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Issue #1707      October 21, 2015

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

Cold War propaganda offensive (Part 2)

After WW2, the USA became the dominant capitalist power and anti-Communist and anti-Soviet propaganda intensified exponentially. Stalin, the personification of both Communism and Soviet Power, was demonised in a way we have become more used to in recent years. He was now a “dictator” without parallel, worse even than Hitler. People in Russia and in Eastern Europe, we were repeatedly told, lived in fear all the time. They could be grabbed by the secret police for no reason, at any time.

Joseph Stalin.

I remember being told at high school, that “people in Russia have to get permission to go shopping.” Years later, when I was working at the ABC, I was told in all seriousness, that a Skoda motor scooter had been “made by slave labour”. That ignorant nonsense was deliberately cultivated and endlessly repeated from every possible source so that it eventually became accepted as fact, despite its defying even common sense.

The huge number of people in the USA in particular but also in other Western countries employed in producing Cold War propaganda chose to demonise Stalin because he personified their ideological enemy. So useful was he in that role that they persisted with it even after he died.

There had been a time when Western audiences, encountering Stalin’s image in a newsreel, would spontaneously applaud. But decades of assiduous demonising has achieved its goal: otherwise intelligent people refer to Stalin these days as “dictator” or “monster” without turning a hair. As a recent article in Newsweek declared without blushing: “There is no commonly accepted figure for the number of people who died because of Stalin’s policies in the Soviet Union. Estimates range from just over a million to as high as 60 million.”

Did you get that? Sixty million! That’s more than twice the colossal number of people the USSR lost in WW2. For heaven’s sake! But as everyone knows, if you throw enough mud, some of it sticks. Some of that huge figure comprises the victims of the famine in the south of the USSR mentioned above. To blame Stalin of all people for that famine is almost obscene, but it is now derigueur among bourgeois historians.

In 1956, three years after Stalin’s death (his death incidentally was greeted with universal, spontaneous mourning in the Soviet Union), Nikita Krushchev began a struggle for ideological leadership of the CPSU with Party members still loyal to Stalin’s chosen successor as General Secretary, Georgi Malenkov (whom Krushchev had displaced in a “palace coup” not dissimilar to that staged recently by Malcolm Turnbull). Instead of attacking Malenkov’s policies, Krushchev identified his opponents as “Stalinists” and proceeded to “do a number” on Stalin himself (Stalin of course was safely not around to defend himself.)

Krushchev held the position of General Secretary of the CPSU and consequently held tremendous authority and respect with the international Communist movement. His speech denouncing Stalin’s former leadership was delivered to a closed session of the CPSU Sixth Congress, but curiously was leaked almost at once to the bourgeois media everywhere. The bourgeois media of course had a field day with Krushchev’s infamous “secret speech”. Here was Stalin, the embodiment (as far as they were concerned) of Communism, attacked by the world’s most important Communist leader at the time.

The propagandists of capitalism saw their opportunity: Stalin was now a weak point and they belaboured him rigorously. Communist Parties in general were abused with the same ferocity. Globally, the degree of disruption caused by Krushchev depended to a large extent on the ideological development of each Communist Party. The Chinese Party rejected Krushchev’s position outright, causing a serious split in the international movement. There were smaller splits in a number of other Parties, including in the Communist Party of Australia. Most of the party lined up behind Krushchev while the leadership conducted a witch-hunt to root out remaining “Stalinists”. For many years, nobody so much as mentioned Stalin’s name in company.

Newspapers at the time reported after Krushchev’s speech that Trotsky’s widow had packed her bags and was waiting for a call from the Kremlin to return in triumph to Moscow. The call never came, of course, for Krushchev was attacking Stalin only to bolster his own position in the party, not to open the way for counter revolution.

As the years passed, the Communist movement rallied from the disruption Krushchev had caused and was able to successfully reassert its role in the class struggle. It was able to ignore and even to repel the jibes of the Trotskyists (as well as of avowed capitalist mouthpieces) who hurled the epithet “Stalinists” at the CPA in the apparent belief that it would sting.

In the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev, the Communist Party was moving – slowly and carefully – to overturn Krushchev’s disruption and restore Stalin to his proper place in the country’s political and historical record. I was there at that time with a delegation from the Socialist Party of Australia (as we were called then). When we visited Lenin’s rooms in the Smolny, the headquarters of the Revolution in 1917, we admired a large framed photograph of the Bolshevik Party leadership at the time, with Lenin of course in the front row. Our CPSU guide leant forward, and smiling broadly, surprised up by pointing out only one other person: Stalin.

It was a small thing but indicative of the direction in which things were heading. Then Brezhnev died, and a struggle began to keep Gorbachov from becoming General Secretary. He eventually outlasted the others and got the position, whereupon he did as Krushchev had done and used another denunciation of Stalin to silence his critics within the Party leadership, most of whom had supported the moves to rehabilitate Stalin’s reputation.

Today it’s Putin who is the target of Western propaganda attacks, accused of “Soviet nostalgia”, which the West clearly thinks is a bad thing. Putin seems to take these attacks in his stride. When the 50th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union came around, Putin sent shock waves through the USA and the rest of the capitalist world by proposing to build a victory monument in the form of an enormous statue of Stalin, to be placed on the Easternmost border of Russia, looking towards Western Europe. He didn’t go ahead with it, and it was probably only put forward to stir up Russia’s enemies.

So, we are left with “Stalin the monster dictator”, an imperialist construct that is now supported on a huge pile of lies and distortions and on the works of honest, bourgeois historians who simply don’t know any better because, whether they know it or not, they are unable to overcome their class loyalties and see matters from a working class perspective.

In Russia today, American commentators are shocked to find that more and more people are of the opinion that Stalin was a great leader of their country. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the second largest party in the Duma, proudly boasts of Stalin as one of its heroes. They have a huge struggle on their hands, to overcome the years of fierce anti-Communist propaganda, much of it focussed on Stalin explicitly, and backed up as it by the well-funded rumour mills of Western, Cold-War propaganda.

It’s going to be a battle, but personally, I’d put my money on Stalin.

Next article – The tiny Lebanese village taking more refugees than Britain

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