin for appropriating his program, we canreadily concede that he was in many respects right. It follows, according to my judgment of the two personalities, that what we today regard as despotic and undemocratic in the Stalin period has quite close strategic connections with the fundamental ideas of Trotsky. A socialistsociety under Trotsky’s leadership would have been at least as undemocratic as that of Stalin, but it would have faced the dilemma: a catastrophic policy or capitulation. ... (The personalimpressions which I received from my meetings with Trotsky in 1931 aroused in me theconviction that he as an individual was even more inclined to the “cult of the personality”than Stalin.) ...2
 Reflections On The Cult Of Stalin By: Georg Lukacs
Let us, return to the main subject. With his well-deserved victories in the discussionsof the twenties the difficulties in Stalin’s position did not disappear. What was objectively thecentral problem, that of sharply accelerating the tempo of industrialization, was in all probability hardly to be resolved within the framework of normal proletarian democracy. Itwould be useless today to ask whether ... Lenin would have found a way out. We can see inretrospect on the one hand the difficulties of the objective situation, and on the other the factthat to overcome them Stalin, as time went by, went farther and farther beyond the limits of what was strictly necessary. It must be the task of ... Soviet science to bring to light the exact proportions. Closely bound up with this problem (but not identical with it) is that of Stalin’s position in the Party. It is certain that he built up little by little during and after the period of the discussions that pyramid of which I spoke at the beginning. But it is not enough toconstruct such a mechanism-it must be kept in continuous working order; it must always -react in the desired way, without possibility of surprises, to day-to-day problems of everykind. This is the way in which little by little the principle, which today is usually called the“cult of the personality,” must have been elaborated. The history of this too should beradically re-examined by Soviet scholars in command of all the material (including materialso far unpublished). What could be observed even from outside was, in the first place, thesystematic suppression of discussion within the Party; in the second place, the growing use of organizational measures against opponents; and in the third place, the transition from thesemeasures to, procedures of a judicial and administrative character. This last development wasnaturally received with silent dread. During the second stage the traditional sense of humor of the Russian intelligentsia was still active. “What is the difference between Hegel and Stalin?” people asked. The answer was “in Hegel there are thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in Stalinreport, counter-report, and organizational measures..”..I do not consider myself at all competent to describe this development and its motiveforces. From the theoretical point of view too it would be necessary to show how Stalin, whoin the twenties defended the legacy of Lenin with skill and intelligence, later found himself more and more frequently in opposition to Lenin on all important problems: a circumstancewhich is not in the least affected by his verbal attachment to Lenin’s doctrines. Thus, sinceStalin succeeded ... in making people regard him as the legitimate heir of Lenin and his onlyauthentic interpreter, since he was recognized as the fourth classic of Marxism, the fatalsuperstition that Stalin’s theories were identical with the fundamental principles of Marxismgained an ever stronger hold. ... I am not concerned with the question whether and to whatextent particular theories can be positively traced to Stalin himself. In the conditions of intellectual centralization which he created it was impossible for any theory to be firmlyestablished unless it was at least authorized by him. ...I begin with a question of method which may appear extremely abstract: the Stalinisttendency is always to abolish, wherever possible, all intermediate factors, and to establish animmediate connection between the crudest factual data and the most general theoretical propositions. The contrast between Lenin and Stalin is particularly obvious here. Lenindistinguished very scrupulously between theory, strategy and tactics and always examined meticulously and took into account count all the mediating factors between them. ...Stalin’s unscrupulousness in this matter reached the point of altering the theory itself if necessary. ... I refer to the Stalin-Hitler pact in 1939. Here, too, in my opinion, Stalin ‘took adecision which from a tactical point of view was substantially correct, but which nonethelesshad tragic consequences because once again instead of treating a tactical retreat, madenecessary by concrete circumstances, as such, he made his measures ... a criterion of correctness in principle for the international strategy of the proletariat. ... The-immediate3

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