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Mainstream, VOL L, No 33, August 4, 2012

A Pathetic Defence of Stalinist Repressions

Thursday 9 August 2012, by Anil Rajimwale

BOOK REVIEW

Khrushchev Lied by Grover Furr; Erythros Press and Media, LLC, Kettering, Ohio, USA; 2011; pages 423.

One can understand praise for Josef Stalin’s positive contributions which in fact are many, no doubt, but one can’t digest open defence of not simply mistakes but of the organised repressions and physical eliminations by Stalin and his group in the course of the history of the USSR and CPSU. The book at hand is a whole hog justification of the most brutal arrests, tortures, killings and conspiracies against the vast number of honest and dedicated Soviet Communists and other people. Their number runs into millions and is still inestimable. Leave aside the Western and other ‘propaganda’, outstanding Soviet and non-Soviet Communist leaders like Marshal Zhukov, Andrei Gromyko, Marshal Chuikov, Alexei Tolstoy, RPD (Rajni Palme Dutt), and countless others have confirmed the gory events mirroring the dark side of the Stalinist regime.

The book at hand takes portions of the ‘Secret’ Khrushchev Report delivered at the 20th CPSU Congress of 1956 on Stalin’s cult of personality, and tries to ‘show’, without success, that they are ‘lies’. Far worse, the author tries to defend the inhuman atrocities, repressions, tortures, confinements to the infamous ‘Gulags’ of millions of innocents, and their shooting and killings, again without success.
We are not going into each and every detail of the Khrushchev Report and whether they are accurate on this or that detail. But the fact is that the Report and the 20th CPSU Congress shook the world communist movement (WCM) to its very roots. One of the major pillars of the WCM was its worship of Stalin’s personality, justified or unjustified. The cult blinded the movement to the events of repressions in the Soviet Union and later in the East European and other countries professing socialism, as also to the actual socio-economic and political processes that led to serious crises. It covered up total lack of democracy in the Soviet Union and the concentration of power in the hands of, not just the CC or the Polit-Bureau, which in fact existed only in name, but in the hands of just one person, namely, Josef Stalin. This is precisely what Lenin had foreseen, but even he may not have imagined the lowest depths and extent of brutal repressions and tortures against and the killings of the most outstanding revolutionaries and Bolsheviks like Bukharin, Kamenev, Ordzhonikidze, Kirov, Marshal Blyukher, Marshal Rokossovsky, Rykov, Tomsky, Krzhizhanovsky, Makarenko, Sholokhov, Maxim Gorki himself, to name only a few. They may have committed mistakes, but so did Stalin and Lenin himself.

For a revolutionary, the most heinous crime is to arrest and torture a fellow revolutionary for the slightest ‘mistake’ or no mistake. In such acts, the Soviet regime followed the ‘philosophy of the guillotine’ of the French Revolution rather than that of a socialist revolution.

The revelations began to pour in not only through Khrushchev but also from many other personalities, who began to openly describe the details. The Communist Party of China at that time fully supported the criticism of the cult of personality. Polish, Italian and many other Communists and democrats suffered; the Polish party was wiped out. Even Indian revolutionaries like Abani Mukherjee and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya were arrested and shot in 1937. These were no revolutionary or socialist acts!

There can be no justification for these at all. But the book tries to justify repression and violations of democracy in every way.

Lacunae in the Book

The book claims to ‘reveal’ the lie in the Khrushchev Report. In reality the book itself is full of lacunae, which confirm rather than deny the acts of repressions of the period. For example, on p. 347 in Chapter 33 on “Commnaders Killed”, the author, in order to defend Stalin, tries to indict and attack one of his security deputy Yezhov, a top NKVD personality next only to Beria. He was arrested and shot on Stalin’s and Beria’s orders. The author reveals much while defending Stalin’s repressions but ‘criticising’ Yezhov in the following words:

“None of this means that all military commanders who were imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and executed were guilty. Ezhov (the spelling is different here—A.R.) and his henchmen no doubt framed a good many of them, as he did hundreds of thousands of other innocent persons.” (First bold emphasis author’s; the underlined emphasis mine.—A.R.)

This quote is interesting and tells a lot of things. The author of the book admits that ‘a good many’ were falsely framed, and these good many numbered ‘hundreds of thousands’! So, during the brief tenure of Yezhov as the security chief under Stalin, a huge number of people were framed, ‘imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and executed’. This job started before Yezhov and continued after him, with its highs and lows. The number thus easily ran into millions! And who was responsible?! Our friend, Grover Furr, is silent on this point except criticising Yezhov who was there only carrying out orders. What were Stalin and Beria doing when ‘hundreds of thousands’ were being deported, tortured and killed? Keeping quiet? Did they not know? Who ordered Yezhov to carry out these measures? The answer is clear even to a school-child. In his enthusiasm to defend Stalin’s repressions, Furr has let the cat, and the truth with it, out of the bag.

It is clear that the various chiefs of the repressive security system (NKVD at that time) like Yakir, Yezhov, and others were no more than hand-maidens of Beria and Stalin: they could be appointed any time, praised to the skies, and when the job was done or over-done, could be arrested, tortured and shot at will to cover up their own deeds or responsibilities. And Stalin thus could continue to garner the fruits of achievements as ‘the Great leader’, who ‘kept awake while the world slept’. In fact, hundreds of thousands were being sent to permanent sleep in the vast ‘Gulags’. These are the realities of the darkest recesses of the Stalinist period.
Another thing strikes one in the above-mentioned passage. It is the casualness with which the author of the book has mentioned the acts of repressions and tortures and killings. It is so easy, so casual with him, so trivial a fact which does not matter much. Really, such must have been the mentality of the brutal Beria-Stalin bureaucracy working against the genuine revolutionaries.

Bukharin, Others: Counter-revolutionaries?!

The book does not present a single proof of Bukharin and a host of others being ‘counter-revolutionaries’, ‘conspiring’ to overthrow the Soviet regime. Some of the best revolutionaries and Bolsheviks, particularly those associated with Lenin, were systematically eliminated during the Stalin period. How did Bukharin, the creator of the Soviet Constitution of 1936, which was also known as ‘Bukharin Constitution’, suddenly become ‘counter-revolutionary’? He was brutally tortured and then shot. No solid grounds have been presented till today. That great philosopher and theoretician wrote one of the outstanding Marxist works on philosophy while in prison, titled Philosophical Arabesques, in the most difficult conditions, and he and his wife specially requested the authorities not to destroy the manuscripts. The manuscripts were carelessly kept away in a corner of a table and forgotten. It was only in the late eighties that they were discovered and printed in the early nineties. This work was a great contribution of a ‘counter-revolutionary’!

Another ‘counter-revolutionary’, Trotsky, was writing articles on philosophy and formal logic just before he was murdered. Stalin could never have come anywhere near these great Marxist thinkers, and he used the state machinery to suppress them on blatantly false charges. Any number of names could be given. But the author himself has unwittingly admitted that hundreds of thousands of innocents were repressed. We do not need to make further comments.

One only hopes such crimes are not defended but are brought to light to draw lessons and underline the contributions of the victims of repressions.

The book also ‘counters’ the arguments that the party and the state functioning rapidly lost whatever democracy there was in the USSR. One does not need to undertake any major research to establish this fact: only two party Congresses were held during the Stalin regime, very sporadic CC meetings which were never full, and half-attended, half heartedly conducted Polit-Bureu meetings, more in the nature of ‘consultations’ among a few confidants of Stalin. All these so-called ‘meetings’ met under the shadow of the security agencies, and therefore no one dared to speak out his mind (there was hardly a ‘her’ in the CC). During Lenin’s time before and after the revolution, the party Congresses and conferences met almost every year or every second or third year, even if they had to run from place to place to hide from the police etc. And the CC meetings, there were so many of them.

Krupskaya killed Lenin?!

The author makes another wild and shocking suggestion that it was Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who drove Lenin to his death. He almost makes the claim, without putting it fully in words, that it was she who, despite warnings to the contrary, repeatedly forced Lenin into political debates, causing several brain hemorrhages and paralyses. As a result Lenin’s health kept on deteriorating progressively, and he was unable to think and act sensibly. He ultimately died because of such recklessness, even adamant attitude, on the part of Krupskaya. There is even a hint that Krupskaya was in league with the ‘anti-party’ and ‘counter-revolutionary’ elements in the party, was soft towards them, meeting them on several occasions. The reader is brought to a point where the conclusion—that it was she who killed Lenin—is just a small step.

All this while Stalin’s behaviour and activities are defended to the hilt and these include his harsh attitude to Lenin and Krupskaya and other leaders, most of whom were to later face imprisonment and bullets.

What greater falsification can there be than this attitude of the author towards Lenin and Krupskaya?

The book is totally subjective, even vindictive, towards the true revolutionaries and Bolsheviks in Soviet history. Much undeniable material has come to light since Stalin’s death to enable us to make an assessment of the Stalin period and of the reasons of the Soviet collapse, whose grounds were prepared way back during those years. All these need dispassionate, objective and balanced study. Stalin’s contributions certainly should be recognised, and there were many of them. But let no one justify the killings and repressions, even of those who made mistakes. And millions of ordinary citizens were repressed, as the book itself admits. And the leaders were treated in the most inhuman manner. This is no revolutionary, even humanistic, attitude. Imagine leaders of the Communist Parties in our country killing and torturing each other on whatever pretext!

Such acts certainly cannot be a part of the revolution; these reflect its degeneration. And the book justifies such degeneration!

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