From MIM Theory 6, The Stalin Issue
Antonov-Ovseyenko. The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981, 374pp.
Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko's father was an insurrection leader in the October Revolution of 1917. From his military office, he helped Trotsky in a last gasp struggle against Stalin in 1925. Stalin "demoted" him to 12 years of diplomatic service and had him executed in 1937. His son survived and wrote this book, the most complete collection of hateful anti-Stalin rumors available from Soviet sources.
Bazhanov, Boris. Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin. David W. Doyle, trans. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1990, 285pp.
While not surpassing Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko in hateful rumors, Boris Bazhanov is our most far-right wing critic of Stalin here. Bazhanov was a member of the intelligentsia who thought much of his own expertise and technocratic talents as Stalin's right-hand secretary in the 1920s before defecting. He may have been the most powerful person in his twenties at the time in the Soviet Union, but he did not understand much about Marxism. He did such a good job opposing Stalin after defecting, according to Bazhanov himself, the Nazis offered him a job in the German invasion of the Soviet Union. He rounds out his book declaiming the lack of will in the West to save Christian civilization from the communists.
Buy This Book
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin: A Political Biography. NY: Vintage Books, 1960, 600pp.
Isaac Deutscher was a well-known Trotskyist. Like all Trotskyists he had his fallings out with other Trotskyists. His work demonstrates some experience with political and ideological issues that Trotskyists enjoy. Deutscher's is also the most overtly racist of all the works reviewed by MIM in this issue of MIM Theory.
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, 211pp.
Djilas is a former follower of Stalin in Yugoslavia, who came to believe that a "new class" took over in the Soviet bloc and destroyed socialism. Mao had his views studied within the Chinese Communist Party as reference material, but Djilas believed that Stalin was "the greatest criminal in history." (Djilas, p. 187)
Buy This Book
Khruschev, N. Khruschev Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes. Jerrold L. Schecter with Vyacheslav V. Luchkov trans. and ed. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1990, 219pp.
Nikita Khruschev was Stalin's successor in the Soviet Union. He was the first leader of a communist government to restore capitalism (if we don't count Tito in Yugoslavia). In his "secret speech" in 1956 as party leader, the Soviet Union's Communist Party denounced Stalin for "crimes" against humanity.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism. George Shriver, ed. and trans. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, 903pp.
Roy Medvedev was a "dissident" historian in the old Soviet Union, whose father was arrested by Stalin's government. (Medvedev, p. 619) Today Medvedev is a social-democrat, maybe even a "left social-democrat." His book is largely based on rumors - "by the victims of repression or their friends or relatives." (Medvedev, p. xx) He distinguishes himself from pure anti-communists by writing favorably of the "Old Bolsheviks" against Stalin, particularly where it came to upholding their human-rights. "They were revolutionaries who were sincerely striving to destroy the injustices and and defects of society in Russia and the world of their time." (Medvedev, p. 472, see p. 471 for an explanation of his logic of laying moral blame contrasted with Solzhenitsyn's.)
Buy This Book
Molotov, V. M. Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics. Compiled by Felix Chuev. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993, 438pp.
The late Molotov is perhaps the only author out of the above who might be on our side of the barricades. He was second to Stalin overall in the Stalin era and his work represents the thoughts of an insider who did not repudiate Stalin, even after Stalin had his wife arrested and prepared to have Molotov imprisoned or executed. Molotov recognizes that Khruschev took the Soviet Union off the socialist road, but Molotov did not subscribe to Mao's views. In fairness, he came close on some occasions, and we must account for what avenues of struggle were open to him, especially as someone well-known, very old and under surveillance. Molotov was already 66 when Khruschev moved against him and other Stalin supporters in 1956. Molotov's memoirs come from the last 17 years of his 96 year life. During the 1960s, the Chinese communists made a point of hailing Molotov every chance they got, as a way of criticizing Khruschev. Stalin's daughter recalls how Molotov and his wife, even after being arrested by Stalin and after Stalin was dead, sat her down and told her: "Your father was a genius… . There's no revolutionary spirit around nowadays, just opportunism everywhere… China's our only hope! Only they have kept alive the revolutionary spirit," said Molotov's wife while Molotov nodded and said "yes." (Roy Medvedev, All Stalin's Men: Six Who Carried Out the Bloody Policies (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1985), pp. 107, 109.)
Buy This Book
Pomper, Philip. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin: The Intelligentsia and Power. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990, 446pp.
In that very large vague space between openly bourgeois politics and Trotskyism is Philip Pomper. For the most part he accepted the Trotskyist view of history while disagreeing with Trotsky on key points. Like Trotsky himself, Pomper has a penchant for psychobiography. Thus, we cannot expect any meaningful comparative economic or military analysis from Pomper, but he is above average among psychobiographers in trying to understand ideology and historical context.
Buy This Book
Rancour-Lafferiere, Daniel. The Mind of Stalin. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1988, 161pp.
Daniel Rancour-Lafferiere is a typical bourgeois psychologist of the West. His view of Stalin is bourgeois mainstream and typical of the evils of the pre-scientific intelligentsia.
Tucker, Robert C. Stalin as Revolutionary. New York, 1972.
Robert Tucker may consider himself a Marxist humanist; we're not sure. However, he is our most formidable opponent, above all because we believe he does understand Stalin's political line more than the other bourgeois experts do. Tucker knows Marxism-Leninism's ideological and political line as much as anyone can from the sidelines.
Ulam, Adam B. Stalin: The Man and His Era. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989, 760pp.
Adam Ulam is director of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University - a major Cold War thinktank and CIA stronghold. His views, along with those of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes, are those of Russia scholars with a large influence in the Western media and intelligence agencies. Along with Deutscher's book, his book suffers something of a marketing problem in that it is out-of-date, even in the 1989 edition, which for instance, came out before Bukharin was rehabilitated by Gorbachev.
Buy This Book
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. Harold Shukman trans. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, 642pp.
Dmitri Volkogonov poses as an ex-"hardliner" of Marxism-Leninism in the Brezhnev era. Among Stalin's opponents, he might be the most fair and he brings much new information to light from studying the Stalin archives. He is friendly to Trotsky and the Mensheviks. (Volkogonov, p. 547 for views on Mensheviks) His work is a good reason for studying the Russian works on the question before the Western works on Stalin, all other things being equal.
Buy This Book
The Chinese Communist Party remains the best material to read on Stalin. In particular, see Mao Zedong Critique of Soviet Economics. New York: Monthly Review, 1977. Try also Peking Review, a magazine with articles on Stalin in the 1950s and early 1960s.
We also recommend Anna Louise Strong's The Soviets Expected It ; New York: Dial Press, 1941, even though the Soviet Union expelled her for espionage. There were two other independent progressives who wrote worthwhile books at about the same time as Strong did. One is Moscow 1937: My Visit Described for My Friends, by Lion Feuchtwanger, translated by Irene Josephy; New York: Viking Press, 1937. The second is Stalin: A New World Seen Through One Man, by Henri Barbusse; NY: Macmillan Co., 1935.
By reading these books one can get the context from the time as things happened and before the inter-imperialist part of World War II happened- without the various inventions and post-hoc rationalizations of critics with the benefit of hindsight.
See also Bruce Franklin The Essential Stalin. New York: Doubleday, 1972.
|Back to bookstore||Home page|