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

Asad Haider noswine at gmail.com
Sat Nov 21 16:57:37 MST 2009

> 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.

Thanks for the interesting commentary. I was just listening yesterday to a
lecture by Getty and an interview of him by another revisionist Stalin
historian. They are available here:


(I couldn't get the video to work, but the audio links do work.)

I cannot figure out their politics, though neither of them seems to make
excuses for the purges and neither seems to have any interest in defending
Stalin. They urge for an analysis of the purges that does not center on
Stalin's personality, which seems reasonable. Getty, in this lecture which
is probably for undergraduate students, argues that the purges resulted from
a climate of fear generated by the growth of fascism, and the social tension
caused by the attempt to achieve a few centuries worth of primitive
accumulation in increments of five years. Stalin's political opportunism and
his lack of concern with the victims of terror simply "activated" this
process, so to speak, in Getty's analysis.

Is it possible that Stalin's personal attack on Trotsky and cult of
personality in general have resulted in somewhat non-Marxist analyses of
Soviet history, analyses that homogenize Soviet society and center all
catastrophe on one individual? I am not trying to prove a point, I'm really
posing the question, since sometimes it is hard to distinguish a materialist
analysis of the Soviet Union in the 1930s from (understandable) moral
outrage at Stalin's treatment of Trotsky.

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