Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stalin: Americans Confident, Others Not So Much

Time for another update on my WWII Political Leaders Opinion Survey. (Again, I’m providing these updates at the request of participants, but to minimize the biasness in the results since the polls are still open, I won’t be sharing data on the major questions. Please contribute if you haven’t already done so.) So far, more American respondents claim to be very familiar with Joseph Stalin than respondents from other countries. Is this due to a small sample size? Or are Americans just more confident about their knowledge of Russia’s dictators? My guess is both, but we’ll probably never know for sure unless I can get grant money for a real survey.*

Now for a brief word about history’s most famous Caucasian: Once upon a time, I took a graduate-level course in Marxian political economy. That opened my eyes firsthand to just how much Marxism resembles Christianity.

Very few self-identified Marxists ever purchase a copy of Capital (Vol. 1, 2, or 3**) let alone actually read it. Most prefer touchy-feely inspirational reading like The Communist Manifesto. Some, however, master the original languages, especially German, and spend many hours arguing over correct interpretation of the scriptures. There are “conservatives” and “liberals” when it comes to beliefs about how accurate Marx’s teaching were.

Some adherents promote orthodoxy, preferring intellectual discussion to actually doing anything, while others promote orthopraxy, creating piety movements loosely based on the theology but able to actually promote change in the real world. And yes, there’s a restoration movement advocating a return to “original” Marxism, while others follow the teachings of late-dating denominations and cult leaders. One cult leader, of course, was Stalin.

My professor, a traditionalist of sorts, would tease one of my classmates about being a “Stalinist.” A Stalinist is a Marxist who, rather than wait for eschatological promises to be fulfilled by the natural process of historical materialism, tries to bring about the kingdom on earth prematurely by his own works. Instead of achieving a communist paradise for the working man, he fights for a fiefdom controlled by the lucky guy on top (until he’s betrayed and killed). Purists don’t have much respect for Stalinists.

Although the idea of Stalinism nauseates me, I couldn’t but help but see my Stalinist classmate’s side of the debate. While the rest of the class (anthropologists, economists, and philosophers) planned on getting comfy desk jobs that would allow them to debate all day long on the intricate points of Marxism, he actually had a calling to preach the good news and initiate real change in the world. Scary, but admirable.

*I’m joking…really!
**I collected all three!

3 comments:

  1. 1) You wrote the "American respondents claim to be very familiar with Joseph Stalin than respondents from other countries."

    This refers to the forum participants. I happened conduct a small survey of university freshmen on that subject. This is in Section 4.5 of my FREE on-line book:

    "Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist regime." The link is:

          h*ttp://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/father2/introduction.html (but no asteisk)

    Some have said that the book is "imperialist propaganda" and "cold war relics." Ho wan this be? I was not commissioned to write them. The books are dedicated to my parents, and to all other victims of Stalinism. Writing was a moral obligation for me.

    The book was written for Americans who know very little about Soviet history. Most people on this forum are probably familiar its content, but not with what my survey, and with what is in Chapter 7. I hope that my short and easy-to read book will be assigned as supplementary reading to Students, when appropriate.

    Please share the above link with a potential reviewer, and with others who might also be interested, especially young people, and their teachers. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated.

    2) You also wrote: "A Stalinist is a Marxist who, rather than wait for eschatological promises to be fulfilled by the natural process of historical materialism, tries to bring about the kingdom on earth prematurely by his own works."

    Yes, indeed. How to distinguish a Marxist from a non-Marxist? Everyone who believes that the proletarian dictatorship is needed, after the overthrow of capitalism, to improve social conditions, is a Marxist. The idea of proletarian dictatorship unites all kinds of communists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, Leninists, etc. Anarchists, are not Marxists because they are against any form of state (capitalist and socialist). But all communists are Marxists and all Marxists are communists.

    These social engineers, like Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union, form parties that are said to be "the vanguards of proletariat." Failure of Bolsheviks, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, is a very powerful arguments against Marxs' idea of proletarian dictatorship. But some disagree, saying that the theory is good but it was not applied properly. Marx would not do this. He would analyze reality and either modify or reject the theory.

    Ludwik

    Ludwik

    ReplyDelete
  2. P.S.

    I forgot to refer to my other FREE on-line book; it is very different from the one mentioned above. The title is: “Diary of a Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality.” The link is:

          h*ttp://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/life/intro.html (but no *)

    It is an autobiography, illustrating my evolution from one extreme to another--from a devoted Stalinist to an active anti-communist. This testimony is based on a diary I kept between 1946 and 2004 (in the USSR, Poland, France and the USA). Unfortunately, not many people are interested in my testimony. Editors of many major newsletters, who asked for a review (of the printed version of the book, which had a slightly different title), were not interested. How can this can be explained?

    That why I decided to make the book freely available on-line. The title of the printed book, favorably reviewed by several readers at Amazon.com, was:

    "Tyrany to Freedom:Diary of the Former Stalinist."

    The book is dedicated to my father, and to millions like him. Please share the link with all who might be interested. Thank you in advance.

    Ludwik

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your comments. As you probably noticed if you took my survey and read my original post about it, my goal is just to find out what Americans think about these dictators rather than whether or not they really know anything about them. But I hope that it might encourage some to read more about it.

    ReplyDelete

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