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Crimes of Stalin

Lydia Beidel

The Crimes of Stalin

Stalin Goes ‘Left’ – 1928–33

(6 December 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 49, 6 December 1941, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


By the end of 1927, Stalin and the Communist Parties were suffering the blows which the opportunist course of the preceding several years had brought. To cover up his criminal mistakes, Stalin now forced a violent and extreme turn to the left, no less disastrous in its effects than the period before it.

In the USSR: Stalin’s concessions to the rich peasant (kulak) and the small trader (Nepman) had enhanced the relative strength of these capitalist elements, which were menacing Soviet economy. Stalin now swung away from them and launched a program of forced collectivization against the peasantry as a whole. Trotsky, exiled to Alma-Ata, warned against the danger of this pseudo-left turn of Stalin, both for the Soviet Union and the parties of the Communist International,

In the International: Despite the opportunistic alliances formed by Stalin, he was in a position of isolation by the end of 1927. The British trade union leaders had broken from the Anglo-Russian Committee. after using it for their own purposes; Chiang Kai Shek had crushed the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese revolution.

In the capitalist world: Capitalism was plunging headlong into the greatest economic crisis of its history, bringing mass unemployment, starvation and unrest to the workers and the poorest sections of the middle class.

The “Third Period”

The Stalinist bureaucracy abandoned for the time being the policy of collaboration with capitalist groups that had proved so ruinous in the period between 1924 and 1927, went into reverse and adopted a policy which in effect excluded united action with even working class organizations.

In July 1928, the Sixth World Congress of the C.I. convened and its theoreticians laid the basis for the “Third Period”. They discovered that the post-war era was divided into three periods, and that capitalism would never survive the “third period.” According to this scheme, the first, from 1917 to 1924, was the period of capitalist collapse and the first wave of proletarian revolutions; the second, 1924 to 1929, was the period of the stabilization of capitalism; and the third, from 1927 on, the period of successful workers’ revolutions.

The “Third Period” was characterized by the adoption of a series of ultra-left tactics by the parties of the C.I, and the abandonment of all alliance with non-Communist elements in the working class and peasantry. Purges in the International removed the leaders of the “Second Period,” the right-wingers, the followers of Bukharin, of whom Lovestone-Gitlow-Wolfe were the American representatives.

Stalin enunciated the theory which formed the basis of the “Third Period” tactics: the theory of Social-Fascism, according to which “fascism and the Social-Democracy are not antipodes, but twins.” With one gesture, the Nazis and the large numbers of workers who still followed the leadership of the Second International were lumped indiscriminately together. As a matter of fact, the main blows of the Communist organizations were directed against the Social-Democratic and other workers’ parties in this period, for according to the Stalinist theory, they were the main obstacle to the overthrow of capitalism.

“United Front from Below”

The Second Congress of the C.I. under Lenin and Trotsky had developed one of the most valuable tactics in the possession of the revolutionary party, the united front – to win support of the masses still unprepared to accept revolutionary leadership.

A vulgar perversion of this tactic was now dished up by Stalin, under the name of the “united front from below.” This was to operate by appealing to the Social-Democratic masses to desert their party leaders and follow the C.P. Its effect was to nullify the entire policy of the united front (intended to swing masses of organized workers into joint class action against common enemies and for common objectives) and substituted for it an exaggerated recruitment campaign employing all the wrong methods, which resulted only in repelling the worker Socialists from the Communist Parties and leaving them fully under the influence of the treacherous reformist leaders.

Effects of the Stalinist Line

In the USSR: By 1930, Stalin’s policy of forced collectivization had driven the peasants as a class into open revolt. They refused to grow grain and the Soviet Union faced famine. In his article, Dizzy With Success, Stalin finally called a halt, but too late to forestall the horror of mass starvation which descended on the Soviet Union in 1931–32.

In the unions: Communist workers were ordered to withdraw from the large trade unions under the control of reformist or Socialist leaders and were organized into separate “Red Trade Unions.” As a result, Communist and progressives were isolated.

In the International: As economic conditions worsened internationally from 1927 to 1933, class antagonism increased and the need for real united working class action (the united front) became imperative.

In China, the Communist Party retreated to the remote provinces, there to operate without a base in the proletariat, and consequently without any real influence.

In England, America, France and the other countries where the Communist Parties existed, the membership of the parties now stood isolated and discredited, without influence among the workers.

But the false and ruinous policies of “Third Period” Stalinism, at a time when the unity of the class front in the struggle against fascism was indispensable, had succeeded only in further dividing the ranks of the working class and confusing them as to the main enemy and their main tasks.

At a time when capitalism was in the throes of its gravest crisis, the vanguard of the working class, betrayed by Stalinism and the Social Democracy, was prevented from taking advantage of its historic opportunity, and fascism was permitted to come to the rescue of the decaying social order.

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