Not 'rescue Stalin,' but rescue the truth and the future

Grover Furr (
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 19:42:15 -0400

Drieux on this list, and some others in private email, have
stated that I'm trying to "rescue Stalin" or even "Stalinism". Since
I've never said anything of the kind, I'd like to clarify.

1. My initial posts were in response to the kind of unthinking
anti-communism which, despite the questioning of authority that began
to take place in the 60s, is still far too widely shared "on the left"
and indeed by thoughtful people generally. The "gleichschaltung"
("co-ordination" -- Hitler's term for bringing all aspects of culture
in line with Nazi philosophy) of American culture during the Cold War
produced a mentality something like this: if you question "the faith",
the "party line," you are a heretic and guilty of all the sins of all
heretics. This mentality is still very much alive.

I "question," in fact reject, the Cold War lies about Stalin, the
USSR, and the communist movement because they have been proven time
and again to be false. My "loyalty" here is not to Stalin, but to the
truth, as demonstrated by the best contemporary research.

I think it is quite an astounding demonstration of the extent to
which so many of us have internalized the norms of this Cold War
culture that close to 20 years of research by over a dozen major
scholars in the field of Soviet studies, published in major journals
of "bourgeois scholarship" and in books by major academic publishing
houses, should be virtually COMPLETELY UNKNOWN to the members of this
list of literate, often even of academic people, many of whom have
strong views on the subjects of this research and some of whom
actually claim to know something about the history of the USSR.

ANYONE who did as I did 20 years ago -- that is, read the Cold
War trash about the USSR (I didn't know it was "trash" at the time, of
course), and then set out to read what non-communist academics in the
West were writing about the USSR from 1917 to WWII would have found
and, I dare say, been fascinated by, this research.

That very, very few people have bothered says a lot about the
extent of our collective indoctrination in anti-communism, in my

It would be very interesting to have a discussion on these
questions with persons who were familiar with this research. After
all, it's not univocal -- it doesn't all "say the same thing."
Furthermore, virtually none of the researchers are "pro-communist" in
any sense. In my experience most have taken "liberal" anti-communist
positions. So any number of different positions could be argued well
on the basis of this research.

In fact, however, practically nobody has ever even heard of this
stuff. This is the culture we live in! Anti-communist to the core, and
in ways we don't even recognize. Yes, I do blame us! We ought to know
better by now! The same liars and murderers who fed us Jim Crow and
the Vietnam War feed us the history we learn. It's no good to blame
them -- WE ARE THE FOOLS if we continue to accept the "American Party
Line" which is also the "Business Party Line" or, more accurately, the
"Capitalist Party Line."

We are so, so cautious about being misled by the "Communist Party
Line!" But, realistically, what is likely to mislead us more -- that,
or the "line" we are all taught in THIS country? I think the answer is

One analogy comes to mind: that of the mass media. Many literate
people are at least somewhat familiar with the
Chomsky-Bagdikian-Parenti kind of media criticism: the mass media act
as a propaganda system, under tight ideological control, and in
foreign affairs act virtually as a State propaganda organ. However, we
don't ACT as though we "know" this. We don't take it very seriously.
Therefore, we are constantly finding out over and over again that "the
media lie", and just as constantly being disillusioned -- "deja vu all
over again."

[A parenthesis here -- modern mass media criticism certainly
comes out of the anti-authoritarian ferment of the 60s. It wasn't only
the Czechs, Poles and Russians who were learning that the press
coudn't be trusted -- it was those of us who were in the Civil Rights
and anti-war movements here, too! Critics such as Chomsky and Ed
Herman cut their teeth on Vietnam War reporting -- both wrote books,
now collector's items, on US atrocities in the Vietnam War (I have
them). Other who did so were Robert Cirino, Ben Bagdikian, Gay
Tuchman, Michael Parenti (who mainly summed up the work of others).

This is all a product of the 60s as well, and I'd be VERY
interested in discussing it with interested parties on this list!]

2. Second, I'm not ONLY interested in pointing out crude Cold-War
lies when they appear, as they do very, very often.

I think I'm like many other people whom I met and knew in the 60s
and since then -- people who recognize that capitalism is inherently
exploitative and rotten, and who would support the struggle for a
system based upon egalitarianism and production for use IF they had a
clear vision of what it was, and how to bring it about, and IF they
thought it were possible.

It's the work of anti-communism -- mainly in its form of
anti-Stalinism (i.e. lies about the Stalin period) -- to convince US
that this is all impossible. "Stalin was worse than Hitler" is a
lesson being spread abroad to justify capitalism, imperialism, racism,
and mass poverty, suffering and death! Does anyone think that Robert
Conquest and his ilk grind out the crap they do for the love of
"disinterested truth"? Give me a break!

The point here is that the work, the purpose, of anti-communism
is to so "demonize" the history of the USSR and the Comintern, as well
as so distort it with lies, that nobody will study it seriously to
learn what the Bolsheviks et al. did that was WRONG, and therefore
what they did that was RIGHT. And this is absolutely ESSENTIAL if we
are to learn from the past.

IF you are interested in building a better system, one not based
upon exploitation -- in other words, if you have serious reservations
about capitalism and everthing that goes along with it -- it is vital
that you recognize that the millions of people in the communist
movement in this century are YOUR ANCESTORS! They are the Spartacuses,
the Gabriel Prossers, the Tom Paines, the John Browns, the Eugene
Debses FOR US. The Communist movement has been the largest attempt in
world history to build a classless society based upon the common

If we are going to advance in the future, we have to learn what
the strengths and weaknesses, the triumphs and the errors, of this
movement were. It's that simple. And, anti-communism would prevent --
DOES prevent -- us from doing this. Because the anti-communists do not
WANT us, or anyone, ever, to do this.

3. I have said this before during these discussions, but some do
not hear it so I'll say it again: I take a back seat to no one in
being critical of Stalin (as well as of the other titanic figures of
the communist movement: Mao, Lenin, Marx, and of course the lesser but
significant figures like Ho or even Castro). The old communist
movement has been dead as a force for positive, anti-capitalist change
for decades! Once again, this was convincingly demonstrated for the
first time NOT by anti-communist liars, but by the Chinese CP in the
documents of the Sino-Soviet dispute, which are seldom read now,
perhaps, but which I and many, many others studied critically and with
great interest in the mid-sixties.

Many or most of the failures of the communist movement are
traceable to Stalin, and even further back, to Lenin and Marx. Clearly
there is nothing to be gained by "rescuing" Stalin or anybody if the
price of doing so is to be uncritical. This heroic movement FAILED.

It's of great interest WHY it failed, and also what its SUCCESSES
were. I can't think of a more important question facing the majority
of the human race today, frankly.

The work of anti-communism -- and, since that is the specific
topic, of anti-Stalinism -- is to _prevent this serious process of
study and learning from the past in order to advance to a better
future_. In other words, if the history of the past is poisoned, we
are condemned to an endless future of exploitation.

That is the importance of fighting anti-communism, in my view.

One final remark: Hiding the horrors of capitalism is an
essential component of anti-communism. And many writers of the 60s
first began to open this up to my consciousness. It was during the 60s
and in conjunction with the Vietnam War that I and many, many others
first began learning about the incredibly brutal history of Western,
capitalist imperialism. I would like to hear discussions about 60s
anti-imperialist consciousness on this list, too.

In fact, it was seeing the similarities between classic Communist
anti-imperialism and the anti-imperialism of the anti-Vietnam War
protest that began my own process of thinking about these questions. I
know this was true for many others as well, no doubt many on this


Grover Furr