Stalinism & Revisionism

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”

Martin Luther King


The Stalinist purges had no real justification and opponents of Stalinist authoritarianism accept that. The question is ‘How do sympathisers excuse these actions?’


After Gorbachev, files of the central committee were released and published in the 1990s. The historians’ findings showed there was no proof of the alleged atrocities of Stalin. Assuming these historians can be trusted, we must still be critical. Would Stalin not have destroyed any proof of his actions? If you fabricated lies to destroy your opposition, it is very doubtful that you would leave proof, surely?


Mario Sousa made a speech in 1999 in defence of Stalin called ‘Lies Concerning History of the Soviet Union’. The denial of atrocities is one thing, but to suggest that Stalin took the correct path is much harder to do.


Stalinists may emphasise the need for strength against imperial aggressors throughout the twentieth century. During the Cold War, it’s easy to see why those facing imperialist aggression in Asia, Latin America, or Africa would support the iron-fisted approach of Stalinism – and thus oppose revisionism. Having believed previously that any attack on Stalin and the USSR was simply imperialist propaganda, we can perhaps understand the reluctance of sympathisers to accept that such an important leader was in fact a tyrant. It would be tough to believe that they had been lied to after years of pro-Stalin propaganda.


Constant imperialist aggression would highlight the urgent need for unity, an iron resolve, and revolutionary commitment. That is completely understandable.


However, it is one thing to be a revolutionary movement in opposition to a repressive imperialist power. It is another entirely to be in charge of a government. Stalinism in opposition may have seemed completely necessary in order to ensure victory. Discipline and a strong armed resistance in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere would have seemed to be the only choice.


The question of revisionism really becomes important when power is obtained. Would newly formed revolutionary governments learn from the mistakes of Stalinism or blindly and ignorantly repeat them?


Should revolutionaries form a layer of impenetrable and indestructible bureaucracy as Stalin did? Or should they try to strengthen the true rule and freedom of the people through mass education and participation, as Lenin spoke of?


Violent repression of dissent and dialogue is counter-revolutionary if the revolutionary aim is to create a true, educated socialist democracy. It seems to me that Stalinists either choose to ignore or deny this fact.


As Che Guevara said, “the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love”. This is the main difference between socialism and capitalism, and it must remain so. Stalinism seeks to fight capitalism on its own terms, fighting fire with fire. Such a strategy can never lead to a true cultural enlightenment, which is necessary for people to truly realise the advantages of cooperation.


About Ed Sykes

Independent journalist. Co-founder of Phoenix Media Co-operative. Author of Rojava: An Alternative. Ex-Canary editor and writer (2015-2020). Aka 'Oso Sabio' - see @ososabiouk on Twitter.
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