Lenin Laid The Foundation For Stalinism

3473 words - 14 pages

In order to establish whether Lenin did, indeed lay the foundation for Stalinism, two
questions need to be answered; what were Lenin’s plans for the future
of Russia and what exactly gave rise to Stalinism? Official Soviet
historians of the time at which Stalin was in power would have argued
that each one answers the other. Similarly, Western historians saw
Lenin as an important figure in the establishment of Stalin’s
socialist state. This can be partly attributed to the prevailing
current of pro-Stalin anti-Hitler sentiments amongst westerners until
the outbreak of the cold war. As relations changed between Russia and
the rest of the world, so did the main historical schools of thought.
Following Stalins death, hostilities between the capitalist powers and
the USSR, along with an increased awareness of the atrocities that
were previously hidden and ignored, led to a split in the opinions of
Soviet and Western Liberal historians. In Russia, he was seen, as
Trotsky had always maintained, as a betrayer of the revolution,
therefore as much distance as possible was placed between himself and
Lenin in the schoolbooks of the 50s and early 60s in the USSR. These
historians point to Stalin’s killing of fellow communists as a marked
difference between himself and his predecessor. Trotsky himself
remarked that ‘The present purge draws between Bolshevism and
Stalinism… a whole river of blood’[1]. Liberal Western historians such
as Richard Pipes, who himself was an advisor to President Reagan, drew
lines of direct continuity between the two leaders, emphasising
Lenin’s use of terror and bans on factionalism which allowed Stalin to
come to power. The confined nature of information available to
historians both in and out of Russia allowed these polarised views to
be perpetuated, however the dissolution of the communist regime in
Russia and Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glastnost’ precipitated the
emergence of a revisionist school of thought. The detachment from the
Cold War politics that pervaded the study of Lenin and Stalinism and
increased access to source material previously hidden has created a
more objective viewpoint that almost mediates between Soviet and right
wing Western historians, both identifying changes and lines of
continuity. One such historian writes ‘Excesses were the essence of
historical Stalinism, and they are what really require explanation’[2].
Identified here is the fact that many of the ideas and practices seen
under Lenin were continued and most importantly, developed by Stalin.
His personality, even Pipes admits, sets him apart from Lenin and goes
some way towards explaining the frequent examples of what Stalin would
have called ‘Leninist’ ideologies and acts taken to a new level.

One such example is the use of terror. Right wing western historians
often emphasise...

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