I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while. It is from the Siberian Times, which has the intriguing slogan, ‘What happens in Sibera stays in Siberia … unless it is covered by The Siberian Times’. This is a great piece, called ‘S Novym Godom! In pictures, how the USSR marked the happy times at New Year,’ concerning celebrations of New Year in the USSR. Surprise, surprise, people enjoyed themselves.

S1 (320x271)

S2 (320x316)

S3 (320x213)

In 1929, Elena Mikulina published a work called Emulation of the Masses and Stalin provided a forward. The work was written by a young, unknown writer, and caused many among the intelligentsia to mock the work. In reply, Stalin writes (with a biblical allusion or two):

We have hundreds and thousands of young and capable people who are striving with might and main to rise to the surface and contribute their mite to the common treasury of our work of construction. But their efforts are often unavailing, because they are very often kept down by the vanity of the literary “lights,” by the bureaucracy and callousness of some of our organisations, and, lastly, by the envy (which has not yet evolved into emulation) of men and women of their own generation. One of our tasks is to break down this blank wall and to give scope to the young forces, whose name is legion. My foreword to an inconsiderable pamphlet by an author unknown in the literary world is an attempt to take a step towards-accomplishing this task. I shall in the future, too, provide forewords only to simple and unassuming pamphlets by simple and unknown authors belonging to the younger forces. It is possible that this procedure may not be to the liking of some of the snobs. But what do I care? I have no fondness for snobs anyhow . . . (Works, vol. 12, p. 120)

More from the interview with Ludwig, now on the question of fate:

Ludwig: My question is the following: You have often incurred risks and dangers. You have been persecuted. You have taken part in battles. A number of your close friends have perished. You have survived. How do you explain that? And do you believe in fate?
Stalin: No, I do not. Bolsheviks, Marxists, do not believe in “fate.” The very concept of fate, of “Schicksal,” is a prejudice, an absurdity, a relic of mythology, like the mythology of the ancient Greeks, for whom a goddess of fate controlled the destinies of men.
Ludwig: That is to say that the fact that you did not perish is an accident?
Stalin: There are internal and external causes, the combined effect of which was that I did not perish. But entirely independent of that, somebody else could have been in my place, for somebody had to occupy it. “Fate” is something not governed by natural law, something mystical. I do not believe in mysticism. Of course, there were reasons why danger left me unscathed. But there could have been a number of other fortuitous circumstances, of other causes, which could have led to a directly opposite result. So-called fate has nothing to do with it. (Works, vol. 13, p. 122)

Come to think of it, this is the kind of silly question Kotkin’s asks in his atrocious biography of Stalin.

In the fascinating interview with Emil Ludwig from 1931, Ludwig about Stalin’s smoking preferences:

Ludwig: You are smoking a cigarette. Where is your legendary pipe, Mr. Stalin? You once said that words and legends pass, but deeds remain. Now believe me, there are millions of people abroad who do not know about some of your words and deeds, but who do know about your legendary pipe.
Stalin: I left my pipe at home.

Apparently, Stalin preferred cigarettes, especially Herzegovina Flor. In public, he would smoke a pipe, but when relaxing, it was a cigarette. Yet, the pipe itself was filled with tobacco from two torn-up cigarettes. Occasionally, he was photographed with a cigarette in hand or mouth:

Stalin's Tobacco 16

Stalin's Tobacco 13

Stalin's Tobacco 14

Joseph Stalin at Potsdam Conference

I am reading a fascinating interview of Stalin, made by Emil Ludwig on 13 December, 1931. The interviewer asks some searching questions and draws out of Stalin some revealing answers and even contradictions. The interview begins with this question concerning Peter the Great:

Ludwig: Today, here in the Kremlin, I saw some relics of Peter the Great and the first question I should like to ask you is this: Do you think a parallel can be drawn between yourself and Peter the Great? Do you consider yourself a continuer of the work of Peter the Great?

Stalin: In no way whatever. Historical parallels are always risky. There is no sense in this one.

Ludwig: But after all, Peter the Great did a great deal to develop his country, to bring western culture to Russia.

Stalin: Yes, of course, Peter the Great did much to elevate the landlord class and develop the nascent merchant class. He did very much indeed to create and consolidate the national state of the landlords and merchants. It must be said also that the elevation of the landlord class, the assistance to the nascent merchant class and the consolidation of the national state of these classes took place at the cost of the peasant serfs, who were bled white.

As for myself, I am just a pupil of Lenin’s, and the aim of my life is to be a worthy pupil of his. The task to which I have devoted my life is the elevation of a different class-the working class. That task is not the consolidation of some “national” state, but of a socialist state, and that means an international state; and everything that strengthens that state helps to strengthen the entire international working class. If every step I take in my endeavor to elevate the working class and strengthen the socialist state of this class were not directed towards strengthening and improving the position of the working class, I should consider my life purposeless.

So you see your parallel does not fit.

As regards Lenin and Peter the Great, the latter was but a drop in the sea, whereas Lenin was a whole ocean.

Works, volume 13, pp. 106-7.

The first is called ‘Stalin, Affirmative Action and the Pentecost of Language‘, and the second, ‘Why a Marxist Entrepreneur is not a Contradiction in China‘.

Back to reading Stalin, which I would like to complete by the end of February. This on one grain as the currency of currencies, in the midst the intensified class struggle with the kulaks:

Grain should not be regarded as an ordinary commodity. Grain is not like cotton, which cannot be eaten and which cannot be sold to everybody. Unlike cotton, grain, under our present conditions, is a commodity which everybody will take and without which it is impossible to exist. The kulak takes this into account and holds back his grain, infecting the grain holders in general by his example. The kulak knows that grain is the currency of currencies (Works, vol 12, p. 93).