Was Stalin a Marxist?

wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Mon Mar 13 02:39:00 MST 1995

Although I am new to the list, let me put my two cents in:

IMHO, Stalin was not a Marxist.  He rejected, in theory and practice, the centr
al tenent of Marxism-- that the emancipation of the working class is the task o
f the workers' themselves.  He was the spokesperson of a bureaucratic layer in
Soviet society that brutally repressed and oppressed the working class in the U
SSR.  Hard to think of him as a Marxist (see Hal Draper's KARL MARX'S THEORY OF
 REVOLUTION for a careful restatement of Marx's politics).
When discussing historical figures one has to be careful to compare
like with like. This is especially the case if one counterposes
someone like Stalin - a historical figure of some significance -
to people who were only theoreticians. One can only speculate
what the other theorists would have done in a comparable position.

If one looks at his writings, then it is difficult to show that
he rejected the idea that the emancipation of the working class
must be for the workers themselves. His views of this seem to
have been little different from those of other leading bolsheviks.
But it is not his theory that causes controversy, but his actions
as leader of the CPSUB, in particular his sanctioning of show
trials and red terror.

In scale, the use of red terror in the Soviet Union was
exceptional, but the principle of its use was not rejected
by other marxists. If I recall correctly in either the
Holy Family or the German Ideology, Marx looked forward to the
day when the clerics of Germany would wake to hear the 'Ca ira'
ringing in their ears, the great anthem of the French revolution
whose refrain went
Au lanternes les aristocrats, ca ira, ca ira, ca ira.

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