Dec 18, 1878 – Mar 5, 1953

Comrade Stalin is one of history’s enigmatic figures, often misunderstood due to controversial takes on his actions as a revolutionary, praised by those who seek self determination and liberation from capitalist oppression, and condemned often with disinformation from capitalist powers who felt threatened by the idea of a strong, united, revolutionary working class and its collective power to overthrow capitalist exploitation and corruption. Today I aim to highlight his contributions to the proletarian revolution, and set some of the record straight for his critics, though even this will be far too brief to cover what essentially would take multiple volumes of books to truly analyze and give full perspective on. 

In the words of renowned intellectual, revolutionary, and activist W.E.B. Du Bois

“Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also—and this was the highest proof of his greatness—he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.

Stalin was not a man of conventional learning; he was much more than that: he was a man who thought deeply, read understandingly and listened to wisdom, no matter whence it came. He was attacked and slandered as few men of power have been; yet he seldom lost his courtesy and balance; nor did he let attack drive him from his convictions nor induce him to surrender positions which he knew were correct. As one of the despised minorities of man, he first set Russia on the road to conquer race prejudice and make one nation out of its 140 groups without destroying their individuality.”

It’s not often that we get insight into the personalities of leaders from the past, usually it’s glossed over with mere lists of accomplishments versus mistakes, so I found this quite insightful that Du Bois chose to focus on Stalin’s character as a human being, his mannerisms, the dignified way with which he carried himself and interacted with others. It’s quite profound and lends greater understanding of who he was, which speaks volumes as to the motivations for his choices and actions; he sounds like someone I’d thoroughly enjoy engaging in conversation with, that he would handle debates about politics with poise and regard, with consideration for others life experiences, and seeking solutions that encompass addressing the concerns of everyone involved. All too often we hold a delusional expectation of perfection from those in positions of power, neglecting to remember or acknowledge that perfection is utterly unattainable and that they too are a mere human with complexities and contradictions, that there are no perfect humans nor perfect solutions, but we can each make our best efforts to treat each other with respect and dignity in pursuing what will create the best outcome. It appears that this was a core part of who Stalin was and how he operated, something which we can take into context with both his successes and his errors, and gain a greater understanding for the burdens he bore in effort to enact Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death.

A mainly agrarian society prior to the Bolshevik revolution, Stalin’s main goals were to attain a rapid industrialization to bring the USSR fully into the modern world, and the collectivization of agriculture to ensure all citizens access to adequate food supply. These were honorable goals made difficult by scarcity of resources, especially considering that the entire globe was dealing with severe drought causing food shortages, here in the US we remember it as the Dust Bowl. Many crops failed in the areas hit hardest, and to make matters that much more difficult, many kulaks (peasants wealthy enough to own land and hire labor after the emancipation of the serfs) were resistant to the collectivization and wanted to remain capitalist in the sale of their grain, and when Stalin approached them like “hey people are starving, the state needs to buy your grain to distribute” they demanded payment far more than its actual market value, more than could be afforded by the state, and instead of negotiating, they burned entire crops, thereby forcing further starvation of the masses, and of many of themselves and their farm workers. Stalin has been demonized for arresting or exiling them for this, but their capitalist greed cost many people their lives by deepening the shortages of food during the drought, it was in fact criminal of the kulaks to choose to harm the masses rather than accept a reasonable payment for the grain, they committed mass murder by proxy. 

“In speaking of the capitalists who strive only for profit, only to get rich, I do not want to say that these are the most worthless people capable of doing nothing else. Many of them undoubtedly possess great organizing talent, which I would not dream of denying. We soviet people learn a lot from the capitalists. But if you mean people who are prepared to reconstruct the world, of course you will not be able to find them in the ranks of those who faithfully serve the cause of profit… The capitalist is riveted in profit and nothing can tear him away from it.”  – Joseph Stalin

Stalin gets his fair share of hate from “liberty” enthusiasts, but the liberty sought in the USSR wasn’t about your “liberty” to exploit workers, or your “liberty” to starve. 

Stalin fought for liberty in a much more meaningful sense….liberty from exploitation and oppression.

To put it in his own words: 

“Real liberty exists only where exploitation has been annihilated, where no oppression of some peoples by others exists, where there is no unemployment and pauperism, where a person does not tremble because tomorrow he may lose his job, home, and bread.”  –  Josef Stalin

Western media and “history” books paint him as a power-hungry dictator, but what other dictator in history has attempted to cede power four times? FOUR TIMES Comrade Stalin put forth resignation letters, which were denied by the Central Committee!

While he did fight for “socialism in one country” as opposed to Trotsky’s “global revolution” he held very internationalist views, and never viewed the revolution as “over” while exploitation and oppression raged on outside the USSR. 

Stalin never lost sight of victory as the end goal, as can be shown by the hard lessons learned during World War II. 

However, he made very clear that victory couldn’t be had without international unity.

“As we know, the goal of every struggle is victory. But if the proletariat is to achieve victory, all the workers, irrespective of nationality, must be united. Clearly, the demolition of national barriers and a close unity between the Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Polish, Jewish and other proletarians is a necessary condition for the victory of the proletariat of all Russia.” – Josef Stalin

As we look at other successful revolutionaries, perhaps no name could be so prominent as Chairman Mao Zedong

Chairman Mao looked fondly upon Comrade Stalin and his list of accomplishments, especially considering the context of the times he was working in.

The USSR in it’s early years faced a brutal civil war, invasion by 14 different Capitalist nations, a famine exacerbated by Kulaks, invasion by the mightiest, most brutal military force the world had ever seen, and protected the party from revisionists, AND the tragic loss of Comrade Vladimir Lenin in 1924. 

Of course Stalin made mistakes, but he overcame seemingly insurmountable odds, with the support of the people!

Chairman Mao said:

“After Lenin’s death Stalin as the chief leader of the Party and the state creatively applied and developed Marxism-Leninism. In the struggle to defend the legacy of Leninism against its enemies – the Trotskyites, Zinovievities and other bourgeois agents – Stalin expressed the will and wishes of the people and proved himself to be an outstanding Marxist-Leninist fighter. The reason Stalin won the support of the Soviet people and played an important role in history was primarily that he, together with the other leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, brought about the triumph of socialism in the Soviet Union and created the conditions for the victory of the Soviet Union in the war against Hitler; these victories of the Soviet people conformed to the interests of the working class of the world and all progressive mankind. It was therefore quite natural for the name of Stalin to be greatly honoured throughout the world. But having won such high honour among the people both at home and abroad by his correct application of the Leninist line, Stalin erroneously exaggerated his own role and counterposed his individual authority to the collective leadership, and as a result certain of his actions were opposed to certain fundamental Marxist-Leninist concepts he himself had propagated….  

Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything. This is a grave misconception. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist, yet at the same time a Marxist-Leninist who committed several gross errors without realizing that they were errors. We should view Stalin from a historical standpoint, make a proper and all round analysis to see where he was right and where he was wrong and draw useful lessons therefrom. Both the things he did right and the things he did wrong were phenomena of the international communist movement and bore the imprint of the times.”

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