Stalin – the History and Critique of a Black Legend by Domenico Losurdo, pt 1

Domenico Losurdo is one of the small minority of historians and thinkers who have the courage and candour to swim against the tide.

‘I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of history will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.’ – Josef Stalin in 1943, as reported by Molotov in his conversations with Felix Chuev many years later.

Originally published in Italian in 2008, Iskra press has just released the first authorised translation of this book on Stalin into English, translated by Henry Hakamäkr and Salavatore Engel-Di Manso. The present review is based on a version that was re-translated from the Portuguese edition.


History and Critique of a Black Legend is a refreshing change from the countless books on the subject of Josef Stalin written by despicable paid mercenaries pretending to be objective academics, who attempt to pass off their lies as historical truth.

Following the second world war, in which she almost single-handedly defeated the Hitlerite war machine, the Soviet Union and its undisputed leader, JV Stalin, were held in the highest regard not only by ordinary people all over the world, but also by large numbers of statesmen, intellectuals and writers who could not be suspected to being partial to Stalin. This was not to the liking of the representatives of imperialism, especially US imperialism, which had emerged from the war much strengthened while other imperialist countries, notably Britain, Germany, Japan and France, lay prostrate.

On the other hand, following the legendary victory of Soviet arms, there arose a mighty socialist camp comprising eastern and central Europe, followed shortly after by the victories of the revolutions in China, Korea, Vietnam and the rest of Indochina. The prestige of the USSR, of socialism and of Stalin, the undisputed leader at the time of the international communist movement, stood at its pinnacle.

The socialist bloc of states became a pole of attraction for the working-class movement in the imperialist countries, as well as for the national-liberation movements in the vast continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America – a development that could not but shake imperialism to its foundations. In response, imperialism applied a combination of military and economic pressure against the socialist bloc, hand in hand with a relentless propaganda barrage aimed at belittling and maligning the achievements of socialism and the person under whose leadership these earth-shaking developments had taken place, namely Joseph Stalin.

Thus started the ‘cold war’, in which two camps – the camp of imperialism and the camp of socialism and the national-liberation movements – confronted one other. On the propaganda front, imperialism pressed into service its academics and intellectuals, who wrote atrociously falsified accounts of the socialist movement in general and of the second world war in particular – making a special target of Stalin and his leadership.

For their services, this nefarious gentry were, and still are, handsomely rewarded.

Falsifying history

“The bourgeoisie turns everything into a commodity,” observed Friedrich Engels, “hence also the writing of history. It is part of its being, of its condition of existence, to falsify all goods: it falsified the writing of history. And the best paid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie.” (Preparatory material for the History of Ireland, 1870)

Doubtless the bourgeois falsifiers became the best-paid ‘historians’ of the contemporary world. The less they knew about the substance of actual developments, and the more they rushed forth with falsifications, the more they were recognised as being authorities on the subject and handsomely paid for their flunkey services to imperialism.

And these hired pens resorted to hypocritical cant to hide their mercenary activity in the service of the imperialist bourgeoisie, sprinkling their writings with concern about ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’, ‘rule of law’ and suchlike empty verbiage.

They remind us of the brilliantly shrewd observation of the great Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov: “Marx said very truly that the greater the development of antagonism between the growing forces of production and the extant social order, the more does the ideology of the ruling class become permeated with hypocrisy. In addition, the more effectively life unveils the mendacious character of this ideology, the more does the language used by the dominant class become sublime and virtuous.” (Fundamental Problems of Marxism, 1907, Chapter 14)

Mao Zedong correctly and pithily characterised imperialists as having honey on their lips and murder in their hearts. (Stalin, friend of the Chinese people, December 1939)

People all over the world have pierced through the veil of deception created by the ideologies of the bourgeoisie.

With each passing day it becomes clearer that imperialism, and the entire system of exploitation of one human being by another and of one nation by another, is past its sell-by date; with each passing day, the mendacity of the ideology of the bourgeoisie is revealed. Hence the use of sublime and virtuous language by bourgeois politicians, intellectuals and ‘historians’.

Domenico Losurdo is one of the small minority of historians and thinkers who have the courage and candour to swim against the tide.

Imperialists could never have been so successful in their lying campaign of slander and vilification directed against socialism and against Stalin if they had not received help from an unexpected quarter – namely, from Nikita Khrushchev and his fellow revisionists who, following the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, joined the imperialist bourgeoisie in a veritable campaign of slander against Stalin and thus helped to sully the banner of Marxism-Leninism.

Losurdo tears the mask off the faces not only of the ordinary bourgeois falsifiers of history, but also of their kindred spirits in the camp of Khrushchevite revisionism and Trotskyism alike.

Reality and myth in the presentation of Stalin

He begins his book with a depiction of the scenes of mourning following Comrade Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953. He says: “impressive demonstrations of grief accompanied Stalin’s passing”; millions of people flocked to the centre of Moscow to pay their last respects to him; millions of the Soviet people wept over his loss as if they were grieving over a loved one; and this reaction was by no means confined to Moscow, but took place in the most remote corners of the vast Soviet land; people everywhere fell into “spontaneous and collective mourning”. (p2)

Similar scenes were repeated beyond the frontiers of the Soviet Union – in the streets of Budapest and Prague, and even in Israel where the membership of Mapam (which embraced the leadership of Israel) “without exception cried”. Al Hamishnar, the kibbutz movement’s newspaper declared: “The sun has set.”

In the west, tributes to Stalin came not only from leaders and members of communist parties but also from many others. Historian Isaac Deutscher, a devoted admirer of Trotsky, wrote an obituary of Stalin in which he acknowledged his achievements thus:

“After three decades, the face of the Soviet Union has been completely transformed. What’s essential to Stalinism’s historical action is this: it found a Russia that worked the land with wooden ploughs and left it as the owner of the atomic bomb.

“It elevated Russia to the rank of the second industrial power in the world, and it is not merely a question of material progress and organisation. A similar result could not have been achieved without a great cultural revolution in which the entire country has been sent to school to receive an extensive education.” (p2)

In Deutscher’s evaluation there was no place for Trotsky’s accusations against Stalin: “What sense was there in condemning Stalin as a traitor to the ideals of world revolution and as the capitulationist theorist of socialism in one country, at a time in which the new social order had expanded in Europe and in Asia and had broken its national shell?”

Ridiculed by the embittered Trotsky as a “small provincial man thrust into great world events, as if by a joke of history”, Stalin had actually been, according to Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojeve, the protagonist of a decidedly progressive turning point of planetary dimensions, with a mission to unify and lead humanity.

Stalin’s death, despite the accelerating cold war and the continued war in Korea, produced by and large respectful or balanced obituaries. At that time, people affectionately remembered ‘Uncle Joe’, the great wartime leader who had guided the Soviet people to victory over the military might of fascist Germany and helped to rescue Europe from Nazi barbarity. Deutscher recalled in 1948 that during the second world war statesmen as well as foreign generals were won over by the “exceptional competence with which Stalin managed all the details of his war machine.” (p3)

Figures who had a very favourable view of Stalin included Winston Churchill, an incurable enemy of communism, who, on the occasion of the November 1943 Teheran conference, praised his Soviet counterpart as “Stalin the Great”, and long-running prime minister of Italy Alcide De Gasperi.

Stalin enjoyed enormous prestige among intellectuals, including Labour party supporter Harold Laski and Benedetto Groce, who emphasised Stalin’s greatness by saying that he had taken the place of Lenin, in such a way that “a genius had been followed by another”. The Fabian Beatrice Webb, from 1931 until her death, referred to the Soviet Union of Stalin’s time as a “new civilisation”. (pp4-5)

In the words of Losurdo, “for an entire historical period, in the circles that went beyond the communist movement, the country led by Stalin and Stalin himself could enjoy sympathetic curiosity, respect and, at times, even admiration.” (p7)

Even in the in speech Fulton that officially launched the cold war, Churchill felt obliged to say: “I have great admiration and respect for the courageous Russian people and for my wartime companion, Marshall Stalin.” (pp7-8)

Khrushchev’s speech of 25 February 1956 marked a radical turn in the image of Stalin. Delivered during the 20th party congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), it portrayed Stalin as a mad and bloodthirsty dictator, characterised by vanity and possessed of intellectual mediocrity.

Not surprisingly, imperialist circles were ecstatic about Khrushchev’s speech. It became a weapon in the cold war, used by the CIA and other imperialist military and intelligence agencies against the homeland of the October Revolution. Step by step, as the Khrushchevites strengthened their grip on power, they went further along the road of ‘de-Stalinisation’, reaching a point where they were left without any form of ideological identity and self-esteem, resulting in their total capitulation and eventually in the dissolution of both their party (the CPSU) and their state (the USSR).

Following Khrushchev’s speech, leading intellectuals in the west had little problem forgetting their former sympathy and admiration for the Soviet Union. The Trotskyist movement, long buried and discredited as a tool in the hands of the intelligence agencies of imperialism, received a new lease of life to work its mischief amongst the working classes in the imperialist countries.

Apart from portraying Stalin as cruel and inhumane, Khrushchev asserted that Stalin was an absurd figure who learned about Soviet agriculture and the country “only through movies”, films that distorted reality so as to make it unrecognisable; who was driven to repression by his capriciousness and pathological lust for power.

Deutscher, forgetting the respectful and admiring portraits of Stalin that he had himself made only three years earlier, now, following Khrushchev’s ‘revelations’, depicted Stalin as “the huge, grim, whimsical, morbid, human monster”. He suspected that Stalin was complicit in the murder of his best friend, Sergei Kirov, so as to provide him with a pretext for liquidating his real or imaginary opponents one by one under the charge of complicity in that crime. (p13)

Victory in the war over fascism: truth v Trotskyite lies

As to Stalin’s crowning achievement, the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War (WW2), Khrushchev insisted that the war had been won despite the “dictator’s madness”, asserting that it was only because of Stalin’s short-sightedness, stubbornness and blind trust in Hitler that the Third Reich’s forces had been able to enter deep into Soviet territory, resulting in death and devastation on a massive scale.

It was Stalin who, Khrushchev alleged, had delayed the modernisation of the Soviet armed forces, which lacked even the most basic equipment with which to fight the war. More than that, “after the first defeats and first disasters on the frontlines”, the man allegedly the architect of these disasters had fallen into despair and apathy, overtaken by a sense of ‘defeat’; unable to react.

“Stalin refrained from overseeing military operations and stopped dealing with anything. After some time had lapsed, and finally ceding to pressure from other members of the Politburo, he returned to his post.” We may be forgiven for asking: if he was so useless, why were the other Politburo members pressuring him to return to his post? Of course, this is an entirely fake story, made up by that renegade Khrushchev.

Khrushchev further alleged that Stalin was not familiar with the conduct of military affairs and “planned operations on a globe. Yes, comrades, he used to take a globe and trace the front line on it.”

And yet, by some miracle, despite Stalin’s allegedly incompetent leadership, victory was achieved by the Soviet Union against all the odds!

Only three years separated Stalin’s death from Khrushchev’s attack on him, which was initially met with strong resistance. On 5 March 1956, students in the Georgian capital Tbilisi took to the streets to place flowers on the monument to Stalin on the third anniversary of his death. This demonstration to honour Stalin turned into a protest against the deliberations of the 20th party congress. The demonstrations continued for five days until the afternoon of 9 March, when tanks were sent to the city to restore order.

At the time, a fierce political struggle between Stalin’s followers and their opponents was underway in the USSR and in the socialist camp. The Khrushchevites resorted to lies and fabrications, and an absurd depiction of Stalin, in order to delegitimise their opponents. Stalin’s prestige, his “cult of the personality” in Khrushchev speak, was such that the Khrushchevite revisionists stood no chance of coming out on top unless Stalin was lowered in the eyes of the masses of people and in the eyes of the international communist movement.

Hence the necessity, in Losurdo’s words, “to cast a god into hell”.

Khrushchev’s depiction of Stalin bears comparison with Trotsky’s a few decades earlier, when the latter had presented a picture of Stalin that sought to demean him at the political, moral and personal level as a “small provincial man” characterised by irredeemable mediocrity and pettiness, and “peasant rudeness”.

No objective observer could accept the vitriolic and outrageous slanders levelled by pygmies such as Khrushchev and Trotsky against this giant, whose brilliance shone at the political, ideological, moral, intellectual, military and theoretical level.

Already by 1913 Stalin had established himself as a brilliant Marxist theoretician with the publication of his Marxism and the National Question. No one reading Stalin’s analysis of the national question could regard him as a theoretical mediocrity. Trotsky, just like Khrushchev, got round that ‘little’ difficulty by the lying assertion that Stalin was not the real author of that work; that its author was Lenin, and that Stalin should be regarded as a ‘usurper’ of the great Bolshevik leader’s “intellectual rights”.

Trotsky obviously expected his audience not to know that Lenin had highly praised Stalin’s work on the national question.

Khrushchev’s assertions regarding Stalin’s alleged incompetence in the field of military affairs had already been made by Trotsky. On 2 September 1939, anticipating a German invasion of the Soviet Union, Trotsky wrote that “the new aristocracy” in power in Moscow was, among other things, characterised by “its inability to conduct a war”.

Losurdo demolishes the assertions of Khrushchev and Trotsky by reference to solid historical evidence, including evidence that comes from the Bundeswehr (German army) as well as from Soviet archives. While the German archives speak of the Red Army’s “numerical superiority” in armoured cars, planes and artillery pieces, of the high level reached by the industrial capacity of the USSR whereby it could supply its armed forces with an almost unimaginable amount of weaponry, the Soviet archives show clearly that at least two years before the Hitlerite invasion, Stalin was literally obsessed with the problem of the “quantative increase” and the “qualitative improvement of the entire military apparatus”.

According to the data, whereas during the first five-year plan the defence budget amounted to 5.4 percent of total state spending, by 1941 defence spending had climbed to 43.4 percent. By the time of the Nazi invasion, Soviet industry had produced 2,700 modern planes and 4,300 armoured cars. “Judging by this data, we can say that the USSR arrived anything but unprepared for the tragic confrontation.” (p17)

American historian Amy Knight delivered a devastating blow to the myth of the Soviet leader’s despair and abandonment of his responsibilities following the start of the Nazi aggression. She wrote that, on the day of the attack, Stalin had an 11-hour meeting with the leaders of the party, government and military, and that he did the same the following day.

Since then, historians have had at their disposal the registry of those who visited Stalin in the Kremlin, discovered in the early 1990s, which shows Stalin immersed in a series of uninterrupted meetings concerned with organising resistance to the barbaric Nazi onslaught. In the words of Losurdo, these were days and nights characterised by plans for organised resistance.

In essence, Khrushchev’s narrative was a complete invention and a falsification of historical truth. As a matter of fact, from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa (the name given to the Nazi invasion), Stalin made challenging decisions, ordering the relocation of residents and industrial enterprises from the front line; he also controlled “everything in a meticulous way, from the size and shape of bayonets to the authors and titles of articles in Pravda”. (Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Court of the Red Tsar, 2003)

There was not a hint of panic or hysteria. In his diary, Bulgarian communist Georgi Dimitrov recorded that at seven in the morning he received an urgent call from the Kremlin saying that Germany had attacked the USSR; the war had started. Dimitrov added that the atmosphere was surprisingly calm, with resolve and confidence in Stalin and all others.

Even more impressive was the clarity of ideas. The strategy of the Great Patriotic War saw the Red Army and the people of the Soviet Union fighting not only for their own liberation but also for the liberation of nations already enslaved by the Hitlerites and of still others the Hitlerites were trying to enslave – thus combining Soviet patriotism and proletarian internationalism into a powerful, irresistible weapon. No wonder that Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels felt constrained to express his annoyance at Stalin’s radio speech on 3 July 1941, for which he “earned enormous admiration in England and the United States”. (Diary entry, 5 July 1941)

Even in the strict realm of military conduct, Khrushchev’s secret report lacked all credibility. Khrushchev asserted that Stalin had paid no attention to the “warnings” from many sources concerning an imminent German invasion. But as Losurdo points out, even information from a friendly source can be wrong. In the lead-up to the Hitlerite attack, the USSR was obliged to navigate a great many diversionary and disinformation operations – emanating from German and other sources.

That the British Intelligence service was intent on fomenting a German-Soviet conflict as quickly as possible with the help of false rumours is all too understandable and evident. The situation was further complicated by the mysterious flight by Rudolf Hess to Britain, which obviously had as its sole purpose the aim of uniting the west against Bolshevism, thus putting into operation the programme outlined in Hitler’s Mein Kampf of an alliance of Germanic nations in their “civilising mission”. (1925)

All the evidence is that, while acting cautiously in this extremely complicated situation, Stalin took steps to accelerate Soviet war preparations. Operation Barbarossa was launched on 22 June, but between May and June, 800,000 Soviet reservists had been called up, 28 divisions had been relocated to the western districts of the USSR, hand in hand with the construction of border fortifications and the camouflaging of sensitive military objects. On the very eve of the German invasion, vast forces were placed on alert and ordered to prepare for a surprise German attack.

Bent upon discrediting Stalin, Khrushchev cited the initial spectacular victories of the German invaders, while ignoring the predictions made by the west at the time. The British intelligence services predicted that the Soviet Union would last only eight to ten weeks before being liquidated, while the USA expected her to last between one to three months. Besides, the width of the front – 1,800 miles! – and the absence of natural obstacles provided the Germans with enormous advantages for penetration and manoeuvres.

All the same, the Third Reich’s plan of repeating on the eastern front its blitzkrieg victory in western Europe showed signs of unravelling from the very first weeks of the encounter between the two armies. In the lead-up to the German attack, Goebbels had stressed that the Nazi onslaught was unstoppable in its “triumphal march”, and a few months earlier in his conversation with a Bulgarian diplomat Hitler had referred to the Red Army as a “joke”.

It took a mere ten days of the war for these boastful Hitlerite assertions to be shaken, as is repeatedly clear from Goebbels’ diary. The Bolsheviks, he wrote, showed a greater resistance than anticipated by the Germans, particularly in the material resources available to the Soviet armed forces, which were greater than the Germans had foreseen. He added: “With … objectivity, we Germans always overestimated the enemy except in this case with the Bolsheviks.” (19 August 1941)

Far from breaking down in the first days and weeks of the German attack, the Red Army put up a tenacious resistance and was well commanded. It was the brilliant resistance of the Red Army that convinced Japan to reject the German request that it should join the war against the Soviet Union. The blitzkrieg plans were already sunk by the middle of July. Not for nothing did Churchill speak of the Red Army’s “splendid defence”, as did Roosevelt on 14 August 1941.

Admiration for Soviet resistance, skill and armaments reached beyond diplomatic and governing circles. In Great Britain, according to Beatrice Webb, ordinary citizens, even the conservatively-minded, showed lively interest in the “courage and initiative, as well as the magnificent equipment of the Russian armed forces, the only sovereign state able to oppose the almost mystical power of Hitler’s Germany”. (Diary entry, 8 August 1941)

Stalin’s categorical rejection of the request for a massive relocation of troops towards the border, his insistence on the necessity of maintaining large reserves at a considerable distance, had been a stroke of genius, thwarting as it did Hitler’s plan to lure the Soviet forces to concentrate on the border, “with the intention of surrounding them and destroying them”. (Georgy Zhukov, The Memoirs Of Marshal Zhukov, 1971)

In view of the Red Army’s fierce resistance, Hitler was obliged to admit that Operation Barbarossa had seriously underestimated the enemy; that the “military preparations by the Russians must be considered incredible”. (10 September 1941)

The Soviet Union was able to mobilise the entire population and all its resources for the war. Particularly extraordinary was the Soviet ability in the most difficult situation of the first months of the war to effect a successful evacuation of, and later to convert to military production, a large number of industrial enterprises. The evacuation committee, set up just two days after the German attack, managed to move to the east 1,500 major industrial installations in a titanic feat of great logistic complexity.

What is more, the process of relocation had already begun in the weeks or months before Hitler’s aggression, which is yet another refutation of Khrushchev’s slanderous accusations against Stalin’s supposed ‘unpreparedness’.

In fact, the entire industrialisation of the Soviet Union, aiming at eradicating the country’s backwardness, was proof enough of the Stalin leadership’s concern for the security of the socialist motherland.

On 29 November 1941, Hitler noted with surprise: “How is it possible that such a primitive people can reach such technical objectives in such a short time?” (p30)

One must not ignore the great attention devoted by Stalin to the moral-political dimensions of the war. His courageous decision to celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution on 7 November 1941 in a Moscow under siege and harassment by the Nazi hordes bears testimony to this.

The response of the Red Army after the devastating blow by the German aggressors was the greatest feat of arms that the world had ever seen. The attention given to the rear and to the front, in both the economic and political dimensions, as well as to the military aspect of the war, are testimony to Stalin being a great strategist. In view of the foregoing, Khrushchev’s evaluation of Stalin during this long war loses all credibility.

To their annoyance, German spies were unable to penetrate the Soviet interior. “The Bolsheviks,” wrote Goebbels in his diary on 19 August 1941, “made great effort in fooling us. Of what kinds of arms they possessed, especially heavy weapons, we didn’t have a clue. It was the exact opposite to what had taken place in France, where we knew everything in practice and couldn’t be surprised in any way.” (p32)

Khrushchev was a blatant liar and a capitalist roader who hated most of the things Stalin stood for. His goal was “to transform the great leader – who had decisively contributed to the destruction of the Third Reich – into a foolish amateur who had trouble figuring out a world map; that this eminent theorist of the national question is revealed to have lacked the most elementary ‘common sense’ in that field. The acknowledgements previously given to Stalin are all blamed on a cult of personality that now must be eliminated once and for all.” (p39)

At the time, a frontal attack on socialism – Marxism-Leninism – was out of the question. So the capitalist roaders had to undermine socialism by attacking Stalin, who, through the three decades of his leadership of the Soviet Union and the international communist movement, had become a representative spokesperson for socialist construction, for the struggle against imperialism, for the national-liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples, and for the destruction of fascism.

By attacking Stalin, in the name of countering the ‘cult of the personality’, the Khrushchevite revisionists defamed socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat; they sullied the flag of Marxism-Leninism and undermined the hitherto deserved prestige enjoyed by the Soviet Union.

Soon after the 20th party congress, the revisionists started putting into effect ‘reforms’, revising the tenets of Marxism-Leninism on a series of important questions. The cumulative effects of which, over a period of four decades, led to the collapse of the glorious Soviet Union. [For more on this, see Harpal Brar, Perestroika, the Complete Collapse of Revisionism, 1992]

The cult of personality

Losurdo demolishes this Khrushchev lie by giving a few examples to counter it. For instance, when deputy premier of the USSR Lazar Kaganovich suggested substituting the term Marxism-Leninism by the term Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, Stalin rejected his suggestion in no uncertain terms.

Following the end of the war, immediately after the victory parade, a group of marshals reached out to two eminent Bolsheviks – foreign secretary Vyacheslav Molotov and defence committee member Georgy Malenkov – to propose commemorating the victory achieved in the Great Patriotic War by conferring on Stalin the title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. Stalin categorically rejected their offer.

Four years later, on the eve of his 70th birthday, a conversation took place in the Kremlin to this effect: “He [Stalin] called in Malenkov and warned him: ‘Don’t even think about honouring me again with a star.

“‘But Comrade Stalin, on an anniversary like this? The people would not understand.’

“‘It is not up to the people. I don’t want to argue. No personal initiative! Understand me.’

“‘Of course, Comrade Stalin, but the politburo members think …’

“Stalin interrupted Malenkov and declared the discussion closed.” (Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars, 2006 quoted in Losurdo, p43)

Losurdo writes that appealing to his vanity did not work with Stalin, especially when decisions of vital political importance were at stake. During the war, he invited his colleagues to express themselves; he actively argued and even fought with Molotov, who for his part stuck to his views and argued back. Judging by the testimony of Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov, the leader “particularly appreciated those comrades who didn’t hesitate in frankly expressing their point of view”. (p43)

On the occasion of the Potsdam conference in July 1945, while British prime minister Winston Churchill and American president Harry Truman found time to walk among Berlin’s ruins, Stalin showed not the slightest interest. Without attracting attention, he arrived by train, even instructing Marshal Zhukov to cancel any welcoming ceremony with a military band and guard of honour.

One could cite many other examples, but these will suffice. Let it be said in passing that Stalin stands out in glaring contract to American presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt, as well as many others in Europe, who gladly accepted the exaggerated accolades of their supporters and admirers.

The assassination of Kirov

On 1 December 1934, Politburo member and leader of the Leningrad party organisation Sergei Kirov was shot dead at the front door of his office in Leningrad by a young man called Leonid Nikolaev. In his secret report, Khrushchev had insinuated that the assassination had been carried out at Stalin’s behest.

But the Moscow trials had revealed clearly that Nikolaev was connected with the opposition group centred around former Politburo member Grigory Zinoviev. Even bourgeois scholars with impeccable anti-Stalin credentials have debunked Khrushchev’s lie. They have shown that Comrade Kirov was above intrigues, lies and trickery – qualities which had endeared him to Stalin, who cared for and trusted Kirov.

On hearing of Kirov’s assassination, Trotsky, who had reason to try and connect Kirov’s murder to Stalin, far from showing any sympathy for his former comrade, wrote: “Kirov, the brutal satrap, stirs no compassion in us.” The victim, he stated, was someone who had inspired the wrath of the ‘revolutionaries’ – ie, of the Trotskyite counter-revolutionary opposition.

Thus, between 1935 and 1936, Kirov’s murder was in no way described as a set-up by Stalin’s opponents. Instead, every sympathy was shown towards the terrorist assassin along with a great deal of satisfaction that “every bureaucrat [ie, Bolshevik] trembles before the terrorism” emanating from below. Terrorism, said Trotsky, was the “tragic outcome of Bonapartism [ie, Bolshevik leadership]”, and is characteristic of the severe antagonism between the bureaucracy and the masses of people, in particular the youth.

So Trotsky deluded himself in his counter-revolutionary ravings from exile. An explosion, he said, was on its way that was destined to inflict on the “Stalinist regime” the same fate as that suffered by the regime “led by Nicholas” (the overthrown tsar of Russia). (pp73-78)

Trotsky was deluding himself with the belief that a decisive civil war was on the horizon and that his joke of a “Fourth International [was capable of] supporting a struggle to the death against Stalinism” in a regime “already condemned by history”. What emerges from these vituperations is the bitterness of a defeated counter-revolutionary at the hands of the Bolshevik party whose undisputed leader was none other than Josef Stalin.

Losurdo shows, by reference to the research of Trotskyite historians such as Vadim Regouin, Pierre Broué and Ruth Fisher, all of whom are viscerally opposed to Stalin, that the purges in the Soviet Union, far from being senseless acts of violence, were the only way of defeating the counter-revolutionary opposition that was aiming at Stalin’s physical liquidation; that compared Stalin to Hitler; and that worked for the defeat of the Soviet Union in the impending war.

Trotsky himself went so far as to give support to “the liberation of a so-called Soviet Ukraine from the Stalinist yoke” – this at a time when the Third Reich had just carried out the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the next target of the Hitlerites was the Soviet Union, especially Ukraine. Even defeated white general Alexander Kerensky, then living in exile in the USA, felt obliged to take a stand against Trotsky’s project (of working for the Soviet defeat), which, he pointed out, was decidedly in line with Hitler’s plans!

There was thus a complete convergence between the Nazi leadership’s plans and those of the Trotskyist opposition. Not Hitlerite Germany but “Stalin and the oligarchy” led by him were declared to represent the principal danger to the Soviet Union. (13 April 1940, p95)

It is perfectly clear that the Trotskyite counter-revolutionary opposition was at the service of Nazi Germany, ready from the start to follow in the wake of German forces in the event of the latter marching into the USSR. Not for nothing did the Germans instal a radio station in eastern Prussia that broadcast in Trotsky’s name into the Soviet Union. Immediately after the start of Operation Barbarossa, Goebbels was pleased to note that Germany was using three clandestine radio stations in Soviet Russia: the first was Trotskyist, the second was separatist, the third was Russian nationalist – all virulently opposed to Stalin and the Soviet regime.

Referring to the treaty between the Soviet Union and Great Britain, and to the joint statement by the two countries, Goebbels’ diary of 14 July 1941 noted: “This is an excellent occasion to show the compatibility between capitalism and Bolshevism. The statement will find scarce acceptance among Leninist circles in Russia.” (Bearing in mind that Trotskyists liked to define themselves as Bolshevik-Leninists, in contrast to the ‘Stalinists’ they described as ‘traitors to Leninism’.) (pp96-7)

It was not without reason that the Soviet leadership condemned the Trotskyist opposition as a den of enemy agents.

Characterised by the bitterness of a defeated counter-revolutionary, Trotsky did everything in his power to malign Soviet power. Hence his advocacy of Ukrainian independence, in aid of which he accused Stalin of repressing the Ukrainian people, just at a time when the Soviet Union had successfully carried out the ‘Ukrainisation’ of culture, schools, the press, party cadres and the state apparatus!

Lazar Kaganovich, who became party secretary in Ukraine in 1925, devoted particular attention to that policy, which had achieved dramatic results already by 1931, the year in which the publication of books in Ukrainian reached a peak of 6,218 out of 8,086 titles (77 percent), while the percentage of Russians in the Ukrainian party dropped from 72 percent in 1922 to 52 percent in 1931. And this is all before speaking of the development of Ukraine’s industrial apparatus, with Stalin insisting on its importance.

Even a downright reactionary like Robert Conquest, notorious for his hatred of the Soviet Union and Stalin, was obliged to recognise Soviet achievements in the area of culture, language, the arts and the policy of Ukrainisation. (See his Harvest of Sorrow, referenced at p225)

Did it make sense in view of these developments to seek to separate Ukraine from the USSR? Only a hardened counter-revolutionary such as Trotsky could think so.


Read part two of this review.