From email@example.com Tue Nov 28 08:31:42 2000
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 22:54:03 -0600 (CST)
From: “Dave Silver” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Critical Analysis of History of 20th Century Russia
A critical analysis of Robert Service's
A History of Twentieth-Century Russia
Harvard University Press, 1997
Robert Service, Professor of Russian History and Politics at the School of Slavonic Studies at the University of London and the author of a trilogy on Lenin is one of the western world's leading scholars on Russian and Soviet history. The author uses a mass of material provided by the post Soviet regime which includes documentary collections, memoirs and archival material. While the author provides a useful source of certain factual information such as the description of the January 1924 Party Conference and the attack on Trotsky's Left Opposition by supporters of Stalin. Or we can reference fairly accurately the Civil War of 1918–21 and the role of the White Armies under Kolchack and Denikin. On other questions such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) promulgated by Lenin we begin to see the impact of Service's bourgeois liberal ideology. While acknowledging that Lenin saw this policy as a temporary and necessary retreat into privatization, he attributes Lenin's motive as needed to “sustain the political dictatorship” and therefore offered “economic relaxations.” The code word dictatorship is completely ripped out of context, with no reference to the impact of the Civil War and not a hint that “dictatorship” in the Marxist sense, and used by Lenin in all his writings meant a counter to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the owners of the means of production as well as the rural capitalists and landowners.
However I wish to focus on the outright lies, distortions, half truths and its accompanying conclusions which are fueled by an ideology that is essentially liberal, pragmatic, anti-communist and reflects an intense hatred for socialism both theoretical and actual. Permeating the entire book, anti-communism (then Bolshevism) is cloaked in a liberal disguise which uses the cutting edge code word Stalinism or Stalinist. We find this entry in the Introduction. “Office holders thought of themselves as Marxist-Leninists (M-L), but increasingly they behaved as if Russia's interest should have precedence over aspirations to world wide revolution.” Service nourishes the notion that people who regard themselves as M-L are ipso facto deficient politically and in addition he gives credence to the Trotskyite concept of permanent or world revolution. Service commits, consciously I believe, the error of calling the Soviet Union the first communist rather than socialist state. Also in the Intro we find passages “one party dictatorship” and an enforcement of “an official ideology,” in which Stalin “hurled the country into forced industrialization and agricultural collectivization.” Service would prefer the staged elections of capitalist democracy in which the masses have absolutely no voice in choosing candidates as long as they have at least two Parties that are puppets for the ruling class and no one to challenge the system. Service cannot see that rapid industrialization and expropriating the rich peasant kulak class was essential to the development and survival of the USSR.
In Terror Upon Terror and the trials between 1934–8 Service serves us the ultimate condemnation of Stalin. In vain do we find the name of the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union , Joseph P. Davies. He attended all the trials which condemned some Party leaders to death. Davies said unequivocally that the defendants were guilty of collective attempts to undermine the socialist system including collaboration with German and Japanese imperialism. Weren't similar big lies told by the western media as to the “crimes” of Stalin in Nazi occupied Vinnitsa in the Ukraine in 1943.
A PBS “documentary” showed skulls in mass graves and panned over to a photo of Stalin. A German soldier in fact wrote to both American and Soviet interrogators in 1945 saying these were graves of Nazi victims. Other outright fabrications by Service include Stalin's alleged “near catastrophic blunders”in 1941–2, apparently alluding to Stalin's role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. However Service ignores the Memoirs of Marshall Zhukov. At the 1941 meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) which was called by Stalin, Zhukov praises him for reorganizing the Armed Forces strategic command system into the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command with Stalin as Chairman. As Ken Cameron in his brilliant book Stalin-Man of Contradiction (NC Press Toronto 1987) notes; Speaking of the campaign at vilification of Stalin “we could hardly have predicted its scope. Sometimes it employs simple fantasy, constructing for mass consumption the vision of a power mad dictator wantonly slaughtering ‘millions’ of people (from 4–60 depending on the estimator). Sometimes we get the more sophisticated picture of a cunning intriguer pushing aside the true ‘democratic’ socialists and installing a regime of grey regimentation.” He concludes that “this vilification serves to attack the Soviet Union and socialism, for clearly such a monster could only function in a nation of moronic robots.” I will add the thought that there would have been such a moral decay and anarchy that it would have been impossible to defeat German fascism.
Anti-communism oozes out when he discusses the “Hungarian Uprising” in 1956 for example. Service is quick to point out that “the Soviet Army moved against the rebels.” He conveniently leaves out the glaring fact that the leader of the rebels' “Resistance” was a clerical fascist by the name of Cardinal Mindzsenty. Counter revolution is the more appropriate word to describe that event. In a chapter titled the First Five Year Plan the author contradicts his earlier statement on Stalin's negative role of “forced industrialization.” He admits that “Stalin had engineered a second revolution; he had completed the groundwork of an economic transformation.” Service then concludes that for “Stalin the realization of the First Five Year Plan could only be the first victory in the long campaign for his personal dictatorship and his construction of a mighty industrial state.”
It is obvious that this bourgeois scholar's ideological hostility to Marxism, socialism and revolution must counterbalance a favorable image with a demonization of Stalin. In the field of Culture and Modernization, Service points to the enormously successful literacy, theatre, ballet, educational, cultural and sports explosion. He mentions the fact that the technical prowess of building large new cities like Magnitogorsk was indeed a huge accomplishment. Yet he contends there was an ulterior motive; because they wished “to expand the social base of their (the Bolsheviks) support.”
Service makes incredible allegations without a shred of documentation. The Red Army soldiers who marched into Europe “had seen things that made them question the domestic policies of their own government.” And other citizens who never crossed the boundaries of the USSR “had had experiences which increased their antagonism to the Soviet regime.” In another example worthy of tabloid journalism the author gives us this gem; “For Stalin, therefore (sic) military victory in 1945 presented many risks.” In the Notes for this entry he says “This has also been true at the end of the First Five-Year Plan: another ‘triumph’; marred for him by the attendant menace to his regime.” Pure political speculation that not only underpins the perception of Stalin the monster but is an attack on a really existing socialist state.
The counter revolutionary “new thinking” substitutes “universal human values” for class struggle and sees capitalism and socialism as becoming more and more like each other in a global economy. This is what Gorbachev's foreign minister, Kozyrev called the “convergence theory.” There were historical precedents; the Frankfurt School of Sociology in the 20's, (whom Brecht aptly labeled as the “intellectual pimps for the bourgeoisie”) that tried to synthesize Marxism and Freudianism, in the 30's we witnessed the Phenomenological school of Marxism, the Praxis group in Yugoslavia, The Marxist-Humanists of Poland and the so called Euro-Communism of the 70's.
All of these movements have at least one fundamental premise in common; a belief that “orthodox” or “traditional” Marxism is outmoded and no longer the best guide for Struggle and the eventual achievement of Socialism. These new thinkers are searching for a third hybrid way neither capitalist nor socialist.
To the era of Glasnost and Perestroika. Service gives the highest praise to Gorbachev and a bit less so to Yeltsin. The author duly notes the role of both in liquidating the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ongoing imperialist destabilization and by 1970 the Soviet economy had the world's second largest industrial capacity with free health care, education, no unemployment or homelessness and while most people were poor by western standards, hunger and crime was a rarity. Yet the successful counter revolution orchestrated by the new thinkers with a stamp of approval by both men that led to gangsterism, crime, homelessness, poverty, prostitution and a handful of rich entrepreneurs is lauded in this book. It shouldn't be surprising that the traitors, revisionists and opportunists are found in the Reference Chapter Notes; Trotsky, Martov (Menshevik) Djilas the Yugoslav who created a new class, an intellectual pimp like Medvedev and the demented religious Czarist Solzhenitsyn.
From Cameron's Marxism—A Living Science International Pub. 1993 “It is time to set our sights on the future, to perceive through the mist of capitalist obfuscation that the world revolutionary thrust that Marx and Engels projected and Lenin witnessed is still operating, inexorably, like the giant forces of nature—with which it is increasingly blended.”