Stalin, Mao, idealism and voluntarism
Maoist Internationalist Movement
mim3 at nyxfer.blythe.org
Wed Oct 11 17:08:34 MDT 1995
Pat for MIM continues reply to Jerry on Stalin
This is in reply to Jerry's post on "MILLIONS" "murdered" by Stalin.
It's an example of why we ask for specifics so we can evaluate
what is being said.
In this we see that even Stephen Cohen couldn't get past the
sentimentality of the bourgeoisie in criticizing Stalin and got it wrong.
This should be useful to the Marxism List, because it shows the limits of
academic Marxology. Cohen is about as sympathetic as they come in academia
and he still wrote an introduction for a trash book based on verbal
Stalin: the lies about him
One of the most maligned periods of history in the Soviet Union is the
so-called Great Terror from 1935 to 1941. This period is also marked by
the so-called Purge Trials of the mid-1930s. According to Anton
Antonov-Ovseyenko (The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny, (NY: Harper
& Row, 1981), p. 213), Stalin's "terror" in that period resulted in 19
Of course, by this time, World War II was already on in Asia and Africa
with Japan and Italy on the move. Stalin was preparing for World War II
and historians argue whether Stalinism represented a general high level of
repressiveness all the time or just "Great Terror" at some times. MIM does
not discuss this here.
As it turns out, there is no need to discuss history with
Antonov-Ovseyenko and many other critics of Stalin. No, it is not necessary
to discuss the deaths fighting Japan or in Finland thanks to
the war that was going on in those years. Academic sources show that
Stalin's "Great Terror" couldn't have killed 19 million.
Fewer than 25 million died from all causes from 1935 to 1941. That's using
concrete numbers for 1935 to 1940 and the highest number from that period
to estimate 1941, which according to historians was well past the peak of
the "Great Terror" anyway. (See Ger P. Van Den Berg, The Soviet System of
Justice: Figures and Policy, (Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1985),
So to arrive at 19 million deaths to blame on Stalin, there had to be
fewer than 6 million deaths from normal causes between 1935 and 1941.
Again to round off in our critics' favor, let's assume that to be 900,000
deaths a year for seven years as the deaths from normal causes. So for
example, in 1936, that would mean a crude death rate from normal causes of
less than 5 per 1000 a year, based on a population of 180.2 million people
in the Soviet Union.
That's impossible and the death rate has never been that low in the Soviet
Union, Stalin or no Stalin, not even in 1982, when the crude death rate
was 10.1. (Ibid., p. 181) In fact, the crude death rate has never been
below 5 per 1000 a year in U.S. history either. A more realistic death
rate from natural causes would be around 20. It was 20.3 in 1926, which
according to almost all historians, was before Stalin started his
repression, since he had only just assumed leadership in 1924.
So who is this responsible for this blatantly impossible assertion about
Stalin? It was the son of a Trotskyist. Antonov-Ovseyenko was a Trotskyist
who tried to use his military position to aid Trotsky take over the party
in the USSR.
The bourgeois scholars in the West all clamored to support Anton
Antonov-Ovseyenko's book. The endorsements on his book jacket read like a
who's who of anti-Soviet propaganda. The book received an introduction and
praise by Stephen F. Cohen, Princeton professor and darling of the
social-democrats and revisionists for his sympathetic biography of N.
Bukharin and anti-Cold War position in the 1980s, democratic socialist
Irving Howe, Cold Warrior and bourgeois scholar Robert Conquest, Robert
G. Kaiser, Leonard Schapiro, Harrison E. Salisbury and of course, the New
Republic, which called it "the most important book to have come out of the
Soviet experience since Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago."
The endorsements show that the sources of discussion in the
mainstream media and academia don't deserve much credibility. They
couldn't see clear to an analysis even close to the truth on the
mortality figures for the "Great Terror."
Cut through the lies and distortions, get MIM Theory #6, "The Stalin Issue."
Send $4.95 to MIM, PO Box 3576, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3576
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