Lenin's Final Battle

In word Stalin and Lenin were in unity on the "National Question," but not in deed. At the very end of Lenin's life he and Stalin were locked in struggle against each other about this very subject and this combat formed the backdrop for Lenin's final battle to remove Stalin from power as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

Lenin's untimely death and his inability to remove Stalin from power had profound implications for the history of the Communist Movement all the way thru to the fall of the USSR. Lenin and Stalin's differences, in practice, around the "Rights of Nations to Self Determination" could not have been more decisive and critical for the survival of socialism in Europe, especially regarding the fate of Poland and the revolutionary failures of the Italian and Greek Communist Parties after World War 2. Lenin clearly stated, in the age of Imperialism, there is no more decisive question than the "Right of Nations to Self Determination" also known as "The National Question."

Lenin's marxist political practice on the "Rights of Nations to Self Determination" was as critically different from the reformist Western European Social Democrats who supported their own nation's colonial subjugation of Asia, Africa and Latin America as it was from Stalin's practice of the "National Question."

In Poland, after World War 2, Stalin forced Socialism from "above and from outside" while the majority of the Polish people did not want it. In Italy and Greece, by contrast, Stalin showed clear lack of support for the Italian and Greek Peoples right to choose Socialism when the majority of the people of Italy and Greece clearly wanted it right after World War 2 and Western imperialism was working hard to stop Socialist Revolution in Italy and Greece. Stalin's policy toward Poland, Greece and Italy after World War 2 fit his views of the military foreign policy needs of the USSR  but had nothing to do with Lenin's marxism, particularly Lenin's views on the "Right of Nations to Self Determination." Stalin's policy sowed the seeds for disaster for socialism in post World War 2 Europe by imposing socialism in some places where it was not wanted and not supporting socialism in some key places where it was wanted.

Between December 30, 1922 and December 31, 1922 in some of his last writings titled, "The Question of Nationalities or Autonomisation," Lenin lambasted Stalin for his dangerous misleadership on the question of "the union of Soviet socialist republics" (Lenin CW Vol.36 pp.605 - 611). Lenin goes on to say, "were we careful enough to take measures to provide the non-Russians with a real safeguard against the truly Russian bully?... I think that Stalin's haste and his infatuation with pure administration, together with his spite ... played a fatal role here. In politics spite generally plays the basest of roles" (Lenin CW Vol.36 pp.606). Lenin delivered his most powerful indictment, "in such circumstances the "freedom to secede from the union" by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt  that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riffraff like a fly in milk" (Lenin CW Vol.36 pp. 606). Finally Lenin sums up, "The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian nationalist campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky" (Lenin CW Vol.36 pp. 610). As was Lenin's practice he began his indictment with a self criticism, "I have been very remiss with respect to the workers of Russia for not having intervened energetically and decisively enough" (Lenin CW Vol.36 pp.605). Unfortunately for the workers of the world Lenin never lived long enough to finish the job. His very last communication before his final stroke silenced him was about this very issue. He ended the note, marked Top Secret, "I am preparing for you notes and a speech." (Lenin CW Vol. 45 pp. 608) 3/6/1923. Those were Lenin's last political words.

At the end of World War 2 Stalin carefully laid out a plan, like the great military commander he was, to defend the USSR against future invasion from Western Europe. After the unprecedented massacre and mayhem of the Nazi invasion of the USSR, planning a "Buffer Zone" on the western borders of the USSR against future aggression was completely justified. Unfortunately, there was very little of Lenin's marxism in the plan and a whole lot of "Great-Russian chauvinism." The grand old man of British imperialism, Winston Churchill, recognized Stalin's plan as a classic "division into spheres of influence" and gratefully agreed as head of an exhausted imperialism in decline. Roosevelt saw the plan as a chance for postwar cooperation he never lived to carry out.    

The historical record is clearer now and it shows several decisive complex trends. In May 1945 the USSR was the most powerful and popular country in Europe. Communist partisans in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Albania had the support of the majority of their populations to seize power and carry out Socialist Revolution. It is no accident that the largest US intelligence base was in Italy after World War 2. Communists in France and Czechoslovakia had the mass base to help form Popular Front Progressive Governments. In Poland and elsewhere there was the clear basis for independent, social democratic neutral and demilitarized counties.    Austria was one place where this successfully worked. Stalin's postwar leadership was at the decisive moment more like that of a great military commander of a great power than the leadership of a Marxist revolutionary.

No one can know for sure what "might have happened" but the evidence is overwhelming on a number of key points. The Polish Catholic Church, the huge population of private farmers in the Polish countryside, and the majority of Polish Social Democratic and Catholic Workers always argued that there was very little support for Socialism in Poland from the beginning. The preponderance of evidence  shows they were right. How much stronger would the Communist position have been if we would have insisted on a neutral, demilitarized, democratic Poland with a strong anti-fascist legal code rather than the imposition of socialism from above and outside?     This would have made it more difficult to make Poland an anti-Socialist fortress in the heart of the socialist camp. The evidence shows that Lenin would have chosen the course of self determination.  

In Italy and Greece, the evidence shows that Socialist Revolution was on the agenda of millions of Greeks and Italians after World War 2 and the evidence is also overwhelming that Stalin discouraged the Communists from carrying out their historic mission because it was "outside" the sphere of influence of the USSR. The world historic impact of a popular Socialist Revolution in the heart of Southern Europe is so huge there is nothing that Lenin ever did or said or wrote that would give credence to the thought that he would not have wholeheartedly supported it. The US nuclear monopoly, which has been used as a rationale for Stalin's caution, has been shown  to have been recognized by US leaders, as a political calamity if used against Communists in Europe in 1945 to 46, at the high tide of revolution in Southern Europe. If the right of nations to self determination had been respected in Poland, for example, it would have been harder to argue that popular socialist revolution in Greece and Italy constituted aggression by the USSR. Lenin's voice is still clear as are Stalin's mistakes.

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  • "...Land of the Free,Home of the Brave"

    Posted by peaceapplause, 03/25/2011 4:44pm (8 years ago)

  • Poland is a bad example to use. The national inferiority complex, strength of the Church, and general backwardness of the place, made it the least left-wing of the Eastern Bloc. Even in E. Euro countries that did not have a communist majority, Hungary, Bulgaria, they included communist-socialist pluralities. Though the Red Army was a coercive force in these countries early period, it went a long way to counteract the normal anti-communist influence of the establishment and the disproportionate power they wield. Much could be said about the cessation of Finland (no Soviet presence, but enormous capitalist domination of the media, work, government) to Georgia, where the Soviet government aided the worker, and ultimately the resources for the them to beat the capitalists in the Russian Civil War. These operations after the 2 WW were class battles between a discredited, propertied establishment, genuine communist locals, and a communist, albeit distorted, USSR. No, I am not a Trotskist.

    Posted by nampa, 03/25/2011 1:44pm (8 years ago)

  • How can one laud the theoretical prowess of a Lenin,yet blame,in a basic way(given his Marxism was distorted,nearly ruined,but not quite),"Stalinism"(as many like to growl)for the deadly genocidal centuries 'old crimes of backwards and developing capitalism in Russia?
    The four theoretical gems of the genius Lenin gave Marxists,the world over,and the working class;
    The Development of Capitalism In Russia,What Is To Be Done?,Imperialism,The Highest Stage of Capitalism and The State And Revolution.
    It is the analogous,paralleled activity of capitalism and imperialism in the U. S. and interdependencies in the whole of the Americas and abroad that we must investigate to change history,enlisting the activities of the modern working class.
    We must not confine ourselves to equating the fight to save socialism with wild devastation of Nazi Imperialism,merely revisiting the crimes of Josef Stalin.
    Let us revisit the peace of Peace,Bread and Land.
    Let us examine Yankee imperialist wars in Afghanistan,Iraq,Pakistan,Libya and encirclement of the European and America theaters for war.
    Let us see what these positions have to do with destroying collective bargaining rights of repressed,oppressed and exploited workers and immigrant workers in the "Home of the Free and Land of the Brave".

    Posted by peaceapplause, 03/25/2011 10:54am (8 years ago)

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