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Stalin was a not Leninist in the same manner as the old Bolsheviks. Stalin continued the Leninist practice of using violence to in the name of a greater good. But Stalin took Leninist ideology down avenues that Lenin would not have dreamed of. Stalin drew from parts of Leninism. But you could also argue that he drew from parts of Russia s Tzarist History. His policies were forced on industrialising the Soviet Union not creating a truly socialist state. Stalin twisted Lenin s words to suit his own agenda. Stalin enforced his own interpretation of Lenin and cultivated a cult of personality around himself and Lenin. Stalin ideology and action were not the same as Lenin s. But was Stalin developing Lenin s thought or was he making a break with Lenin. One of the defining features of Stalin s reign was his violence. Was this violence the product of Stalin s paranoid personality or was it the out working of Leninist ideology. If we argue that Stalin was in continuity with the old Bolsheviks we can point to the writings of the Nikolai Bukharin who said that proletarian compulsion in all it s forms, beginning with execution by shooting and ending with compulsory labor obligation is however paradoxical this might sound the means for producing a communist humanity from human material of the capitalist epoch 1 Lenin made a note on the margins of this text Precisely 2 We can reasonably assume that Lenin agreed with Bukharin. Lenin was agreeing to a programme of social hygiene. The Bolsheviks had an image of an idea society in their imagination. The idea society was a communist one. This would be harmonious society free from strife where the division between exploiter and exploited would not exist. The beauty of the future communist society was contrasted in their minds with ugliness of the present one. They made a moral calculation that future harmony was worth violence and discord now. This would entail brutal social engineering. The Cossacks were among the first to face Bolshevik violence 1919. They had mainly fought on the side of rebels against Bolshevik rule in the Russian Civil War. The Bolsheviks judged them to be a bandit element 3. In the word of one party member they wanted to make the territory healthy 4. They set out to physically destroy the vast majority of the Cossacks. They were an element that had to be removed like a tumor from the body. This was for the health of the wider socialist society. Stalin too would use the language of social engineering to justify his purges in the 1930 s. But the continuity between Stalinism and the old Bolshevik position is disputed. The argument for continuity rests on the idea that seeds of Stalinism can be identified in original Bolshevik movement. But Bolshevism was diverse field with
Peter Holquist, Total Violence as Technique: The logic of Violence in Soviet Totalitarianism, in Landscaping the Human Garden. Twentieth -Century Population Management in a Comparative Framework, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2003), 19 2 Holquist, Total Violence, 19 3Ibid, 26 4 Ibid,25
many different political opinions. Looking for seeds poses problems for historians. You can look at earlier Russian history and find seeds of Stalinism. For example you could characterise Stalin as a Red Tzar . His autocracy looks like a modern form of traditional society. Feudalism is replaced with collectivisation. Many aspects of Stalinism were replicated in other societies. Nationalism, bureaucratisation, absence of democracy, censorship and police repression all found expression in other societies. `Where in old Bolshevi sm was the Stalinist cult of personality? It was something Stalin invented himself. Ideology is seen, by those who argue for continuity, as something that is not affected by the context it is used in. But official ideology changed under Stalin making. Stalin tapped into Russian nationalism and traditional attitudes. During the Second World War soldiers were told to fight for holy Russia . The idealism of Lenin a true Marxist intellectual was forgotten in the face of cold realities. Stalin was statist and regressive. Laws favouring women children and minority cultures were revoked. Egalitarianism was forgotten in favour elitist bureaucracies. The focus in Stalinism turned from the people as the driving force of change to the leaders. This was a corruption of Leninism. Stalin was focused on making Russia an industrial power Lenin was working at a more theoretical level. Stalin was adopting Leninism for the situation he was in. Discuss more Stalin s primary aim was to increase the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union. In order to do this Stalin developed a huge bureaucracy. Central planning and expertise were emphasized instead of democratic control. Stalin abandoned the New Economic Policy. The NEP was nearly capitalist. It allowed profit-making businesses that were on a small scale. Lenin understood NEP as a strategic retreat from capitalism. Lenin wrote that Russia was not civilised enough to pass directly to socialism 5 He believed in a stage theory in which socialism would emerge from capitalism. The inequalities of capitalism would drive the working classes to rise up and overthrow the exploitive ruling classes. This is not what happened in Russia. Lenin believed that Russia would need to develop an advanced capitalist culture. The NEP was a method of developing a capitalist culture. Stalin gave up on the more ephemeral aspects of old Bolsheviks such as stage theory. Stalin nationalised the major industries and started planning to rapidly industrialise Russia. Lenin had envisioned factories under worker control. Stalin changed this to control by industrial experts. Stalin s industrialisation was successful in bringing Russia up to the level of the western powers but it didn t do much to engender communism in Russia Stalin s policy of socialism in one country was an intellectual justification of his focus on rapid industrialisation instead of revolution. Stalin twisted Lenin s words in order to find justification for his policies. The general thrust of lenin s thought was that revolution could not b e secured in one country alone. In 1906 Lenin said that the Russian Revolution can conquer by it s own strength, but can in no way maintain and consolidate it s conquests unaided 6. Lenin always
Boris Souvarine, Stalin, A Critical Survey of Bolshevism, (New York, Octagon Books, 1972), 293 6 Souvarine, Critical Survey, 292
insisted that socialism could not exist in one country especially one as backward as Russia. Lenin did a large amount of speaking and writing. He would emphasize one aspect of the theory over another to suit the audience he had. Stalin took some sentences and made a theory out of them. So Lenin s statement just before the revolution that socialism would come about first in a few capitalist countries or even alone 7 It was tentative musing that goes against the general tenor of the Lenin s thought. But Lenin s thought was ambiguous. Stalin and Zinoviev were both able to compile lists of quotations that proved the opposite of each other s book. But Stalin was guilty of twisting Lenin s words to prove something they were never meant to prove. After Lenin s death Stalin went out of his way to develop a cult of persona lity around him. His was body was embalmed and put on display in Moscow His brain was extracted so that scientists could examine the source of such obvious genius. This was against Lenin s wishes. It all seems redolent of the cult of Saints in the Russian Orthodox Church. Having exalted Lenin as the hero of the working classes Stalin was anxious to associate himself with Lenin. But it did he did it in subtle fashion. He emulated Lenin s modesty advising a friend thrust aside the principle of devotion to persons [ ] it isn t the Bolshevik way. But the cult of personality was growing any way. Tributes flooded in from across the Soviet Union calling him the truest discipline of Lenin etc. An American journalist said that the cult of personality exposed a weak side to Stalin s character. This was reported to Stalin who replied that they were bastards 8 Articles spoke of how close Stalin was to Lenin. Sycophantic poetry was written calling him the Wise master of the communist garden. The cult of personality was focused on proclaiming how true to the old Bolsheviks Stalin was. But by developing a cult of personality Stalin was deviating from the Old Bolsheviks who stressed frugality. Stalin interpretation of Leninism was one of many that existed. It became the orthodoxy because Stalin was a more cunning politician. He managed to out maneuver the other contenders for the leadership. Stalin was not a competent Marxist philosopher. He continued in the belief that the means justified the ends. But his ends were not the same as Lenin s. Stalin was much more focused on developing Russia as an industrial and military power. You can draw a line from some of Lenin s policies to Stalin s. But there are also glaring contradictions. If you wished you could draw a line f rom Tzar s policies to Stalin. Because Stalin used political power to enforce his revised version of Leninism he was not a true Leninist as the old Bolsheviks would have understood Leninism.
294 Robert C. Tucker, The Rise of Stalin s cult of Personality, The American Historical Review 84 (1979): 349
Bibliography Peter Holquist State Violence as Techique: The logic of Violence in Soviet Totalitarianism , in Landscaping the Human Garden. Twentieth -Century Population Management in a C omparative Framework, ed. Amir Weiner. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 19. Hiroaki Kuromiya, Stalin: Profiles in Power (London, Longman Pearson, 2005) Robert Service, A history of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Putin (London, Penguin, 2003) Boris Souvarine, Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevik (New York, Octagon Books, 1972) Robert Tucker, Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (New York, Norton, 1977) Robert C. Tucker, The Rise of Stalin s cult of Personality, The American Historical Review 84 (1979): 397 Chris Ward, Stalin s Russia, (London, Arnold, 1999)
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