The Soviet Past

Che Guevara Approved of Stalin.  This contradicts the popular image, which links him to 1960s Hippy culture.  But he was quite definite on the point.

Medvedev on Stalin.  A study from 1980, when the Soviet system was still strong.  It shows that the attempt by Soviet political writer Roy Medvedev to Khrushchev’s attempt to define a ‘Stalinism’ distinct from Leninism was nonsense.  All the Old Bolsheviks had similar ideas.  All of them had a similar willingness to crush and denounce opponents.  Stalin alone was a competent politician when Lenin was no longer there to give guidance.

Soviet Socialism and Law.    A survey of Soviet legal theory.  This shows that an authoritarian attitude was general among Bolsheviks, and indeed was found in many other thinkers.  That Stalin’s own views were relatively moderate.

Market Socialism in the Soviet Union.  A study from the late 1960s, that strongly criticised the economic reforms that were introduced under Khrushchev.  And looks at economic theories of the superiority of market mechanism, which had a lot in common with the New Right ideas applied in the West in the 1980s.

Marxism and Market Socialism.  A second study from the late 1960s, which suggests that economic theorists in the Soviet Union had got into a complete muddle about what was or was not a commodity.  And a history of the idea of Market Socialism.

Also available as a PDF, Stalins Economic Problems Part Two

What was the actual outcome?

The ‘reforms’ caused a slowdown in the Soviet economy, which had been growing fast under Stalin.  This contrasts with the Chinese reforms under Deng, which never expected markets to be self-regulating.

Russia Hurt by the West (2)Russia Hurt by the West (1)

The graphs were created using figures from The World Economy: Historical Statistics, by Angus Maddison.  This is mostly accepted as the best source.  But writers on Soviet failure and collapse always ignore the awkward fact that it was doing very nicely when Stalin ran it with total disregard for market forces.  And that Yeltsin’s decision to give the market total freedom in the 1990s was a disaster.

Free discussion of Stalin’s role in history began only when the Soviet system fell.  Khrushchev did not allow his criticisms to be freely discussed, while Brezhnev clamped down on everything.

Interestingly, free discussion was overwhelmingly won by admirers of Stalin.  This is rather contrary to the wishes of Putin, who favoures a mildly negative view.  The graph below, from the Washington Post, shows a rising trend.  Only 21% were against Stalin, with the rest indifferent.Popularity of Stalin

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Labour Affairs is produced by the Ernest Bevin Society.  As the Wiki will tell you, we derive from a small but very productive group of Marxists called the British and Irish Communist Organisation.

We changed our assumptions regarding Britain in the 1970s, and favoured reforms like Workers Control and Incomes Policy for Britain.  We assumed at the time that a Leninist-style revolution was not going to happen in Britain, and that the Soviet Union was no longer a model.   But a lot of the earlier work remains relevant.  Indeed, the defeat of the left in the 1980s was caused mostly by its false reading of the past.

We are on the web here, and as Athol Books.

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