Ol’ Uncle Joe Stalin had a piano-player,
And he would hammer rock’n’roll songs on it all night long.
Not giving a fuck for the foul infamies of Freudianism,
He really did dig the core essence of Zen Buddhism.
From a song by ITAL Rost’n’Roll Band END, a Moscow lumpen underground blues band
In this issue1 we are reprinting the last public speech ever made by Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin – almost exactly on the 50th anniversary of this text. The political testament of the Great Uncle Joe. A text uttered in the very twilight of the history of socialism in the USSR. In a few short years, the party apparatchiks sitting in the Kremlin hall and abjectly listening to Stalin will commit a coup d’etat in the Soviet Union and start restoring capitalism there. In a way, this speech may be considered as a document summing up the entire Russian tradition of revolutionary Marxism of the 19th–20th centuries.
Revolution speaks openly and directly; reaction, obliquely and with all kinds of ruses and innuendoes. The bourgeoisie turns everything into a myth, into shimmering patterns on the veil of Maya, into a virtual image on a virtual screen, so it becomes utterly impossible for anyone to get anything whatsoever straight. Stalin the Great Nation-Builder and Gatherer Together of Mother Russia’s Sacred Lands. Stalin the Fighter against the Jewish-Masonic Conspiracy. Stalin the Gravedigger of the Revolution, Butcher of the Leninist Guard and Overall Son Of A Bitch. Russian fascists at rallies carrying portraits of Stalin. President Putin in the Kremlin proposing a toast to Stalin’s memory and the officially appointed “democrat” Sergei Kiriyenko drinking that toast.
In his time, the French philosopher Louis Althusser, seeing into what kind of a bog European leftist thought had been dragged by the revisionists, suggested the following, quite novel and unorthodox, operation: reading Marx. Open Das Kapital and start reading – attentively and in a concentrated way – what is actually written in the book. The result was an extremely powerful impetus to the development of Marxist-Leninist, anti-revisionist and ultimately Maoist thinking (very soon supplemented by practice) in the Western world. Such Khrushchevite myths as theoretical humanism, “peaceful coexistence,” the parliamentary road to socialism and so on and so forth crumbled to dust overnight from simple contact with Karl Marx’s text.
To be sure, it would not be devoid of interest to learn the exact number of victims carried away by the (justified, half-justified and entirely unjustified) reprisals, what was the true origin of these reprisals, what was the mechanism of functioning of the Stalinist state and what resources that state really had for further existence and development. However, by and large, all these are problems of great, but mostly historical, significance. Unfortunately, the principal lesson that can be learned by us from the history of socialist USSR is finding an answer to the question why it held out for such a short time after the death of its leader. The Maoists in the China of the 1970s fell victims to open factional armed struggle. The Stalinists in the USSR of the 1950s never took shape as a more or less pronounced political current, never made a direct appeal to the popular masses and surrendered their positions almost without a fight.
Studying Soviet history of the period 1917–1953 is necessary and important. Trying to assess the figure of Stalin himself, to make an exact balance of his positive and negative traits is also a necessary exercise – though, perhaps, of less importance than the previous one. However, what is really indispensable at this very moment, in the year 2002, is reading Stalin, making critical use of the method offered in his writings, applying the ideas and predictions by Stalin that have preserved their value to the realities of today. That is because Koba Dzhugashvili2, a “
rank-and-file Marxist,” as he characterized himself, was the very incarnation of the classical Marxist method, its most advanced representative in the Russian-Soviet tradition.
It is precisely this method, yes, and the copy-book truths of Marxism, a return to the sources and to the classics, elementary historical materialism and rationalism that are now super-topical, at the bleeding edge and absolutely salutary to both our, Russian, and the international progressive public.
The world leftist movement has been seized with raving lunacy. People are trying to “renovate” Marxism, to correct it or patch it up, to interbreed it with postmodernism or fascism, with geopolitics or Islamic fundamentalism or the devil only knows what else. Ultraleft exaggerations smoothly blend into perversions of an ultraright nature. The “leftist-rightist bastards,” so aptly described by Comrade Stalin, are flourishing like so many mushrooms on a dung heap. Some of them suggest making common cause with Bin Laden and call him a “revolutionary anti-imperialist!!!” Others preach that, in the present conditions, fascism in the West poses no threat whatsoever and say that Le Pen is quite identical with Chirac, only better, because he is “more honest” (!) than the latter, and also that there is no harm or shame in communists forming alliances with fascists in some conditions. Still others say that the principal task of the Russian communists is promoting the development of Russian imperialism and supporting the military operation in Chechnya. And so on down the whole spectrum of the “Communists” movement, among “Trotskyites,” “Maoists,” “Stalinists,” and – which is the main thing and cause for the deepest regret – among many genuinely honest and revolutionary cadres.
The reason lies in the oblivion of what I have mentioned above. The oblivion, among others, of things that Stalin wrote.
Let’s open (or listen to an audio file of) his last speech. The bourgeoisie has changed. It has stopped defending those values by using which it once came to power. The bourgeois-democratic freedoms cease to be something necessary for the bourgeoisie, whereas the predominating, principal way for it to govern becomes open bourgeois dictatorship in one or another variety. This process was only beginning in Stalin’s days, while now we can observe it in its fully developed form, everywhere: from the u.$., which has been almost totally transformed into a police state, both inside its borders and on the international arena, through Europe, cheerfully voting for fascists and other ultraright politicians and denying the right to exist in its territory even to those few progressive organizations that were able to function there a couple of years ago (an example is the recent crackdown on the Basque Herri Batasuna), – through the … ahem … uhm … powerful-state-oriented regime of Putin – and down to the various military dictatorships of the Third World.
We communists are the ones that become the main bearers, defenders, etc. of the bourgeois-democratic freedoms. In the 21st century, the “pure” bourgeois democrat, the liberal has become something of an exotic bird, a specialty, a wavering and inconsistent ally of the true democrat, i.e. the communist.
The banner of national independence and national sovereignty has been thrown overboard … Now the bourgeoisie sells the rights and independence of the nation for dollars.” Sounds like a quotation from some modern pungent give-them-hell critique of globalization. The bourgeoisie of all countries, however “national” it might seem, has essentially turned into an antinational, cosmopolitan, globalizing force. And if still plays the leading part in some national liberation movements in the Third World, this is solely due to the unevenness of world development. The ones who have become the true bearers of the ideas of national liberation – which is in our days practically inseparable from class liberation – are again the communists and their “electorate”: the proletarian and (in the Third World) the petty-bourgeois/peasant masses.
The last words ever uttered by Stalin in public are: “
Down with the warmongers!” Anti-militarism – a debt from which the communist is never released – becomes his/her foremost responsibility in the epoch whose outlines were first sketched by Stalin half a century ago. This pertains both to the unbridled gangsterism (more blatant now than in 1952) indulged in by the Amerikkkan military on a world scale and to the “local” wars waged by sub-imperialist and simply capitalist predators in various spots of the planet. We say: No War But Class War!
A text uttered by an aged revolutionary fifty years ago and adhering to the traditions of classical Marxism clears up a lot of things for us in the situation of 2002 and proves more up-to-date, more topical than many of the trendiest post-, para-, and meta-Marxist speculations. Our values remain the same as before: anti-fascism, anti-militarism, internationalism, democracy, class and national liberation – or, in other words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!
- Of RMP News, the RMP official newspaper. — D. Zh.
- A familiar combination of Stalin’s nickname and real surname – D.Zh.