Leninism and "Stalinism"

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sun Oct 13 15:38:08 MDT 1996


But if what Stalin wrote is so important, why doesn't Chris or any other
Stalinist *ever* quote Stalin's contemporary writings on the Chinese
revolution and the Kuomintang, or on the Nazi counterrevolution, or on
Spain 1936-39? Nothing but the abstract speechday stuff from Foundations of


Now here we see this marxism workshop actually working.
Especially when in the words of the famous Sherlock Holmes
short story, the dog did not bark.

Hugh and Robert claimed that theoretically there is a large gap
between Stalin and Lenin.

I challenged that Stalin's summary of Leninism
written within a few months of Lenin's death, (even if
it was revised later in widespread editions, - and that
has to be established) is not demonstrably at variance with
Lenin's writings.

As impassioned a denouncer of "Stalinism" as Hugh, has failed to
demonstrate that. Even on the section in Foundations of Leninism,
the national question, where Trotskyists are usually most confident
that Stalin was wrong. Even with a quote about an Emir, that at
first sight a non-polemical poster, like Wei En Lin, thought
might be a grammatical error.

If the demon poster Hugh, with no holds barred, needs "good time"
to demonstrate this point, it cannot be demonstrated. (I am sure
you take that as the compliment it is intended to be, Rodders old

Nor does it make sense to confuse the issue by suggesting I am a
Stalinist. As a member of Democratic Left which has a constitution
closer to that of the Spoons collective than Leninist democratic
centralism, I cannot be an orthodox follower of Stalin, and would
not claim to be even close to one. What I do think we have to try to
achieve on this list, coming from different traditions, is some attempt
to analyse history seriously and not just polemically.

To use the term "Stalinist" so promiscuously is to demonstrate how
meaningless this key concept is to Hugh, that it is merely the dark
side of an idealist representation of Trotskyism. A sort of
Manichean polarisation of serious discussion of all the good on one
side and all the evil on the other.

While he takes "good time" to catch up on Lenin and Stalin
on the national question, Hugh has counterchallenged on Stalin's
particular writings on China, on Nazism, and on Spain. I have not
read these and I will leave it to others to pick this up, but it
seems to me to miss the point.

If Hugh or anyone else has a
particular lesson to draw from one of these historical examples,
as Marx and Lenin for example did from the failure of the Paris Commune,
let's take it seriously. For example the Chinese Communist Party
regrouped in the middle 30's in the course of criticism of what
was called the Wang Ming left opportunist line. It went on to
lead one of the most important revolutions this century.
Similarly everyone recognises that the change of direction
given by Dimitrov's speech at the 7th Congress of the Communist
International in 1935 was a most important adjustment to the negative
experience with nazism and fascism.

Marxism is not some magic weapon guaranteeing success and avoiding
all failures. If it were, Hugh Rodwell would now be president of
a world government of the working class. That perhaps fortunately for
everyone, is nonsense.
Similarly a blanket denunciation of any and every arguable setback
as "Stalinist" seems to me to be unhistorical, liberal though I may
be in some people's eyes.

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