Celebrate Comrade Stalin’s Birthday!

RUSSIA/

“Congratulating Stalin is not a formality. Congratulating Stalin means supporting him and his cause, supporting the victory of socialism, and the way forward for mankind which he points out, it means supporting a dear friend. For the great majority of mankind today are suffering, and mankind can free itself from suffering only by the road pointed out by Stalin and with his help.”

– Mao Zedong, “Stalin, Friend of the Chinese People

Today is the 130 anniversary of the birth of Joseph Stalin. To mark the occasion, here is the eulogy to Stalin from the great African American leader, W.E.B. Du Bois:

On Stalin

By W.E.B. DuBois

Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also – and this was the highest proof of his greatness – he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.

W.E.B. Du Bois with Chairman Mao Zedong

W.E.B. Du Bois with Chairman Mao Zedong

Stalin was not a man of conventional learning; he was much more than that: he was a man who thought deeply, read understandingly and listened to wisdom, no matter whence it came. He was attacked and slandered as few men of power have been; yet he seldom lost his courtesy and balance; nor did he let attack drive him from his convictions nor induce him to surrender positions which he knew were correct. As one of the despised minorities of man, he first set Russia on the road to conquer race prejudice and make one nation out of its 140 groups without destroying their individuality.

His judgment of men was profound. He early saw through the flamboyance and exhibitionism of Trotsky, who fooled the world, and especially America. The whole ill-bred and insulting attitude of Liberals in the U.S. today began with our naive acceptance of Trotsky’s magnificent lying propaganda, which he carried around the world. Against it, Stalin stood like a rock and moved neither right nor left, as he continued to advance toward a real socialism instead of the sham Trotsky offered.

Three great decisions faced Stalin in power and he met them magnificently: first, the problem of the peasants, then the West European attack, and last the Second World War. The poor Russian peasant was the lowest victim of tsarism, capitalism and the Orthodox Church. He surrendered the Little White Father easily; he turned less readily but perceptibly from his ikons; but his kulaks clung tenaciously to capitalism and were near wrecking the revolution when Stalin risked a second revolution and drove out the rural bloodsuckers.

Then came intervention, the continuing threat of attack by all nations, halted by the Depression, only to be re-opened by Hitlerism. It was Stalin who steered the Soviet Union between Scylla and Charybdis: Western Europe and the U.S. were willing to betray her to fascism, and then had to beg her aid in the Second World War. A lesser man than Stalin would have demanded vengeance for Munich, but he had the wisdom to ask only justice for his fatherland. This Roosevelt granted but Churchill held back. The British Empire proposed first to save itself in Africa and southern Europe, while Hitler smashed the Soviets.

The Second Front dawdled, but Stalin pressed unfalteringly ahead. He risked the utter ruin of socialism in order to smash the dictatorship of Hitler and Mussolini. After Stalingrad the Western World did not know whether to weep or applaud. The cost of victory to the Soviet Union was frightful. To this day the outside world has no dream of the hurt, the loss and the sacrifices. For his calm, stern leadership here, if nowhere else, arises the deep worship of Stalin by the people of all the Russias.

Then came the problem of Peace. Hard as this was to Europe and America, it was far harder to Stalin and the Soviets. The conventional rulers of the world hated and feared them and would have been only too willing to see the utter failure of this attempt at socialism. At the same time the fear of Japan and Asia was also real. Diplomacy therefore took hold and Stalin was picked as the victim. He was called in conference with British imperialism represented by its trained and well-fed aristocracy; and with the vast wealth and potential power of America represented by its most liberal leader in half a century.

Here Stalin showed his real greatness. He neither cringed nor strutted. He never presumed, he never surrendered. He gained the friendship of Roosevelt and the respect of Churchill. He asked neither adulation nor vengeance. He was reasonable and conciliatory. But on what he deemed essential, he was inflexible. He was willing to resurrect the League of Nations, which had insulted the Soviets. He was willing to fight Japan, even though Japan was then no menace to the Soviet Union, and might be death to the British Empire and to American trade. But on two points Stalin was adamant: Clemenceau’s “Cordon Sanitaire” must be returned to the Soviets, whence it had been stolen as a threat. The Balkans were not to be left helpless before Western exploitation for the benefit of land monopoly. The workers and peasants there must have their say.

Such was the man who lies dead, still the butt of noisy jackals and of the ill-bred men of some parts of the distempered West. In life he suffered under continuous and studied insult; he was forced to make bitter decisions on his own lone responsibility. His reward comes as the common man stands in solemn acclaim.

From the National Guardian
March 16, 1953

Watch this video of the Soviet Victory Parade in 1945 with Paul Robeson singing the 1944 Soviet National Anthem:

Please see also my article on the evaluation of Stalin’s contributions to Marxism-Leninism: Some Points on Stalin (and Mao).

19 responses to “Celebrate Comrade Stalin’s Birthday!

  1. Maoistisk studiegruppe

    Long live Stalin and his work, Stalinism!
    http://marxismeleninismemaoisme.wordpress.com

  2. Look at the guys holding that picture of Stalin.

    Do you think they are progressive people?

    In the context of modern Russian politics, those holding up portraits of Stalin are almost all eager for a military and imperialist resurgence of Russian imperialism (and a strong repressive autocratic state). The nature of their movement (and its demands) is separate from an evaluation of what Stalin represented.

  3. Mike:

    How can you gauge the politics of somone by looking at a picture of them? I suppose if they wore their hair long, had a nose ring, wore all black clothes they would be progressive?

  4. Exactly, how does one know someone’s politics merely by looking at them? This is barring obvious groups like the National Bolsheviks and others who hold banners with nationalist images. This guy has a scarf though that says CCCP 1917.

  5. Maybe it’s the flower that screams “I’m an imperialist!”. Or the hat? Lennon-esque sunglasses?

    What fashion should I be in if I want to look like a Marxist? Nobody has sent me the memo yet :(

    (Happy birthday to Stalin!)

  6. Stalin’s theoretical importance in the development of Marxism-Leninism are unquestionable. But, perhaps more importantly, the practical outcomes that resulted from his teaching, his guidance and his leadership helped change the world forever – and represented a renewed confidence in the international proletariat.

  7. It’s pretty chauvinistic to dismiss somebody as imperialist simply for “looking” Russian. I guess if you don’t have the ‘third world revolutionary’ look, you’re condemned.

  8. I’ll repeat my point (which has been pointedly ignored):

    In the context of modern Russian politics, those holding up portraits of Stalin are almost all eager for a military and imperialist resurgence of Russian imperialism (and a strong repressive autocratic state). The nature of their movement (and its demands) is separate from an evaluation of what Stalin represented.

    I have also posted a bit more about Stalin himself in a recent discussion “Learning from a Century of Revolution (Including Stalin)” which you may find relevant.

  9. I disagree with Mike’s point.

    Mike, I think would be helpful if you gave examples of currently existing political organizations – who march with Stalin portraits and who also support Russian militarism and imperialism.

    After all you say “In the context of modern Russian politics, those holding up portraits of Stalin are almost all eager for a military and imperialist resurgence of Russian imperialism (and a strong repressive autocratic state).”

    At this stage of things there is something like 100 communist organizations in the territories of the former USSR – depending how you chose to count Most of these organizations uphold Stalin (and carry his likeness in demos and print pictures of him in their newspapers). And when you see photos of people holding Stalin’s likeness – typically they are members of the Russian Communist Workers Party, the CPSU, etc. I would guess the folks in photo are members of the CPSU, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

    Are you saying the M-L movement in Russia supports Russian imperialism and militarism? What’s the evidence of this?

    Seek truth from facts…

  10. Mike,

    I don’t know much about contemporary Russian politics, particularly when it comes to such particulars as to which groups of people hold up portraits of Stalin and which groups don’t, and what those pictures represtent.

    I think mukwa raises some good questions.

    So what about the Marxist-Leninist parties in Russia? Groups like the Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Российская Коммунистическая Рабочая Партия – Революционная Партия Коммунистов (Russian Communist Workers’ Party – Revolutionary Party of Communists) or the Коммунистическая партия Российской Федерации (Communist Party of the Russian Federation)? I don’t know about the personal politics of the folks in the picture above, but would you consider these parties to be progressive or not?

  11. I’d like to see one statement by any Communist party in Russia calling for the re-establishment of the Russian Empire. Unless you consider the re-constitution of the USSR an “empire”, which is absurd. I don’t know where they call for a ‘strong repressive autocratic state’ either. Evidence of any of this would be nice to see. I do think this new argument of yours is highly convenient, because your original post was not about the holding portraits of Stalin but about how the people holding them “looked” reactionary/imperialist, whatever that means.

    I would say, however, that the CPRF is highly problematic, and their orientation is IMO more nationalist than Marxist-Leninist (they uphold some of the Tsars as great leaders and also have some very chauvinistic attitudes among their leadership). That by itself though isn’t evidence that they either want a new Russian Empire or a repressive state. They spend most of their time being very critical of what they view as ‘authoritarian/undemocratic’ tendencies in the current Russian government.

  12. It’s stupid to make generalizations, but the epaulets and other forms of military memorabilia that these men are wearing are symbols of a reactionary caste system in bourgeois armies. It marks the rehabilitation of imperial tradition that was carried out by Stalin in the mid-30’s.

    It was a mistake of Stalin to rely on such prerevolutionary traditions and institutions. It was an anti-communist act, which is why fascists and nationalists can easily appropriate his image to fit their own political purposes.

  13. It is fine to make this or that aesthetic judgment about epaulets or military memorabilia — I find all such displays rather odious myself — but we ought to acknowledge that objectively speaking, Stalin led a vigorous campaign to extirpate Tsarist influences from the Red Army in the 1930s. And a big job it was too: Trotsky had imported 40,000 tsarist officers wholesale in the few short years he led the armed forces in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.

  14. I think this whole discussion is getting a little ridiculous, but we can certainly entertain it anyway. Originally there was some context regarding ‘those holding up portraits of Stalin in the context of modern Russian politics’ that was put forward by Mike E, but I think that context has broken down with the recent comments regarding the many ML parties and organizations in the former USSR. Now we are essentially talking about some sort of revolutionary/reactionary dress code.

    So what about these photographs from Nepal?

    1. Here are some people with that same portrait of Comrade Stalin.

    2. Here are some people with epaulets, collar flashes, and other military trapping drawn originally from a “reactionary caste system in bourgeois armies”.

    Of course I understand that revolutionary Nepal and contemporary Russia are very different places. But given what mukwa and Brian (and myself) have said above, I think the comparison of these pictures is not unfair.

    Revolutionaries or reactionaries?

  15. Stalin has always had a very different meaning in south asian politics and russian politics.

    That is true both historically and now.

    In Russia the forces marching with Stalin portraits on various holidays are generally rather fascist. And we can get into the details of their programs and histories. But start with their view of modern Russian pressures on neighboring countries…

    In India and Nepal it is more ocmplex. Stalin has been a banner of some reactionary parties (including the CPI(M) which has governed West Bengal and which played such a counterrevolutionary role in the Naxalite uprising).

    at the same time the modern naxalites of the CPI(M) uphold Stalin strongly.

    and in nepal, it is similar: You would have to know who is holding the portrait. The Nepali Maoists are very sharply critical of Stalin (much more so than say the RCP or the CPI(M) ), but they have still upheld him as a revolutionary.

    And he is (at the same time) upheld (often over Mao) by parties who opposed the people’s war, and have taken non revolutionary stands in the complexities of nepali politics.

    In other words, I would not run pictures of people holding stalin portraits in Russia — because so many of them are really militant social-imperialists who want a heavy hand of the state (some of them will announce “open the gulags” when you talk to them.)

    Generally these forces uphold what Mao called “the bad side of stalin.” They uphold precisely those features of stalin that helped strengthen pro-capitalist and imperialist forces, and discourage the kind of mass upsurge and turmoil that might have r-revolutionized the society.

    And, by contrast, the situation in south Asia is far more complex, for the simple reason that (unlike Russia) there are organized revolutionary parties there (who to varying degrees uphold “the good side of stalin.”)

  16. some points:
    * Look at the forces who promote the theory that current Russia is dominated by foreign capital and zionists. There is a basic political divie over this: whether to oppose Russian imperialism, or to demand its reassertion.
    * the demand for the return to the USSR needs to be considered in the context in which the USSR was social imperialist for forty plus years. There is nothing inherently “socialist” about demanding a return to the USSR, especially when for many suchforces it means reestablishing centralized control over Ukraine, Baltic states, Belarus, Central Asia, georgia, and so on.
    * A good way to look at this is what stand such forces take on the imperialist bulling of the Putin government (against Ukraine, Chechnians, georgia, and so on). Do they say “about time, and not enough” — or do they take (like real Leninists) a stand of revolutionary defeatism toward “their own” imperialists.

    I am eager to learn more about the development of various parties in the Russian politics. and I would be eager to learn about forces who take a revolutionary anti-imperialist stand against Russian expansionism (and what can only be called “revanchism”). My understanding is that the so-called “communist” parties of russia come down on the social-imperialist side of the key questions.

  17. There is no “imperialist bullying” by Russia towards its neighbors. Quite the contrary. Russia’s neighbors, emboldened and directed by the West, have been deliberately antagonizing Russia. Encirclement of Russia is an explicit goal of NATO and the western countries. Let’s look at what these “neighbors” have done.

    Ukraine: With direct funding from the United States, a “crisis” is manufactured in 2004 and a coup is staged whereby an anti-Russian government comes to power. This government proceeds to bring an economic crisis to its people. “Voting” under the new regime is patrolled by out and out fascist goonsquads like the UNSO, who are in a working coalition with the new “Orange Order”. Ukraine violates long-held agreements regarding Russian use of naval bases and threatens war with Russia during Georgia’s massacre of the South Ossetian people. Ukraine gives unconditional solidarity to Georgia’s barbaric assault on civilians during that crisis. Ukraine continually steals gas during transit, refuses to pay debts, and refuses to negotiate new contracts with Russia over energy. The reactionary leadership of Ukraine is clamoring to be placed in NATO’s orbit so it can further antagonize Russia with security assurances.

    Georgia: The product of another western-led coup. The Georgian dictatorship murders the opposition leader and is “re-elected” with widespread fraud. This fraud is hailed as “democracy” by the West and the anti-Russian chauvinists among the “left”. Georgia proceeds to be armed to the teeth by NATO over a number of years. In 2008 the Saakashvili thugs demolish the civilian capital of South Ossetia and murder Russian peacekeepers in cold blood. Georgia’s dictator, with his well-polished English, makes the world somehow believe that his massacre of civilians had nothing to do with Russia’s response. Georgia also is urging to be placed in NATO’s orbit.

    Chechnya: Islamist militants in 1999 invade Dagestan (but these people are “anti-imperialists”?) The people of Dagestan overwhelmingly opposed the expansionist Wahhabi thugs attempt to overtake them and establish a separatist Islamic Republic. Chechen terrorists engaged in a number of slaughters of civilians in Russian territory and provoked a war. Mujahadeen from all the world came to fight Russians.

    Right now, the imperialists are trying to Belarus what they did to Nicaragua. They explicitly are using the Contra/NED model against the government there. Belarus is “too friendly” to Russia and its economy is too socially controlled. Instead of rallying to support Belarus against yet another imperialist gambit against Russia’s neighbors, elements of the so-called “left” in the United States, particularly self-proclaimed “Maoists” and Trotskyists, attack Russia.

    I believe the willingness to swallow any and all anti-Russian propaganda the West puts out is evidence of anti-Russian chauvinism stemming back from the Cold War era. The idea that the government that was supporting anti-colonial liberation (USSR) struggles was “social imperialist”, while “Maoists” who were aligning directly with countries like Pinochet’s Chile and Pretorian South Africa were the real anti-imperialists, is a joke.

  18. By the way, the Chechen terrorists have extensive ties to Al Qaeda, transnational crime (especially drug) syndicates, the KLA, and other pro-American terrorist outfits. The Pakistani ISI basically directs the Chechen mujahadeen, and the ISI has taken its marching orders from Washington. Chechens were trained and indoctrinated in Pakistan-run camps set up by the CIA. Many of them were also trained in Taliban-run camps in Afghanistan. The beneficiaries of the war in Chechnya are Western oil companies that want monopoly control over pipeline routes around the Caspian.

  19. It is true that there are those Russian Nationalists, and fascists in Russia who like Stalin.

    After all Stalin turned Russia into a superpower. And that was good for socialism, and good for the world.

    But obviously mnay Russians take a great deal of national pride in Soviet power.

    Soviet power was good from an internationalist perspective.

    But even if one was purely a Russian nationalist and nothing else, one could also find a lot of good in Stalin – obviously – without victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Russian people would most likely have ceased to exist (although you do get some deluded fools within the Russian fascist right who openly admire Hitler).

    In a similar vein of course, many many Chinese revere Mao today, not as a communist, but as a national hero who fought the Japanese, threw off the Western imperialist yoke and fought the US to a standstill in Korea.

    Whether one takes the standpoint of an internationalist or a Chinese patriot, Mao was a great man.

    Factually of course both Stalin and Mao were perhaps the greatest liberators in human history. (Those who point to the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and of course sadly there were far too many, should bear in mind that Mao greatly increased both life expectancy and literacy in China. In fact life expectancy at the time of Mao’s death was greater than life expectancy in India today!)

    The two single greatest events in the 20th century were the October Revolution and the victory of the Chinese Revolution.

    Without communism, the world today would still be in the dark night of colonial oppression and imperial plunder. Of course even now the legacy of imperialism is still with us and keeps untold millions around the world in the shackles of poverty.

    Never forget the atrocities of capitalism – from King Leopold’s Congo to American atrocities in the Phillipines, the massacre of the Hereros, forced labour, slavery, the murder of 50 million native Americans.

    Stalin certainly had his mistakes, but his achievements vastly outweigh his mistakes. His excesses were due to insecurity from internal and external threats. In fact given the threats the USSR faced at the time, some of Stalin’s mistakes are quite understandable.

    Communists have committed excesses – but from a position of insecurity. When the socialist countries secured their power and international position, their record of governance has in the main been remarkably humane and sensible.

    Whereas capitalists murder and exploit and kill purely for greed. Exploitation and slavery are what capitalism is all about.

    Communists have the greatest humanitarian record of the twentieth century, and have saved and improved more lives than any other movement in history.

    However we have made many many mistakes. We can learn from this and vastly improve our performance in future struggles.

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