Personalisation of politics [was RE: Lenin Enrolment]

E.C.Apling E.C.Apling at
Mon Aug 9 06:58:29 MDT 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-marxism at
> [mailto:owner-marxism at]On Behalf Of Louis Proyect
> Sent: 09 August 1999 01:27
> To: marxism at
> Subject: Lenin Enrolment

--- snip --

> Furthermore, when the Great Man died, it led immediately to a legitimation
> crisis which the USSR never really recovered from. When official Marxism
> became a series of catechistic texts mastered in Soviet universities, it
> proved inadequate to the task of preserving the socialist project under
> changing circumstances. Stalin ruled through a combination of charisma and
> intimidation, but post-Stalin Soviet Russia required a form of socialism
> based on voluntary participation not afraid of debate. Stalin's
> successors, as it turned out, found it easier to switch over to the
> capitalist side rather than return to this kind of socialism which gave
> birth to the nation.
> Louis Proyect

This is a crucial point and a crucial problem.  Discussion of political (and
not just political questions - it applies so widely in discussion of, for
instance, football!!) questions in the terms of one leading personality
against another in place of discussing REAL issues in ingrained in ordinary
people's thinking - and in current US and UK politics is worked upon by the
reigning political parties to "keep thigs in order".

Clearly this attitude continued in the Soviet Union (and, of course, it CAN
have its positive aspects where used to extend mass acitivity - while it
undermines the extension of any REAL understanding of issues).  Oddly,
because using the didactic characterisation so often used in those times
this "cult of personality" SHOULD surely have been characterised as a
"petty-bourgeois phenomenon" to be resisted and fought against (!!) - and
yet the Soviet Union never, apparently, got beyond it....

This is a glorious example of how political batles have to be "fought on two
fronts":  on the one hand the "common sense" attitude of follow this leader
plays a large part in the developing of mass activity - on the other hand
unless mass understanding develops BEYOND this, there is no criticism or
possibility of correction if the leader "goes astray".....  This is and
remains a major problem in the REAL development of socialist democracy, and
the development of ways and means of countering it are crucial.

In THIS sense I have to agree that I have been wrong in suggesting that
discussion of Stalin v. Trotsky etc. is fruitless - but it ALL DEPENDS on
HOW and WHY this discussion is carried out.  To suggest (often as an
insult!!) that one contributor to this list is an inveterate supporter of
one or the other is just falling into the trap that Lou has no clearly
pointed out in the paragraph I quoted at the beginning. My feeling is that
there is much to show that BOTH Stalin and Trotsky fell head-first into this

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