By the end of the 1980s almost all newspapers and magazines, TV and radio programmes in the USSR regularly informed their audiences about events which took place 35 to 60 years ago and which were connected with the life and activity of Joseph V. Stalin. The vast majority of these articles and programmes attacked Stalin accusing him of horrible crimes. At that time it seemed that if one switched on an electric iron it would also start speaking on Stalin’s misdeeds.
The sudden turn of public attention to the distant past reminded one of the events of 1780 in London which were described by Charles Dickens in his historic novel ‘Barnaby Rudge’. At that time millions of leaflets and pamphlets were published devoted to the reprisals against the Protestants by the Catholic Queen Mary I (1553-1558). At the mass meetings speakers denounced the long deceased Queen of Britain for the executions performed during her reign. They claimed that the atrocities of the XVIth century soon would be repeated by the supporters of the creed shared by Mary I. In fact the campaign served to prepare ground for the coup d’etat designed by certain ruling circles of Britain which were headed by Lord George Gordon.
Similarly the vast anti-Stalinist propaganda campaign launched by ‘Fifth Column’ of the West was not a mere exercise in history. Its goal was to discredit the socialist achievements of the USSR and prepare for the destruction of the USSR. And yet the the USSR and the other European people’s democratic countries did not put an end to the anti-Stalinist campaign. On the contrary the ruling classes of Russia and other states set up on the ruins of the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies continue to spread anti-Stalinist calumnies trying to prove that the existing regimes saved millions of people from the sufferings and mass executions of Stalin’s or neo-Stalinist ‘totalitarian’ dictatorship.
The first seeds for this anti-Stalinist campaign were sown by Leo Trotsky in the 1920s and 1930s. Trotsky’s slanderous efforts were continued and developed by N. S. Khrushchev, who in 1922-24 was an active supporter of Trotsky. Khrushchev’s report on 25th February 1956 at the closed session of the XXth CPSU Congress became the core of the all later accusations against Stalin.
Since the middle of the XXth century the lies invented by Trotsky and Khrushchev grew in volume like a snowball being rolled in winter in a Russian field. Authors from the USSR and other countries presented Stalin as a pathological killer driven by paranoid impulses. They accused Stalin of crimes committed against honest revolutionaries even before the October Revolution as they claimed that he served as a secret agent of the Tsarist police. The anti-Stalinists asserted that only by hook and crook Stalin got to the top posts of the Bolshevik party. They assured that Lenin wanted to get rid of Stalin and only Lenin’s disease and death prevented Stalin’s demise.
While describing Stalin’s role as a leader of the Soviet Union the anti-Stalinists accused him of gross mistakes in policy-making and large-scale crimes caused by his maniacal character. They declared that Stalin’s programme of industrialisation and the collectivisation of agriculture brought about only economic ruin, inhuman suffering and the deaths of millions of people. Describing the ‘horrors’ of Stalin’s rule authors of an article distributed by the Internet stated that ‘when in 1941 Hitler invaded the USSR, the Red Army was just a bare skeleton, while the population suffered from hunger and terror’. No wonder that anti-Stalinists repeated that the victory over the Nazi Germany and its allies was achieved ‘contrary to Stalin’.
While completely denying the strong points of Stalin and the achievements of the USSR under his leadership anti-Stalinists often accused him of misdeeds for which he could not be responsible and blamed him for crimes which he physically could not commit. In his 5 books Arsen Nartirosyan attacked 200 anti-Stalinist myths and yet his list of myths does not embrace the whole volume of anti-Stalinist accusations. Each of these myths makes one recall the famous phrase of Sherlock Holmes: ‘A lie, Watson – a great, big, thumping, obtrusive, uncompromising lie – that’s what meets us on the threshold!’
At present anti-Stalinism became a part of schooling in Russia. The manuals on Russia’s history are replete with slander against Stalin and his activity. There are special programmes for school teachers which dwell on minute details on how to instil anti-Stalinism in the minds of children. In the Internet one may find programmes of anti-Stalinist conferences for student audiences. Practically every day one may see anti-Stalinist programmes on Russian TV, hear attacks on Stalin on Russian radio and read anti-Stalinist articles in the daily or weekly Russian press.
Yet despite all these efforts, polls register that over 50% of Russia’s population find at least some positive features in Stalin and his statesmanship. Up to 40% of those polled said that Stalin did more good than bad. And just less than 25% of those polled shared the official lie, asserting that Stalin brought only harm to Soviet people and the world as a whole.
The popularity of Stalin became evident during the electronic poll conducted in summer 2008 when the Russian users of Internet were urged to choose the name of a person who should symbolise Russia. In the middle of July 2008 the leader was ‘Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin’ (198 338 votes). A popular singer of the 1980s Vladimir Vysotsky took 2nd place (146 928). Vladimir Ilyich Lenin occupied 3rd place (120 823). Boris Yeltsin took the 9th place (69 285). The results of the poll shocked the organisers of the poll. Measures were taken to increase the number of votes for Nicolas II, Yeltsin and other figures symbolising anti-socialism and anti-communism.
No doubt that the growth of Stalin’s popularity was made possible due to gradual changes in the mentality of Russia’s people who started to realise the dire consequences of capitalist restoration. Yet a considerable role in these changes was performed by the publications which reject anti-Stalinist falsehoods. During the last years there were published a number of books and articles which ran counter to the dominant anti-Stalinist propaganda. One may name V. Karpov’s ‘Generalissimo’ in two volumes, Y. Zhukov’ s ‘Different Stalin’, N. Êàpchenko’s ‘The Political Biography of Stalin’ in two volumes, V. Sukhodeev’s ‘Stalin in life and legends’, S. Semanov’s ‘Stalin. Lessons of life and activity’, Rybases’ (Svayatoslav and Ekatherine) ‘Stalin. Destiny and Strategy’ in two volumes and many others. (The author of this article also wrote a number of books on Stalin’s life and activity, including his biography in two volumes.) Despite the fact that the authors of these books and articles do not always share the same political and ideological views they are united in their efforts to disprove the existing bulk of anti-Stalinist lies.
Some of the recently published books are specially devoted to exposition of the most notorious anti-Stalinist lies. Thus S. Mironin’s book ‘Stalin’s order’ consists of seven chapters. Each chapter refutes a particular anti-Stalinist myth (‘Genocide against the Ukrainians by provoking mass hunger in 1932 – 1933’; ‘Great terror of 1937 – 1938’, ‘Genocide against the deported peoples’; ‘The Leningrad case’; ‘Stalin’s anti-Semitism’: ‘Stalin’s paranoia’; ‘The destruction of the Soviet school of genetics by Stalin’.)
Anti-Stalinist lies were exposed also in a number of articles published by the opposition press. Many of such articles were written by a former Great Patriotic War veteran Vladimir Bushin. In his articles he often ridicules anti-Stalinists, pointing out gross discrepancies and obvious falsehood of their propaganda. Sometimes the readers of Bushin’s articles also contribute to his expositions. Thus E. G. Repin in his letter to V. S. Bushin cited different anti-Stalinists who claimed that at Stalin’s time from 30 to 100 million persons were persecuted. Repin pointed out that while practically all those who were arrested for crimes against the Soviet state were rehabilitated during more than 50 years since 1956, their number did not exceed 1.5 million. It stands to reason that the figures used by anti-Stalinist propaganda exaggerated the real number of those arrested many times.
Besides there is a growing doubt that some of those who were rehabilitated in 1956 and afterwards were innocent. Many arguments which destroy this impression were presented in the book by Grover Furr which was translated in Russian under the title ‘Anti-Stalinist Infamy” (‘Antistalinskaya podlost’, Moscow, ‘Algotritm’, 2008). In his book Grover Furr strikes at the core of anti-Stalinist dogmas. Taking Khrushchev’s 1956 report paragraph by paragraph Grover Furr proves that ‘the most famous speech of the XXth century’ was nothing but a pack of lies.
Supporting his conclusion by extensive quotations from various documents Furr shows that Khrushchev’s report contradicted facts and logic. Comparing evidence of statistics and many witnesses Furr shows that Khrushchev misinterpreted major events of the Soviet history. In many cases Furr demonstrated that Khrushchev distorted the letters and speeches which he quoted in his report by omitting essential passages.
By exposing Khrushchev’s lies Grover Furr restores the real Soviet history. He states true facts about relations based on mutual trust and understanding between V. Lenin and J. Stalin before December 1922. Furr explains that there was the Politburo decision which made Stalin responsible for strict medical regime safeguarding Lenin’ health during his disease. It was Lenin’s wife N. Krupskaya who violated this regime and Stalin protested against it. This was the main reason for a subsequent quarrel between Stalin and Lenin which was not wholly solved due to the fact that Lenin suffered a stroke in March 1923. The political enemies of Stalin exaggerated the essence and importance of the quarrel and kept using the argument about Lenin’s animosity towards Stalin for many years afterwards.
Refuting Khrushchev’s charge that after having become the leader of the Communist party Stalin grossly violated principles of collectivism during discussions on all important political issues. Furr brings forth various examples of how Stalin involved as many competent persons as possible in the decision-making process and provided conditions for open and profound discussions from divergent points of view on all important subjects. Furr quotes different Soviet statesmen who remembered how Stalin recognised the validity of arguments which ran contrary to his opinion and changed his position. In fact it was Khrushchev who ignored other opinions and imposed his will upon the Party. This was the reason why he was eventually turned out of the office.
Grover Furr does not limit himself to the exposition of Khrushchev’s lies. Supporting the version of Yuri Zhukov’s book, ‘Inoi Stalin’, Furr shows that a number of Party functionaries including Khrushchev fought against Stalin’s attempts to change the composition of the whole body of the Soviet administrators. Stalin wanted to get rid of administrators who came to power at the end of the Civil War and since then did not acquire high education and experience of work on modern enterprises. Stalin wanted to replace them with persons who graduated from new Soviet high educational establishments and personally participated at the construction of the new Soviet industry and agriculture. Stalin knew that a great number of Party functionaries managed to stay in power since the end of the Civil war relying on the support of cliques composed of their friends, relatives and sycophants. Stalin wanted to put an end to such rotten practices and bring about the greater democratisation of the Soviet society. The efforts of Stalin and his supporters in the Politburo in this direction were expressed in the USSR (‘Stalin’) Constitution of 1936. The Constitution put an end to the inequality in representation between city-dwellers and villagers. It established general, direct and secret vote. Stalin urged also that elections should be conducted on a competitive basis with several candidates for a post of a Soviet deputy.
Furr discloses the complicated and contradictory character of the USSR political crisis of 1937 – 1938. The scholar shows that a number of high Party officials opposed the changes urged by Stalin since they were afraid to lose their posts during the elections. That is why they insisted on reprisals against those who might challenge them under the pretext of preventive measures against possible anti-Soviet elements.
Their resistance partly handicapped Stalin’s reforms. The demand of Stalin and his supporters to organise elections to the USSR Supreme Soviet on a competitive basis was blocked by the majority of the Politburo and the Central Committee members in October 1937. The author or this article talked recently to the former USSR Supreme Soviet chairman A. N. Lukyanov who recalled his conversation with an active Khrushchev’s supporter A. I. Mikoyan. Recalling events of October 1937 Mikoyan said: ‘We outmanoeuvred Stalin and he failed with his reform’. Stalin’s attempts to bring forth new well-educated, well-experienced persons free from corruption and habits of the Civil War time were used by feuding cliques for mass reprisals against their competitors.
Together with the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs N. I. Yezhov such prominent Party functionaries as R. I. Eikhe, P. P. Postyshev and many others organised arrests of the Party members and non-party Soviet people on a large scale. Apart from fighting against possible competitors for their jobs they wanted to get rid of the witnesses of their involvement in anti-Government plots. Using a number of documents Furr shows their involvement in such plots.
Furr brings forth facts and figures which show that the rehabilitation of Eikhe and others was undertaken by Khrushchev in order to conceal his own active role in mass reprisals and plots. Furr quotes the text of the proceedings of the the Presidium CC CPSU session at which Khrushchev asserted that Yezhov who was the main person responsible for the arbitrary reprisals which later were called ‘Yezhovshina’ was ‘an honest man’. Furr shows that Eikhe, Postyshev, Kossior, Rudzutak and others were rehabilitated in a few days after Khrushchev arbitrarily announced at the XXth CPSU Congress that they were innocent. Their rehabilitation was performed with gross violation of legal logic and law practices.
Furr also refutes other Khrushchev’s lies. He disproves the often repeated Khrushchev’s accusation that Stalin ignored warnings about the impeding Nazi Germany’s attack on June 22, 1941 against the USSR. To Furr’s arguments it might be added that this lie was refuted already in General Tyulenev’s memories published in 1963. The general who was responsible for the air defence of Moscow recalled that on June 21 Stalin phoned him and warned that next day the German planes might attack the USSR capital. Besides in his book ‘Conversations with Stalin’ Milovan Djilas stated that in 1945 Khrushchev told him quite a different story on the subject from what he said in his 1956 report. In 1945 Khrushchev said that on June 21 Stalin phoned him. At that time Khrushchev was the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party. Stalin told Khrushchev that the German attack which might happen next day and asked him to take appropriate measures.
Resorting to a number of documents Furr proves that Khrushchev lied when he stated that Stalin was in a state of panic after June 22. Many facts cited by Furr amply demonstrate falsehood of Khrushchev’s allegations that Stalin was an incompetent war leader and was capable only of making fatal mistakes.
While Furr is quite correct in refuting Khrushchev’s attacks on Beria as false and demagogic, the author of the article considers that one should also take into account other qualities of this Party leader. One should bear in mind that Beria belonged to the generation of Party functionaries who came to power immediately after the Civil war and shared both the strong points and shortcomings typical for them. Though Beria was a talented organiser and was active in building the Soviet nuclear weapons he lacked high education. Besides he was deeply involved in various inter-Party intrigues. Like many others of the representatives of this generation of administrators Beria opposed the 1936 Constitution as it is well shown in Yuri Zhukov’s book. This was also a reason why in the 1950s Beria was active in his intrigues against Stalin’s nominees and Stalin himself. Suffice it to mention the suspicious circumstances of Stalin’s fatal disease. While Stalin’s death remains covered by mystery it is well known that Beria together with Malenkov, Khrushchev and Bulganin prevented calling medical assistance to Stalin for several hours after he was found lying unconscious on the floor of his country-house.
But these remarks on Beria do not prevent the author
of this article to express his high estimate of Furr’s book. There is
no doubt that hitting at the core of anti-Stalinist lies Grover Furr
performed a task which was long due. And he did it brilliantly.
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