Stalin: The Myth and the Reality
Source: __ Transcription: Hari
Kumar for Alliance-ML
A Paper Originally Scheduled To Be Read By Bill Bland
At The Conference Of 'International Struggle : Marxist-Leninist' In October
This talk was never delivered as Comrade Bland at the
very last moment could not attend. The talk is offered however as a useful
distillation of several decades of thought and concrete, factual and hard
Marxist-Leninist research. The talk itself, originated in one that Comrade Bland
gave to the young Communist League in 1975 at a summer school. It was widely
distributed and has influenced the Marxist-Leninist movement profoundly.
Today almost everyone who calls himself a Marxist-Leninist accepts that, in its
final years, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was dominated by
revisionists — that is, by people who claimed to be Marxist-Leninists but who
had in reality distorted Marxism-Leninism to serve the interests of an embryonic
On one question, however, there is still disagreement, namely, when did the
domination of the CPSU by revisionists begin?
These days, most people date it from the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956, when
Khrushchev threw off his false Marxist-Leninist mask.
However, there are good grounds for believing that for many years prior to
Stalin’s death in 1953, a majority of the Soviet leadership were either
concealed or latent revisionists.
Why, for example, did Stalin, who played such an active role in the
international communist movement in the 1920s, cease to do so after 1926?
Why did the publication of Stalin’s works, scheduled for sixteen volumes,
cease with Volume 13 in 1949, four years before his death?
Why was Stalin not asked to deliver the report of the Central
Committee to the 19th Congress in 1952?
Why were Stalin’s last writings confined to subjects like
linguistics and the critique of a proposed textbook on economics -- subjects
which might be considered harmless to concealed revisionists had not Stalin
turned them into attacks on revisionist ideas?
Why did the Soviet government surprise world opinion in 1947 by
suddenly reversing its foreign policy in order to endorse the American proposal
for the partition of Palestine which has proved so disastrous for the nations of
the Middle East?
All this makes sense if — and I believe only if — we accept the fact
that for some years before his death, Stalin and his fellow Marxist-Leninists
were in a minority in the leadership of the Soviet Union.
The fact of the existence of a revisionist majority in the leadership of the
CPSU was effectively concealed by the ‘cult of personality’ that was
built up around Stalin.
Stalin himself criticised and ridiculed this ‘cult’ on numerous occasions. Yet
It follows that Stalin was either an utter hypocrite, or he was unable to put a
stop to this ‘cult’.
The initiator of the ‘cult of personality’ around Stalin was, in fact, Karl
Radek, who pleaded guilty to treason at his public trial in 1937.
A typical example of the ‘cult’ is the following quotation from 1936: "Miserable
pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all living men, our
wise leader Comrade Stalin. We assure you, Comrade Stalin, that we will increase
our Stalinist vigilance still more and close our ranks around the Stalinist
Central Committee and the great Stalin".
The author of these words was one Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956
denounced the ‘cult’ as an indication of Stalin’s ‘vanity’ and ‘personal power’.
It was Khrushchev too who introduced the term ‘vozhd’for Stalin — a
term meaning ‘leader’ and equivalent to the Nazi term ‘Fuehrer’.
Why should the revisionists have built up this ‘cult of personality’ around
It was, I suggest, because it disguised the fact that not Stalin and the
Marxist-Leninists, but they — concealed opponents of socialism — who held a
majority in the leadership. It enabled them to take actions — such as the arrest
of many innocent persons between 1934 and 1938 (when they controlled the
security forces) and subsequently blame these ‘breaches of socialist legality’
Stalin himself is on record as telling the German author Lion Feuchtwanger
in 1936 that the ‘cult of his personality’ was being built up by his political
opponents (I quote:)
“ . . . with the aim of discrediting him at a later date.”
Clearly, Stalin’s ‘pathological suspicion’ of some of his colleagues,
of which Khrushchev complained so bitterly in his secret speech to the 20th
Congress, was not pathological at all!
On one allegation both Stalin and the revisionists are agreed — that in Stalin’s
time miscarriages of justice occurred in which innocent people were judically
The revisionists, of course, maintain that Stalin was responsible for these
miscarriages of justice.
But there is a contradiction here.
Krushchev himself said in his 1956 secret speech (and I quote):
“The question is complicated here by the fact that all this was done
because Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of
the interest of the working class against the plotting of ememies. He
saw this from the position of the interests of the working class, of the
interest of the victory of socialism.”
But only a person who was completely insane could possibly imagine that the
arrest of innocent people could serve socialism. And all the evidence shows that
Stalin retained his full mental faculties right to his death.
However, the contradiction resolves itself if these judicial murders were
carried out, not at the behest of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, but at the
behest of the revisionist opponents of socialism.
At his public trial in 1938, the former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs,
Genrikh Yagoda, pleaded guilty to having arranged the murder of his
predecessor, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, in order to secure his own
promotion to a post which gave him control over the Soviet security services. He
then, according to his own admission, used this position to protect the
terrorists responsible for the murder of prominent Marxist-Leninists close to
Stalin — including the Leningrad Party Secretary, Sergei Kirov, and the
famous writer Maksim Gorky.
And in order that the security services should not appear idle, Yagoda arranged
for the arrest of many people who were not conspirators, but had merely been
After Yagoda’s arrest, the conspirators were successful in getting him succeeded
by another conspirator, Nikolai Yezhov, who continued and intensified
It was because of the suspicions of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists that the
security services were acting incorrectly — were protecting the guilty and
punishing the innocent — that they began to use Stalin’s personal secretariat,
headed by Aleksandr Poskrebyshev, as their private detective agency.
And it was on the basis of the evidence uncovered by this Secretariat and
submitted directly to the Party — that the concealed revisionists, to maintain
their cover, were compelled to endorse the arrest of genuine conspirators,
including Yagoda and Yezhov.
And it was on Stalin’s personal initiative that in 1938, his friend, the
Marxist-Leninist Lavrenty Beria, was brought to Moscow from the
Caucasus to take harge of the security services.
Under Beria, political prisoners arrested under Yagoda and Yezhov had their
cases reviewed and, as Western press correspondents reported at the time, many
thousands of people unjustly sentenced were released and rehabilitated.
Marxist-Lenininists in Britain, in particular, should have no difficulty
in accepting the picture of a Marxist-Leninist minority in the CPSU.
How many members of the Communist Party of Great Britain came out in opposition
to the revisionist ‘British Road to Socialism’, which preached the absurd
‘parliamentary road to socialism’ when it was adopted in 1951? I know of only
The question arises, of course:
if revisionists had a majority in the leadership of the CPSU from the 1930s, why
did they not take any steps to dismantle socialism until 1956, after Stalin’s
The short answer is that they tried and failed.
In the early 1940s, the economists Eugen Varga and Nikolai Voznsensky both
published books openly espousing revisionist programmes, and both were quickly
slapped down by the Marxist-Leninists.
Of course, it is important not to exaggerate the extent of these miscarriages of
In the 1960s, anti-Soviet propaganda originally published in Nazi Germany, was
republished by a former British secret service agent named Robert Conquest
under the more respectable cloak of Harvard University. In his 1969 book ‘The
Great Terror’ Conquest puts the number of ‘Stalin’s victims’ (in inverted
commas) at ‘between 5 and 6 million’.
But by the 1980s, Conquest was alleging that there had been in 1939 a total of
25 to 30 million prisoners in the Soviet Union, that in 1950 there had been 12
million political prisoners.
But when, under Gorbachev, the archives of the Central Committee of the CPSU
were opened up to researchers, it was found that the number of political
prisoners in 1939 had been 454,000, not the millions claimed by Conquest.
If we add those in prison for non-political offences, we get a figure of 2.5
million, that is, 2.4% of the adult population.
In contrast, there were in the United States in 1996, according to official
figures, 5.5 million people in prison, or 2.8% of the adult population.
That is, the number of prisoners in the USA today is 3 million more than the
maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union.
In January 1953, less than two months before Stalin’s death, nine doctors
working in the Kremlin were arrested on charges of having murdered certain
Soviet leaders — including Andrei Zhdanov in 1948 — by administering to them
deliberately incorrect medical treatment.
The charges arose out of an investigation into allegations by a woman doctor,
Lydia Timashuk, The accused doctors were charged with conspiracy to murder
in conjunction with the American Zionist organisation ‘JOINT’.
Western press correspondents in Moscow insisted that some of the most prominent
Soviet leaders were under investigation in connection with the case.
But before the case could be brought to trial, Stalin conveniently died.
The Albanian Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha, a tireless oppponent of
revisionism and not a man given to indulging in unfounded gossip — insists that
Soviet revisionist leaders admitted — nay, rather boasted — to him that they had
murdered him. And we know that Stalin’s son was himself arrested and imprisoned
for having declared that his father had been killed as part of a plot.
Be that as it may, the arrested doctors were immediately released and officially
Then Lavrenti Beria — a scourge of the revisionists second only to Stalin — was
arrested in a military coup, tried in secret, and executed.
The way was open for the revisionist conspirators to throw off their masks,
expel the remaining Marxist-Leninists from leading positions in the Party, and
take the first steps towards the restoration of a capitalist society.
This, then, is the picture of Stalin that emerges from an objective examination
of the facts.
It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who fought all his life
for the cause of socialism and the working class.
It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who, although surrounded by
revisionist traitors, succeeded during his lifetime in preventing this
revisionist majority from significantly betraying the working class he loved and
restoring the capitalist system he hated.
We in all countries who have taken on the task of rebuilding the international
communist movement must see the defence of Stalin as a part of the defence of
There can be no greater compliment for anyone who aspires to be a
Marxist-Leninist than to be called a Stalinist.