Stalinization and de-Stalinization in European context. IPN debate

At the marches held on May 9 this year, a number of large portraits of Joseph Stalin were carried both by grownups and by teens and children. Those portraits became conspicuous primarily against the background of the war of aggression that is being waged by the Russia Federation on Ukraine, close to Moldova’s borders. For a large part of society, the phenomenon generated bewilderment and concern as the crimes committed by this world tyrant of the 20th century, including in relation to Moldova and the Moldovans, are no longer a secret. The phenomena of Stalinization and de-Stalinization in a broader, pan-European context were discussed in IPN’s public debate “Stalinization and de-Stalinization in European context”.

According to Igor Boțan, the permanent expert of IPN’s project, said that Joseph Stalin was a revolutionary, a Marxist, since 1903 a Bolshevik, a gangster who robbed banks to use the money for revolutionary political purposes. He formed part of the first Bolshevik government after the putsch of November 7, 1917, serving as commissar for nationality affairs and then for state control. During April 1922 – February 1934, he held the post of secretary general of the Central Committee (CC) of the Bolshevik Communist Party (BCP) and then secretary of the CC until 1952. In 1941 – 1947, he served as the supreme commander of the armed forces. Since 1941 until March 1953, he headed the council of ministers of the USSR. He was the initiator of collectivization in 1927, of industrialization in 1928, of the mass terror after the murder of Kirov in 1934. Millions of people were destroyed during those events. In 1939, he preferred an alliance with Hitler against England and France, justifying it at the meeting of the political bureau of the BCP on August 19, 1939.

“He organized the deportation of at least ten small peoples and then the deportation of representatives of the most advanced sections of the peoples of the USSR, such as intellectuals, hardworking people, etc. He launched an anti-Semitist campaign, the so-called fight against cosmopolitism, which was followed by the “case of Jewish doctors” which was to end with the deportation of Jews from large Soviet cities to Siberia, but this was interrupted by the tyrant’s death,” stated the expert.

According to him, Stalinism was an authoritarian political system in the USSR of the end of the 1920s and the star of the 1950s and the main ideology. “Stalinism was characterized by an absolutist regime of personal power of Joseph Stalin, the domination of authoritarian-bureaucratic methods of management (administrative command system), excessive strengthening of the repressive functions of the state, merger of party and state bodies, strict ideological control over all the aspects of society, violation of the basic human rights and freedoms. Stalinism is one of the main forms of totalitarianism,” stated Igor Boțan.

Doctor of History Florin-Răzvan Mihai, scientific researcher of the National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism of the Romanian Academy, said that there are multiple theses concerning Stalinism, but two ideas seem to be prevailing. “There are historians who consider that Stalin does not appear from nowhere, that Stalinism is the logical continuation of the line existing earlier, with reference to Lenin, who promoted several of the policies that were magisterially put into practice by Stalin, such as violence, including the way in which he solved the tsar problem. Reference is also made to the historical tradition of the Russian people, the political life of Russia from Ivan the Terrible, who became a very suggestive benchmark for what totalitarianism, violence against the inferiors used in a discretionary way mean. Surely, there were historians who personalized the problem of Stalinism and insisted on characteristics of his personality, insisting on his almost sick, even pathological character mentioned by particular authors. There were also authors who somehow justified what happened during Stalinism, suggesting that the appearance of socialism in that country under the scheme that was initially thought up by Marx and Engels wouldn’t have been possible in the absence of terror,” said the doctor of history.

Acceding to him, Stalinism has several characteristics that make it unique in the history of political thinking. “Stalin seems to be a great inventor, a Marxist thinker who meditates and makes essential contributions. His main theory of 1924 elaborates the theory of socialism in one country so as to later, in 1928, justify the terror that was started aggressively in the immediate period, and asserts that the class struggle appeared during the period of socialism building. These are the two essential contributions of Stalin. However, Stalin distinguished himself primarily through the practices of applying these theories. One of his features is the cult of personality that manifested itself in a specific way. In the economic sector, he insisted on the idea of directed economy with emphasis on the heavy industry. That idea had unfavorable consequences, primarily during the postwar period, including in Romania, including the great terror that remains one of the “stains” in Stalin’s CV, which caused millions of victims,” said Florin-Răzvan Mihai

Doctor of Hstory Octavian Țîcu, university lecturer, said Lenin’s big merit was the fact that he knew to capitalize on the social revolt by turning it into a communist construct. “If an explanation is to be provided as to the carrying of photos and portraits of Stalin in central Chisinau and all over Russia, we can say that we are witnessing re-Stalinization. Three important elements of Stalinism should be taken here into account. It goes to the Stalinist model of modernizing the Soviet Unjoin, which was an absolutely unique and exceptional one. It was a mobilization model by which millions of people were sacrificed, but Stalin and the Soviet Union achieved what they aimed to – to turn the Soviet Unjoin into an industrialized state that was equal to the U.S. and Germany. The roots of Stalinization and neo-Stalinism should be looked for in the victory in World War II. There was no global problem in which Stalin wouldn’t have been involved and which he wouldn’t have wanted to transform. The Stalinization of the world is the third big element. This globalization made so that one third of the world’s population lived under communism. This communization of the world was inherited from Stalinism,” stated Octavian Țîcu.

According to the historian, these three elements are the foundation stone of Stalinism from the Russian perspective, while Putin did nothing else but reconcile a Russian historic tradition that existed before Stalinism with Stalinism itself, which laid the basis of the Putinist regime. “The Bolshevik Communist Party was one of the most important keys to the success of Stalinism. This was an unordinary issue of the 20th century. That democratic centralism that characterized this party, together with devotion, sacrifice and extraordinary loyalty. Nether Lenin nor Stalin were original. I consider the key to Leninism and Stalinism is in the great intellectual debate of the Russian world of the end of the 19th century, between Slavophiles and Westerners. The Marxists from Russia and the Bolsheviks were supporters of the third way. The Bolshevik model is a thesis and an antithesis of the West. One the one hand, bolshevism took important material parts of the Western civilization, like industrialization, culturalizaiton, alphabetization. On the other hand, it was anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist, anti-West and that was actually the essence of the Russian society before World War I.

The public debate entitled “Stalinization and de-Stalinization in European context” was the 14th installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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