Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hard-liners and Personality Cults

I watched the movie "Archangel" tonight, which is based on a novel where a long lost son of Stalin comes back to rally the people back to communism, promising them a return to the glory days of the USSR, back before the shift to free-market capitalism brought vice and unemployment.
I became interested in it and got online to read up on the fall of the Soviet Union. Due to the stagnation of the Soviet economy in the mid 1980s, Gorbachev's implemented economic reforms under "perestroika." This freed many enterprises from state control. However, many failed and turned back to government for support, which brought the economy down even further. This in turn caused some of the states of the USSR to agitate for succession and independance, and resulted in the communist party losing some of its iron grip.
Even after the Communist Party gave up its monopoly on government in 1990, and the popular election of Boris Yeltsin to president of Russia, the "New Union Treaty" advanced by Gorbachev and others would have maintained a communist state. The draw back for nationalist conservatives is that it would have turned the USSR into a confederation of independant states.
The hard-liners did not want to let them go. They wanted to consolidate the power of the USSR. It was these hard-liners who sunk their own ship by staging a coup d'etat against the government in 1991 in an attempt to stop the signing of the treaty.
In the aftermath, no one would listen to Gorbachev- he was powerless. Yeltsin began to ban the Communist Party altogether in Russia.
It is interesting to watch how a hard-line no-compromise militant stand can be its own worst enemy. Reform-minded Gorbachev was on track to preserving communism, albeit at the cost of a more autonomous confederation. This was not good enough for the hard-liners.

I also noticed a blurb for "de-Stalinization." What is this I wonder? I came across Khrushchev's so-called "Secret Speech" to the 20th Soviet Congress in criticism of Stalin. Khrushchev practically preaches against what he calls the "cult of the individual." I could not help but think of some pastors I have known. Read for yourself...

Excerpts from the "Secret Speech" given by Nikita Khrushchev, Feb 24-25, 1956:

"After Stalin's death, the Central Committee began to implement a policy of explaining concisely and consistently that it is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics, akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behavior."

"Because not all as yet realize fully the practical consequences resulting from the cult of the individual, [or] the great harm caused by violation of the principle of collective Party direction and by the accumulation of immense and limitless power in the hands of one person,the Central Committee considers it absolutely necessary to make material pertaining to this matter available to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."

" In a letter to the German political worker Wilhelm Bloss, [Karl] Marx stated: "From my antipathy to any cult of the individual, I never made public during the existence of the[1st] International the numerous addresses from various countries which recognized my merits and which annoyed me. I did not even reply to them, except sometimes to rebuke their authors. [Fredrich] Engels and I first joined the secret society of Communists on thecondition that everything making for superstitious worship of authority would be deleted from its statute. [Ferdinand] Lassalle subsequently did quite the opposite." "

"While ascribing great importance to the role of the leaders and organizers of the masses,Lenin at the same time mercilessly stigmatized every manifestation of the cult of the individual, inexorably combated [any] foreign-to-Marxism views about a "hero" and a "crowd,"and countered all efforts to oppose a "hero" to the masses and to the people."

"Fearing the future fate of the Party and of the Soviet nation, V. I. Lenin made a completely correct characterization of Stalin. He pointed out that it was necessary to consider transferring Stalin from the position of [Party] General Secretary because Stalin was excessively rude, did not have a proper attitude toward his comrades, and was capricious and abused his power."
"Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed these concepts or tried to prove his [own] viewpoint and the correctness of his [own]position was doomed to removal from the leadership collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation."

"Stalin originated the concept "enemy of the people." This term automatically made it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man or men engaged in a controversy be proven.It made possible the use of the cruelest repression, violating all norms of revolutionary legality, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations. The concept "enemy of the people" actually eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight or the making of one's views known on this or that issue, even [issues] of a practical nature."

"An entirely different relationship with people characterized Stalin. Lenin's traits --patient work with people, stubborn and painstaking education of them, the ability to induce people to follow him without using compulsion, but rather through the ideological influence on them of the whole collective -- were entirely foreign to Stalin. He discarded the Leninist method of convincing and educating, he abandoned the method of ideological struggle for that of administrative violence, mass repressions and terror."

"When Stalin said that one or another should be arrested, it was necessary to accept on faith that he was an "enemy of the people.""

"You should have seen Stalin's fury! How could it be admitted that he, Stalin, had not been right! He is after all a "genius," and a genius cannot help but be right! Everyone can err,but Stalin considered that he never erred, that he was always right. He never acknowledged to anyone that he made any mistake, large or small, despite the fact that he made more than a few in matters of theory and in his practical activity."

"In this connection, Stalin very energetically popularized himself as a great leader. In various ways he tried to inculcate the notion that the victories gained by the Soviet nation during the Great Patriotic War were all due to the courage, daring, and genius of Stalin and of no one else."

"Comrades: The cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person."

"Comrades! The cult of the individual caused the employment of faulty principles in Party work and in economic activity. It brought about rude violation of internal Party and Soviet democracy, sterile administration, deviations of all sorts, cover-ups of shortcomings, and varnishings of reality."


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