Stalinism and the degeneration of the Soviet Union

lenin colour 720What is the balance sheet of the October Revolution and the great experiment in planned economy that followed it? What implications do they have for the future of humanity? And what conclusions should be drawn from them? The first observation ought to be self-evident. Whether you are in favour or against the October Revolution, there can be no doubt whatsoever that this single event changed the course of world history in an unprecedented way. The entire twentieth century was dominated by its consequences. 

We regard the October Revolution as the greatest single event in human history. Why do we say this? Because here for the first time, if we exclude that glorious but ephemeral event that was the Paris Commune, millions of ordinary men and women overthrew their exploiters, took their destiny in their own hands, and at least began the task of transforming society.

That this task, under specific conditions, was diverted along channels unforeseen by the leaders of the Revolution does not invalidate the ideas of the October Revolution, nor does it lessen the significance of the colossal gains made by the USSR for the 70 years that followed.

The enemies of socialism will reply scornfully that the experiment ended in failure. We reply in the words of that great philosopher Spinoza that our task is neither to weep nor to laugh but to understand.

It was not the degenerate Russian bourgeoisie, but the nationalised planned economy that dragged Russia into the modern era, building factories, roads and schools, educating men and women, creating brilliant scientists, building the army that defeated Hitler, and putting the first man into space.

Despite the crimes of the bureaucracy, the Soviet Union was rapidly transformed from a backward, semi-feudal economy into an advanced, modern industrial nation. In the end, however, the bureaucracy was not satisfied with the colossal wealth and privileges it had obtained through plundering the Soviet state. As Trotsky predicted, they passed over to the camp of capitalist restoration, transforming themselves from a parasitic caste to a ruling class.

– From the introduction to Russia: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution

(For a detailed analysis of the actual events in 1917 and afterwards, please visit our dedicated In Defence of October website.)

Trotsky, a recent Netflix series produced by Russian state television, is a scandalous misrepresentation of both Trotsky’s life and the October Revolution. Alan Woods and Josh Holroyd respond to this insulting portrayal of Trotsky and the Bolsheviks’ legacy.

Today is the 140th birthday of Ioseb Jughashvili, also known as Koba, but best known as Joseph Stalin: figurehead of the Soviet bureaucracy that seized control of Russia following the degeneration of the Bolshevik regime. We publish here a review (first released on John Riddell's blog) of the new, updated edition of Trotsky's biography of Stalin, originally published in 2016 and ...

"The development of the International Left Opposition is proceeding amidst sharp crises that cast the fainthearted and the short-sighted into pessimism. In reality these crises are completely unavoidable. One has only to read the correspondence of Marx and Engels attentively, or to preoccupy oneself seriously with the history of the development of the Bolshevik Party to realise how complicated, how difficult, how full of contradictions the process of developing revolutionary cadres is."

Prague 1968

The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party (CP) bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, the Prague Spring has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

In March 1934 Stalin re-criminalised homosexuality across the whole of the Soviet Union. Henceforth anyone involved in homosexual acts could be sent to prison for three to five years. In the early years of the Russian Revolution, however, homosexuality had been legalised – but this is something you will find little mention of in the literature produced by the official Communist Parties after 1934. Today’s Stalinists, who model themselves on Stalin’s regime, have a lot of explaining to

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In the final part of George Collins' history of the rise of Stalinism, he explains the bureaucracy's final victory over Trotsky's Left Opposition; their shameful co-operation with fascism and imperialism; and the brutal, counter-revolutionary role they played in suppressing the working class in Russia and internationally. He concludes with an optimistic assessment of the political situation in Russia in the late-80s, and while we know the tragic reality of what happened after the Soviet

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No other event in human history has been the subject of more distortions, falsehoods and fabrications the Russian Revolution. We publish here Alex Grant's complete list of the 10 biggest downright lies about the Bolsheviks and October...

This book, which was first published in 1997, has been updated and edited in the light of new developments and the subsequent re-establishment of capitalism in Russia. Grant based his analysis on that of Leon Trotsky, who first analysed Stalinism in his Revolution Betrayed. While the counter-revolution has attempted to bury the memory of October, the new crisis of world capitalism has led to a revival of interest in Marxism and the significance of Bolshevism. The republication of

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In the second of a series of videos celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Alan Woods - editor of In Defence of Marxism, www.marxist.com - examines the lies and slanders used to attack the Revolution, the Bolsheviks, and the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky.

In the beginning of a series of videos celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Alan Woods - editor of In Defence of Marxism, www.marxist.com - examines the lies and slanders used to attack the Revolution, the Bolsheviks, and the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. In this first part "in Defence of the Russian Revolution", Alan looks at the gains made by the October Revolution and the planned economy in terms of science, industry, and culture.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. The apologists of capitalism, and their faithful echoes in the labour movement, try to comfort themselves with the thought that the collapse of the USSR signified the demise of socialism. But what failed in Russia was not socialism but a caricature of socialism. Contrary to the oft-repeated slanders, the Stalinist regime was the antithesis of the democratic regime established by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

On Monday 17 October, the Morning Star published a review of the new edition of Trotsky’s biography of Stalin written by Andrew Murray. While admitting that “this book has literary and historical merit,” Murray states that “it has much less as an actual biography of Stalin”. How does he justify these claims?

Ninety years ago, on 21st January 1924, Vladimir Lenin, the great Marxist and leader of the Russian Revolution, died from complications arising from an earlier assassin’s bullet. Ever since then there has been a sustained campaign to slander his name and distort his ideas, ranging from bourgeois historians and apologists to various reformists, liberals and assorted anarchists. Their task has been to discredit Lenin, Marxism and the Russian Revolution in the interests of the “democratic”

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We here publish the video footage of the debate between Alan Woods - editor of www.marxist.com and author of "Bolshevism: the Road to Revolution" - and Orlando Figes - Professor of History at Birkbeck University and author of "A People's Tragedy" - on the true nature of the Russian Revolution, and what it meant for the people of Russia and the class struggle internationally.

The year 1999 marks the 75th anniversary of the death of the man who, together with Leon Trotsky, made a decisive contribution to the cause of socialism and the working class in this century, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. To mark the occasion, we are republishing this article which was originally written to commemorate the Lenin centenary in 1970. The early symptoms of bureaucratic degeneration in Russia were already noted by Lenin in the last two years of his politically active life. He spent

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In the avalanche of propaganda against “Communism” an idea is often peddled that while preaching equality, the Communist leaders make sure their own personal position is well catered for. What this propaganda is based on is the horrible bureaucratically degenerate Soviet Union under Stalin. Not happy with attacking Stalin, however, they attempt to show that Lenin was no different.

Alan Woods speaking on the subject of Bolshevism - the history of the Bolshevik Party, at the June Marxist School of Socialist Appeal in London.

Fred Weston introducing the discussion on Stalinism at the British Marxist Summer School on 18 June.

An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. In a lead off given to a recent Socialist Appeal Day School in London Alan Woods sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the

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An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. Here Rob Sewell sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the physical destruction of the Bolshevik party.

In the early hours of August 24 seventy years ago Germany and Soviet Russia signed a "non-aggression pact", which divided the states of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet "spheres of influence", effectively slicing Poland into two halves. Ben Peck looks back at what happened and explains why such an incredible event could take place – and the price that was paid.

Alan Woods was interviewed bySudestada, an Argentine arts, culture and news monthly magazine, on the Russian Revolution and its subsequent degeneration. As Alan has explained, what failed in Russia was not socialism, but a bureaucratic caricature of socialism.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we are here reprinting an article by Alan Woods, first written on September 4, 1968, and published in the Winter edition of the Spark, in which he clearly relates the momentous events that shook the Stalinist regimes and explains their significance.

50 years ago on 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite into space - Sputnik 1. The launch came as a complete surprise, even to the US intelligence community which was caught completely unawares. The launching of the satellite not only shocked the world, it completely changed it by ushering in a new age - the Space Age.

This article written in 1945 analyses the relationship between the Soviet state and the Russian Orthodox Church. There was a clear dividing line between Lenin’s approach to this question and the zig-zag policy later adopted by Stalin. First published in Workers International News, October 1945.

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the death of Leon Trotsky. He had been brutally struck down on August 20, 1940 by the hand of an assassin, an agent of Joseph Stalin, and rushed to hospital where he died at 7.25 p.m. the following day. He was sixty years old. On this commemoration, Rob Sewell takes a look at Trotsky’s life.

In 1946 the perspectives of the then leadership of the Fourth International were that through “the combined economic, political and diplomatic pressure and the military threats of American and British imperialism” the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union could collapse. The complete opposite was the truth. Ted Grant, together with the leadership of the RCP, attempted to correct this mistaken prognosis. Here we provide the historical 1946 documentation.

As the year draws to an end we would like to remember all those thousands of genuine Communists who perished in Stalin’s camps, butchered simply for defending the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. Old Bolsheviks like Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin were forced to confess to crimes they had not committed. These famous victims were only the tip of the iceberg. Not remembered are the thousands of Trotskyists who languished in brutal concentration camps. They were brave and defiant to the end. The

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As the old Soviet archives are opened up and studied, more material is being made available about what happened in Russia immediately after the revolution. Myths have been created about events like the Kronstadt “rebellion”, the peasant revolts, the anarchists, etc. The new material available confirms what Lenin and Trotsky explained about  these events. In spite of all attempts to slander the Bolsheviks, the truth is always concrete.

Marxist.com recently published an article by Celia Hart in Havana. It has a very great significance, because the author, who is the daughter of two well-known leaders of the Cuban Revolution, calls for a discussion about Trotsky’s role and ideas. It immediately caused a controversy on an international scale. One of those who attacked Celia was a certain Israel Shamir, who raked up all the old Stalinist myths about the great role of Stalin. Alan Woods comments.

Today, November 7, marks 86 years since the 1917 Russian Revolution. The bureaucracy that usurped power from the working class (embodied in the Stalinist regime) has finally come full circle and completely capitulated to capitalism. We are here republishing an article by Ted Grant, originally published in 1967 on the 50th anniversary of the revolution. Even when the bureaucracy seemed almighty and irremovable the article was confidently predicting the downfall of the Stalinist

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Some on the left still maintain the myth that Stalin was "a great fighter against world Zionism". In reality his policy on this question was a zig-zagging one that went from support for Zionism to outright anti-Semitism. A Kramer, in Israel, unravels the truth.

Fifty years ago today the world heard the news of the death of Stalin. For decades the Stalinist propaganda machine had assiduously encouraged the myth of Stalin as "the Lenin of today", who was supposed to have led the Bolshevik Party together with Lenin. But all this was merely a construction to justify the usurpation of power by a tyrant who destroyed Lenin's party, liquidated the political conquests of October and wrecked the Communist International.

The year 1927 marked a decisive turning point in the struggle of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition to defend the ideas of Marx and Lenin inside the Russian Communist Party. On the Tenth anniversary of the October revolution, almost to the day, the co-leader of that most momentous event was expelled from the party. Soon after the creator of the Red Army was expelled from the country.

The Revolution Betrayed is one of the most important Marxist texts of all time. It is the only serious Marxist analysis of what happened to the Russian Revolution after the death of Lenin. Without a thorough knowledge of this work, it is impossible to understand the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the events of the last ten years in Russia and on a world scale. For Marxists, the October Revolution of 1917 was the greatest single event in human history. If we exclude the

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On Thursday 7 September, Channel Four broadcast a fascinating programme as part of its series Secret History, entitled Mutiny - the true story of Red October. This remarkable documentary for the first time gave us the true story behind the 1990 Hollywood movie The Hunt for Red October a film version of a 1984 novel by Tom Clancy.

This document was written by Ted Grant together with Roger Silverman in 1967 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian revolution. The article explains how Stalinism arose and clearly shows how even at that time the Stalinist bureaucracy was facing a serious crisis and confidently predicted its inevitable downfall at some stage.