There is no point in trying to rehabilitate Stalin. The established impression that he slaughtered, tortured, imprisoned and oppressed on a grand scale is not in error. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand this immensely gifted politician by attributing solely to him all the crimes and suffering of his era, or to conceive him simply as a monster and a mental case. From youth until death he was a fighter in what he, and many others, regarded as a just war. As one of his comrades, and most important critics, Khrushchev, put it, ‘The class war isn’t a festive parade, but a long, tortuous struggle.’ For all his denigration of Stalin, Khrushchev found in him a man who was ‘incorruptible and irreconcilable in class questions. It was one of his strongest qualities and he was greatly respected for it.’1 Stalin rose to eminence among people who subscribed to this outlook, not only party activists but many members of Russia’s vast underclass, urban or rural. They were ready for bloodshed, little concerned with the suffering of the burzhui, to use the russification of the Marxist term that was popularized in the revolution. The greatest exponent of the class war in the first quarter of the twentieth century was, to be sure, Lenin, but neither he nor Marx was the inventor of class hatred. This was a powerful force in the world, no mere figment of the imaginations of radical intellectuals, and there is a growing body of scholarly opinion that in the early twentieth century class hatred was stronger in Russia than in any other country in Europe or possibly the world. In a broad sense there is much to be said for Stalin’s thesis that Russia represented the ‘weak link’ in the world system of imperialism. He flourished in this environment and his success cannot be understood apart from the context of class hatred, to which he (and this book) frequently referred.
KeywordsClass Struggle Mere Figment Party Activist Radical Intellectual Class Enemy
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