-ULTRA-LEFTISM IN LINGUISTICS,
AND THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY
"Stalinist Terror, New Perspectives",
J.Arch Getty & Roberta T. Manning; 1993.
FOR OTHER PARTS OF ALLIANCE 7:
THE COVER: DIEGO RIVERA Mural Palace Fine Arts Mexico
FRIDA KAHLO: Self Portrait with Stalin
-DIEGO RIVERA & FRIDA KAHLO
at: Mexican Mural Art Diego
Rivera & Frida Kahlo
- THE COMINFORM FIGHTS REVISIONISM -by Bill
- THE "UKRANIAN FAMINE" BY JP
ULTRA-LEFTISM IN LINGUISTICS,
AND THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY
The usual picture of J.V.Stalin built up by the bourgeois is usually
in the absence of facts. The Paradigm built up is internally inconsistent.
With respect to science, Stalin both destroyed true biological science
by a rigid "Marxist" dogmatism; and he simultaneously destroyed Linguistics,
the latter because he could not bear to be challenged. However, Stalin's
polemics in linguistics was really an attack upon mechanical application
of "Marxist" doctrine. On this there can be no doubt, as this attack is
printed widely, and the bourgeoisie have to acknowledge Stalin's written
words. So, to bourgeois academics - How can these statements be both simultaneously
Another mutually contradictory view, is that V.I.Lenin and Stalin
"Old, established mores of pre-socialist society";
ie. they were philosophical and cultural barbarians towards previous
bourgeois advances. Though supposedly, at the same time Stalin actively
retarded developments, as he was enslaved by his "monkish" training as
Actually, ample data tells us that both Lenin and Stain thought,
like Marx and Engels, that it was important to extract the best of bourgeois
culture (in art and science) and build upon it to develop socialism :
"The old utopian socialists imagined that socialism could be built
by men of a new type, that first they would train good, pure and splendidly
educated people and these would build socialism. We always laughed at this
.. it was playing with puppets, it was socialism as an amusement for your
ladies, but not serious politics. We want to build socialism with the aid
of those men and women who grew up under capitalism were depraved and corrupted
by capitalism, but were steeled for the struggle.. We have bourgeois experts
and nothing else. We have no other bricks with which to build.. The masses..
took power.. that is only half the task, but it is the greater half.. The
working people are united in such a way as to crush capitalism by the weight
of their mass unity. The masses did it. But it is not enough to crush capitalism.
We must take the entire culture that capitalism left behind, and build
socialism with it. We must take all its science, technology and art. Without
these we shall be unable to build communist society. But this science technology
and art are in the hands of and in the heads of the experts.. We will convince
the bourgeois specialist that they have no alternative, that there will
be return to the old society, and that they can do their work only in conjunction
with the Communists who are working at their side.. whose object is to
ensure that the fruits of bourgeois science and technology, the fruits
of thousands of years of civilisation shall be enjoyed not by a handful
of persons for the propose of distinguishing themselves and amassing wealth,
but by literally all the working people."
V.Lenin " From The Achievements and Difficulties of the Soviet Government."
In "On the Intelligentsia", Moscow, 1983, p.184-196. Collected Works 29:
As usual bourgeois scholars miss the boat by not caring to see the raging
class struggle going on in the USSR. Instead all bad things are ascribed
to Stalin's "madness", or "cruelties". What is the truth about the views
of Stalin upon how science should develop? Some aspects of Lenin and Stalin's
attitude to science are examined in this article.
The conventional wisdom is that Stalin imposed a dogmatic "Communist
structured proletarian science". But in fact Stalin stopped the building
of a "Pure Communist" rival to the "Bourgeois" Academy of Sciences :
"Founded in June 1918, the Socialist (later Communist Academy)
of Science ultimately developed a small section in the Natural Sciences,
and more than one commentator saw it as a rival to the "bourgeois" Academy
of Sciences It was never able to compete successfully with the older academy
in the natural sciences. In the social sciences it enjoyed a period of
flowering in the 20's, and produced some of the best Marxist scholarship
of Soviet history. In a sense, it succeeded too well in this area, since
Stalin did not like independent minded marxists offering views on social
issues, that might challenge his own. Stalin abolished the Communist Academy
in 1936 at the beginning of his mass purges."
Loren R Graham: "Science In Russia and The Soviet Union", Cambridge,
Mass. 1993, p. 86.
The main academic historian of Soviet science, Loren Graham, alleges
that this was because Stalin:
"Did not like independent minded Marxists offering views on social
issues that might challenge his own."
p.86, Ibid, Graham.
But the Communist Academy had developed an anti-Marxist line that was
openly (and not by subterfuge as suggested by so much bourgeois literature)
fought by Stalin. The direct evidence for this is the attack that Stalin
launched upon the Linguistic School, that centred upon the Theories of
Marr. Stalin's attitude to this and the timing of his critique of Marr,
are a valuable source of evidence on his reasoning upon science. We examine
this in detail below.
The Communist Academy of the Social Science was founded in 1918.
E.A.Preobrazhenskii, was a key advocate of
The Communist Academy and proclaimed :
"Marxism in Russia is the official ideology of the victorious proletariat;
the Socialist Academy is the highest scientific institute of Marxist thought..
It recognises only the branches of socialist science which are anchored
in Marxism... the theory of historical materialism is more important for
the social sciences than the laws of Kepler and Newton are for physics."
Cited, Alexander Vucinich, "Empire of Knowledge. The Academy of
Sciences of the USSR (1917-1970)." Berkeley, California, 1984. p.81.
The Communist Academy was charged to form views of science and society
consistent with Marxism-Leninism. But in reality the Communist Academy
became little more than a :
"Library and a debating club, meeting infrequently and suffering
from ambivalent goals and internal fragmentation".
But, in 1923, it became rather more energized, under the increasing
class battles taking place with the various anti-Marxist-Leninist Left
Opposition factions. It undertook to :
"Criticise the leading scientists who either displayed philosophical
aloofness or opposed Marxist thought. The distinguished members of the
Academy of Sciences served as particularly attractive targets for denunciatory
Vucinich, Ibid, p.83.
This new approach was consistently an Ultra-Leftist one. This was to
take the form of attacks on scientists, not for their science but for their
politics. This line was explicitly advocated by L.Trotsky,
and a group around N.Bukharin and Preobrazhenskii.
It was a line that neither Lenin nor Stalin had adopted, and in
The most prestigious members of the Academy of Sciences at this stage
were definitely anti-Marxist, and included V.I.Vernadskii
and I.P.Pavlov. Both had expressed their anti-Marxism. The Communist
Academy attacked them, and the Academy of Sciences as an institution itself
"V.I.Vernadskii was accused of flirting with Bergsonian Vitalism
and of challenging the notion of the material unity of the universe, firmly
built into Marxist ontology.. The famed neurophysiologist I.P.Pavlov was
the target of numerous innuendoes depicting him as the mastermind of recurring
efforts to make the study of conditioned reflexes the only basis of scientific
sociology and social psychology.. M.N.Pokrovskii, President of the Communist
Academy made no effort to disguise his view of the Academy of Sciences
as a sanctuary of bourgeois thought and an institutional antitheses to
Marxist plans for organised research."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.83
Most bourgeois tendencies allege that an Ultra-Left line towards science
(ie anti-science line based purely on some alleged "Communist expediency")
was adopted by Stalin. But, the leading intellectual force of the Communist
Academy, (as well as Preobrazenskii) was NOT Stalin, but in fact, Leon
"The Communist academy provided a forum for a group of Marxist
theorists led by Leon Trotsky, who contended that the excessive worship
of Pavlov's theories worked against the burgeoning efforts to effect a
fruitful synthesis of Marxism and Freudianism. Pavlov's publicly expressed
aversion to the use of revolutionary methods as a tool of resolving socials
conflict was directed against the political strategy of the Bolshevik party.
N.I.Bukharin, a member of the Communist Academy wrote a lengthy article
refuting Pavlov's claims that the October Revolution was a historical anomaly."
p. 83, Vucinich, Ibid.
Despite this, the Bolshevik Government, (in both the Lenin and Stalin
years) protected and aided both Vernadskii and Pavlov in their research.
Pavlov in particular was greatly aided in his researches by both Lenin
and Stalin after him. Lenin promulgated through the Council of People's
Commissars, a Decree ensuring that Pavlov would receive adequate state
support for his work:
"Of tremendous importance to the working people of the world."
It is true that Pavlov's research saw the legitimacy of environmental
and organismal interaction, and this was congenial to Marxism-Leninism.
But it does not alter the fact that a gifted researcher, though a self
proclaimed and openly anti-Marxist, was given full rein to pursue science.
(V.I.Lenin "Concerning The Conditions Ensuring the research Work
of Academician I.P.Pavlov and His Associates." In "On the Intelligentsia."
Ibid, p. 269. From CW Vol 32.p.69).
But even the members of the Communist Academy had great difficulty
in agreeing how to view modern science from a Marxist perspective. There
were two camps. The "Mechanists" led by L.I.Aksel'rod
and A.K.Timiriazev and the self styled "Dialecticians",
led by A.M. Deborin. The battle between these
two wings drew Stalin's attention, and that of Vernadskii. The latter was
an old "relic" of a scientist, actively still studying. He saw the two
orientations from his view of science. He :
"Concluded that the philosophical stance of the (so called) mechanists
was more realistic and more in tune with the spirit of twentieth century
science. The mechanist orientation he said, was more satisfactory because
it was further removed from Hegelian idealism and was closer to 18th Century
materialism, which was based on the achievements and the logic of science
and did not try to impose its authority on science."
P. 151, Vucinich.
But Vernadskii was attacked on the grounds that his philosophy contradicted
dialectical materialism. This attack was led by Deborin. As Vucinich says
"That Vernadskii survived the attacks led by Deborin was proof
of the willingness of the authorities to tolerate selected established
scholars, in the natural sciences, despite demonstrative refusals to make
dialectical materialism part of their thinking."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.152.
Deborin and his backer, Bukharin made other assertions. These included
an attack upon Lenin, that alleged that Lenin was a man of action and not
one of theory. Stalin identified the views of the Deborin group as an expression
of "Menshevizing Idealism." If that is so,
there is a greater significance in Deborin's attacks on Vernadskii. Not
for the first time, it became obvious that simply using the terms Dialectical
Materialism in an analysis did not make it dialectical, nor yet materialist!
Obviously, Stalin cannot have supported attacks launched upon Vernadskii.
The CC of the CPSU(B), at that time still under the control of Marxist-Leninists,
openly counter-attacked against Deborin in the theoretical journal : "Under
the Banner of Marxism":
"The organ defended the "general party line" and fought the two
categories of philosophical deviationism:
Deborin and his ally N.I.Bukharin then tried to make amends for their
false characterisation of Lenin as being a man of action, and not a theorist.
For instance at the 10th anniversary of Lenin's death in 1923, both gave
major eulogies of Lenin stressing his theoretical acumen. For Bukharin,
this was the first time he had publicly credited Lenin for his theoretical
'the mechanical revision of Marxism, as the main danger at the present
time, and the idealistic distortions of Marxism by the Deborin group.'
Deborin quickly admitted his errors.. particularly his 'unsupportable'
assertion that while Plekhanov was primarily a theorist, Lenin was first
of all ' a practical person, a revolutionary, and a leader.'
Vucinich, Ibid, p. 151.
Despite this, the Communist Academy, continued to develop an Ultra-leftist
line on several issues. M.B.Mitin later became
a key proponent of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko,
the main protagonist in the Biology Debates of a crude Reductionist Marxism.
But at this earlier stage, Mitin became a leading "interpreter" of the
relevance of dialectics to natural science. The thrust he used was to emphasise
Lenin's view in "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", that "too much mathematics"
was equivalent to "formalism". (Vucinich, Ibid, p. 154).
Here a new tactic was used. Later it became a more conscious strategy
- one of hiding behind a Personalty Cult. Here the Cult was that of Lenin,
later this would be of Stalin. This tactic would be to enshrine a view,
and take it completely out of context to justify its application to unwarranted
situations. For clearly Lenin, the author of "Empirio-criticism"; had not
had any fundamental objections to mathematicians!
BUT, IF IT IS TRUE THAT THE COMMUNIST ACADEMY WAS AN ULTRA-LEFTIST
ORGANISATION, AIMED ULTIMATELY AT DISCREDITING MARXISM-LENINISM, WHAT PROOF
IS THERE OF THIS ASSERTION ? WHAT WAS STALIN'S ATTITUDE TO THE COMMUNIST
Luckily, we do have a very good "Test Case". Firstly in 1938 the
Communist Academy was closed, this of itself suggests a lack of support
from the Politburo. But the real "test case" actually developed as an Ultra-Leftist
line, emanating from within the Communist Academy. This specific Test Case,
is the school of linguistics, built up within the Communist academy. Stalin
critiqued it in "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics". Stalin's text is
very far from a doctrinaire and shrill attack on a "Classless" science.
In fact the pamphlet is a sharp attack on the mindless, mechanical and
formal introduction of Class issues into a scientific debate on the origins
This trend had been started by N.Ia.Marr (also
translated as N.Y.Marr), who was a member of the Academy of Science from
1912-1934 when he died. In 1930 he became a party member and in 1931 became
a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and achieved the
Lenin medal for achievement in science.
"Because of certain rudimentary similarities between his views
and Marxist theory, Communist scholars were quickly accustomed to treating
his theory as Marxist linguistics. Marxists were attracted to his Japhetic
theory, which sought a common base for Caucasian and Semitic languages,
and for all languages of the world - the ideas of common origins and evolutionary
unilinearity having been firmly built into Marr's thought and into Stalin's
internationalism of the 1930's."
Vucinich, Ibid, p.185.
This development was fostered and directly supported by the Communist
Academy. Its President, Pokrovskii ensured that N.Ia Marr was made a member
of the Communist Academy and became head of the subsection "of materialistic
linguistics". Pokrovskii's commitment was emphatic :
"As stated correctly by a Leningrad comrade, Marr's theory must
recognise Marxism as its general philosophical and sociological base and
Marxism must recognise the Japhetic theory as its special linguistic division."
Cited, Vucinich A, Ibid. p.186.
WHAT WAS MARR'S THEORY, AND WHAT DID STALIN THINK OF IT ? IN EXAMINING
MARR, WE HERE TEST TWO OVERALL ASSUMPTIONS.
FIRSTLY How "rigid" was Stalin on his application of principles of dialectical
materialism to a general scientific problem ?
SECONDLY, how "rigid" was Stalin in conceding that in science there
has to be back and forth, debate, full intellectual cut and thrust ?
The discourse "Concerning Problems in Linguistics," was written in
the form of questions from "younger comrades', and Stalin's responses.
Stalin had been approached by students to enter the debate.
As regards the behaviour of debate and academic back and forth by
scientists in science, Stalin was quite clear. It must be remembered that
this work was originally published in Pravda in 1950. This timing is significant,
for it came after T.D.Lysenko effectively and exclusively ruled the roost
in genetics. In other words, Stalin's words in linguistics, are pertinent
to understanding how he may, or may not have supported Lysenko:
"Question: Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion
on problems of linguistics?
Answer : Yes it did. It has been brought out in the first place that
in linguistic bodies, both in the center and in the republics a regime
has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest
criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet Linguistics, even the most
timid attempt to criticize the so-called "new doctrine" in linguistics,
was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable
workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their posts
or demoted for being critical of N.Y.Marr's heritage or expressing the
slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed
to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified
acceptance of N.Y.Marr's theories."
"It is generally recognised that no science can develop and flourish
without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism, But this generally
recognised rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion.
There arose a closed group of infallible leaders, who having secured themselves
against any possible criticism became a law unto themselves and did whatever
In the same section, Stalin states that besides exposing the fact that
there was an extremely unhealthy climate in linguistics ('a Regime'), there
was a second reason why it was good to ventilate these issues openly. This
was in order to clarify the controversial areas, from the scientific point
of view :
"The usefulness of the discussion does not end here. It not only
smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible
confusion of ideas on cardinal question of linguistics which prevails among
the leading circle in this branch of science. Until the discussion began,
the "disciples" of N.Y.Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory
state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence
became impossible and they were compelled to express their opinion in the
press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N.Y.Marr's teachings
there are a number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy
propositions. Why, one asks, have N.Y.Marr's "disciples" begun to talk
about this only now, after the discussion opened ? Why did they not see
to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly,
as befits scientists?"
Stalin, J.V. "Concerning Marxism in Linguistics", Contained in Stalin,
J.V. "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics," Foreign languages Press, Peking,
J.V.Stalin, Ibid, p.31.
In the same section Stalin points out that, Marr's status was such,
that any mundane words of Marr's were considered valuable holy writ. So
much so, that when even the author Marr himself discredits one of his own
textbooks, his followers insisted on its use! It is very obvious how this
enshrining of a view can take a knife to that independence of thought crucial
for aspiring Marxist-Leninists. Stalin saw the potential for mischief (Sabotage)
"If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade Meschaninov
and the other linguistic leaders I would say that such conduct is tantamount
But what leads to this rather unhappy and unscientific state of affairs?
"How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyv
regime established in linguistics, cultivates irresponsibility and encourages
such arbitrary actions."
Stalin, p.30, Ibid.
Stalin, Ibid, p. 30.
Arakcheyv was a :
"Reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, responsible for an unrestrained,
dictatorial police state warlord despotism and brutal rule enforced in
Russia in the first quarter of the 19 th century."
Editors notes to J.V.S. Edition (Peking) cited above, p.55.
BUT THEN HOW ARE WE TO CHARACTERISE MARR, ACCORDING TO STALIN ?
"Save us from N.Y.Marr's "Marxism"! N.Y.marr did indeed want to
be, and endeavoured to become, a Marxist, but he failed to become one.
He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the
"proletcultist' or the 'Rappists'. "
Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.
Who were the 'proletcult' (also spelt Proletkul't) or the 'Rappists'
They were organisations that represented the views of the visual
artists and writers respectively, who were trying to define their role
in the revolution. Their big debate was whether any of the "Old cultures"
(ie Rembrandt or Tolstoy or medieval church icons etc) had any relevance
to socialist life in the Soviet Union. The tendency towards Ultra-Leftism
, exemplified with the attitudes of poet and artist, Vladamir
Mayakovsky ("Out with the Old") was dominant.
Both Bukharin, and A.Lunarcharsky were
in contradiction with that of Lenin, upon the Proletkul't, and the issues
of whether a new separate proletarian culture could be evolved without
recourse to the structure of previous "bourgeois culture". Thus Lenin had
to soothe Buhkarin, and tried to win him to a compromise when Bukharin
refused to attend the Congress of the Communist Group at the First All
Russian Congress of Proletkul't, October 5-12 1920.
[Editor : Please see a fuller "Note On RAPP and The Proletkul't",
The general relationship of The Communist Academy to Proletkul't,
lay in their common Ultra-Left wing approach to the intelligentsia; and
their applications of a mechanical simplistic reductionist "Marxism", and
not a dialectical understanding. In this Marr was characteristic.
Wherein did Marr's Ultra-Left errors lie ?
" N.Y.Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect
and non-Marxist formula regarding the "class character"of language,and
got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics
cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary
to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages."
Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.
Moreover Marr's style was repugnant :
"Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest boastful, arrogant,
tone alien to Marxism and tending toward a bald and off-hand negation of
everything done in linguistics prior to Marr.
Marr shrilly abused the comparative historical method as "idealistic".
Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings the comparative-historical
method is nevertheless better than Marr's really idealistic four-element
analysis, because the former gives a stimulus to work, and the latter only
gives a stimulus to loll in one's arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup
of the celebrated four elements...
To listen to Marr, and especially to his disciples, one might think
that there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science
of language appeared with the "new doctrine" of Marr. Marx and Engels were
much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product
of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods."
Stalin, Ibid, p. 31-2.
Stalin did not reject all that Marr said :
"Of course the works of Marr do not consist solely of errors. Marr
made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics elements of
Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent theory
of language, But Marr had certain good and ably written works, in which
he, forgetting his theoretical claims, conscientiously and one must say,
skilfully investigates individual languages, In these works one can find
not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly these valuable and
instructive things should be taken from Marr and utilized."
Stalin, "Concerning Certain Problems of Linguistics, Reply to Comrade
E.Krasheninnikova", Contained in "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,"
Peking, Ibid, p.39
We have examined how Stalin viewed Marr, and what he at least said about
the scientific method-the "clash of opinions". There is not a little here
that reminds one forcibly about the tone of the Biology debates undertaken
To illustrate that Stalin was not a crude "Reducer to Class Reality",
we have to discuss his actual concrete objections to the Japhetic School
BY UNDERSTANDING THIS, WE SEE THAT STALIN DID NOT ADVOCATE A CRUDE
"MARXIST LEVELLING" :
Firstly Marr, argued that language was a "superstructure on the base".
This was a mechanical translation of the Marxist view that all the phenomena
of a class society reflect the underlying economic structures :
"Question : Is it true that Language is a superstructure of the
Answer : No, it is not true. The base is the economic structure of
society as the given stage of its development. The superstructure us the
political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and
the political legal and other institutions corresponding to them.
Every base has its own corresponding superstructure, the base of
the feudal system has its superstructure its political legal or other views,
and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base has its own superstructure,
so has the socialist base..
In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure.
Take for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course
of the past 30 years the old capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia
and a new socialist base has been built. Correspondingly the superstructure
on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created
corresponding to the socialist base.. But in spit of this the Russian language
has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution.. Language
is not a product of one base or another, old or new within the given society,
but of the whole course of history of the society and of the history of
the bases for many centuries.. Language was created for by some by one
class, but by the entire society, by the hundred of generations".
Stalin, Ibid, p. 3-6.
Secondly Marr argued that there were class languages, and now there
was a "proletarian" languages pitched against a "bourgeois" language :
"Question: Is it true that language always was and is class language,
that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common
language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people
Answer : "The first mistake is that.. our comrade are confusing language
with superstructure.. since the superstructure has a class character, language
too must be a class language, and not a language common to the whole people..
The Second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive the opposition
of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the fierce class
struggle between them as meaning the disintegration of society, as a break
of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that since society
has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but only classes,
a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary. If society
has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to the whole
people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes and 'class
languages'. Naturally every 'class language' will have its own 'class'
grammar- a 'proletarian' grammar or a 'bourgeois' grammar.
At one time there were 'Marxists' in our country who asserted that
the railways left to us after the October Revolution were bourgeois railways,
that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them, that they should
be torn up and new 'proletarian' railways built. For this they were nicknamed
True such grammars do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry
these comrades: they believe that such grammars will appear in due course.
Stalin, Ibid, p.16-7
Finally on Marr's mechanical insistence that there were "stages" in
language development, Stalin was equally blunt:
"It is said that the theory that languages develops by stages is
a Marxist theory, since it recognises the necessity of sudden explosions
as a condition for the transition for a language from an old reality to
a new. This is of course untrue for it is difficult to find anything resembling
Marxism in this theory.. Marxism does not recognise sudden explosions in
the development of languages, the sudden end of an existing language, and
the sudden erection of a new language. Lafargue was wrong when he spoke
of a sudden "linguistic revolution" which took place between 1789 and 1794
in France (See Lafargue's pamphlet The French Language Before and After
the Revolution). There was not a linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden
one, in France at that time.. Marxism holds that transition for a language
from an old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion,
of the destruction for an existing language and the certain of a new one,
but by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality and
hence by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality."
"It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades who have
an infatuation for explosions that the law of transitions from an old quality
to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not only to the history
of the development of languages; it is not always applicable to other social
phenomena of a base or superstructural character. It applies of necessity
to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not necessarily
apply to a society which has no hostile classes."
Finally why did Stalin feel that he could so sharply pin down the weaknesses
of Marr? It was not the case for biology. But the debates in biology; and
their terms paralleled well the Linguistics Debate, upon which Stalin came
out with a written piece, that exposed the shallowness of the hitherto
"Linguistics Debate". Furthermore, these polemics, upon Linguistics, are
not after all, like the common image painted by the bourgeois. You know
the sort of thing, "subtle, quietly intelligent, devious - quiet in public,
stab you dead in the dark sort of thing."
Stalin, Ibid, p. 27.
Even the line the polemics describe, is counter to the view that
the bourgeois paint. Instead of the crude Marxist Levelling that bourgeoisie
accuse him of, Stalin upholds a much more visionary view. After all, what
could be more plain to a "Marxist" than that everything in society is a
product of class warfare? The same bourgeois and Trotskyites, who castigate
Stalin's understanding of philosophy as "Class Reductionist" cannot explain
his refusal to jump onto Marr's bandwagon. This would appear to be a "perfect
bandwagon", from the standpoint of the usual Paradigm set up by the bourgeois
Obviously, Stalin was enabled to put into print an attack upon Ultra-Leftism
in the science of Linguistics because some students had the good sense
to approach him for direction. But it cannot be irrelevant that one of
his first theoretical books had been : "Marxism and the National Question."
Indeed it had been this book written in 1913, that had first attracted
Lenin's attention to Stalin. One could be forgiven for guessing that this
work, allowed Stalin the critical scientific insight into the technicalities
that allowed him to open an attack.
In biology, he may not have had the critical insights. But he could
see the debate as an important debate, that was proceeding. The complexity
of this debate was staggering; both "sides" had good points. The same issues
(environment versus heredity) continue to plague honest and principled
scientists now. Stalin probably realised this. Not being an "expert", Stalin
commissioned assessments, from specialists in the biological field such
as Sukachev. Ultimately Lysenkoism as a crude unthinking "application"
of dialectics to biology was reductionist and destructive.
The linguistics Debate makes clear Stalin's opposition to an anti-scientific
approach to technical questions; and Stalin's insistence that only "applications
of dialectics" will explain the facts. As opposed to this was the reductionist
view that "Dialectics came first and then come the facts". As Stalin says
in the Linguistics debate, there is a relationship between that latter
incorrect view, and sabotage.
NOTE : AN ADDENDUM ON PROLETKUL'T (See P. above)
Both Proletkul't, and RAPP were Ultra-Leftist organisations for the
visual arts, and writing respectively. Both provoked Lenin's disapproval
on aesthetics, and their ultra-leftist insistence of "Out with the old".
For example Lenin explicitly did not support abstractionism in art and
expressly countered movements like the Futurists (supported by Proletkul't).
These movements, always popular amongst the "avant garde" Art For Art Sake-ists
in the West, were highly abstractionist in their art, and their view of
what "The masses needed". All this, ultimately led to an open disagreement
between the Minister for Culture A.Lunarcharsky and Lenin.
The latter viewed the Futurists and the like tendencies as being
generally positive. At the First Proletkul't Congress in 1920, Lunarcharsky
attempted to downplay the role of the State apparatuses like the Education
commissariat, in ensuring that the Ultra-Left tendencies of Proletkul't
did not go unrestricted.
In an open rebuke, Lenin proposed a Draft Resolution. Points One
and Two, emphasised the leading role of the workers and peasants in creating
socialism; and therefore the leading role of the vanguard Communist Party
in pubic education. The Third point pointed out that history had vindicated
the Marxist world outlook.
The 4th and 5th points emphasised that all culture had to be absorbed,
and that the State Apparatuses had to be the final arbiters of public education
"4. Marxism has won its historic significance as the ideology of
the revolutionary proletariat because, far from rejecting the most valuable
achievements of the bourgeois epoch, it has, on the contrary assimilated
and refashioned everything of value in the more than 2,000 years of the
development of the human thought and culture. Only further work in this
basis and in this direction, inspired by the practical experience of the
proletarian dictatorship as the final stage in the struggle against every
form of exploitation can be recognised as the development of a genuine
"5. Adhering unswervingly to this stand of principle, the All Russia
Congress of Proletkul't rejects in the most resolute manner, as theoretically
unsound and practically harmful, all attempts to invent one's own particular
brand of culture, to remain isolated is self-contained organisations, to
draw a line dividing the field of work of the Peoples' Commissariat of
Education and the Proletkul't, or to set up a Proletkul't "autonomy" within
establishments, under the People's Commissariat of Education and so forth.
On the contrary the Congress enjoins all Proletkul't organisations to fully
consider themselves in duty bound to act as auxiliary bodies o the network
of establishments under the People's Commissariat of Education, and to
accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet Authorities
(Specifically the People's Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian
Communist Party, as part of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship."
Buhkarin had refused to speak at the Congress, following Lenin's draft
resolution, as above. Bukharin's grounds for refusal were that he would
be in disagreement with Lenin on various issues, especially Point 4 of
Lenin's draft Resolution "On Proletarian Culture " (See above). However,
Lenin tried to assuage Bukharin's refusal with the following note :
"Why now dwell on the differences between us (perhaps possible
ones), it suffices to state (and prove) on behalf of the Central Committee
as a whole:
V.Lenin CW: Vol 31, Moscow, 1966-86. p.316-7.
1. Proletarian culture = communism.
2. Is carried out by the RCP (ie the party-ed).
3. The proletar.class = RCP=Soviet power.
We are all agreed on this, aren't we?"
V.Lenin Oct. 11th, 1920. In CW. Moscow, 1944 Vol 44. p.445.
The Draft Resolution of Lenin was adopted by the Congress of Proletkul't.
A BRIEF BOOK REVIEW : "Stalinist Terror,
Edited by J.Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning. Cambridge University
Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-44125-0 Hardback or 0-521-44670-8 Paperback. Cost
: $24.15 paperback in Canada.
This book has considerable interest; it presents rare data of interest,
and also shows a changing wind in academia. The usual wind is: Stalin was
nasty & cruel; alternatively stupid, or bright and devious; who was
not responsible for good things like the Soviet conduct of the War; who...etc.
Ultimately the truth will out.
The mythology built up around Stalin is rarely challenged. Even Marxist-Leninists
often accept premises of Trotsky. That is to say, Marxist-Leninists with
courage to defend Stalin; often set out from positions stated by Trotsky.
Thus the standard defence of the Purges. Trotsky says : Stalin master-minded
them and controlled them. Our reply has usually been : These problems either
were exaggerated; or Stalin had correctly initiated them to cleanse the
Both views are true - as far as they go. But they conceal a larger
reality, that they were consciously used by the Opposition to discredit
the Party and Stalin.
Stalin was NOT: "The Omnipotent All Powerful Being That Controlled
The Soviet Ship". This book vindicates those who argued, that Stalin was
not in control of the Politburo and that other forces were at work. This
was promulgated by the Communist League (UK), and remains contentious in
the Marxist-Leninist movement. This book, contains powerful evidence as
actual case reports of individuals and issues, that substantiate this minority
Of course, this book cannot address "What other forces were ranged
against Stalin?" And so, bourgeois academics overlook the class Struggle
yet again! That much has not changed! But despite that, the significance
of this book should not be under-rated. The editors were, before "Glasnost",
unable to swallow the myths of Cold War Warriors led by Robert Conquest.
Arch Getty and co-workers nailed some inconsistencies with previous
mythologies using a unique archive, removed from Smolensk in the Second
World War by the Hitlerites, and then studied. This resulted in: "The
Origin Of The Great Purges - The Soviet Party Reconsidered 1933-38", New
York, 1985. This data and others, allowed Getty and others to develop
a critical school, who: "investigated Stalin-period history as history."
p.3, and not as bias. Of course Conquest and Trotskyites have been the
most resistant to this school of historians - labelling them as "revisionist"!
This review only gives a flavour. The first two chapters counter-pose
a relatively traditional view of Nikolai Ivanovich Ezhov, the head
of the Secret Police the NKVD (By Boris Starkov) with a "revisionist"
interpretation by Arch Getty. Even the relatively traditional view is of
great interest, containing much material, that is new to this reviewer.
But Starkov asserts that Stalin "enjoyed the complete trust of J.V.Stalin"
To the contrary however, Arch Getty shows how Stalin obstructs Ezhov:
"Ezhov : Comrades as a result of the verification of party documents
we expelled more than 200,000 members of the party.
Further brakes were attempted upon Ezhov by Zhdanov (an unchallenged
comrade-in-arms of Stalin) when:
Stalin : [Interrupts] Very many.
Ezhov : Yes very many. I will speak about this..
Stalin :[Interrupts] If we explained 30,000..(inaudible remark)
and 600 former Trotskyites and Zinovievists it would be a bigger victory.
Ezhov : More than 200,000 members were expelled. Part of this
number.. were arrested."
Cited from Stenographic Records. (p.51).
"In a highly publicized attack Zhadanov accused the Saratov kraikom
(party leadership-Ed) of "dictatorship" and "repression.".. At the Feb
1937 Central Committee Plenum, Zhadanov gave the keynote speech on democratizing
party organisations, ending bureaucratic repression "little people," and
replacing the cooption of party leaders with grass roots elections. Indeed
under pressure of this line, contested secret ballot party elections were
held in 1937."
More needed? Take the case of Avel' Enukidze, Secretary of the Central
Executive Committee of Soviets. He got Ezhov's ire; who tried to expel
him. Stalin and Molotov defended him. After further pressure, he was expelled.
Molotov and Stalin moved for him to be readmitted. Though the plenum agreed,
this never happened - arrested he was shot in 1837. The record shows a
clear pattern here of Stalin versus (See p.54).
Even Bukharin's execution was controversial. Stalin wanted him
expelled, not even put on trial. The opposition view to Stalin's was put
Ezhov, Budennyi, Manuilskii, Shvernik, Kosarev and Iakir (Shoot Bukharin
and Litvinov, Postyshev, Shiriatov, and Petrovskii (Send Bukharin to
The Plenum voted for Stalin's line by majority. But documents of agreement
were altered (in Mikoian's handwriting) and Stalin's advice was ignored
(p.58). Why not ? Sabotage ?
Other details: Arch Getty shows that blaming Stalin for the Kirov
murder (as do traditional bourgeois and Trotskyites) is nonsense; &
rests on the discredited Alexander Orlov. Arch Getty shows, even the specially
struck Politburo Commission of 1989, exculpated Stalin, though secretly.
As well, the book is loaded with new studies showing that the Purges and
Terrors were directed at the highest echelons of party and administration.
The obvious benefits to the hidden opposition are: disruption of socialist
path, discrediting of party, and smearing Stalin. This book bears careful
These bourgeois "revisionist" academics have done a sterling service
to truth. But they can only go so far. These academics do not want to (can
they even?) understand class struggle. That is our task!
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