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The New International, February 1947


Richard Stoker

Book Reviews ...

Soviet Politics


From The New International, Vol. 13 No. 2, February 1947, pp. 60–61.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Soviet Politics
by F.L. Schuman
663 pp. $4.00. Alfred Knopf. 1946.

Mr. Schuman’s most recent book, Soviet Politics, maintains the same high level of ineptitude that the admirers of his early work were led to expect. I am not interested in reviewing his book in detail. I suppose somebody must undertake that tedious task, but I shall leave the job to a stouter heart. I am concerned to deal with the concepts Mr. Schuman employs and to consider some peripheral matters that his book suggests. His evaluation of Trotsky merits quotation:

“Repressed insecurities and contradictions drove Trotsky to seek domination, to resent rivals, and at the same time to turn against whatever might have led him to his goal. In his response to Lenin as a father-image, love predominated over hatred in the later years of their relationship. In his response to Stalin, emerging as a new father-image, hatred predominated over love ... Suddenly, he perceived that he himself was the victim of a plot ... Delusions of grandeur, even when indulged in by the greatest of leaders, make for political ineffectiveness and delay.”

This evaluation is interesting because it is in accord with the contemporary trend to apply psychoanalysis to every political, social and literary problem. Yet, it is as unthinkable for a layman to set himself up as a psychoanalyst as it is for him to proclaim himself a surgeon or a medical practitioner. What are Schuman’s professional qualifications to psychoanalyze Trotsky or anybody else? Where did he acquire the professional background qualifying him to diagnose Trotsky as a paranoid and Stalin as normal? Where did he obtain the intimate personal contact with these men that is necessary for such a diagnosis? But granting that Schuman is a qualified psychoanalyst, or that his judgment was obtained from a brilliant psychoanalyst who did have such contact with these men, we must ask the following questions:

  1. You say Trotsky was suffering from delusions of grandeur. Was Trotsky under a delusion that he was a figure of outstanding historical importance who had played an important role in the Russian Revolution and in the period after the revolution? If the man was under a delusion, then he was not important. Why, then, do you devote so much space to him?
  2. Assuming that Trotsky was neurotic or even psychotic, that he was suffering from delusions of grandeur and from a persecution complex, is it not necessary for you to evaluate his position from a political point of view? Was Trotsky’s political position valid or was it not?

Psychoanalysis is a two-edged weapon, and Schuman’s work itself can be explained in psychoanalytic terms. But I am not interested in Schuman’s childhood, and I see no point in speculating about his father-images, complexes, insecurities and neuroses. Even if we were able to discover that he had found in Stalin a father-image to which he could render love, his evaluation of Stalin would still need to be considered in political terms. Schuman’s book may be considered as a physical fact or as a chemical fact, or it may be considered as a datum for a metaphysician or as a case study for a psychiatrist, but it is essentially a political tract, and it must be evaluated politically. Professor Schuman may be a wise man or he may be a fool, he may be honest or he may be a rogue, but his mentality and his morality are irrelevant to the truth of his assertions.


There are certain curious inconsistencies and contradictions that the book leaves unexplained. Trotsky suffers from delusions of grandeur, yet it is Stalin who is deified and who permits his deification. Schuman admits that “the systematic heroization of Stalin has garbed an able manager and bureaucrat in the less prosaic vestments of a man of the people, an all-wise father, an intellectual giant and a vivid incarnation of all the values and purposes worth living by and dying for.” But, of course, in Stalin’s case such heroization is historically necessary, it is not paranoia.

Observe, if you will, this curious fact: it is not Trotsky and his followers who are being plotted against, but they are the plotters. Result: Trotsky is assassinated, many of his followers are murdered, and Stalin and his fellows remain unscathed.

Observe this additional fact: Trotsky and his fellows plotted with Hitler against the Stalinist regime. But it was the Stalin regime that concluded the pact with Hitler that served as the necessary condition and immediate prelude to the war. But, or course, in Stalin’s case, this was historically necessary. No amount of rationalization can eradicate the scabrous fact: it was Stalin who concluded the pact with fascism.

Curious world, is it not, in which the plotters are assassinated, in which deified dictators are normal and their opponents are paranoid, in which the men who denounce their adversaries as fascist collaborators conclude pacts with fascism. It is a world in which paradox is commonplace, in which it is taken for granted that the prosecutor is guilty of the crimes charged against the defendant.


The technique employed by Schuman and other so-called liberals in defending the barbarities of the Russian regime is something like this: Yes, we grant, to our sorrow, that Russia has no civil liberties. We are first in our request that she give civil liberties as soon as possible, but, you must understand her difficult position, ringed by enemies, an agricultural country that had to institute regrettably harsh measures to advance in the industrial race so that she would be in a position to defend herself, etc., etc. This is the admission of criticisms as valid but their dismissal as inconsequential. It differs in this sense from the defense offered by the ordinary Stalinist apologist who denies the truth of the criticisms and asserts Russia has civil liberties. Schuman and his fellows admit the criticisms but achieve the same result as their coarser Stalinist brethren. Theirs is in fact a position morally inferior to the outright Stalinist apologist’s; for the avowed Stalinist, by denying the truth of the criticisms, grants their seriousness and admits the importance of civil liberties. But these so-called liberals of the Schuman variety, these ambiguous Stalinists, actually deny the value of civil liberties. In doing so, they deny their own definition and discard their liberal cloak.

Such books as Schuman’s are another technique of Stalinism. Stalinism must be considered as a culture, employing diverse forms, techniques and agencies to achieve its purposes. It cannot be considered merely as a political party or as a political regime, using only one kind of political technique. It is a culture employing diverse arguments and instruments, appealing to different social strata, speaking in different languages through different men. The ordinary Stalinist apologist may be able simply to deny criticisms because the masses who are his audience are uncritical or poorly informed. But Schuman, appealing as he does to a more sophisticated audience, cannot casually dismiss or deny facts that his readers know are facts. He must use a more sophisticated approach. conceding the facts but denying their relevance.

In a recent issue of the New Republic, in which Schuman was criticized by some readers for his unfair review of Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom, he referred his critics to Soviet Politics. He attempted to disarm them by saying that lest they “assume that this is a ‘party-line’ apologia, it should be noted that the New Masses has characterized much of the work as ‘unmitigated nonsense’ and ‘rubbish’.” Let Mr. Schuman take biblical comfort: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Stalinism is wider than the New Masses, it embraces the editors of that magazine and Mr. Schuman as well. The editors of the New Masses and Mr. Schuman are tilling different vineyards, but the grapes are the same and just as sour.

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