File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1996/96-10-29.043, message 130

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 17:33:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-TH: Stalin again

Although I do not wish to diminish the importance of the social forces
that made Stalinism or Nazism possible. I think it is also a mostake to
dismiss the importance of the individual element. People make a difference
when they are situated in key positions. They are not mere puppets. Thus
Trotsky was right to comment, in a letter quoted by Deutscher, that had he
and Lenin both been killed in, say, June 1917, the Bolshevik revolution
would not have happened. 

With Stalin and Hitler, who above had had personal dictatorships, the
personal contribution was immense. Without Hitler's charisma, the Nazis
would not have come to power. Had Hitler been killed in, say, 1936, there
would have been no mass genocide and quite possibly no World War II, at
least not the sort of war we had. Hitler's personal fanatical antisemitism
and charismatic power as well as his geopolitical genius (well, Farrakhan
was right about that: the man was an evil genius of power politics) were
crucial in overcoming the conservative German military opposition to a
European war, in undertaking the daring brinksmanship of rearmament and
the bloodless expnasion of the REich in the late 30's, and in setting into
motion the machinery of the holocaust.

Had Stalin been deposed at the 17th Party Congress (when it was possible
that he would be), or, better, had he been sidelined by Lenin's Testament,
there would have been no mass purges; if the sidelining had happened early
enough, probably no forced collectivization. It was Stalin's own political
genius in bureaucratic games--he was no mediocrity, but a very astute
politician--that put him in a position to realize his paranoid goals.
Kirov, a representative of the same forces that put Stalin in power,
lacked both the bureaucratic sophiustication and the lethal craziness; he
would have governed by committee. 

This is not to subscribe to a GReat Man theory on which the World
Historical Figure does what he likes merely because he is a Man of
Destiny, or Woman of the Same. (In fact Hegel's WHF are such because their
great personalities express the Spirit of the age, realize the forces in
play at their time.) It is to acknowledge what ARchimedes said, Give Me a
Lever and a Place to Stand and I shall Move the Earth. History gives some
people a lever and a place to stand.

Other examples: had Lincoln lost the 1860 election, American slavery would
have lasted in the 20th century. Had he died or been assassinated in, say,
1862, leaving Hannibal Hamlin as president; or had he lost the 1864
election, putting George McLellan in office, the Confederate States of
America would be a reality today. One might go on.


On 28 Oct 1996, jc mullen wrote:

> I liked Shane's summary of who Stalin was. At the same time, the tiny glimmer fo
> truth in what the person says who doesn't want to see Stalin diabloized is that
> marxists should not be tempted to put personal responsibility as a primary
> course of historical periods (this would be idealism).
> 	Stalin was to be sure a vile creature, but not highly significant in
> causing the defeat of the Russian revolution and the reinstitution of a ruling
> class state in Russia. He was the mediocre puppet who was in the righ tplace at
> the right time. Just like Hitler, without a million desperate and rabid bankrupt
> shopkeepers and another couple of million desperate broken unemployed thugs
> could never have smashed the German workers movement and massacred jews
> communists gays and so on. 
> JOhn Mullen
> Socialisme International
> France
>      --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


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