Dear Comrades of CPI ML Liberation,
You have circulated an article on email by the noted Hungarian Hegelian Istvan Meszaros ‘National and International Aspects of Emancipation’ which carries unsubstantiated attacks on Cde. Stalin.
Our Hegelian says that:
The contrast between Lenin’s and Stalin’s approach to these problems could not have been greater. Lenin always advocated the right of the various national minorities to full autonomy, ‘to the point of secession’, whereas Stalin degraded them to nothing more than ‘border regions’, to be retained at all cost, in strictest subordination to the interests of Russia. This is why Lenin condemned him in no uncertain terms, insisting that if the views advocated by Stalin prevailed, in that case “the ‘freedom to secede from the union’ by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist”
The citation given (Collected Works Vol. 36, p. 606) does not in any way support the position of Meszaros as Lenin here is criticising the position of the Great-Russian bureaucrats not Stalin. (For the Trotskyists, of course, the term bureaucrat by way of Pavlovian reflex, equals Stalin).
The citation does not sustain the contention that Stalin denied the right of secession to the national minorities and degraded them to ‘border regions’. The citation makes no mention of any of this – it is a pure fabrication by our Hegelian. It is well-known that the 1936 Constitution which is commonly called the Stalin Constitution recognised the right to secession of every nation. We may note that our Hegelian does not understand the difference between a nation and a national minority.
Lenin criticises Stalin for his haste, proneness to pure administration, and spite again the (local) notorious ‘nationalist-socialism’ but not:
This is why Lenin condemned him in no uncertain terms, insisting that if the views advocated by Stalin prevailed, in that case “the ‘freedom to secede from the union’ by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist”
Why does our Hegelian criticise Stalin on fabricated grounds and not on the basis of what Lenin actually had to say about Stalin ?
Our Hegelian correctly cites Lenin:
The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian nationalist campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.”
What was all this about ?
On the question of 'autonomisation' Lenin opposed the view of Stalin that the various republics including Georgia should enter the projected union of Soviet socialist republics as autonomous republics, considering that safeguards were required against the Russian apparatus. Molotov indicated that Stalin in this instance continued an earlier line of Lenin: 'Lenin had opposed the federal principle, federalism, because he favoured centralism. All the reins, everything must be held in the hands of the working class so as to strengthen the state. Just read his article on the national question. Autonomy within a unitary state, yes. But Lenin dropped this unitary principle for a federal solution: "Let us create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!" But Stalin did not know this at the outset'. (ed. A. Resis, 'Molotov Remembers', Chicago, 1993, p. 196). Lenin's objections were met when the USSR was formed as the sovereignty of the unified republics was guaranteed.
Lenin intervened in 1922 in the dispute between the Transcaucasian Committee of the RCP(b) headed by G.K. Orjonikidze and the group of Georgian communists headed by Polikarp Mdivani. The Mdivani group desired that Georgia enter the USSR directly and not through the Transcaucasian Federation. They sought to preserve the interests of Georgia at the expense of Armenia and Azerbaijan and impeded the economic and political ties of the Transcaucasian republic. Lenin did not support the views of Mdivani. Then the Caucasus was a hotbed of national strife and it was Lenin's suggestion that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia should be united as a Federation '... a federation of the Transcaucasian republics is absolutely correct in principle, and should he implemented without fail' (V.I. Lenin., vol. 33, p. 127). Lenin was justifiably outraged when Orjonikidze on being insulted resorted to physical violence with a member of the Mdivani group. After this incident Lenin advised profound caution and a readiness to compromise with the Georgians. Lenin wanted exemplary punishment to be inflicted on Orjonikidze. He held Stalin and Dzerzhinsky to be politically responsible for what he termed 'this truly Great-Russian national campaign' (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works. Vol. 36, Moscow, 1971, p. 610).
Our Hegelian further continues:
“The Georgian [Stalin] who is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or who carelessly flings about accusations of ‘nationalist socialism’ (whereas he himself is a real and true ‘national socialist’, and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully), violates, in substance, the interests of proletarian class solidarity; for nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice. […] internationalism on the part of oppressors or ‘great’ nations, as they are called (though they are great only in their violence, only great as bullies), must consist not only in the observance of the formal equality of nations but even in an inequality of the oppressor nation, the great nation, that must make up for the inequality which obtains in actual practice. Anybody who does not understand this has not grasped the real proletarian attitude to the national question.”
There is no evidence that Lenin is referring to Stalin in this paragraph as our Hegelian would have us believe. It is more than likely that Lenin in the above passage was referring to the Georgian G.K. Orjonikidze who had manhandled a member of the Mdivani group.
Further our Hegelian claims:
‘Reading these lines no one can be surprised to learn that Lenin’s sharply critical document, written in December 1922 when he was seriously ill, was suppressed by Stalin and published only after Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956.’
There is no evidence that the documents referred to by our Hegelian were actually written by Lenin. Even the compilers of the collected works of Lenin did not claim this but only asserted that they had been ‘taken down’ by his secretaries. The authenticity of the body of documents which the Trotskyists have dubbed ‘Lenin’s Last Testament’ have been questioned by the Russian historian Sakharov who has minutely examined the relevant documentation and discovered glaring discrepancies. Nor does our Hegelian provide us any evidence that these writings were suppressed by Stalin. They were submitted to the 13th Congress of the party as Lenin desired and were cited in party documents in the 1930s which were distributed in print runs of several hundreds of thousands.
We fully agree with our Hegelian:
Lenin never ceased to emphasise the importance of the full, not only formal but substantive, equality of all national groups. He repeatedly stressed not only the seriousness of the ongoing violations of proletarian international solidarity but also kept reiterating the Marxian point about the need to make “equality unequal” in favour of those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.
However we are compelled to profoundly disagree with Meszaros when he states:
After Lenin’s death in January 1924, following his long-time incapacitating illness, all of his recommendations on the national question were nullified and Stalin’s “Great-Russian” policies – which treated the other nationalities as iniquitously subordinate “border regions” – fully implemented, contributing greatly to the blocked development that subsequently characterized Soviet society.
It was precisely Stalin who stressed the necessity for the economically backward nations of the USSR to come up to economic level of the more developed nations. The Stalin period saw the economic upliftment of the national republics. While industrial growth expanded at a high speed in the USSR as a whole, the industrial growth of the national republics grew with particular rapidity. In the USSR as a whole, gross output of large-scale industry had increased by 1940 12-fold compared with 1913. In the Kazakh SSR it increased 20- fold, in Georgia 27-fold, in the Kirghiz SSR 153-fold and the Tajik SSR by 308-fold. Similarly, the Central Asian Republics benefited tremendously in the realm of education. The number of pupils in elementary and secondary schools increased in 1940 as compared with 1914-15 as follows: Azerbaijan SSR 9-fold, Armenian SSR 9.4-fold, Kazakh SSR 10.9-fold, Turkmenian SSR 35-fold, Kirghiz SSR 47-fold, Uzbek SSR 73-fold and the Tajik SSR 822-fold. (Politicheskaya Ekonomiya, Uchebnik, Moscow, 1954, p. 372). It is ironical that while Stalin's contribution is today being re-assessed in a positive fashion in the former Soviet Union but elsewhere there are many still in a Hegelian-Trotskyite time-warp.
I hope that you may circulate my response to the scurrilous article by Istvan Meszaros on your e-list so that comrades may draw their own views on this matter.
On the eve of the anniversary of the October Revolution let us salute the party of Lenin and Stalin!Yours fraternally,
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