[Marxism] Stalin: What's The Hubbub, Bubba?

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at fusemail.com
Thu Mar 11 19:05:43 MST 2004

To continue with our roundup of history's big winners, the question of
Josef Stalin's legacy -- reportedly a hundred million dead and decades of
cultural conservatism for the "Eastern Bloc" -- is one that is rarely
raised today, here or anywhere outside the immediate cultural orbit of
Third International parties.  Exactly why Stalin would be considered to be
a problem already solved is clear, but perhaps the cultural reality of
Stalin's influence cuts a little deeper and murkier: I would appreciate
first-hand account to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me actually
rather patent in Stalin's "cult of personality" that he appeared to be
more or less your standard Soviet man.  But perhaps the question of how
distant it is humanly possible to be from such a model does not even rest
with such issues of "thick description", but rather the speech genre
Stalin's slogans and "theoretical" works can be taken to participate in:
quite seriously, Stalinism is a "down-home" politics for a lightning-fast
modernity and perhaps the secret of country politics (to turn a Lacanian
phrase, "castrated lack") reverberated all too heavily through Stalin's
political praxis.

In other words, Stalin was a master of "conceptual non-domination": none
of Stalin's views seem to force any particular understanding of his
actions, and this is because Stalin's early Orthodox theological training
is more or less at work in every aspect of his politics.  He is conducting
*second-order* analyses of concepts, and roughly speaking this amounts to
the elision of the truth-content in ideology (that ideological products
are not strictly speaking true); he is something like a humorist of the
futility of existence, and although this is not a traditional
understanding of the role of humor in political agitation there are many
outs on account of the fantastic inconsistency of second-order systems
(reasoning using generality with respect to already-general items, i.e. a
refusal to seriously base theoretical analyses in *faits sociaux* rather
than pleasant thoughts about fantastic scheme concocting).   But perhaps
Stalin, like Hitler, can be understood as having a genuinely left moment
and Stalin's may involve being a genuine leftist: Stalin's rhetoric really
suggests someone serving himself large quantities of Orthodox Marxism
(itself something of an afterthought) as an anti-bureaucratic measure, and
simply failing in his appointed task through no weakness of will.  That is
to say, if the Russian Revolution was, as we have every reason to think,
gradually crushed by an immense amount of power brought to bear upon its
nascent institutions Stalin was truly speaking a patsy: he was simply
indicating the absolute impotence of the Soviet government with respect to
Wilsonian hell rides.  Is this a model politics for the future?  No, but
such attitudes did not in truth consciously produce false models of the
past, either.

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