Sunday, 19 August 2012

Stalin and why much of the left needs to grow up

It seems to me that the various “socialist” parties spend more time talking about Stalin than anyone else.

I've never written about Stalin or “Stalinism” before – I've never seen the point. Why would I? His “terrors” happened eighty-odd years ago and the man himself died over half a century ago. But despite that, you'll find people on the left casually throwing around the phrase “Stalinist” at just about anyone they disagree with.

It's a strange thing. Members of the public you talk to rarely bring up Stalin, and if they do they'll raise perfectly justified concerns. There's nothing wrong with that, I tend to agree with them. The public at large certainly don't think of “Stalinism” as an ideology, or as something anyone is advocating we should try and build in this country.

But much of the left seem utterly obsessed by the man. The “anti-Stalinists”, the various “socialist” parties, spend more time talking about Stalin than anyone else. These are, generally, the same parties who say things like “the USSR wasn't really communist”. The Soviet Union may not have been a communist utopia, but it was a damn site better than what replaced it (you only need to look at average life expectancy to see the effects).

These same parties are quite happy to call themselves Marxist, but never communist. They generally call themselves “Trotskyist” but not necessarily from any in-depth following of his work. To me it seems these parties are so scared, obsessed and paranoid about the past that they are desperate to distance themselves from the word communist. That way, rather than having to analyse anything that went on in the USSR eighty years ago, they can just say “oh no not us, that's the other lot, we don't even think the Soviet Union was communist”.

And what do they even mean by “Stalinist”? I simply can't work it out. You should try it. Next time someone calls you a Stalinist, challenge them. Ask them what they mean by it, then ask them for any evidence whatsoever that you are a supporter of Stalin. Do they think that communists want to set up gulags? Do they think we want secret police? Show trials? That we go home at night and read Stalin's writings underneath a portrait of him that hangs on our living room walls?

Perhaps the greatest irony of all that many of these people who accuse the Communist Party, its members and even the Morning Star of being “Stalinist”, also call the People's Charter “reformist”. The Communist Party is a leading force behind the People's Charter and champions its six points as an alternative economic strategy that would lay the grounds for building socialism in this country. So in the same breath the Communist Party is some hard-line, bureaucratic, authoritarian dictatorship, and also a reformist, apologist, pro-capitalist, anti-revolutionary party that panders to the “trade union bureaucracy” and Labour Party.

So in short, the left needs to grow up. The only people who give a toss about Stalin are the people who are scared of being called Stalinist themselves. The Communist Party has moved on, everyone else should too.

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