[Marxism] Putting the "Russian Questions" on the back burner

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 21 11:33:28 MST 2009

I have mixed feelings about commenting on the most recent spasm of 
Stalinophilia on the British-based Socialist Unity blog from Andy Newman 
since there is so little interest on the left along these lines. But 
since some young people who read this blog might have trouble 
understanding why there is nostalgia in some circles on the left for the 
individual who did more than any other to discredit socialism, I suppose 
it is worth discussing—like a psychiatrist might discuss some unusual 
symptom, such as a belief that sticking your arms with hatpins will ward 
off evil demons, etc.

In some sense there is a precedent for this. After all, the Fabians had 
a mad crush on Stalin even though their own politics were akin to 
Newman’s Labour Party gradualism. The Webbs were foremost among this 
current in the 1930s. But unlike the official CP, they took another 
angle. As CLR James pointed out in an appendix to “World Revolution 
1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International“, “The Webbs 
end with an argument that the Stalinists do not use, for obvious 
reasons. They say that the world revolution was a proved failure, and 
therefore it was the only thing left to do, this building of Stalin’s 

I would call your attention to an article on Socialist Unity titled “The 
Heritage of Trotskyism – May the Fourth be with You” that relies heavily 
on Sovietologist J. Arch Getty for its analysis. A word or two about 
Getty might be useful. He is one of a group of “revisionist” scholars 
who have emerged over the past several decades who attempt to make 
Stalin more acceptable. His goal is to debunk many of the claims of 
people like Robert Conquest who have a vested ideological interest in 
maximizing the number of victims of the 1930s terror campaign. Getty, 
whose politics appear to be conventionally liberal, is to be commended 
for searching for the truth but as a political guide, he is utterly useless.

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