From the Comments: Lenin knew what he was doing when he picked Stalin

Barry and William had an interesting discussion in the ‘comments’ threads of Dr Rosi‘s post about Lenin. At the heart of the dialogue is whether or not Lenin thought Stalin was an incompetent fool. Here is Dr Stocker’s final response:

This all depends on accepting that a text written by Krupskaya was Lenin’s own view. Leaving that aside, Kotkin is very against the idea that Stalin was stupid and I don’t think we should equate Stalin’s crassness with stupidity. Even leaving aside Kotkin, it is clear that Stalin did intellectually demanding things over many years, with regard to political organisation, political journalism and writing on Marxist doctrine (particularly the national question and this was before the Revolution long before issues of Stalin getting people to write things for him).

General Secretary of the Party was a very influential job, which meant selecting the people to run the party and therefore the country along with a complex range of other tasks which require some intellectual capacity. If Lenin appointed Stalin believing that Stalin was not very bright and could therefore be given an unimportant job, he was bizarrely mistaken about the demands and influence of the party secretary, the head of the Party in a party-state. Lenin did not need this title as he was the undoubted leader and instigator of the October Revolution. After he was off the scene, the party secretary would inevitably be the most powerful person in Russia. Stalin was at all times crude, brutal, cunning, calculating and dishonest in his behaviour, but this is not same as intellectual lack.

As Robert Service, amongst others, have pointed out Trotsky portrayed himself as the great intellectual with the right to inherit Lenin’s mantle and needed to portray Stalin as stupid and maybe needed to believe that someone lacking in his formal education, knowledge of foreign languages and manners associated with intelligentsia culture really was stupid. Well Stalin won the power struggle and I think it had something to do with intelligence behind the crassness.

Lenin and Trotsky themselves have been exaggerated as Great Thinkers by their followers. Clearly they had some scholarship and intellectual capacity, but what did they write which anyone would care about if they hadn’t come to power in 1917? Interest in Lenin’s writings has dropped off in a quite extreme way since Leninism stopped being the official ideology of what used to be the USSR, allied regimes and some large allied political parties outside the socialist bloc. Sort of equalises the intellectual legacy of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

Read the whole thing.

Great quotes by Joseph Stalin

Sometimes I like to read quotes by famous intellectuals and leaders. I believe it is a great way to learn one thing or two about several subjects, and specially the thought of said people. I suddenly became curious about Joseph Stalin, and to my surprise he was at times a very reasonable (albeit terribly evil) person. Here are some quotes by Joseph Stalin I subjectively find interesting:

On Social Democracy:
Social democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism…. These organisations (ie Fascism and social democracy) are not antipodes, they are twins.
Joseph Stalin, “Concerning the International Situation,” Works, Vol. 6, January-November, 1924, pp. 293-314.

On Anarchism:
We are not the kind of people who, when the word “anarchism” is mentioned, turn away contemptuously and say with a supercilious wave of the hand: “Why waste time on that, it’s not worth talking about!” We think that such cheap “criticism” is undignified and useless.
We believe that the Anarchists are real enemies of Marxism. Accordingly, we also hold that a real struggle must be waged against real enemies.
Anarchism or Socialism (1906)

On differences within the communist movement:
We think that a powerful and vigorous movement is impossible without differences — “true conformity” is possible only in the cemetery.
Stalin’s article “Our purposes” Pravda #1, (22 January 1912)
He did make a lot of people conform to his ideas.

On diplomacy:
A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron.
Speech “The Elections in St. Petersburg” (January 1913)

On the press:
The press must grow day in and day out — it is our Party’s sharpest and most powerful weapon.
Speech at The Twelfth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) (19 April 1923)

On elections:
I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
Said in 1923, as quoted in The Memoirs of Stalin’s Former Secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg]

On education:
Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
Interview with H. G. Wells (September 1937)

On Hitler:
So the bastard’s dead? Too bad we didn’t capture him alive!
Said in April 1945 — On hearing of Hitler’s suicide, as quoted in The Memoirs of Georgy Zhukov

On his role as a leader at the USSR:
Do you remember the tsar? Well, I‘m like a tsar.
To his mother in the 1930s as quoted in Young Stalin (2007) by Simon Sebag Montefiore

To finish, a comment by George Orwell about Stalin, and above that, about people in the West who failed to see what the USSR actually was:
I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.

But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.

George Orwell, in the original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell : Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison