Bronze-level articleJoseph Stalin

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File:JStalin Secretary general CCCP 1942.jpg
Stalin and his distinctive handlebar moustache.

Joseph Vissarionovich "Rainbow" Stalin (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953), born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili,[1] was an ethnic Georgian revolutionary who schemed and murdered his way to the leadership of the Soviet Union, an entity that he helped to establish with other leading Bolsheviks. Historians typically estimate the death count to around 20 million of his own people,[2] while other analyses of East European archives say he had killed a piddling six to nine million.[3]

His pseudonym, "Stalin," means "Man of Steel."[4] A good way to shorten one's career (or, very possibly, one's life) was to "accidentally" change the T for an R or an S.[5]

Contents

World War II

In 1939, shortly before Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland and the resulting outbreak of the Second World War, Stalin entered a non-aggression agreement with Hitler, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (named after the statesmen who led the negotiations), in which Stalin promised not to interfere in Hitler's plans for Europe and Hitler not to interfere with the Soviet Union. The pact included a secret protocol, provisionally carving up Poland, Romania and other central European countries into Nazi and Soviet "spheres of influence" so that both countries could profit from the upcoming conflict. In the early days of the war, Nazi-Soviet relations remained cordial, with Stalin even considering joining the Axis. Relations soon cooled, however, and the pact ultimately broke down when Hitler welched on the deal by invading the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Stalin's forced-march approach to industrialization had strengthened Soviet military capabilities, but his consolidations of power had left the militarily leadership weakened, having had many of his best generals and spies arrested and executed in the period immediately before the war, and some 25,000 officers purged from the Red Army. Stalin was deeply paranoid and apparently more concerned about the Red Army's loyalty to him alone than their effectiveness as a professional military force. As with Hitler, Stalin's personal involvement in military decisions proved disastrous. Many Soviet armies, totalling several million men, were surrounded and destroyed at the outset of the war because they were forbidden from retreating. However, unlike Hitler, Stalin learned to trust his generals as time went by and granted them more leeway. Between the Russian winter, Russian mud, Hitler's incompetence, Russians' fortitude, and the industrial capacity established under Communism, the Soviet Union managed to survive and ultimately proved instrumental in the defeat of Hitler's Germany.

After the victory, Russia held many German soldiers in prisoner-of-war camps. The conditions in these camps were horrible, but they still had it better than the ordinary Russian civilians, as will be explained below.

Starving the peasants

See the main article on this topic: Holodomor

Among the most horrendous crimes perpetrated by Stalin were the famines that struck the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine and southern Russia. Stalin may have been motivated by antipathy toward Ukrainians and contempt for the peasantry but he was also engaged in stinting the entire population to extract resources necessary for rapid industrialization.

He has been accused of purposefully causing one of the worst[6] famines of modern times: the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33.

The Soviet Union continued to deny this until its breakup, but the numbers of people denying it have dwindled along with Soviet foreign aid. The United Nations issued a joint resolution in 2003, signed by 26 countries, to the effect that the famine was a deliberate political act.[7] In 2008, the European Parliament recognized the Holodomor as a crime against humanity, citing the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[8]

Ukraine has considered formally accusing Russia of attempted genocide, since it blatantly seemed that Stalin was trying to starve many of them to death. In 2010, a Ukrainian court conducted a posthumous trial of Stalin and a number of other CPSU brass, finding them guilty of genocide.

Stalinism

Stalinism, Uncle Joe's legacy to the world, is a ruthless approach to communism that relies heavily on an all-powerful supreme leader aided by a large body of secret police who "encourage" neighbor to inform on neighbor, purges of any potential adversary to the supreme leader (with emphasis on the comrades who helped him achieve his position in the first place), the imprisonment and murder of intellectuals, and the occasional mass murder of entire portions of the population.

Stalinism also covers the particular approach to economic development which Stalin pursued during his rule. It relies on complete state control and central planning of all economic activity and tries to achieve rapid development of the nation's heavy industry. The Soviet Union did indeed see rapid industrial growth under the first five-year-plans, but this came at a heavy price: the necessary capital had to be somehow squeezed out of an agrarian society, adding to the misery of Soviet peasants. Forced collectivization and resistance to it resulted in millions of deaths and a huge drop in Soviet agricultural production, which in turn led to the famines of the 1930s.[9] In the short term, Stalinism gave the Soviet Union the industrial resources that allowed it to be victorious in the anticipated conflict with Germany. Despite the incredible devastation of World War II, it also permitted the Soviet Union to pose as the other great power in the Cold War and to lead the United States through much of the Space Race. Nevertheless, in the long run its failure to facilitate the sort of rapid information exchange necessary for competing with post-industrial Western societies in the later 20th century probably doomed it.

Stalinism breaks notably from orthodox Marxism and Trotskyism because of its adherence to the theory of Socialism in One Country. It was first proposed by Stalin in second edition of Foundations of Leninism;[10] the idea received fierce criticism from Trotsky and Zinoviev. The theory was elaborated by Nikolai Bukharin in 1925, and essentially holds that because of the defeat of all the other socialist revolutions around Europe, the Soviet Union should strengthen itself internally. Trots and Orthodox Marxists view their struggle as an international struggle toward socialism and eventually communism.

Racism

While the jury is still out on whether the Holodomor was an extreme incompetence or anti-Ukrainian sentiments, one clear example of his racism was the Armenian Genocide. His predecessor Lenin had literally saved the Armenians from genocide from the Ottoman Empire remnants when he was dictator, one of the few feathers in his cap. Unfortunately, due to his paranoia and Georgian racism (the Armenian church was a subversive force during this time) Stalin turned his back on them.

Not that this would be the last time he fucked over the Armenians; in 1947 he initiated a ridiculous annexation scheme from Turkey while using Armenian sovereignty as bait. When that failed he shipped them all to the gulag.

He also deported Volga Germans — there's a reason you've never heard of those people — to Siberia and Chechens to Kazakhstan after Hitler's invasion based only on ethnicity. Even to his own kind, the Georgians, he was cruel. Communism in action, be equally racist towards everyone!

Marxist theorist

File:Stalin 1902.jpg
Joe Stalin in his twenties. We shit you not.

Stalin was a man of action and contributions to Marxism as political theory were slight. Here is an example of his work:

But the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country still does not mean that the complete victory of socialism has been ensured. After consolidating its power and taking the peasantry in tow, the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build up a socialist society. But does this mean that it will thereby achieve the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e., does it mean that with the forces of only one country it can finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee that country against intervention and, consequently, also against restoration? No, it does not. For this the victory of the revolution in at least several countries is needed. Therefore the development and support of revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution in the victorious country must regard itself not as a self-sufficient entity but as an aid, as a means of hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.[11]

Poetry

He was also known for his poetry during his youth, which was written in Georgian. A selection was published under the pseudonym "Soselo" in the Georgian newspaper Iveria ("Georgia") in 1895, some of which were later reprinted in anthologies of Georgian poetry.[12]

Atheism

While originally a Russian Orthodox who entertained dreams of entering the priesthood, Stalin lost his faith after his wife's suicide. In the minds of certain people, this proves that all atheists are potential mass-murderers[13] (which is known as the association fallacy). By the same token, one could say that all Christians must be evil because Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic, casually disregarding the numerous positive contributions Christians such as Martin Luther King have made to the world. Stalin also went to Russian Orthodox seminary school before becoming a Communist, but they rarely condemn seminaries using the same "logic." Stalin's atheism and contempt for the Church were perhaps most accurately illustrated by his bold statement: "Fuck the Pope. How many divisions does he have, anyway?"[14] That said, he established the Russian Orthodox church during WWII to induce fighting spirit and nationalism to the Russians, which is not such an atheistic move, although he shut the churches down immediately after the war ended. Aside from that, religion was generally discouraged under Stalin's regime in favour of worshiping Stalin himself and the almighty Soviet (god complex).

Communism in the West and Stalin

Once upon a time, most Communist parties in the West were openly Stalinist. After Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin, many of them fell apart under the internal dissension.

Nostalgia

And following a common trend in which a certain portion of the population waxes nostalgic for the reign of a dictator ("when Mussolini was in charge, the trains ran on time"), there are many people in Russia who say (quite publicly!) that Russia needs to "bring back Comrade Stalin!" This is while they already have Putin to kick them around.

Bizarrely enough, there is at least one English-language neo-Stalinist party on Earth, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). They have an adorable YouTube channel.

Other stuff

Proving that even megalomaniacal tyrants can be nice from time to time, Stalin authorised university attendance for women and Jews, effectively enabling Ayn Rand to attend university and dedicate the rest of her life to bringing about the fall of Communism.

See also

Footnotes

  1. Encyclopedia of World Biography: Joseph Stalin
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Calculating the number of Stalin's victims.
  3. Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?, New York Review of Books
  4. "Dzhugash" can mean "steel" in Georgian, hence "Dzhugashvili" as "son of steel."
  5. Writers or typesetters could die for one misplaced letter, as Andrei Tarkovsky's film Mirror suggests unforgettably. Substituting one consonant made Stalin "pisser" or "shitter" (ssalin, sralin), Stalingrad could be set to read "Stalin is a reptile" (Stalin gad). Printing okotilsia, meaning "Lenin had kittens" (which in fairness, as a cat-lover, he did) instead of "Lenin went hunting" (okhotilsia) was punishable. (Donald Rayfield, Stalin And His Hangman). A. I. Solzhenitsyn, in Gulag Archipelago, relates that a poster in a bookkeeping office reading "Life has become happier, comrades, life has become more joyful -- Stalin" was modified by the addition of an a to Stalin's name, causing it to read " ...more joyful -- for Stalin." The entire bookkeeping office was arrested and dispatched to a gulag.
  6. Competitors include Winston Churchill's Great Bengal Famine of 1943 and Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, which both had higher body counts.
  7. Joint Statement on Holodomor
  8. Resolution of 23 October 2008 on the commemoration of the Holodomor, European Parliament
  9. Paul Kennedy. 1987. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. New York: Random House (1987)
  10. "The proletariat can and must build the socialist society in one country." [1]
  11. Joseph Stalin. 1939. Foundations of Leninism. New York: International Publishers. pp. 45-46.
  12. Montefiore, Simon Sebag, Young Stalin, London: Phoenix, 2008, pp. 53-66
  13. As are any humans which survive to an age where they could handle a weapon properly.
  14. Said sarcastically to Pierre Laval when asked about the proposal of bringing the Pope to participate in the Allies War Conferences, which were discussing the fate of post-war Europe; as quoted in The Second World War (1948) by Winston Churchill. According to Wikiquote.
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