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Stalin- Transcripts from Soviet Archives
Transcript of JV Stalinʹs speech ʺon the study of the history of the CPSU (b).ʺ
Transcript of JV Stalinʹs speech at a meeting of propagandists and leading workers in the propaganda of Moscow and Leningrad ʺon the study of the history of the CPSU (b).ʺ September 27, 1938
Archive source: I. V. Stalin. Historical ideology in the USSR in the 1920s1950s: Correspondence with historians, articles and notes on history, transcripts of the speech Collection of documents and materials Part 1. Archive: RGASPI. F. 558. Op. 11.D. 1122.L. 1‐18. Typescript
Stalin: Comrades, this is not a meeting here. That you are only wasting time with applause? I did not expect qualified people to applaud. It wonʹt do.
In order for the debate to go on the right track, and not to be scattered in various unnecessary streams, I consider it necessary to say a few words.
Why was the meeting called? Comrade Zhdanov has already spoken. You all praised that the book is this, the book is that gives everything, and so on. We do not need praise here, but help, help in the form of amendments, in the form of comments, in the form of instructions originating from your propaganda experience. This is what is needed, not praise or applause.
Be so kind as you are conducting propaganda, you have experience, you are dealing with living material, with people. Tell us how you process their heads, what came of it. Tell me how to make the propaganda go better, but it goes badly, goes badly. These questions need an answer, and this will be help for the Central Committee. The Party Central Committee cannot know, cannot embrace everything. He needs your help. You must provide this assistance to the Central Committee.
Praise is not needed here.
Hereʹs the first point.
Second. How does the Central Committee view this book? It does not give everything and cannot give everything, which is why it is called a short course. This means that there must be a complete course.
Recently I looked again at the history of the German Social Democracy of Mehring. A wonderful man Mehring is a Marxist, well educated, but he must be pitied. The history of the Germans is very poor. What, strictly speaking, has been written about in the history of German Social‐Democracy? They have several pretentious moments, they fought there with ... (inaudible)..., but then they got rid of him and calmed down. Compare this material from the history of German Social‐Democracy with the material of our Party: after all, we have such wealth, comrades, that one can drown. This means that the material is terribly rich, our party has gone through a very serious history, one might say, turned upside down the whole life of the people and thinking, turned it upside down. To think that such material, at least in the main part, can be embraced, at least in a short course, would be a mistake, comrades.
The book that is being published is just a short course. The bias of this book is towards theoretical questions. This was a special assignment of the Central Committee. Until now, our party history has been written from a different angle ‐ no offense will be told to the authors of history textbooks, I do not want to hate them, these are people who have worked conscientiously and have done a lot of good, who have given great benefit to our party ‐ but still that way, to which our textbooks were ‐ not good. This was the way of educating people on faces, praising these faces. Not all, but almost all of them. Here, too, Comrade Shlensky makes a remark that the role of individuals is not sufficiently noted in the book. As if this is the case. After all, we were presented with a well‐known draft of the textbook, we have completely revised it. The draft of the textbook was built on faces, mainly who behaved heroically, who fled from exile how many times, who suffered how much for the cause, etc. etc.
Is it possible to build a textbook on this? Is it possible to educate personnel on this?
Personnel must be educated on ideas, on theory. What is theory? Theory is knowledge of the laws of historical development. If this knowledge is there, then there are cadres, and if people do not have this knowledge, it is not cadres, it is an empty space.
And what will the faces give us? I do not want to oppose ideas to faces, although, of course, we will have to talk about faces, but to speak to the extent necessary. But salt is not in faces, but in ideas, in a theoretical bias. There should be a theoretical bias. The Central Committee thinks that the party will gain from this, it will only gain.
Hereʹs a second note.
Third remark. I would like to say about our ideological economy.
It is believed that we have IMEL. IMEL is a treasure house of sources, works of Marx, Engels, Lenin. Very well. The people who worked on this textbook had to delve rather seriously into all the existing works of different periods. You cannot imagine what kind of mismanagement in this ideological economy! Take this fact. It seems that the eighth volume of Leninʹs works, or the thirteenth, I forgot, is where Leninʹs work ʺMaterialism and Empirio‐criticismʺ is placed ...
VOICE : Thirteenth volume.
STALIN : Yes, the thirteenth volume. The book is polemical, remarkable in its content, you yourself know that and there is nothing to say about it, a book that played a decisive role in the ideological development of our party. And as appendices there are reviews of this book, reviews of a hostile nature. There are four or five reviews as an appendix to the book. Here we are, the Marxists of the IMEL, are publishing Leninʹs book and this book contains an appendix ‐ reviews that cover Lenin, and there is no answer. And how to block them from these reviewers? And this is called a careful attitude to our ideological economy! Why was it necessary ‐ to add an application? Who needs it for the review of the Orthodox to show off there, where she, this Orthodox, covers Lenin in both tail and mane, and no one answers her? Or some Ilyin. There are 4‐5 reviews there.
VOICE : Nevsky is there.
STALIN : I donʹt touch the Nevsky. His article can hardly pass for a review. And I meant reviews that were published in the press, reviews of people not ours, hostile to what Lenin defends.
What can the comrades answer to this? How could this happen? What did we want to publish ‐ a book by Lenin or a discussion collection? The result was a discussion collection, and with the provision of the last word to the reviewers ‐ opponents of Lenin.
Take translations. There is a collection of works by Marx and Engels, I think 25‐24 volumes. Cope, wrong translation. In the most interesting place there is a distortion, a gross and conscious distortion. What he did not say is attributed to Engels. You take other translations, you take Lenin, and if he has doubts about the translation of a word, he inserts a French or German word from the text that is completely different. Who should think about this?
And our people, our cadres, they cannot be satisfied with a short course in the history of the party, in any way, they must master the primary sources. The original sources, which have been translated long ago, are useless, the translation is incorrect, we have to use old translations to restore the face of the author of the book, the same Engels and Marx. Well, Comrade Adoratsky? Doesnʹt work like that! Our ideological economy is very neglected, comrades, very neglected. We need to take a critical approach; we need to liquidate this case in IMEL. There was sabotage on the ideological front, which was allowed by the translators. It is necessary to liquidate this case and, if possible, if not so difficult, to withdraw these reviews of Leninʹs book. How did they get there and who instructed you to publish these reviews of Leninʹs book Materialism and Empirio‐Criticism? Who instructed you to publish this collection of articles with the last word, I repeat, to Leninʹs opponents?
Here is the third remark ‐ about mismanagement in our ideological economy.
And the fourth remark. To whom is this book addressed, to what audience? So, I read on the pages of Pravda, Izvestia and other newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda ‐ they all drag a book to the factory, organize circles there and do not see that there are other strata of the population besides the workers and do not ask themselves the question ‐ to whom is this book addressed, to what audience?
The book, comrades, is serious in the sense that it has a great bias towards theoretical problems. This is done on purpose because it is in the field of theory that our people are lagging behind. We have a backlog of our staff. They are loaded with practical questions, tens of thousands of practical questions, they are unable to raise their heads from practical questions, they are not able to. Where should they study theory? They lagged behind theory. And we must begin to eliminate this backwardness and start actively. This is the initiative taken by the book, and hence the bias towards theoretical problems. If we are talking about saboteurs, about Trotskyists, then you should bear in mind that not all these saboteurs are Trotskyist‐Bukharin, not all of them were spies.
The leading people of them were spies, they called it cooperation with fascist states. But they had their own, so to speak, mass. I wonʹt say that they were spies, they were our people, they went crazy afterwards. Why? They did not turn out to be real Marxists, they were weak in theory.
What is theory? This knowledge of the laws of the development of society, this knowledge makes it possible to orientate in the situation, but they did not have this orientation, they turned out to be bad Marxists, bad, we educated them badly. That is why, among other things, it is necessary to focus on the theoretical training of our cadres, on the theoretical Marxist training of our cadres. If any fascist appears, so that our cadres know how to fight him, and not be afraid of him, and not retreat and bow before him, as happened with a significant part of the Trotskyists and Bukharinites, who were our people, and then went over to their side. And donʹt think that all these cadres who helped the Trotskyists and Bukharinites were their cadres. Among them were our people, who then went crazy and will continue to go crazy,
So, who is this book addressed to? To cadres, not to rank‐and‐file
workers in factories, not to rank‐and‐file employees in institutions, but to those cadres about whom Lenin said they were professional revolutionaries. The book is addressed to the leading personnel. First of all, they need to be turned properly, theoretically shod, then the rest will go.
Therefore, when going to plants and factories, we must not forget that we have student youth, and student youth are the future command staff of our entire state.
What is a learner? Many of you still have a rather strong vestige of Makhaevism. Makhaevshchina is a ʺtheoryʺ that believed that in general the intelligentsia should be beaten in the party, we need, they say, calloused hands, etc. And now things have turned out in such a way that you donʹt need to have corns in order to work at the plant. Our factory is something like a laboratory, something like a pharmacy, where it is clean and there are no corns. Good or bad? In my opinion, good, very good. Corns are a thing of the past.
So, there are still survivals of this Makhaevism, and the expulsion of the intelligentsia reigns in the minds of some comrades. The exile case is no longer coming out. But there is disregard for the intelligentsia that runs the country. The intelligentsia is all people who are in the leading cadres. This is the intelligentsia. A person who yesterday was a worker or a peasant, and as soon as a person left the field or factory and began to work with his head, he is an intellectual.
I would like to say such a theoretical idea that we want to turn the entire working class and all the peasantry into the intelligentsia, to raise their level. Then miracles will really start in all branches of construction. Disdainful attitude towards the intelligentsia, towards yesterdayʹs worker will not come out. As long as he was a worker and stood at the machine, he was respected. But he was nominated later, as a capable man, he went to study, they spit on him ‐ “the intelligentsia”. On what grounds? What wildness? This is not our theory; this is not Marxism or Leninism. This is bourgeois old stuff. When we were not in power and did not rule the country, we were in opposition, and the intelligentsia was alien, bourgeois, we could bully it, because it did not serve the people. That time has passed. And now, when we have been in power for 20 years and we ourselves insist that no class can hold on to power, if he fails to create his own intelligentsia. With the help of God and with your help, we will create this intelligentsia. Almost created. Yesterdayʹs worker, yesterdayʹs peasant is torn away from direct work, from production and sent to school, but he is accompanied by a curse. There are people who, if a person has moved away from the workers, does not work at the machine, has moved away from the peasants, does not work in the field, they believe that this is a stranger.
I repeat, this is savagery, this is dangerous savagery.
Not a single state without employees, without commanding personnel in terms of economy, politics, culture, not a single state can govern the country like that. After all, our state, how does it differ from any bourgeois state? The fact that it has absorbed all the main lines of economy and culture.
If we consider the economy of a bourgeois state, and its budget, this, so to speak, is not even a drop in the ocean in comparison with what the state and its economy represent in our country. The state has absorbed all industry, almost all of it; the state has absorbed quite significant channels in agriculture; the state took into its own hands the direct management of the peasant economy, collective farm economy. This is a huge organism of the country’s governing.
How can one do without the intelligentsia here?
Letʹs assume. Either we create our own intelligentsia and respect it, or we take a course towards respecting the intelligentsia that stands out, or we will surround this student youth ‐ these our future commanders of all branches of management, we will surround them with attention and respect, ‐ or we will do it, or we will be lost. Here are the calloused hands. A bourgeois will come, he will hit in the face, but he will not be able to build, ‐ here you have to work with your head. There are schools for this.
Employees, management apparatus. As you wish, we have about 8 million employees. Just imagine. This is the apparatus with which the working class runs the country and conducts domestic and foreign policy. How can this apparatus not be processed in the spirit of Marxism? If we despise him, the person who works there ‐ an employee, since he is not a worker, he does not stand at the machine, he is not a peasant, he does not work in the field, but here he works in the management, if we do not surround him with respect and attention, in order to make him a real Marxist, and if we treat him with disdain, then we will destroy the state and will benefit only our enemies.
The book is addressed to these people ‐ to cadres and cadres studying in schools. This is the first and main audience to whom the book is addressed ‐ to the personnel. In other words, specifically to employees who work intellectually. I mean employees in the army; the commanding staff are employees. I mean our business executives, the leaders of our industry, our agriculture — they are employees, public education, teachers. Take 500 thousand teachers alone. This book is addressed to them.
This is the commanding staff, the employee, in relation to whom, in general, disdain is sometimes manifested in people of the Makhaevian persuasion. It is with these people that we must begin the turn of our cadres towards their Bolshevization, and especially the student youth ‐ tomorrowʹs commanders of our national economy, our industry, our agriculture, our education, educational affairs, our health care, all branches of administration. Students are tomorrowʹs commanders.
They just dropped out of sight. When you read the notes of individual propagandists, you see that the commanding people of management ‐ employees and students ‐ have completely dropped out of sight. They say that you cannot deal with them, there is nothing to Bolshevize them, so to speak.
But we will go to the worker from the machine and will Bolshevize him. He will not understand everything in this book.
One has to deal with a worker who works 8 hours, is a family man, busy and cannot devote many hours to this business ‐ one must teach this book with him one at a time, in a simple way, so as not to intimidate him with the theoretical complexity of individual problems. With the commander, you need to teach this business in a different way. Moreover, people who work intellectually, those people I just spoke about, employees, that is, our command cadres, leading people in all sectors of the national economy and industry, they will not be satisfied with just this book. The book will be a guiding thread for them, a kind of regulatory idea, they will demand more, and here they will have to turn to the primary sources ‐ to Marx, Engels, Lenin. This means that this book will have to be taught in different ways.
Little trained people ‐ whether he is a worker or a peasant, must not be forgotten, and no one said a single word about the peasants.
Propagandists in separate notes and comments write ‐ how I will prepare for propaganda, how I will teach the history of the CPSU (b), etc., they write in Pravda, Izvestia. Recently, apart from the workers, they began to talk about employees, about students, but not a word about the peasants. This is wrong.
Out of 500 thousand teachers, 2/3 must be in the villages. After all, this is already the command staff for the development of peopleʹs consciousness.
In the collective farms themselves, employees are also command personnel. Keep in mind. Then the collective farm peasantry very quickly, and I would say, is great at providing people who want to learn, eagerly pounce on knowledge. They run the economy as you wish, over 200,000 collective farms. I take on average 5 people per collective farm, all the employees who manage the farm, make plans, give advice, help. Multiply 200 thousand by five. Hereʹs a million.
You want to leave these people to their fate. On what grounds? These are our team people in agriculture. This is wealth. Now, if you count, we will have about 8 million in all branches of the national economy and state administration ‐ these are cadres for managing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It is with them that we must begin the U‐turn of Bolshevization. The book addresses them first of all.
Well, thatʹs all for now, but in essence weʹll talk later.
* Orthodox ‐ pseudonym Lyubov Isaakovna Axelrod (1868‐1946).