June 2010. Published July 2010 as "Acusações de Kruschev contra Stálin são falsas" in A Verdade (Brazil).
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(NOTE: A Verdade means "the truth" -- i.e., Pravda, which means "truth" in Russian. A Verdade published sections 1 through 6 below. I am including the whole interview here. Many thanks to Glauber Ataide, of Belo Horizonte, who did all the work! GF)
1) A number of books are being published in recent years attacking the person and the deeds of Stalin. How do you explain all the interest in this anti-Stalin propaganda in the USA and in the world today?
Since the late 1920s Stalin has been the main target of ideological and academic anticommunism. Leon Trotsky attacked Stalin to excuse his own failure to win a mass following among workers in the Soviet Union (USSR).
The real reason for Trotskys failure is that his interpretation of Marxism a kind of extreme economic determinism predicted that the revolution was doomed unless it was followed by revolutions in advanced industrial countries. The Party leadership preferred Stalins plan of "going it alone", as Steven Cohen admitted many years ago (Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, p. 327-8).
Trotskys views were a great influence on all the openly capitalist anticommunists that followed, and they still are. In return, Trotskyist historians are welcome in the fold of capitalist anticommunist historians today. The late Pierre Broué and the late Vadim Rogovin, the most prominent Trotskyist historians of the past decades, were praised, and are still often cited approvingly by, the frankly reactionary historians.
Many in the Party leadership of the 1930s strongly opposed Stalins fight for inner-Party democracy and, especially, for democratic, contested elections to the government (the Soviets). In effect Stalin wanted to get the Party out of directly governing the country and back to its role of winning workers and others to political leadership.
The massive conspiracies of the 1930s demonstrated one large stream of elite opposition to the policies associated with Stalin. These conspiracies did exist: the Oppositionists really were trying to overthrow and assassinate the Soviet party and government leadership (the "palace coup" plot), or seize power by leading a revolt in the rear, in collaboration with the German and/or Japanese General Staffs.
Nikolai Ezhov, head of the NKVD, had his own Rightist conspiracy, including collaboration with the Axis. In pursuit of his aims he had hundreds of thousands of completely innocent Soviet citizens executed in order to undermine confidence in and loyalty to the Soviet government.
The Stalin leadership finally discovered this and, over a period of time, stopped it. But they did this in relative secrecy. Stalin and the Soviet government never openly admitted that this disaster had occurred, probably for fear that Germany, Japan, Poland, or the U.K., would see how split with divisions the USSR was, and try to take advantage of it.
When Stalin died Khrushchev and many Party leaders saw that Stalin could be blamed for these massive repressions. They also made up many other outright lies about Stalin, Lavrentii Beria, and Stalins closest associates.
When Gorbachev took power he also realized that capitalist "reforms" moves away from equality and towards capitalist market relations could be justified if the anticommunist campaign were described as an attempt to correct "Stalins crimes."
These lies and horror stories remain the main form of anticommunist propaganda in the world today. We can expect that they will continue to intensify as the capitalists move to lower wages and take away social benefits from workers, and move towards intensified nationalism, racism, and war.
2) How and why did you become interested in Soviet history of the Stalin era?
I explain this fully in "The 61 Lies of Nikita Khrushchev", my interview in Literaturnaia Rossiia:
"As a graduate student from 1965-69 I opposed the US war in Vietnam. At one point somebody told me that the Vietnamese communists could not be the "good guys", because they were all "Stalinists", and "Stalin had killed millions of innocent people."
I remembered this remark. It was probably the reason that in the early 1970s I read the first edition of Robert Conquests book The Great Terror when it was published. I was shaken by what I read!
I should add that I could read the Russian language since I had already been studying Russian literature since High School. So I studied Conquests book very carefully. Apparently no one else had ever done this!
I discovered Conquest was dishonest in his use of sources. His footnotes did not support his anti-Stalin conclusions! Basically, he used any source that was hostile to Stalin, regardless of whether it was reliable or not.
Eventually I decided to write something about the so-called "Terror." It took a long time, but in 1988 I finally published "New Light On Old Stories About Marshal Tukhachevskii: Some Documents Reconsidered" ... During this time I studied the research being done by the new school of historians on the Soviet Union that included Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Roberta Manning, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Jerry Hough, Lewis Siegelbaum, Lynne Viola, and others."
3) Your book Antistalinskaia Podlost' was recently published in Moscow, Russia. Tell us a little bit about it.
I have been interested in Soviet history since my days in the anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s. About a decade ago I learned about the flood of documents being released from formerly secret Soviet archives and began to study them.
I read that one or two of Khrushchevs statements in his famous "Secret Speech" of 1956 were recognized as false from the very beginning. I thought I could do some research and write an article pointing out a few more such falsehoods in Khrushchevs Speech.
I never expected to find that everything Khrushchev said 60 out of the 61 accusations he made against Stalin and Beria are provably false (I cant find any evidence one way or the other for the sixty-first)!
I realized that this fact changes everything, since virtually all anticommunist "history" since 1956 relies heavily on Khrushchev and Khrushchev-era writers. I realized that the Soviet history of the Stalin period that we have all learned is all false. Not just "a mistake here and there", but fundamentally a huge fraud, the biggest historical fraud of the century!
My thanks to my wonderful Moscow colleague Vladimir L. Bobrov, who first pointed these documents out to me, gave me invaluable advice many times, and did an excellent translation of the whole work. Without Vladimirs dedicated work, none of this would have happened.
4) In your researches you have direct access to recently opened Soviet archives, since you are able to read and write Russian like few western USSR researches are able to. What do these documents reveal about the "millions of deaths" under socialism, specifically in the Stalin period?
Since people die all the time, I assume you mean "surplus deaths".
Thats not easy to answer.
* Russia and Ukraine had always experienced famines every 3-4 years. The 1932-33 famine took place in the middle of collectivization. No doubt more people died than would have died otherwise. But yet more would have died in successive famines every 3-4 years, indefinitely into the future.
Collectivization meant that the 1932-33 famine was the last famine, except for the serious 1946-7 famine made much worse by wartime destruction.
* As mentioned above Nikolai Ezhov deliberately had some hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed.
* A little over 1 million prisoners died in camps during the Stalin era. We do not know
+ how many of these deaths were natural;
+ how many were due to disease and bad conditions (especially during the early years of the war, when conditions were bad everywhere).
* We do not know how many prisoners were innocent of the charges against them.
We dont know, because nobody is looking! The anticommunists are not interested in the truth, but in "horror stories" and the bigger the numbers, the better.
It is worthwhile considering what might have happened if the USSR had not collectivized agriculture and had a "crash" industrialization program, and if the Opposition conspiracies of the 1930s had not been defeated.
If the USSR had not collectivized, the Nazis and Japanese would have conquered the USSR. If the Stalin government had not stopped the Right, Trotskyite, nationalist, and Military conspiracies, then again, the Japanese and Germans would have conquered the country.
In either of these cases, the casualties among Soviet citizens would have been much, much greater than the 28 million who were killed in the war. The Nazis would have killed many more "Untermenschen" (sub-humans) like Slavs and Jews than they did. With the resources, and maybe even the armies, of the USSR on their side, the Nazis would have been much, much stronger against the British, French, and Americans than they were. With Soviet resources and Sakhalin petroleum the Japanese would have killed many, many more Americans than they did.
The fact is that the USSR under Stalin saved the world from fascism not just once, during the war, but three times:
How many tens of millions is that?
5) Some authors have been trying to identify Stalin with Hitler, and some of them even say that the so-called "Stalinism" was worse than Nazism. Did there really exist any connection between Stalin and Hitler? And what was the Soviet-German pact?
Anticommunists and pro-capitalists do not discuss class conflict and exploitation. In effect, they pretend either that these things do not exist, or that they are not important. Yet class conflict caused by exploitation is the motive force of history. So to omit them means to falsify history.
Hitler was a capitalist, anticommunist authoritarian of a type that is familiar in a great many capitalist countries. Stalin led the Bolshevik Party and the USSR when communists all over the world were fighting capitalist exploitation of every kind.
Whenever you say "worse", you must always ask: "worse for whom?" The USSR and the communist movement during Stalins time was definitely "worse than Naziism" for the capitalists. This is why the capitalists hate Stalin and communism so much.
The communist movement during Lenins and Stalins time, and for a good long time afterwards, was the greatest force for human liberation in the history of the world. Again we must ask: "Liberation for whom? Liberation from what?" The answer is: liberation for working people all over the world, from capitalist exploitation, misery, and wars.
6) One of the most frequent attacks made against Stalin is that he caused the great famine in Ukraine, in 1932-1933, also called Holodomor. What really happened?
The "Holodomor" is a myth. It never happened. This myth was invented by pro-fascist Ukrainian Nationalists together with the Nazis. The late Douglas Tottle established this in his book Fraud, Famine and Fascism (1988), available here: http://www.plp.org/books/tottlefraud.pdf Arch Getty, one of the best bourgeois (= non-Marxist, non-communist) historians, has a good post here: http://tinyurl.com/g42k4
Robert Conquest himself has withdrawn his previous view that the Soviets deliberately starved the Ukraine. Not a single shred of evidence to support this view has ever come to light.
The "Holodomor" myth persists because it is the "foundational myth" of right-wing Ukrainian nationalism. The Ukrainian Nationalists who invaded the USSR along with the Nazis killed millions of people, including a great many Ukrainians. Their only "excuse" is to promote the falsehood that they were "freedom fighters" against the Soviet communists, who were "worse."
The best research on the famine of 1932-33 is by Mark Tauger of West Virginia University. All, or almost all, of his research is available online here: http://www.as.wvu.edu/history/Faculty/Tauger/soviet.htm Taugers response to some attacks on him by Ukrainian Nationalists is here: http://www.artukraine.com/famineart/tauger.htm
7) How did the Soviet people, workers and peasants see Stalin?
Stalin had a lot of supporters and a lot of detractors. The Bolsheviks had successes but also made many errors, and these errors hurt or caused the deaths of many people. In addition there were, and of course still are, a great many anticommunists among the Soviet population.
8) Whats the importance of the defense of Stalin by the communists today?
I think we should defend the truth, not Stalin or any individual. We need to discover what the Bolsheviks, including during Stalins time, did that was right, and what errors they made. Thats the only way to learn from their experience so we can "do it better next time."
Its also the only way to show real respect to these dedicated revolutionaries, who spent their lives fighting for the rights of working people and for a better world.
Defending the truth means disproving anticommunist lies, while never being afraid to recognize and learn from the errors of the communists of the past again, so we can learn from them.
I discuss these issues in a couple of other interviews that I have given over the years: Here - http://www.revleft.com/vb/group.php?do=discuss&gmid=27273 (also http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/furr-celticfire.pdf ); and Here: http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/millerinterview0506.pdf
These interviews are online elsewhere too. See my Home Page, http://www.tinyurl.com/grover-furr
9) Do you believe in socialism? Why?
Socialism as it was understood in the late 19th and 20th centuries led to a return to capitalism. The communist movement and, in fact, the Second International and even Karl Marx (who called it "the lower phase of communism") believed it would be the transitional period between capitalism and communism. Instead, socialism proved to be "the transition between capitalism and capitalism," as some cynical people have said.
In my view this failure of socialism in the 20th century is NOT due to personal failings of leaders like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung. These men, and a great many more communists in these movements were great, dedicated people who worked all their lives to bring about a communist society of justice and equality. They thought they could do this only by building "socialism" first.
And thats what they did build and lead socialist societies as they understood them. These societies all reverted to exploitative capitalism. But that was not because Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others were stupid, ignorant, corrupt, "criminal", "power-hungry", or anything of the kind. These were the best people in the world and they led the greatest movement for liberation in human history.
The reversion to capitalism occurred because "socialism" contained within it the seeds of its own destruction. Socialism preserves too many aspects of exploitative capitalism, such as:
All these contradictions grew up, or were deliberately fostered, within the communist party itself, too.
Its clear that full-blown communism, with the very idea of class exploitation and inequality, will not come to pass until all vestiges of capitalism have been swept from the earth. That will take a whole historical epoch.
Still, it will never come to pass at all unless the concept of "socialism" is radically altered. If it isnt, then future revolutions will be doomed to repeat the failure of the revolutions of the past. This would be not just tragic, but criminal it would mean that our generation of communists had refused to learn the lessons of our forebears.
I think its clear that the retention of inequality and its perpetuation and growth through market mechanisms money was the central cause of the reversion of socialism to capitalism. After future revolutions inequality, and money, should be abolished. The principle of "to each according to his need" should be instituted immediately.
Some will object that this will decrease incentives for people to work hard. But remember the alternative: the reversion to capitalism.
As for what to call this first stage of communism after the revolution: Id say we should abandon the term "socialism." Marx never used it. Its use came from the social-democratic parties out of which the Bolsheviks came. Marx referred to the "lower phase of communism." So we could call it that. Communism a world of equality and solidarity, in which everyone is a worker and no one lives by exploitation is the age-old goal of the working classes. Its a good name. So, I propose changing "socialism" for "the lower phase" or "the first stage of communism."
10) Send a message to the Brazilian workers.
Fight for communism! Power to the working class of the world!