To Ted, Re: anti-Stalinism

Grover Furr (
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 12:24:11 -0400

Rather than put everything in triple or double carats, I'll just put
the passage I'm responding to between asterisked lines, like this:

Re: the Tony Williams - Grover Furr exchange:


>> But the defence of Stalinism in terms of human freedom? How does one
>>reconcile this with the millions who died in the pourges (far more
>>than under the Nazis), the perversion of the original Bolshevik ideals, and
>>the brutal elimination of figures such as Bukharin now "rehabilitated."


> Here we have anti-communism at its finest: unintentional, taken
>for granted not as "ideology" but simply as FACT.

Grover's argument lies so far outside not only conventional wisdom &
mainstream historical debate (which would be to its credit) but outside even
as document-grounded a radical critic as Noam Chomsky (to the best of my
knowledge), that I tend to suspect that "ideology" rather than fact are
shaping Grover's sources. This will no doubt be seen by Grover as more
"anti-communism at its finest," one more instance of how pervasive
anti-communism has shaped intellectual debate. But the claims re. Stalin
don't just rest on mainstream writers like Conquest, do they? What ARE your
sources (specifically --not just the journals that have not in my impression
simply thrown out all claims of horrible repression under Stalin), Grover?

Ted Morgan


OK, that's Ted's message. Here's the reply:

1. I wrote much more than that, offering, for example, to go into
why Khrushchev (mildly), and the Yeltsin (maybe Gorbachov -- I don't
recall) would want to rehabilitate Bukharin.

2. Noam Chomsky, whom I admire greatly in many ways for his
thorough documentation on virtually everything ELSE he writes on,
documents poorly or not at all his anti-communism.

I'm not blowing smoke here; I've looked. I've used Chomsky's
books for years in class, and bought a lot of his stuff; I've had
correspondence with him and with Ed Herman (not that we are comparable
in any way, but just to show that I respect his anti-imperialism a
lot). I've searched hard for documentation by Chomsky for his
anti-communist statements, but never found any. So I can't comment on
his sources. I suspect this is a blind spot with him -- that he
accepts the usual cold-war stuff, but for his own reasons -- the same
way many Trotskyists do for THEIR own reasons.
I've read some of his stuff about anarchism -- he's an anarchist,
rejects Marx as well as the Bolsheviks and the communist movement.
Anyone who writes from a Marxist, to say nothing of a communist,
position, disagrees with Chomsky.

3. The sources I have cited in previous posts, I indicated and now
repeat, deal with the question of how many died in the "purges." If
you are not conversant with the latest research on these areas, you
are repeating cold-war nonsense, period. There has been a revolution
in this field since around 1980 or a little before.

This is especially so in the case of the statement "far more than
the Nazis." Read the research I cited AND THE EVIDENCE CITED THEREIN.

Don't take my word for it -- I'm sure you won't! But don't take
ANYBODY'S word for ANYTHING on this matter. That's your error (or
error number one, at any rate). You are repeating (Tony)
anti-communist stuff originating with Nazi collaborators, but
apparantly do not even know where the statements you are making have
come from!

4. "Perversion of the original Bolshevik ideals." Yes, and no. Stalin
and, what's far more important, the "stalinists", those who led the
CPSU after Lenin's death (the whole politburo and those who supported
them around the country) -- like Lenin, like Marx -- had _no clear
idea how to build communism_ once they had state power. They had no
blueprint other than the words of Marx and Lenin, which could be read
several different ways. That was their guidepost towards the future.

Everything that was done, from NEP to its negation, the 'cultural
revolution' of '29 to '32, the collectivization movement to fund
industrialization and the concomitant crushing of peasant resistence
with much violence, to the United Front Against Fascism, and so on --
followed quite logically.

The Bolsheviks thought they had found, after great struggles and
with much difficulty, the way to build communism. Ultimately, they
were wrong. They ended by consolidating capitalist relationships of
production (none of this is new, BTW, or mine, either: this critique,
latent in the Chinese documents of the Sino-Soviet dispute, is very
explicit in Charles Bettelheim, and Progressive Labor Party has
developed it as well. It appears very rich in explanatory power. It is
quite in contradiction with the "Trotskyist" criticisms of "stacking
the party," "bureaucracy," and so on, none of which is true.

Along with their errors, associated with Stalin (fair enough) but
in fact the errors of the whole communist party and indeed movement
worldwide, the Bolsheviks during Stalin's time had many signal

I think the reason I wrote something like "Stalin (it should be
'Stalin', since we are not talking about "great men and kings", but
about a massive political movement, of which S. was merely the leading
figure) contributed a thousand times more towards human freedom than
any capitalist leader -- name your favorites from Roosevelt on down
the line -- because the communists were at least _on the right side_,
whereas the capitalists were and are all for _maintaining_ imperialism
and exploitation, whereas the communists were opposing it.

The communists under Stalin opposed imperialism and exploitation
with more success than any other comparable movement in history. How
are they not to be admired?

That they did not succeed in building the classless society I and
zillions of others, more to the point, desire, is something we should
study, in order to find out WHAT their errors were. To me at least
this is THE burning question before mankind, and that's why I'm so
interested in it.

However: we will never be able to assess the communists' errors
NOR THEIR SUCCESSES if we believe the voices of their sworn enemies,
_those who would oppose Communism if every communist were an angel_
and if Stalin were Jesus H. Christ himself!

That's the principal danger of anti-communism, so I think: that
believing this stuff makes it impossible to learn from the
world-shaking experiences of the generations who have preceded us.

Well, there is lots more to say. But -- Ted -- back to your point
about "mainstream historical debate" and Chomsky. The "mainstream
historical debate" in the capitalist world is NEVER going to present
to itself the problem in the way which would be useful to those of us
who want a classless society; this is simply not what "mainstream
history" is all about at all! More could be said about this...

But, a word for bourgeois historical study: if you're going to
study history, you're stuck with it, so it's best to take it
seriously. Look at the "revisionists" I've cited many times now. Then,
let's talk again.

Let us take no dogmas as _ the truth_! Subject all to question
and doubt! Prove with good evidence that Stalin was a genocidal
Hitler-type and I'll believe it -- who wants to repeat THOSE errors?
But that is NOT what you will find out, I dare say, if you look, any
more than I have.

Finally, I repeat: anti-communism has _deeply_, deeply infected
those who call themselves "the left" in the West. A year or two ago
one of the Meeropol brothers (I forget which one, sorry) was repeating
Khrushchev's statements at the 20th Party Congress in '56 _as though
they were the documented truth_!! Please!! Nikita the K. had plenty of
reasons for lying and distortions about the past. Yet members of the
CPUSA and the other pro-Moscow CPs around the world _had_ to take this
stuff dogmatically as _the truth_.


Grover C. Furr

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