People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 14, 2010

Remembering Stalin on His 57th Death Anniversary


R Arun Kumar


HUNDREDS of people marched in Moscow, on the 5 March to observe the 57th death anniversary of Joseph Stalin. In spite of the umpteen attempts by the ruling classes to 'demonise' Stalin and erase him from popular memory, he continues to live. In a survey conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Centre, it was found that 37 to 54 per cent of Russians had 'positive assessment' about Stalin and 24 per cent 'negative'. 'Admiration' was expressed by 3 per cent of respondents, while 11 per cent felt either 'fear' or 'repulsion'. Of those described as 'the younger generation', 38 per cent said they were indifferent to Stalin, while 35 per cent of the elderly continued to respect him.

In a large scale all-Russian internet, TV, and radio poll conducted in 2008, four and a half million respondents were polled. Stalin was in the lead for a long time and 'finished third' in the end. Many people still think that the organisers of the project rigged the poll to reduce the number of votes given to Stalin. While opinion over his legacy may be mixed, there is no doubt that Stalin was one of the most iconic figures of the last century.

Another important development in Russia is, billboards focusing exclusively on Stalin's wartime achievements would be placed at 10 sites across the Moscow city commemorating the 65th  anniversary of the victory over fascism. Stalin's name, which has not been present in Moscow's festive decorations since Soviet times, came to the focus of public attention last summer, when the Kurskaya station of Moscow's subway was under reconstruction. After the station was reopened in summer 2009, a wall inside its lobby carried an inscription from the old Soviet anthem: �Stalin brought us up to serve the nation well; he inspired us for labour and feats�. The inscription originally appeared on the wall back in 1950, but was removed in 1961.

Yury Luzhkov, the city's mayor had stated that the posters of Stalin would be used not only to celebrate the Victory Day, but also for all occasions and celebrations that would take place in the city. And Luzhkov is not a Communist by any chance. Explaining the rationale for taking this decision, he had said, �I am not an admirer of Stalin, but I am an admirer of objective history�. These decisions generated intense debate among the people once again on the role played by the Communist Party and Stalin. Many intentionally want to deny them their rightful place in history.

It is this 'objective history' that is under attack not only in Russia and in Europe, but most parts of the world. Vladimir Dolgykh, the head of the Moscow War Veterans Organisation, said, �History will put everything into place�, adding that excluding Stalin would be unjust. Every publication about Stalin generates thousands of comments and every politician considers it a duty to express his opinion on Stalin. Even today, books about Stalin are so popular that they are sold out immediately and a major publishing house keeps printing additional copies of his biography.

Gennady Zyuganov, Chairman of the Communist Party of Russian Federation (CPRF) had written a book 'Stalin Nowadays', which too added to this debate. He had followed it up with an article in the 'Pravda' titled 'The Epoch of Stalin in Facts and Figures'. He quotes statistics extensively about the social and economic (industrial and agricultural) situation in the years before, during and even after Stalin.

Talking about the development in the educational front and criticising the capitalist neo-liberal policies pursued by the present government, he states �...under Stalin more than twenty thousand schools were built every five years. And under the rule of present liberals more than twelve thousand schools were destroyed within 17 years...Today in Russia, managed by market-liberals, there are approximately two million children not attending school�.

Zyuganov also quotes the work of researcher historian Victor Zemskov, the member of the Commission for determining the losses of the population of the History Department of the USSR Academy of Sciences, appointed during the heydays of 'Perestroika' in 1989. With painstaking research, he had studied all the documents, from many sources including from the secret archives of all the secret services of that period. �Zemskov convincingly argued that for thirty years � from 1921 to 1953 � a total of four millions sentenced for political crimes passed through the Soviet prisons and camps. And about 800 thousand people were sentenced to the capital punishment...And there is no evidence that among the four millions imprisoned in Stalin's time and among the 800 thousands sentenced to death, most were innocents�.

Stating that these carefully researched figures repudiate the fallacious claim that 'tens of millions languished in prisons and labour camps' and 'millions died' he compares them with some recent statistics. �When 'democracy' destroyed the Soviet Union and was governing the country since 1991, the population of Russia decreased by 15 million. For 'building capitalism', which did nothing but accruing chaos, the country has paid by mass extinction, catastrophic population decline, approaching the scale of losses incurred during World War II. Even if there were evidence that all 800 thousand were shot dead on court verdict in Stalin's time were innocent victims of the system, still one cannot get away from the fact that the current system has required almost twenty times as many casualties, has robbed the country already not of thousands, but millions of citizens�.

In fact the 15 million decrease in the population of Russia is considered as the biggest decrease in the population of a country that did not face a war or natural calamity. The reason for this enormous decline is the change from the socialist system to the capitalist system, which meant that the people have suddenly lost the socialist social support system that ensured food, housing, health care, education and other basic amenities for all.

Zyuganov questions the critics of Stalin and the socialist system, �Why do they keep silence on how many lives the Great Depression took in the United States? Meanwhile, many experts say that more than two millions died there from starvation. Why are liberal organisations in the West and Russia, calling for equating Communism with Nazism, not in a hurry, on the basis of taking into account these millions of victims, to equate Nazism with capitalism�?

It is no wonder that many people still cherish their memories of Soviet Union and the socialist system. Recently another study was conducted asking Russians to assign value to the terms 'Soviet' and 'anti-Soviet'. To the question �What do you feel on hearing the word 'Soviet',� 31 percent noted 'nostalgia'; 18 percent, 'pride'; 17 percent, 'approval'; 13 percent, 'indifference'; 13 percent, 'appreciation'; 10 percent, 'admiration'; 10 percent, 'hope'; and 6 percent, 'deception'. Five more choices were offered, each expressing a negative feeling and each was selected by 3 percent of respondents or less. Only two choices were allowed per participant. Older people were much more likely than younger to express positive feelings towards the word 'Soviet'.

Similarly restricted to two choices, respondents reacted to the term 'anti-Soviet' as follows: 'condemnation', 23 percent; 'indifference', 22 percent; 'deception', 13 percent; 'anger', 11 percent; 'shame', 8 percent; 'fear', 6 percent; 'scepticism', 5 percent; and 'hope', 2 percent. Five more expressions of positive feelings were offered as choices with none being selected by more than one percent. This survey, in a way captures the feelings of the Russian people towards the present system and their glorious past.

People not only in Russia but in many parts of the world are reeling under the effects of the present crisis of capitalism. The ruling classes do not want people to learn from history and work to shape their future accordingly. They want people to forget what fascism really is and prevent them from turning to socialism. It is the fear of this growing 'nostalgia' for the Soviet Union, socialist system and Stalin that is behind the current efforts to distort history and equate fascism with socialism and Hitler with Stalin.

And as Zyuganov states, �one of the most infamous paradoxes of history is that among the current detractors of Stalin and his era, there are many names of those, whose fathers and grandparents the country chose then as the first ones to be evacuated from the largest cities, in order to save them from Nazi atrocities. Truly, this is historic ingratitude, which will remain an eternal black mark on their conscience�.

The fallacies propounded by the ruling classes have to be exposed and the campaign against Stalin and communist parties should be countered objectively. It is time to assign due place in history to Stalin and the millions of Soviet people for their supreme sacrifices to protect the entire world from fascist menace. Unfortunately, even some among the Left are reluctant to join issue with them as they fail to see the dangers of this virulent anti-Communist campaign.