It's not the possibility of Stalinism in the U.S. that's worrying me, it's the fact that the Stalinist C.P. seems doomed to fail and to bring down with it all the humanitarian tendencies I personally believe in--all the while acting as a mould on which its obverse the fascist mentality is made--and this recent massacre is certainly a sign of Stalinism's weakness not of its strength. None of that has anything to do with Marx's work--but it certainly does influence one's attitude towards a given political party.
John Dos Passos
French intellectual life has, in my opinion, been turned into something cheap and meretricious by the 'star' system. It is like Hollywood. Thus we go from one absurdity to another - Stalinism, existentialism. Lacan, Derrida - some of them obscene ( Stalinism), some simply infantile and ridiculous ( Lacan, Derrida). What is striking, however, is the pomposity and self-importance, at each stage.
For me, Stalinism was even a greater philosophical problem than Nazism. Under Nazism, if you were a Jew, you were simply killed, no questions asked, you had nothing to prove. Under Stalinism, of course, most [victims] were on trial for false accusations; most of them were not traitors. There is one interesting feature: that they were tortured or through some kind of blackmail forced to confess to being traitors.
The idealized market was supposed to deliver 'friction free' exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to quantification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy. What we have is not a direct comparison of workers' performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output. Inevitably, a short-circuiting occurs, and work becomes geared towards the generation and massaging of representations rather than to the official goals of the work itself. Indeed, an anthropological study of local government in Britain argues that 'More effort goes into ensuring that a local authority's services are represented correctly than goes into actually improving those services'. This reversal of priorities is one of the hallmarks of a system which can be characterized without hyperbole as 'market Stalinism'. What late capitalism repeats from Stalinism is just this valuing of symbols of achievement over actual achievement. [... ] It would be a mistake to regard this market Stalinism as some deviation from the 'true spirit' of capitalism. On the contrary, it would be better to say that an essential dimension of Stalinism was inhibited by its association with a social project like socialism and can only emerge in a late capitalist culture in which images acquire an autonomous force. The way value is generated on the stock exchange depends of course less on what a company 'really does', and more on perceptions of, and beliefs about, its (future) performance. In capitalism, that is to say, all that is solid melts into PR, and late capitalism is defined at least as much by this ubiquitous tendency towards PR-production as it is by the imposition of market mechanisms.
The role of capitalist ideology is not to make an explicit case for something in the way that propaganda does, but to conceal the fact that the operations of capital do not depend on any sort of subjectively assumed belief. It is impossible to conceive of fascism or Stalinism without propaganda - but capitalism can proceed perfectly well, in some ways better, without anyone making a case for it.
Lenin and Stalin created the idiosyncratic Soviet system in the image of their ruthless little circle of conspirators before the Revolution. Indeed much of the tragedy of Leninism-Stalinism is comprehensible only if one realizes that the Bolsheviks continued to behave in the same clandestine style whether they formed the government of the world's greatest empire in the Kremlin or an obscure little cabal in the backroom of a Tiflis tavern.
Simon Sebag Montefiore
It is often said that 'the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning'. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs, a mass of other germs, and those who lived through the enthusiasm of the first years of the first victorious socialist revolution ought not to forget it. To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in the corpse "" and which he may have carried in him since his birth "" is that very sensible?
All important architecture of the last century was strongly influenced by political systems. Look at the Soviet system, with its constructivism and Stalinism, Weimer with its Modern style, Mussolini and the Nazis and Albert Speer's colossal structures. Today's architecture is subservient to the market and its terms. The market has supplanted ideology. Architecture has turned into a spectacle. It has to package itself and no longer has significance as anything but a landmark.
Having confronted the world with little except a battered typewriter and a certain resilience, he can now take posthumous credit for having got the three great questions of the 20th century essentially 'right.' Orwell was an early and consistent foe of European imperialism, and foresaw the end of colonial rule. He was one of the first to volunteer to bear arms against fascism and Nazism in Spain. And, while he was soldiering in Catalonia, he saw through the biggest and most seductive lie of them all-the false promise of a radiant future offered by the intellectual underlings of Stalinism.
For nearly thirty years the powerful propaganda machines of Stalinism worked furiously to expunge Trotsky's name from the annals of the revolution, or to leave it there only as the synonym for arch-traitor. To the present Soviet generation, and not only to it, Trotsky's life-story is already like an ancient Egyptian sepulchre which is known to have contained the body of a great man and the record, engraved in gold, of his deeds; but tomb-robbers and ghouls have plundered and left it so empty and desolate that no trace is found of the record it once contained. The work of the tomb-robbers has, in this present instance, been so persistent that it has strongly affected the views even of independent Western historians and scholars.
It can certainly be misleading to take the attributes of a movement, or the anxieties and contradictions of a moment, and to personalize or 'objectify' them in the figure of one individual. Yet ordinary discourse would be unfeasible without the use of portmanteau terms-like 'Stalinism, ' say-just as the most scrupulous insistence on historical forces will often have to concede to the sheer personality of a Napoleon or a Hitler. I thought then, and I think now, that Osama bin Laden was a near-flawless personification of the mentality of a real force: the force of Islamic jihad. And I also thought, and think now, that this force absolutely deserves to be called evil, and that the recent decapitation of its most notorious demagogue and organizer is to be welcomed without reserve. Osama bin Laden's writings and actions constitute a direct negation of human liberty, and vent an undisguised hatred and contempt for life itself.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historians have become both more accurate and more honest-fractionally more brave, one might say-about that 'other' cleansing of the regions and peoples that were ground to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of Hitlerism and Stalinism. One of the most objective chroniclers is Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. In his view, it is still 'Operation Reinhardt, ' or the planned destruction of Polish Jewry, that is to be considered as the centerpiece of what we commonly call the Holocaust, in which of the estimated 5.7 million Jewish dead, 'roughly three million were prewar Polish citizens.' We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.
Such impulses have displayed themselves very widely across left and liberal opinion in recent months. Why? For some, because what the US government and its allies do, whatever they do, has to be opposed-and opposed however thuggish and benighted the forces which this threatens to put your anti-war critic into close company with. For some, because of an uncontrollable animus towards George Bush and his administration. For some, because of a one-eyed perspective on international legality and its relation to issues of international justice and morality. Whatever the case or the combination, it has produced a calamitous compromise of the core values of socialism, or liberalism or both, on the part of thousands of people who claim attachment to them. You have to go back to the apologias for, and fellow-travelling with, the crimes of Stalinism to find as shameful a moral failure of liberal and left opinion as in the wrong-headed-and too often, in the circumstances, sickeningly smug-opposition to the freeing of the Iraqi people from one of the foulest regimes on the planet.
The intentions of the cybernetic totalist tribe are good. They are simply following a path that was blazed in earlier times by well-meaning Freudians and Marxists - and I don't mean that in a pejorative way. I'm thinking of the earliest incarnations of Marxism, for instance, before Stalinism and Maoism killed millions. Movements associated with Freud and Marx both claimed foundations in rationality and the scientific understanding of the world. Both perceived themselves to be at war with the weird, manipulative fantasies of religions. And yet both invented their own fantasies that were just as weird. The same thing is happening again. A self-proclaimed materialist movement that attempts to base itself on science starts to look like a religion rather quickly. It soon presents its own eschatology and its own revelations about what is really going on - portentous events that no one but the initiated can appreciate. The Singularity and the noosphere, the idea that a collective consciousness emerges from all the users on the web, echo Marxist social determinism and Freud's calculus of perversions. We rush ahead of skeptical, scientific inquiry at our peril, just like the Marxists and Freudians.
Talk about corporate greed and everything is really crucially beside the point, in my view, and really should be recognized as a very big regression from what working people, and a lot of others, understood very well a century ago. Talk about corporate greed is nonsense. Corporations are greedy by their nature. They're nothing else - they are instruments for interfering with markets to maximize profit, and wealth and market control. You can't make them more or less greedy; I mean maybe you can sort of force them, but it's like taking a totalitarian state and saying 'Be less brutal!' Well yeah, maybe you can get a totalitarian state to be less brutal, but that's not the point - the point is not to get a tyranny to be less brutal, but to get rid of it. Now 150 years ago, that was understood. If you read the labour press - there was a very lively labour press, right around here [Massachusetts] ; Lowell and Lawrence and places like that, around the mid nineteenth century, run by artisans and what they called factory girls; young women from the farms who were working there - they weren't asking the autocracy to be less brutal, they were saying get rid of it. And in fact that makes perfect sense; these are human institutions, there's nothing graven in stone about them. They [corporations] were created early in this century with their present powers, they come from the same intellectual roots as the other modern forms of totalitarianism - namely Stalinism and Fascism - and they have no more legitimacy than they do. I mean yeah, let's try and make the autocracy less brutal if that's the short term possibility - but we should have the sophistication of, say, factory girls in Lowell 150 years ago and recognize that this is just degrading and intolerable and that, as they put it 'those who work in the mills should own them ' And on to everything else, and that's democracy - if you don't have that, you don't have democracy.