Stalinism 80% Leninism

Chris, London 100423.2040 at compuserve.com
Mon Jun 10 23:59:26 MDT 1996


I proposed that Stalinism is 80% Leninism, and that the major
differences were the result of systematising it into a brisk
canon of principles, and applying it administratively.

Thanks to Louis P for coming back. I have to hear that this
proposition sounded anti-communist to him.

>>What Chris is offering above is
the method of Bernard Wolfe, Richard Pipes and a million other
professional anticommunists who see Lenin's "extremism" as the
problem. I recommend instead the analysis offered by Marxists such as
Moshe Lewin, Isaac Deutscher and Charles Bettleheim.<<

I do not know Bernard Wolfe or Richard Pipes so I am not sure
exactly what Louis had in mind. At one level I was making
a claim to see if anyone could challenge it, that the overlap
between Stalin's published ideas and Lenin's is close.

I was saying in terms of set theory that 80% of Stalin's ideas are
Lenin's (I am not sure I would imply the set's are symmetrical
however and that 80% of Lenin's ideas are Stalin's, though it
could be argued.) To be crisper, I think it is very hard to
prove that any of Stalin's ideas are contrary to Lenin's.


Could we please test and evaluate this proposition? I know
it is said that Lenin  supported more debate within the
party than Stalin did, but I am uncertain as to how robust this
proposition is. IMO Lenin's polemical style did not leave much
room to tolerate alternative positions.


Louis suggests by contrast
>>It is better to understand the problems of the USSR
in terms of class relations rather than bad ideas.<<

Perhaps, but both class relations and ideas may be valid approaches
(I did not necessarily say Lenin's or Stalin's ideas were bad -
that is making value judgements in advance of the comparison).

Later on Sunday 9th, Louis made what IMO is the key point about
class relations in a post on Kronstadt:

>>>The Soviet workers faced a population that was
nearly 95 percent nonproletarian and had no intrinsic interest in
socialism. A revolution in a country like the United States which is at
least 85 percent proletarian should allow the victors to be more
generous to the defeated.<<<

This is the argument of Monty Johnstone, former member of the
British Communist Party who has spent a lot of time going through
the Moscow archives: the decision to move on from the bourgeois
democratic to the socialist revolution (not unanimous even
among the leadership) committed them to having to defend by
arms and repression, and to fight Mensheviks and
Socialist Revolutionaries, the latter much stronger among the
peasantry, who did not happen to see the move as being as
enlightened as did the representatives of the proletariat.

Lenininists who look down on Maoists, often forget that Lenin also
launched the October revolution in a largely peasant country.
Some of the problems that followed in Russia could equally be analysed
as arising from this fact, as they can, say in China.

They are inherent in launching a revolution representing only
a minority of the population. It is not exactly in conformity
with historical materialism, arguably leaping over a stage of
history. It is inevitably the principle of Oliver Cromwell,
that "man of blood",
"Not what they want, but what is good for them."

Chris Burford





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