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Thread: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

  1. #16
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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Saoirse go Deo View Post
    Many thanks Sam, much too digest there. Can you recommend a more conventional biography of Stalin, the ones I've come across all seem to be of the "evil tyrant" kind.
    Sorry, SDG. I don't really know of a biography I could recommend. Personally, I have always been more interested in the Soviet Union and the problems in trying to develop an entirely new type of society rather than the story of one individual (though I would accept that a good biography can throw some light on a historical period). Stalin had huge standing both in the Party and amongst the ordinary people but at the end of they day the whole thing was much greater than him. He and those who though like him were often in a minority on the Central Committee and had to fight for their positions like everyone else. The myth of Stalin the dictator who ruled the Soviet Union on whim is just that ... a myth.
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Saoirse go Deo View Post
    Can you recommend a more conventional biography of Stalin, the ones I've come across all seem to be of the "evil tyrant" kind.
    Actually, I just had a bit of a root around and you might try this:

    Stalin Man of Contradictions by Kenneth Neil Cameron

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7tr...Rjg/edit?pli=1

    It is only an (possibly somewhat superficial) overview but it touches on all the major controversies and is written from the point of view of someone sympathetic to communism. That said, I have only had a quick look and I'm not endorsing any of the many criticism of Stalin on theoretical grounds it contains neither it's assessment of the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe after the 20th Congress of the CPSU.
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post


    Wow, all the flounced are becoming unflounced. This thread will attract anti-communists like a honey pot bees. Which is all that really needs to be said with regard to the legacy of Stalin and the USSR of his time.
    Here we have a rare opportunity for a serious discussion of Stalin and his legacy. I do not agree that the fact that one Trotskyist has linked a critique of Stalin to the thread should bring the discussion (which has barely started) to an end.

    Of course, I don't expect it will be easy to keep it on topic and to make the best of the opportunity, because people have strongly held and pre-fixed ideas in some cases. People will react as though their buttons have been pushed even when they haven't.

    Others, including Saoirse go Deo, are genuinely wanting to find out more about Stalin and come to their own conclusions.

    This is not a thread about Trotsky. I think it would be great if we had one and it would be I think a good idea to start one after having got somewhere with this thread. Yet another Trotsky v Stalin stand off is not what the OP asked for.

    This is not addressed only to you, but to everyone posting on this thread. Give Stalin a chance (). I suggest that those interested should try reading some of his work (which is what I intend to do) - perhaps you would recommend one of the texts you linked - because his own writings are a primary source and less likely to be distorted by a century of fixed positions pro and con than are biographies and critiques.

    Or are there any other suggestions on how to have a useful discussion of Stalin ?
    Last edited by C. Flower; 05-03-2015 at 08:45 AM.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
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  4. #19
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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post
    No serious person takes Trotsky seriously. Trotskyism is for student dilettantes, leftist social democrats, opportunists who want to pursue political careers while comforting themselves that they are doing something for the oppressed, and agents of all shapes and colours. It has never been embraced by the workers in any country in over a century and never will. It is essentially a 5th column of the bourgeoisie in the working class movement .. splitting and wrecking everywhere.

    Lenin knew Trotsky well and amongst other things described him as a "Pustozvon" ("bell", man who talks much and does nothing), "svin'ya" (pig), "podlec iz podlecov" (scoundrel of scoundlers), "iudushka" ("Judas"/traitor), "politicheskaya prostitutka" (political prostitute) and coined a Russian proverb when he said "pizdit kak Trotskiy" - "to lie/*****/bullshit like fu**ing Trotsky".

    Some Lenin quotes on Trotsky:..
    For that to be at all useful

    a) it would need to be sourced or linked, so some idea of context could be got e.g. - Did all of this come from one or two speeches? Did Lenin himself change his position on any of the contested questions ? Or is it representative of a consistent and constant disagreement between Lenin and Trotsky throughout the whole of Lenin's life ?

    b) it would need to be on a thread about Trotskyism.

    I would warmly invite you to start one, based on your post, if you like.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post
    Really? Only a Trotskyite could pen something like that.
    Really ?

    TotalMayhem expressed a view of Stalin that is most commonly held in the West, and which many millions workers accept as fact. Do you want to leave it that way? Or do you expect that it won't come up in discussion ?

    Leaving aside the "psychopathic" explanation of political leaders (which personally I never find convincing or useful in any case), any discussion that leaves out recognition of the liquidation of political opponents (something not exclusive to Stalin) would not be of much use, given that this is something widely believed to typify Stalin as a leader.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    Really ?

    TotalMayhem expressed a view of Stalin that is most commonly held in the West, and which many millions workers accept as fact. Do you want to leave it that way? Or do you expect that it won't come up in discussion ?
    He said that Stalin .."was a murderous psychopath, only surpassed in the mass-murder stakes by Mao Zedong."

    It was, of course, an opinion that was bound to come up in the discussion. That didn't surprise me at all. What surprised me was the response of someone purportedly on the left that this was a "view that needed to be heard".

    Speaks volumes really ....
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    It's a complex subject. Here I address stalin's legacy under a number of headings.

    MASS MURDER
    As a human being, Stalin was awful and was undoubtedly a mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of by any standards an enormous number of people from 1936-8, so I agree with the conventional narrative to a point, but the scale of the deaths can be exaggerated. Sometimes you hear he killed 20 million, sometimes 40 million, sometimes 50 million. These conflicting figures can't all be true, which in itself suggests that there's some question mark over the more extreme figures. There is also the issue of calculation. The calculation that figures like 20 million come from is based on "excess deaths", an extrapolation of how many people died based on how many people you would expect to have been alive but weren't. However, the birth rate tends to collapse in time of war, so this estimation counts as dead people who were never alive in the first place!

    I'm conscious of the potential callousness of speaking of all these valuable lives lost as if you were totting up a grocery bill, but it is the fact that the deaths of so many people is so dreadful that we need to be careful not to allow McCarthyites to exaggerate them.

    ECONOMIC POLICIES
    His economic policies were probably his best achievement, completing the socialisation of the USSR by collectivising agriculture and driving forward an extraordinary industrialisation and modernisation of the economy. The showdown with the Kulaks unfortunately led to a dreadful famine in the Ukraine, although I would disagree with those who try to compare it to the Holoaust.

    FOREIGN POLICY
    Some people see the defeat of Hitler as his best achievement, but he had at least some responsibilty for Hitler's coming to power in the first place, by imposing on the Communist Party of Germany an ultra-left policy whereby the Social Democrats were seen as "social fascists" which precluded co-operation against the Nazis. His delayed response to Hitler's attack was calamitous and he gave his generals a lot more autonomy than Hitler did, so the success from a strategic point-of-view didn't just owe to him. And, ultimately, of course, the main people we should remember for the USSR's victory are the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in defeating the Nazis.

    Something pretty much everyone seems to forget is that Stalin was also a supporter of the State of Israel, even, as far as I'm aware, as they forced 750,000 Palestinians to leave their own lands. When Israel fought its first war, most of its weapons had been sold to it by the USSR.


    POLITICS
    Through the purges, the cult of personality and the centalisation of power in hm personally, he effectively destroyed what was left of the Bolshevik Party of 1917. By allowing party members to earn more than the average worker, he also opened the door to an influx of careerists.

    The destruction of the Bolshevik Party and the turning of the Communist Party into a lobotomised entity arguably contributed to the ultimate liguidation of the USSR: devoid of a functional party to defend the working class, it made it easier for the top bureaucrats to execute a restoration of capitalism and share in the spoils.

  8. #23
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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post
    He said that Stalin .."was a murderous psychopath, only surpassed in the mass-murder stakes by Mao Zedong."

    It was, of course, an opinion that was bound to come up in the discussion. That didn't surprise me at all. What surprised me was the response of someone purportedly on the left that this was a "view that needed to be heard".

    Speaks volumes really ....
    It "was bound to come up" because it is a very commonly held view. More than that, it needs to be part of the discussion, for the reasons I gave.

    I would have thought you would welcome the opportunity to refute it.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    It "was bound to come up" because it is a very commonly held view. More than that, it needs to be part of the discussion, for the reasons I gave.

    I would have thought you would welcome the opportunity to refute it.
    Keep digging ...
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Saoirse go Deo View Post
    He's certainly a figure who divides opinion as we have seen from some recent posts in other threads. On the one hand under the leadership of Stalin the Soviets saved Europe from the tyranny of fascism as well as oversaw many positive developments in the USSR however there are innumerable accusations leveled against him, from manufacturing famines to ordering the murders of thousands. How much of this is attributable to black propaganda and how much is true? And how responsible was Stalin personally for what happened in the USSR (good and bad) given its governmental structure? What's the legacy of "Stalin's Russia"? And as for the legacy of the man himself,his writings undoubtedly have value but does he really leave an ideological legacy significant enough to warrant the term "Stalinism" or is it merely a term of abuse?

    What are some good books to read about Stalin and what works by the man himself are worth studying?
    Well, the last place I would have thought of looking, the Council for Foreign Relations, has on its website this summary of Stalin's views on Revolution, and his approach to Marxist theory. It is fully referenced and looks very interesting to me, although I have only as yet read the first few paragraphs and scanned over it.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articl...-on-revolution
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceannaire View Post
    It's a complex subject. Here I address stalin's legacy under a number of headings.

    MASS MURDER
    As a human being, Stalin was awful and was undoubtedly a mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of by any standards an enormous number of people from 1936-8, so I agree with the conventional narrative to a point, but the scale of the deaths can be exaggerated. Sometimes you hear he killed 20 million, sometimes 40 million, sometimes 50 million. These conflicting figures can't all be true, which in itself suggests that there's some question mark over the more extreme figures. There is also the issue of calculation. The calculation that figures like 20 million come from is based on "excess deaths", an extrapolation of how many people died based on how many people you would expect to have been alive but weren't. However, the birth rate tends to collapse in time of war, so this estimation counts as dead people who were never alive in the first place!

    I'm conscious of the potential callousness of speaking of all these valuable lives lost as if you were totting up a grocery bill, but it is the fact that the deaths of so many people is so dreadful that we need to be careful not to allow McCarthyites to exaggerate them.
    With more accurate figures coming to light even the most hardened anticommunist academic these days is hard put to arrive at an estimate of "excess deaths" in the Soviet Union during the 1930's that exceeds 5 million. This includes everything collectivisation, famine, labour camps, executions, etc. The majority of this is attributed to collectivisation. While a great deal less than the many tens of millions that used to be bandied about willy nilly this is still a great many people and would be equivalent to about 3% of the 1930 population. (I cannot comment on the accuracy of these "excess deaths" studies as I have no expertise in this field but would note that even with supposedly more accurate information available since the collapse of the Soviet Union they still vary greatly). It is possible that the Soviet Union would have been able to make the gains and be in a position to withstand foreign aggression, etc. without any harsh measures being adopted but this is unlikely in my estimation. Collectivisation, for example, was certainly required it seems to me if socialism was to be built. That the Kulacks resisted is an unfortunate fact of history. What can be said for sure that policies enacted, the laws passed, etc. in order to build socialism were not the doing of one man... and to put the responsibility for everything on his shoulders and label him a mass murderer is just trite. Any loss of life the accrued was in the course of a people trying to build a new society. Anyone who thinks that a socialist society will be built anywhere on this planet with significant loss of life is living in cloud cuckoo land.

    What is of interest to me is why the 1930's in the Soviet Union is the subject of so much research in "excess deaths" compared to, say, Russia in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would note that at no stage in it's history did the population of the Soviet Union decline yet after the collapse of the Soviet Union the population of Russia dropped at an alarming rate for over a decade, at about a 0.5% annual rate, or some 750,000 to 800,000 people a year. The increased mortality rate which significantly underlay this decline was a result of specific policies introduced (see link below) sometimes called "Shock Therapy." Yet no one seems to be doing studies determining "excess deaths" in Russia, or the Ukraine (even worse) as another example and pointing to those in charge of the IMF as mass murderers.

    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/la...005-2/fulltext

    I also hope someone will do a study of "excess death" rates in Greece sometime in the future.
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

  12. #27
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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceannaire View Post

    FOREIGN POLICY
    Some people see the defeat of Hitler as his best achievement, but he had at least some responsibilty for Hitler's coming to power in the first place, by imposing on the Communist Party of Germany an ultra-left policy whereby the Social Democrats were seen as "social fascists" which precluded co-operation against the Nazis. His delayed response to Hitler's attack was calamitous and he gave his generals a lot more autonomy than Hitler did, so the success from a strategic point-of-view didn't just owe to him. And, ultimately, of course, the main people we should remember for the USSR's victory are the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in defeating the Nazis.
    So the German Communists were responsible for fascism in Germany due to wrong policies and their wrong policies were imposed by Stalin. Interesting take on history I have to say.

    And I note that he is not "solely" responsible for success in the war yet he is solely responsible for everyone who died in the Soviet Union.
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post
    Really? Only a Trotskyite could pen something like that.
    Your politics come across as pretty extreme attaching labels to everyone you don't like in a fairly pejorative and snobbish way.

    Actually the guy advocating armed actions in Greece seemed more reasonable when he was making points about Marxism. Do we have to tell people what they must be just because we do not agree with them on some things? You have already called me a counter revolutionary, a reformist etc. in the pejorative sense that I do not fit the bill as radical enough for you.

    I think moderators should not be allowed to get away with this. It's also unfair on CF(the target of this post) who has not claimed to be a 'Trotskyite' afaik but a socialist.

    If as SGD reasonably says Stalinism or a Stalinist is to be seen as a term of abuse in several contexts, then surely other labels are also terms of abuse seeking to categorise everyone.

    I am interested in Stalin's role or non-role in the Warsaw Uprising and the decision taken by the Red Army to wait on the edge of the city while the Nazis blew it to bits when they could probably have moved in much earlier and saved thousands of civilians' lives.

    Also if I am allowed make another request, we should probably look at his relations with Tito as they are interesting in the context of Soviet Block and Socialist Block politics after the war.

    This isn't a bad debate to have, but if others are requested not to automatically assume everything we have been taught about Stalin and his period in charge of Russia, then it's only fair that people who support his ideas should not engage in equally ideological terms of abuse.

  14. #29
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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Lord View Post
    Keep digging ...
    I'm digging in to Stalin's writings, and Lenin's writing about Stalin, thank you.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Legacy of Stalin and Stalin's U.S.S.R

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceannaire View Post
    Something pretty much everyone seems to forget is that Stalin was also a supporter of the State of Israel, even, as far as I'm aware, as they forced 750,000 Palestinians to leave their own lands. When Israel fought its first war, most of its weapons had been sold to it by the USSR.
    The Soviet Union was never pro-Zionist to my knowledge. Support for the establishment of the State of Israel at the UN was provided for a wide variety of complicated reasons, principally I believe to do with ending the influence of British imperialism in the region. I guess the purported socialist character of the early enterprise (we all remember Kibbutses) would have had some influence as also the suffering of the Jews under fascism. It would have been difficult to envision the way things subsequently developed.
    Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the (female dog) that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

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