stalin etc

M A Jones mark at
Sat Aug 7 00:32:27 MDT 1999

Louis Proyect wrote:

>>I suspect that if I was a Soviet POW who immediately after being
repatriated discovered that he was not to be returned to his wife and
children, but directly to a detention center, would have developed a deep
hatred for Stalin on the spot. <<

So what, are you suggesting that it was therefore wrong to screen returning
No, you go on to agree that it was necessary! What kind of squishy liberal
ne'erdowell leader of the proletarian state would you make of the man?
Unfortunately this was the kind of moral dilemma which imperialism loved
to place (like a hairshirt) around socialist states and their leaders;
it would take the judgment of Solomon to find a way thru. But this is
exactly the kind of dilemma which we have to learn to anticipate
and to deal with, not least by examining the history. The way
to deal with it is to robustly acknowledge that, in the circumstances
Stalin was right, right, right.

>>My father was in the Battle of the Bulge in
the winter of 1945, when I was being born. He dodged German bullets in
order to deliver water and food to the men trapped at Bastogne. I imagine
what he would have felt like after months of freezing cold, lice,
diarrhea, hunger and dodging German bullets to learn that his next
destination was a detention camp, where he would be screened to find out if
he was a true patriot or a dirty spy. This is called being found guilty
until proven innocent. Considering the state of Soviet legality during
Stalin's rule, this was a hopeless situation to find oneself in.<<

But your father was a soldier from a capitalist state in a capitalist army,
with quite different understandings and expectations and for whom
internment (based on his, and our understanding of the meaning of
imprisonment in a bourgeois state) meant criminalisation. It
did not have the same meaning for Soviet people. If you don't
understand why this was so then it can only be forever a mystery
to you, why the Soviet people fought so fiercely and with such
burning patriotism for the Soviet state and its leader. I suspect
that this remains so incomprehensible to you that you simply
do not believe it was so. But it was. Nor does this mean that
ordinary citizens did not understand the difference between
arbitrary power and living in a law-governed state; there is some
eloquent testimony about this in John Scott's extraordinary and
moving account of his years spent living in Magnitogorsk
in the Thirties [I plan to post excerpts from his book,
"Beyond the Urals: An American Worker in Russia's City of Steel
[1942 London: Sercker & Warburg] but if you can find it
in a library, do]. Ordinary people (there is much evidence
for this) regretted the purges and the arbitrariness and
unlawful basis of much state activity, but they also by and
large understood the necessity for it. I am preparing more stuff
on the purges, including a comparison of the wartime performance
of Hitler's General Staff with Stalin's, which sheds perhaps
surprising light on the assertion that the German army
was better generalled. It most certainly was not, not least
because Hitler was never in fully in control.

>>Yes, the extremities of being an isolated socialist country generated
extreme behavior at the top<<

Extreme by what standards? When is the necessary also
axiomatically the extreme?

>>it is a mistake to champion Thermidor. In order for us to
build a powerful socialist movement, we need to embrace revolutionary
traditions from the revolution in its proudest moments, like the kind that
John Reed documented. Even if Mark is right about the need to screen these
unfortunate souls, my question is how this advances our liberation project
in the year 1999, as we face the next century.<<

I think I've been showing that the history of proud moments of revolutionary
fervour lasted well beyond 1918. But be that as it may, the real point is
this: the last ten years has shown, if it has shown anything, that Lenin and
the Bolsheviks were right, and the world is divided between the
exclusive club of imperialists and the rest, and that if you are part of
the rest, you have no hope whatsoever of joining the 'good life'.
This is such a profound discovery for multimillioned masses of
ordinary people, however banal it is for the rest of us, that it has
extraordinary political consequences. This is again an era when
for 4/5 of humankind, social emancipation and private welfare
can only be achieved not by embracing the market but by
overthrowing it. That makes this a watershed moment.

>>This is not a model of
socialism that any working person would identify with. It is a Kafkaesque

Is it? Working class people identify with what is real,
and conforms with their own experience. If you can show the inner
logic which made it so, then what you depict is not a Kafkaesque
nightmare, but a quite heroic struggle by a state and its people
precisely to avoid living in a nightmare which outside
forces are trying to inflict on them. People can relate
to that. What we need to do is debunk antistalinism
because that has become an ideological bulwark of
rotten imperialism. I can see the point of this. And it
isn't hard to do, either. You just have to look at the
historical record, as Jim Craven also shows.

 As for Michael Parenti, I do not quite see him in the same light
you do. It is better, as La Pasionara said, to die on our
feet than live by genuflection along the creepy lines of
'Well, yes, OK, I can admit he was a dictator, but we must
avoid extremes of all kinds, even when denouncing evil.'
This, as Lenin said, is just the support which the rope gives
a hanged man. And as for "What we do know of Stalin's purges,"
all I can say is that what Parenti knows and what actually
happened are two different things.

 >>At any rate, the crimes of Stalin are great enough to outweigh any of his
strengths. <<

This is exactly where I beg to differ, and so does much recent
[bourgeois!] scholarship.

>>In all of Mark's posts, I have yet to see a probing
examination of Soviet society. <<

Sorry about that. However I'm not done yet.

As for Yoshie's remark that:

>>A wise government weighs one concern against another in the matter of
internal security: concern about the dangers of internal subversion versus
concern about the alienating effects (upon its own citizens) of the
creation of an atmosphere of fear and intimidation through the repressive
tactic of preventive detention. When the latter outweighs the former, a
measure to improve national security may become *self-defeating*, for the
fearful and intimidated citizens, untrusted and repressed by the
government, do *not* make for a patriotism of the kind desirable for the
workers' state. (Here, keep in mind that the alienating effects affect all
citizens, not just those innocents who were unjustly made to suffer from
preventive detention.)<<

-- she has to account for why the best soldiers in WW2 where the
Russians and the worst were those who either
eat a Mediterranean diet or whose native tongue is English.

Mark Jones
PS I try to avoid this kind of tit for tat arguing, which is almost always
a complete waste of time, serving only to gratify the vanity of its
perpetrators. But I want to say (repeat) that I accept
Lou's chastisements as challenges and I intend to show
where and why he is wrong, in sufficient historical detail.

A final thought about the fate of Japanese militarism, which we
were all taught to hate the way baby seals are taught to balance balls:
while we can hardly regret its passing, it is hard to avoid
being aware of the predicament of the members of the Japanese
government who in the last weeks of the war desperately tried to
find out exactly what it was that the Americans wanted of them,
until the realisation began to dawn that they didn't want anything
at all, and that all that was required of the Japanese people
was to be live targets in history's biggest-ever shooting gallery.
Japanese ministers spent much time grappling with the
fine print of the Potsdam declaration wherein the Allies
said that they did not wish to exterminate the Japanese
race or destroy its nationhood. I wonder whether the trauma
of that period will ever be effaced or whether it has become
a permanent part of Japanese national psychology.

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