Stalin remained true to the Marxist ideal of a classless and stateless world society until his death in 1953. This is the conclusion of researchers at Amsterdam University (UvA) who studied Stalin's annotations in books by Marx, Engels and Lenin in his private library. The research was carried out in the form of a project funded by the Dutch research organisation NWO. Many people have viewed Stalin -who always considered himself Lenin's most faithful disciple- as having betrayed Marxist principles from the moment he came to power. However, the researchers say that Stalin's words and deeds are in fact reconcilable.
The notes originate from the period between 1917 and 1953 and show that the dictator continued to adhere to such Marxist goals as the abolition of the state and the creation of classless society. Moreover, Stalin's correspondence and discussions with such Communist leaders as Mao Zedong and Palmiro Togliatti show a continuing faith in the spread of communism and "world revolution".
Stalin has often been accused of betraying Marxism because of the way he built up a centralised state and because of his principle of "socialism in one country". These political aims are supposed to have undermined the Marxist doctrines of a classless society and world revolution. Stalin's patriotism is also supposed not to fit in with the Marxist world view but to represent a return to ancient Russian traditions.
The Amsterdam historians say that Stalin was not in fact the originator of the idea of "socialism in one country". This principle states that an internationally isolated socialist state has long-term viability and constitutes an intervening phase on the way to the ultimate classless and stateless world society. The idea in fact originated with the German Social Democrat Georg Vollmar, and the orthodox Marxist Karl Kautsky also propounded the idea of an autarkic socialist state when explaining his Erfurt Programme. His comments on the Erfurt Programme were virtually the bible for Marxists in the early twentieth century. Thus the idea of socialism in one country was originally developed within the Socialist Second International, which the Russian Bolshevik party originally belonged to.
According to the researchers, Stalin's patriotism has a Jacobin origin. The Jacobins were a left-wing French political movement in the eighteenth century who aimed to use revolution to revive their fatherland. Stalin, too, saw this as his main aim, believing that it could only be brought about through a revolutionary transformation. He considered the Tsarist-capitalist system as responsible for weakening the Russian state.
The political works in Stalin's private library are almost all by Marxist authors. Books by non-revolutionary Russian political thinkers are not included. The library consisted originally of some 19,500 titles, 5000 of them on political and related topics.
Dr. Erik van Ree (UvA)
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