The inaugural meeting of the Delhi branch of the Stalin Society, India was held on the 8th of March 2015 at the Indian Social Institute under the chairmanship of Dr. Kari Kalan, the National Convenor of the association. Dr. Kari Kalan gave the objectives of the Stalin Society, India and pointed out that it was an integral part of the International Stalin Society which has sections in a number of countries, including the U.K., North America, Italy, Pakistan and Georgia. The Stalin Society, India, was not a political organ.
National Committee member of the Stalin Society, India, Vijay Singh, pointed that many of the works of Stalin only became known after his materials were opened up in the former CPSU archives. This accelerated the publication of ‘new’ documents in Russian in several volumes under the editorship of Prof. Richard Kosolapov. Currently five of a 40 volume set of the writings of Stalin have been published from Moscow by the Worker’s University. It is important that more of these works are translated and published in India. He welcomed the publication of the new book of Tolety Jagmohana Rao in Telegu which answered the criticisms of Stalin made in the book by Moshe Lewin entitled ‘Lenin’s Last Struggle’ which had recently been published in the Telegu language. The Stalin Society will be publishing the writings of Stalin in various languages in the near future.
The speaker, Ashim Roy, Vice-President of the New Trade Union Initiative and communist activist, spoke on the theme: ‘The Relevance of Stalin Today.’ What was the importance of Stalin in the context of today? Stalin as is known has been denigrated and demonised. After the fall of the Soviet Union new materials have been discovered in the archives and people are learning that the reality of the Stalin period did not correspond to the picture portrayed in the past. The allegations of ‘terror’ and ‘genocide’ are being re-examined. Even the mainstream views are changing and there is a growing school of revisionist bourgeois historians. The denigration of Stalin attempted to demolish the important part of the communist tradition, the part that incorporates the socialist transition, the expansion of socialism from a country into a socialist camp and the making of the communist movement into an international political force of reckoning. The idea of communism is being revived after the crisis of 2008. In the consequent political crisis an intellectual churning is going on to decide how to respond to the political situation. The bourgeoisie finds Marx, Engels and now even Lenin to be acceptable, but wishes to deprive us of our historical tradition associated with the name of Stalin. Indeed, the Stalin period represents one of the best and significant parts of the communist tradition of the 20th century. Today people speak of Gramsci but do not mention that he is part of the Stalin period. The path-breaking theses of the 7th Congress of the Comintern are inseparable from the name of Gramsci. They were informed by the internal debate and political line developed by the Communist Part of Italy in response to fascism.
A look at the broad left traditions is revealing. An examination of the Trotskyite tradition suggests that it has no history of building mass communist movement, let alone the experience of the seizure of power. Maoism has no fundamental contradiction with Stalin. Even, if one assumes a difference, they are differences of a different historical time and conditions within the existing communist tradition and awaits deeper generalisation. The most radical Eastern European communist tradition was also consonant with the tradition of Stalin. Today we have to understand the importance of the 7th Congress of the Comintern rather than getting bogged down by the question of ‘terror’. To counter the rise of fascism Stalin, Dimitrov and the Comintern evolved the new united front tactics when the international communist movement was on the defensive. Despite the fact that the social democrats had repressed the communists, Dimitrov and Stalin supported the policy of united front and popular front against Fascism. The Communist International was founded in 1919 and it demarcated itself from social democracy. The Second Congress expanded the co-ordination of the international communist movement. The Third Congress of Comintern stressed the importance of building up the communist movement at an international level and winning the majority of the working class for the revolution. Stalin and the Comintern were informed of every ideological trend of their time. The international communist movement upheld equality, open debate and rejected the subordination of one party to another. The Seventh Congress of the Communist International is itself is testimony of this. Particularly after the Seventh Congress, Stalin stressed that winning the majority means building up the communist parties as leading party at a national level, and this required Bolshevik orientation but flexible tactics. At an appropriate moment during the Great Patriotic War, to give momentum to this process, the Comintern under the leadership of Stalin dissolved itself. It is clear from the recently available documents that Stalin hailed the contribution of Mao and the Communist Party of China where, after the counter-revolution in 1927, they organised the peasantry into the People’s Liberation Army. Flowing from the tactics of the Popular Front the defeat of fascism inaugurated the strategies of New Democracy and People’s Democracy in post-war Europe. In his time, Lenin defended the tactic of ‘revolutionary parliamentarism’ in Russia and after the formation of Comintern the tactic was applied throughout the world. In the New Democracies in Central and Southeastern Europe parliament was utilised and the bourgeoisie divided. Czechoslovakia was a prime example of the use of parliament, being preparatory to the revolutionary seizure of power by the Communist Party. But for this the coercive power of the bourgeois had to be demobilised by gaining control of the interior ministry. The coercive power of the state can then be used by the people and for the people. This revolutionary experience was rejected by the Eurocommunists. The approach of the 7th Congress is most important today as it opened up the question of democracy in a new way and made it integral to the communist movement without sliding into revisionist evasion of the issue of state power. Similarly, in his last two works, ‘Marxism and Problems of Linguistics’ and , ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’ Stalin opened a whole new set of theorisation to varied problems of revolution and socialist construction, which we have no time today to discuss, but which need to be studied and assimilated. Like, in the context of decolonisation Stalin foregrounded the systemic nature of the global economy by making imperialism as the unit of analysis for studying any economic questions. In conclusion it may be said that Stalin stood at the centre of the communist movement of the 20th century.
In the discussion Nand Lal commented that Stalin was the leader of the proletariat. His birth centenary was widely celebrated. Today Stalin is not mentioned. Books are produced in Russia that are hostile to Stalin. Europeans today forget the role of Stalin, the victor, while discussing the Second World War. We can understand Stalin well from the biography of Rahul Sankritayayan. The old newspapers carried photographs of Eisenhower, Churchill and Stalin. Today it is appears as though Stalin did not exist. Our communist friends do not do anything to re-establish the Soviet leader. But it was Stalin who, through collectivization defeated the rich peasantry. Stalin symbolised the revolution: the communists today are silent on this today. It is valuable that Indian comrades have located the literature of Stalin which was hidden for so long. The fact that people are again enquiring about Stalin is a matter of happiness for us. It is a source of elation to see the portrait of Stalin in this room and listen to the great deeds of the Soviet leader. The working class needs to be reminded of the achievements under Stalin. It will enthuse and empower them. Let us remember that Stalin refused to negotiate for the release of his son from the Nazis. Prior to the war the Soviet leadership had discovered the treachery of some of the Soviet generals which led to their execution. It was under the leadership of Stalin that Europe was freed from fascism. Today his name has been erased from the accounts of the defeat of fascism. The correct history must be resurrected. China gave due place to Stalin. The Telengana movement was inspired by him.
Aurobindo Ghose welcomed the initiative of establishing the Stalin Society and wanted to know the importance of Stalin in the conditions of the day. What were the anti-revolutionary activities of the Trotskyites? What was the difference between the supporters of Stalin and Trotsky on the question of the CPI programme of 1951?
Ashim Roy responded to this by saying that Marxism represents abstraction that is real; abstraction that is drawn out from the concrete. So abstraction is the determinant of the concrete real and not a set of ideas that is excluded by verification. Whereas bourgeois thought is based on hypotheses and its refutation in Marxism, theory is the law of development of a real phenomenon. It is always relative because it is domain context. No Marxist theory is absolute because the domain is always specific, concrete and historical. The Trotskyist tradition generally, though there are few exceptions, tends to follow the deductive logic from the capitalist mode of production, in contrast to the study of social formation in a sui generis manner as an articulation of different modes of production, even when the capitalist mode of production is the dominant one. Moreover, capitalism evolves with class forces that emerge in context of the pre-capitalist social structure and the nation-state process that forge it. Both, the relations of oppression and relationship of dependency are important determinants to the economic logic of capitalism and shape the dynamic of capitalist development and the different forms capitalism takes, as it becomes global. This also shapes the transition to socialism. Lenin and Stalin developed Marxism in the study of social formations, nationality and the social structures of society. The issues of nationalism and the peasantry are not adequately addressed in Trotskyism and that is why this trend cannot strike roots in India or other developing countries. In my view they err on the side of idealist abstraction. Trotsky wanted socialism on the morrow of the revolution. His followers have argued that in the Soviet Union primitive accumulation of capital took place by the exploitation of the peasantry. But in truth socialist accumulation under Stalin took place through the new values created by the labour of the working class, this is evident from the review of the Soviet economic literature done by scholars, including in India done by Arvind Vyas. After the Second World War the new plans raised the rate of consumption. It is true more debate and historical examination requires to done for understanding the nature of accumulation in under-developed economies and the distinct characteristic that differentiates capitalist accumulation from socialist accumulation. Even in post-colonial countries, where accumulation is necessary for development and productivity has to be increased, it cannot be devoid of class struggle and subsumed under bureaucracy that only increases and strengthen the bureaucratic capitalist class, as happened under Khrushchev. Let it be also remembered that Trotsky wanted militarisation of the party while Stalin wanted the evolution of socialist legality. He gave the first Socialist Constitution and wanted the gradual withdrawal of the party from the state and independent elections in the Soviets. As the new evidence shows that there was serious opposition to this direction within the party, and the growing war situation forced him to retreat, though in the post-war period one can see the wider application of socialist legality and a new direction being charted by the Nineteenth Congress of the CPSU (b). A number of times Stalin wished that his name should be withdrawn from the post of General Secretary of the CPSU (b). Even if one grants that Trotskyism is a part of the Marxist tradition and could play a useful critique, its deep anti- Stalinism make it play dominantly an ideological function. It is not strange that the absorption of Trotskyism into bourgeois academia has promoted Stalin as a sign of vulgar orthodoxy. Even then, we may note that, important thinkers such as Althusser and Foucault do not emerge from the Trotskyist stream but from the communist party tradition.
Dr. Omkar Mittal argued that the discussion on Stalin should establish the issues related to him in its own right and not by combating his opponents like Trotsky and the academic Marxists. In the context of the anti-fascist front we need a methodology which will take all trends together on a broad platform. The social agenda and the understanding of social history is very important if Stalin has something to say on this then it should be discussed and disseminated in detail in the context of nagarik swaraj in India.
Vineet Tiwari expressed the view that the failure to seize power by the Trotskyites was not a criterion to judge their politics. After all the right wing, too, carried out the seizure of power. It must be noted that Latin American leaders such as Fidel Castro indulged in anti- Stalinist propaganda. It is necessary to examine Soviet socialism and take up the question of the bureaucracy. In Nepal the rule of the communist party was destroyed. How should we differentiate between the socialism of the 21st century from that of the 20th century?
In his response, Ashim Roy said that on the question of the seizure of power, which is central to communist ideology and strategy, we can, and should, learn from the Stalin period. In this area there is no experience to learn from the Trotskyist stream. No doubt there is a rich left movement in Latin America that has to be assimilated. But in looking at the Latin American experience we need a comparative lens that is informed by the experience of people’s democracy in Europe, and not from the vantage point of Eurocommunism. The anti-dictatorship movements in Latin America have similarities with the anti-Fascist movement of 1930’s. Now they are also faced with some of the problems which confronted Eastern Europe: the co-operativisation of the peasantry, changes in property relations, armed opposition to the armed intervention of the US. In Latin America the transition to socialism is still not on the agenda. But as the revolutionary moment move in that direction, the 20th century experience will have to be revisited. Latin America is typified not just by electoral politics. Frequently, the army is on the side of the revolution. The true contrast between people’s democracy and Eurocommunism has to be learned, and assimilated, to move forward. It is necessary to look at the long history of the communist movement and not just the 21st century.
Sultan Qureshi suggested that it was necessary to focus on the issue as to why the communist movement stands demolished today. Why has the situation of India not been assessed? Religion is the opium of the people yet the comrades are indulging in religious rituals inside their homes. Their homes are not communist. Renewal and rethinking is required. Today in Delhi we have a government devoid of any ideology. This is a deception on society. There is a need for socialists and communists to come together. The leaders do not wish to face criticism: they only wish to function on the basis of their whims.
The speaker did not agree that the communist movement stands demolished, in fact it is still the strongest movement in India, The CPI, the CPI-M and the CPI ML exist in many different forms in the entire country. We have to see what the issues are. We need to do class analysis. The most ardent struggle today is by the adivasis against the corporates. The mass movement is weak but it is not weak as compared to the right wing. In Gujarat the peasantry is fighting. The parliamentary left is defeated but not the mass movement. We have to build on the basis of people’s movement. We cannot build on the basis of legal parliamentarianism.
With reference to a question on the reasons for the dissolution of the Third International by Stalin, Ashim Roy responded that the Communist Parties should understand, agree and act upon the principal international contradiction of capitalism at any given point of time, but the winning of the masses meant that they have to emerge as the leading party in each nation, and this required wide flexibility in strategy and tactics. At the moment of dissolution, the International Communist Movement had already passed through the necessary Bolshevik orientation and building on the legitimacy of national struggles against war and fascism, were on the rising curve of revolutionary sweep. Socialism has to establish its hegemony on a national basis and left sectarianism was the biggest danger to this possibility. The dissolution allowed the communist parties to absorb this understanding without a bureaucratic drag and where they did this, revolution had been made. Moreover, Cominform was formed with more equitable relationships between the Communist Parties to share resources and provide guidance. The French and Italian communist parties were a part of the Cominform. As regards India, it needs more time but it is interesting to note that Stalin and the CPSU (b) had raised the caste question with Dange in 1947. Later in 1951 Stalin had discussed the Kashmir question in Indo-Pakistan questions and argued that Kashmir had the right to self-determination and that it would be best exercised in favour of joining India.
The book ‘Our Reply’, a reply to the slanders contained in the Telugu translation of Moshe Lewin’s book ‘Lenin’s Last Struggle’, authored by Mr. Tolety Jaganmohana Rao, and published by the Stalin Society, India, was released at a function held at Cotton Association Hall, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, on 29th March 2015. Before the meeting started, Mr. Rao spoke briefly about the aims and objectives of the International Stalin Society and the Stalin Society, India, and asked the audience to actively fight against the slander campaigns of the Trotskyists and the capitalist press against Stalin and Soviet Union of his time.
Mr. Divikumar, Secretary, Jana Sahithi, released the book. He spoke about the greatness of Stalin and concluded his speech with reciting a poem written by a famous Telugu poet in 1953 at the time of Stalin’s death glorifying Stalin as a great leader (This poet was not a communist). Such were the feelings of the world people when Stalin was alive, Mr. Divikumar said. Mr. P. Prasad, National Secretary, IFTU, who presided over the function, strongly defended Stalin. He stressed that revolutionary dictatorship is necessary and if people demand that the enemies of this dictatorship should be punished, they have to be punished. There cannot be democracy for both tigers and lambs. If lambs are to live peacefully, then tigers should be caged. Anyone who says that there should be democracy for both tigers and lambs is an enemy of the people. There was no such thing as Stalin’s personal dictatorship. It was the dictatorship of the proletariat. Mr. Prasad defended this dictatorship of the proletariat without mincing words.
Mr. Ramesh Patnaik introduced the book to the audience. In his talk, lasting about 1 hour 15 minutes, he touched on all the issues raised in Lewin’s book such as the nationalities question, foreign trade, bureaucracy, dictatorship of proletariat and explained the background and defended Stalin on all these issues. He said that Lewin limited his book to only a two year period and ignored the entire period before and after this but questions Marxism and Leninism on the basis of this two year period in history. Mr. Patnaik said if collectivisation had not been carried out at that time the Soviet Union would have become a capitalist country within five years, at the most. Russia was considered the ‘sick man of Europe’ while during the period of Stalin tremendous progress was witnessed. This would not have been possible if people did not actively participate in the socialist construction as is being propagated. Nor would it have been possible to defend the country against the fascist German attack and win the war without the people’s active participation. Nor was the reconstruction of the country after the terrible destruction in the war possible without the support of the people. A person who could enjoy the support of millions of countrymen cannot be called a dictator.
A few from the audience spoke enthusiastically about Stalin and promised to actively participate in the Stalin Society’s work by forming Stalin study circles, organising small group meetings etc. in their areas. There is not much literature on Stalin in Telugu. This imposes a limit on their activities as they know only Telugu. They desired that Stalin Society should make efforts to make available material on Stalin and Soviet Union in simple Telugu to enable them to carry out their activities. On behalf of the Stalin Society, Mr. Rao said that it would make all efforts to make material available in Telugu as soon as possible.
A successful, well-attended, meeting of the Stalin Society, India, was held on the 5th of April, 2015 at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi. The topic was ‘The 70th anniversary of the Victory over Fascism’. The speaker was Harpal Brar, Chairman of the CPGB (ML) and also Chairman of the International Stalin Society. Prof. Nasir Tyabji chaired the meeting.
In his talk Brar noted that both world wars were the product of inter-imperialist rivalry. After the collapse of the USSR it began to be argued that the Second World War arose because of the faults of Stalin. However the USSR did not want war as it was concerned to build up a socialist society under the 5 year plans. But Stalin was clear that the Soviet Union should not face Germany alone. Every attempt was made to establish collective security with Britain and its allies but these countries refused and continued with the policy of appeasement to Hitler which was designed to push Hitler to the east and which led to the destruction of Czechoslovakia. The nonaggression pact with Germany permitted the Soviet Union to gain two years for its rearmament before the attack by Nazi Germany. Britain declared war on Germany after the Nazi attack on Poland. The west did not expect the USSR to survive the German attack but it did so as it had eliminated the 5th column in the Moscow Trials as well as the traitors such as Tukhachevsky and Yakir in the Red Army. France and Poland in contrast had collapsed within days of German invasion. Victory in the war arose also as the industrial basis for the Soviet military might had been laid by the Soviet Union’s five- year plans while collectivisation had led to the peasantry becoming familiar with modern machinery. The role of CPSU (b) in organising the victory was crucial as was the multinational character of the Soviet state. Despite the preparations of Soviet Union initial setbacks arose as the timing of the German blow could not be predicted and it was important that the Germans were not provoked to war at an early date. The German army, moreover, was a battle-hardened army which was using the combined resources of continental Europe. In 1942 about 1.7 million Soviet personnel were killed or wounded while the corresponding German figure came to 4.5 million. The absence of a second front also contributed to early setbacks as eighty percent of the German forces were concentrated on the eastern front. It must be noted that though nothing came of it that representatives of Himmler and the west met in Lubeck in April 1945. Such attempts came to nought as the Red Army took over the Reichstag. Harpal Brar noted that after the death of Roosevelt, Truman thought to reverse some of the Yalta decisions at the forthcoming Potsdam meeting but could not do so as Soviet assistance was needed for the defeat of Japan. The decisive reason for the surrender of Japan was the defeat of the Japanese troops in Manchuria and not the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US wanted to ensure that the Soviet Union was not part of the occupation of Japan. The total dead in the Second World War was 50 million. Of these the Soviet Union lost 27 million of which 8 million were soldiers and 3 million were members of the Communist Party. In comparison the UK lost three hundred thousand and the US 353,000 men. The Soviet Union rapidly recovered its economy in the post-war period so that production recovered to the pre-war level by 1948 and was double of the pre-war position by 1951. The fall of the USSR in 1991 had disastrous consequences as can be seen in the imperialist wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, North Africa and Ukraine.
Prof. Nasir Tyabji said that it was a huge task to understand and explain Soviet victory in the Second World War and that Harpal Brar had performed this admirably. The role of Stalin and the Soviet leadership in that victory came out well. Conventional approaches stressed ‘terror’ and the ‘purges’ but this had never explained how industrialisation was carried out and how the war was won. It was important to note the duplicity of the imperialist powers. The fight against imperialism could not be a gentle game. Uncovering the truth of Soviet history after sixty years of the 20th Congress of the CPSU (and the imperialist inspired distortions) required patient historical research. There was a need to contextualise many events in Soviet history which had been arbitrarily raised so as to score hostile ideologically motivated points.
Two participants raised the question of the role of Japan and its role in attacking Pearl Harbour in the anti-fascist war. This led to a discussion on the role of the Soviet army defeating the Japanese forces in Manchuria. It was pointed out that this had precipitated the attempt of the Japanese government to sue for peace. Historians have contended that it was necessary for the US to use nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki despite the efforts of the Japanese government to end the war in order to pre-empt the possibility of Soviet participation in the occupation of Japan.K.N. Ramachandran congratulated the speaker on his excellent presentation on the Second World War and said that he defended and saluted Stalin and the CPSU (b). Nevertheless there were many questions which needed to be gone into such as the decimation of the 5th column, the dissolution of the Communist International, the Yalta agreement, the question of Greece etc. as a result of which the communist movement was weakened. In response Harpal Brar stated that the honour of Stalin was unsullied and this was clear in the example of the Greek Civil War. He did not accept that it was correct to adopt a “Yes-but” position on Stalin.
At the close of the meeting comrades signed postcards in solidarity with the struggle of Irom Sharmila against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.Click here to return to the April 2015 index.