stalin debate

M A Jones mark at
Sun Aug 8 16:15:57 MDT 1999

There are at least two reasons for having it: firstly, because there is much
new[ish] research which people on the left are often unaware of, perhaps
because so much of it is tucked away in obscure academic monographs and the
like. Since I'm able to spend time in the library just now, I want to share
my reading of new literature as best I can.

This debate is important because it deepens and alters our understanding
of Stalinism and may help purge a few bogeymen from our
collective unconconscious.

Second, we have to reappropriate our own history as a movement and stop
apologising for it, repudiating it, and generally regurgitating
anti-communist propaganda in the process. This seems to mean trying
 to understand quite basic questions, which people rightly continue
to raise, and insist on having answered, about such things as the role of
leadership, of the individual in history, the function and nature of
the state, the meaning of 'proletarian dictatorship', about the place
and nature of individual and collective rights - questions which
have the character of universals, which speak to very important
and even elementary aspects of the human conditon. The explication
of these questions is simply an imperative task which we dare not
avoid and which will help guide us in fundamental ways in our
attempts at understanding and grasping the totality and
significance of post-Enlightenment civilisation, and of its
historical, moral, social and productive ordering.

Third, the deeper and most pressing reason for 'debating Stalin'
is that until we analyse the historical dynamics of imperialism in
its concrete relationship with 'actually existing socialism' we
cannot hope to comprehend the reproduction circuits of contemporary
capitalism as a totality, and we are not really equipped to
comprehend the post-soviet global conjuncture either, or therefore
and by extension, to act upon it - which is after all
the main thing. I am sure that we still have not collectively analysed and
understood the 'short 20th century' (1914-91) and that's why I am currently
putting my 2 cents in. I intend to continue, of course. Our purpose is not
to bury Stalin or rehabilitate him, or Lenin, Mao or anyone else, but to
make a new revolution.

Thanks to Jim Craven for a particularly admirable posting today. He
mentioned he'd visited Highgate Cemetery twice. I had no idea Jim had ever
been to England. I hope next time he comes he looks us up.

When Louis Proyect, Natalya and I visited Marx's grave at Highgate in the
spring this year, Natalya found some wild strawberries growing at Herbert
Spencer's adjacent tomb (!). She took a cutting and I'm pleased to say that
they flowered, bore fruit and taste just fine. They are certainly
from the Caucasus mountains; someone must have brought them here
to London.

Mark Jones

More information about the Marxism mailing list