Stalinism: The Complete Negation of Socialism


1. The New Economic Policy was an attempt to mollify peasant opposition to Bolshevik rule by allowing, among other things, free trade in agricultural produce. In addition, a limited amount of private ownership was permitted in retail trade and manufacturing. The NEP was initially seen as a temporary program that would enable the Soviet regime to hold on until socialist revolution spread to other countries, especially Germany.

2. Vasily Grossman, Forever Flowing (Northwestern Univ., 2000), 145.

3. Persecution was directed at Judaism mainly as a religion at this point. Despite the whiff of anti-Semitism around the Stalinists’ campaign against the Opposition, and Stalin’s personal prejudice against Jews, there was no attempt to discriminate against the Jewish people as such. In fact, the Communist Party, including the GPU and the party leaders around Stalin, included a rather large proportion of people of Jewish origins. It was only in the late 1940s that a more generalized anti-Jewish policy was instituted by the Soviet state.

4. Another reason why the government was concerned to keep starving peasants out of the cities was to conceal the very existence of the famine—especially from foreigners. Stalin encouraged Western politicians and journalists to visit the Soviet Union. The GPU took them on carefully choreographed guided tours, complete with model kolkhozes filled with happy, well-fed peasants. And journalists, including Walter Duranty, the correspondent for the New York Times, obligingly wrote glowing reports of the great achievements of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan. So effectively was the famine covered up that the truth did not come out fully until more than 50 years later. Of course, news had leaked out at the time—a catastrophe of such dimensions cannot be totally hidden. But Westerners who heard about it for the most part simply refused to believe.

5. “Speech to Industrial Managers,” February 1931.

6. Kirov was a popular figure within the party, and Stalin may have regarded him as a rival. There has long been speculation that Stalin himself arranged the assassination, but this has never been proven.

7 This was the method of execution preferred by the NKVD for party officials. Unlike the Sixteen, however, most prisoners were condemned to death in secret, without trials; so when they were led out into the corridors, they did not know what to expect. The NKVD thought it was “less messy” if the executed were caught unaware—no tears and scenes, no pleading for mercy.

8. In the late 1980s, when Communism began to loosen up in the Soviet Union, people were finally allowed to investigate the Great Terror. Mass graves were uncovered throughout the country, in fields, woods, and riverbanks, but of course by then the corpses were unidentifiable. An organization, Memorial, was founded to record and commemorate the victims of Stalin’s purges.